Discourses on women and shoplifting: a critical analysis of why female crime mythologies past and present operate to legitimate the incompatibility between female gender roles and the idea of women as active agents of crime.

Gamman, Lorraine (1999) Discourses on women and shoplifting: a critical analysis of why female crime mythologies past and present operate to legitimate the incompatibility between female gender roles and the idea of women as active agents of crime. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This thesis looks at what has been said and what can be said about women and shoplifting. The first section introduces and discusses oral history as a method and includes original oral history material through the testimony of Shirley Pitts, who lived in London between 1934-1992 and who earned her living as a professional thief. The purpose of this oral history material, and discussion of the oral history method, is not to introduce a `hidden' or 'subjugated' truth about the `essential' nature of women and shoplifting into the debate. Instead, using a methodology associated with Michel Foucault's I Pierre Riviere [FOUCAULT, M., I Pierre Riviere. Having Slaughtered My Mother. My Sister. and My Brother: Case of Patricide in the 19 Century] this oral history material is discussed in order to understand what insights 'unofficial' discourses can offer about women and shoplifting. This approach attempts to ensure `through the re-appearance of this .... disqualified knowledge that criticism performs its work'. [FOUCAULT, M., Politics. Philosophy. Culture: Interviews and Other Writing] The second section takes up discussion raised in response to the oral transcript of Shirley Pitts about wider issues concerning women, shopping, consumerism and identity. It investigates why official knowledge about women and shopping as well as women and shoplifting has often operated to conceal the idea of women as active agents of crime. The source material for this section of the investigation is intentionally diverse and examines a number of discourses - including those that are historical, sociological, psychological, psychoanalytic, criminological, consumerist, anthropological and media led etc. - in order to reveal an incompatibility between narratives of `femininity' and `criminality' in both historical and contemporary discourse. It is during these discussions that theoretical ideas about discourse, associated with Michel Foucault, are further mobilised to draw attention to silences, contradictions and other problems of information about shoplifting. Consequently, the critical focus herein leads towards consideration of why female crime mythologies, originally linked to an inappropriate model of human nature, construct women as sad, mad or bad. Such mythologies have been reiterated in many diverse ways so that even contemporary criminal statistics are not always helpful when trying to refute inappropriate mythologising of the activities of women who shoplift. Lastly, it is the intention of this thesis to use critical investigations of different types of discourse to consider not only women's relationship to shoplifting, but the relationship of theft to what Guy Debord describes as 'the society of spectacle'' [DEBORD, GUY, Society of the Spectacle]. This is because overall, the thesis argues that issues about consumer tactics and visual seduction connect the behaviour of women shoppers and women shoplifters in ways that have been overlooked by official discourses.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas:Masters and Doctorates > Theses
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Art and Design > Art & Design
ID Code:6433
Deposited On:25 Aug 2010 12:07
Last Modified:25 Nov 2014 21:45

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