What am I doing?

This blog is supposed to be about everything but my work life. It is real hard I tell you. It is so intertwined and I’m so passionate about what I do. I’m travelling to the other side of earth and unless I tell you what I’m doing there, you will probably find my photos the weirdest holiday shots ever. So I thought I’d give it a go.

This post is long. But it is written with passion.

As you know I’m a criminologist. I have a background in Law, so those who don’t know me, associate me with the lawyers who run around and solve cases through blood splatter patterns and so on. I don’t. What I am passionate about is justice. It is a lifelong thing, which as a child mostly manifested itself in phrases such as “it’s not fair”. Children in Africa should not starve to death; people should not have to flee their homes from war; Indigenous tribes should not be destroyed because of conglomerate companies (when I was a kid, logging in the Amazons was the big thing).

My area of research lies within what is called innovative justice. We study justice, what it means to people and develop new ways of thinking about and doing justice. Examples of justice innovations which have been introduced into society in recent years are mediation and dispute resolutions. I recognise that this is really nerdy and includes a high level of headspin. But bottom line is, it is about us, what we experience as fair and not fair, and how we solve our problems. I can talk about the need of transforming justice till the cows come home. Innovative justice is an umbrella for a lot of areas of research. I belong in the part called Indigenous Justice.

So what am I doing? I’m comparing Greenland and in the Torres Strait. And before you say “ehh?” let me tell you why: their histories are so similar it is uncanny, they were colonised in a similar way, have integrated Christianity into local culture in the same way, they are dependent on the same type of trade (fishing), have been forced into the same economy, their current concerns are the same and of course also future concerns as well. The only major difference (apart from climate) is that Greenland was given home-rule in 1979 and self-rule in 2009 and is thus an example of how a region of Indigenous people can have high autonomy within (in this case) a kingdom. Something the Torres Strait has been calling for, for decades.

What am I comparing? The criminal justice system. Why? Because justice, and especially criminal justice, is the area of white western society, where we think we have found the universal truth. I call it ‘the last arm of the Emperor’ because it is the one area where we will not let go. For Greenland this means, that despite having self-rule, justice is still ruled and governed from Copenhagen.

The thing is. This wonderful system we have created is not experienced equally by everyone (into the scene steps the child screaming ’it’s not fair’) Indigenous people everywhere around the world are overrepresentation in the justice system. They are policed more, arrested more, sentenced more, incarcerated more and so on. In short, the justice system is one of the main producers of segregation, disempowered people with high levels of social despair. Despite being a world phenomenon, it is particularly so for the Indigenous people of Australia.

What is it I want to know? Overall, I want to know what we can do differently. For this project, I am asking the people who work within the criminal justice system, in Greenland and the Torres Strait, what they think. I want to know what they see, what they experience, what they would change if they could, what they would keep. I will compare this with the intention behind the law (the written word) and how it is practised (observations of courts, administration etc).

I know I will find a lot of things. What I am hoping most, is that I will find ways that will inspire us to do better justice. That it can inspire Greenland to think about what kind of justice system they want, when they become an independent nation one day. That it doesn’t have to be a copy of justice in Denmark. And I am hoping that the experience of the Greenlanders will inspire the Torres Strait Islanders on their path to autonomy.

So that’s it. That is what I do all day at work. Maybe that is why I need to crochet a cactus in my off time.


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