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Talking about fear of violence in public space: Female and male narratives about threatening situations in Umeå, Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2010 (English)In: Social & cultural geography (Print), ISSN 1464-9365, E-ISSN 1470-1197, Vol. 11, no 1, 1-15 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Geographers may benefit from a narrative approach as it permits insights into both meanings and how stories are permitted and controlled by social conditions. The aim of this article is to discuss methodological aspects of studying fear as a restriction on mobility and use of public space. We have used examples from a study on fear of violence in the city of Umeå, Sweden at the time of threats from a serial rapist, the Haga Man. We employed Labov's model to analyse female and male narratives about fear. Women from all backgrounds reproduced a shared story of experiences of fear. Male stories were fragmented and diverse, especially in terms of ethnicity. The Haga Man was described in the media as a man of 'normal Swedish appearance', which put a focus on Swedish hegemonic masculinity and 'normality' rather than on commonly reproduced fear of the racialized other. Labov's model was useful in clarifying how narratives differed in their structural components and completeness, but limited in terms of how to interpret the evaluative component: the model needs to be combined with theory in order to understand relations to changing political, institutional and media discourses on crime and fear in public space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge,Taylor & Francis Group , 2010. Vol. 11, no 1, 1-15 p.
Keyword [en]
narrative analysis, Labov, geography of fear, fear of crime, gender, urban space, Sweden
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-33755DOI: 10.1080/14649360903420178ISI: 000273611800001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-33755DiVA: diva2:318773
Available from: 2010-05-10 Created: 2010-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fear of violence and gendered power relations: Responses to threat in public space in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fear of violence and gendered power relations: Responses to threat in public space in Sweden
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Rädsla för våld och könade maktrelationer : Hantering av hot i det offentliga rummet i Sverige
Abstract [en]

Several cases of single repeat offenders in urban space have raised public concern in Sweden during recent decades. Few studies have been conducted on consequences of the kind of ‘hostage situations’ that emerge when one individual offender causes fear and affects a larger group of people in a specific place. The concern of this thesis is to examine consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon: the case of a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006 in Umeå, a medium-sized Swedish city. This thesis explores some of the ways not only women but also men in Umeå responded to this specific situation, the threat from a single repeat offender, and how fear of crime and changing public crime discourses influenced gendered power relations. The thesis examines different aspects of fear and safety in public space, such as the views of those who are fearful; of those who are feared; perceptions of both women’s and men’s bodies; their emotions and experiences in relation to fear of violence in public spaces; and the significance of space and place for our understanding of fear. The empirical data of this thesis consist of in-depth interviews with a total of 47 women and men in Umeå.

The thesis is based on four empirical studies. The first (Paper I) sought to identify similarities and differences across narratives in terms of the major components of young people’s talk about fear.  In their stories women positioned themselves as fearful and in need of protection, while men in their stories positioned themselves as fearless protectors. Men and women reproduced ways of speaking considered appropriate to their gender, thus performing masculinity and femininity through their talk. Paper II, examines consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon on constructions of white masculinities. Three masculine positions; the dangerous stranger, the suspect and the protector were identified. These three constructions of masculinity were not clear-cut or ‘belonging’ to specific men – several of the interviewees articulated various forms of masculinities but stressed them in different ways depending on, for instance, age and/or ethnicity/race. Paper III, focuses on changing perceptions and representations of female and male bodies, and illustrates how a change took place; from a focus on how women should conduct themselves to be safe, towards men’s bodily behaviour in order to present themselves in non-threatening ways. In Paper IV, women’s fear of violence is discussed in relation to Swedish gender equality discourses and contextual constructions of femininity. The results show the difficulties of claiming the official position of a gender-equal femininity. Several female respondents expressed an ambivalent attitude about their own fear; they felt afraid, but also felt that as (equal) women they should be able to do what they wanted, whenever they wanted.  Result from this thesis shows that this situation produced a shared approach to fear for women of different ages, classes and ethnicities in Umeå. The similarity in the women’s responses to the threat from the Haga Man is as an expression of a normative femininity. The male respondents did on the other hand express complex emotional positions as they talked about their own fears, women’s fear of unknown men and how they felt they were under suspicion and compared to the perpetrator. As this thesis provides an understanding of how men and women responded and reacted to the threat from the Haga man, it contributes to a better understanding of how fear of violence affects people in their everyday lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Kulturgeografiska Institutionen, Umeå Unversitet, 2011
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2011:3
Keyword
The geography of fear, gender relations, fear of violence, whiteness, gender equality, masculinity, femininity, narrative analysis, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48591 (URN)978-91-978344-7-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-11-18, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-10-28 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2014-02-24Bibliographically approved

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