Presenter/s: Professor Carolyn Strange
Event type: Inspiring Women of ANU - Inaugural lecture
Event date: Wednesday, 20 June 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Event venue: Theatrette (2.02), Sir Roland Wilson Building #120, McCoy Circuit, ANU
Gender, Sex Murder, and the Death Penalty: Historical Insights and Contemporary Reverberations
Through the #metoo movement, women have cracked open the carapace of denial over sexual abuse and violence committed by males. Historically, however, men in positions of power have policed, prosecuted and punished behaviour and acts deemed criminal. The preparedness of men to call fellow males to account for sexual violence has been most stark in the treatment of sex killers. But which men have been singled out for the criminal law’s harshest penalties?
In this talk I will discuss several high-profile sex murder cases in Canada, from the late-nineteenth century to the 1970s, when the death penalty remained on the books. Before the White Ribbon and ‘I Swear’ campaigns, status-bearing men condemned men to death for homicide, but they were especially inclined to do so in cases involving sexual violence. The cast of the executed – the poor and the inadequately defended, the mentally disabled and disturbed, and the ethnic and racial minorities subjected to the prejudices of Euro-Canadian society – emerged in response to moral outrage, the impulse that propelled and continues to inspire calls to reinstate the death penalty.
Professor Carolyn Strange specialises in the transdisciplinary history of gender and sexuality in modernity. After studying in Canada and the U.S., she held positions where she taught criminal law, criminology, and cross-cultural studies prior to joining ANU’s School of History in 2010. She has published on topics ranging from the history of Antarctic exploration to circuses and SARS, but she specialises on the history of crime and justice. In 2016 she was nominated as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. This talk draws on a collaborative research project funded by the ARC on the history of “sexual offences, legal responses and public perceptions” in Canada and Australia.
Image - Louis Reil on Trial, by Reverend E.F. Wilson, 1885 - used with kind permission from Glenbow Archives Collection, Calgary, Alberta http://digital.scaa.sk.ca/ourlegacy/permalink/26959