Punitive Power Configurations

Universidad Nacional de Entre Ríos - Facultad de Trabajo Social

April 15, 2013 | 5 ′ 37 ′′


Punitive Power Configurations


A team of researchers analyzed more than 1,000 manuscript files of the judicial forum which date from the nineteenth century and which show how modern discourse is structured regarding what is punished and how it is punished. In this interview to Argentina Investiga, Laura Naput, director of the project talks about the tension between what normative practices say and justice practices really do, among other topics dealt with by the research.

-What is the object of the study?
-Punitive power configurations in the second half of the nineteenth century, from the fall of the government of Rosas until the first approval at national level of a Penal Code in 1886, analyzed departing from the files of the penal forum of the province of Entre Ríos, which constitute our study corpora. In this period, the national State didn’t still have the attributes of a State, that is, that the monopoly of the legitimate use of strength was not installed in the institution State. The provinces still had power attributes which later would be part of the State-Nation.

It is a stage in which Entre Ríos plays a fundamental role in Argentina’s history: the period of the Confederation, Urquiza’s government, the ten following years in which he is still an important reference in Argentina’s history and the ten years after his death. Justice is the institution where modern discourse is structured regarding what is punished and how it is punished, where the State is committed. In this moment, the rule starts to say what has to be punished and how it has to be punished. In our research, we observe differences between the rules and the practices; it is a stage in which many actors still play a central role: employers, caudillos, the church. An interesting moment to see how modern domination is constituted in the process of national formation, particularly in the province of Entre Ríos.

-Is there a relation between this topic and the present?
-This is present, because we can observe that there is always a tension between what the normative practices say and what justice practices really do; this is how the State’s power works and I would say, power. Also, that tension, this inherent conflict to the mode in which power is exerted is what we work and in this case, we do it in the period of transition to modernity.

-What is the work’s methodology?
-This project combines quantitative and qualitative methodological strategies. The first stage was an approach to the sources, the documents -more than 1,000 files of the judicial forum of the province -. They are difficult documents to read, many times badly kept, with unusual language for us and written by hand. They are difficult to read and to make a posterior critical analysis.

-What are the partial results they reached?
-First, the approach to the sources permitted us to identify what are the punitive figures, what constitutes a crime, what is punished, what kind of punishment is applied, what are the procedures and whether constitutional guarantees work. The result is an important collection of rules, resolutions, decrees, information about where were the prisons in the province, agreements of the Court Tribunal, etc. In short, it is a compilation of the normative corpus of the time, which we will later deepen with a qualitative analysis of some of these criminal figures or ways of punishment. We can say that, in the normative cited there are regulations which come from colonial times, ecclesiastical ones and Spanish and modern ones; there is a remarkable dispersion, precisely because we don’t have a Criminal Code.

-What is the contribution to the debate or discussion carried out by the research?
-The field of the history of Justice was developed in the area of history and law. It is an interdisciplinary field to which anthropologists and sociologists are added. In this sense it is enriching and interesting for us.

Besides, as a teacher I feel committed with the idea of enriching regional history and know the social history of Entre Ríos, which exceeds the history of Justice. In the criminal forum, the actors, victims or murderers are anonymous actors which we don’t usually see in the pages of political history. Criminal files are a privileged source to work also the most traditional social history, to see how poor and marginal people live, those who generally occupy the newspaper’s policial pages. In this sense, to recover these documents can mean a contribution for other fields of the history of the region, not only for the history of Justice.

-Who are the members of your research team?
-The Professor of History Nelson Walter Musich and the Professor of Law Hugo Alejandro Haimovich, both teachers of the School of Social Work.

Naput is a teacher and researcher from the School of Social Work and the project she carries out is called “Configurations of the punitive power in the province of Entre Ríos (1860/1886): a reconstruction from judicial archives”.

Carolina Campos
camposc@uner.edu.ar
Carolina Campo


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