Jean-Paul Brodeur's influence on francophone criminology.

Author:Dupont, Benoit
 
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While other articles in this special issue discuss the contributions Jean-Paul Brodeur made to international criminology, I address his influence on Quebec criminology during a career at the Universite de Montreal that spanned more than three decades and included twice taking on directorship of the International Centre for Comparative Criminology (1988-1996 and 2004-2010). I begin by noting his unusual career trajectory and the sequence of events that attracted him to the discipline. I then discuss how Quebec criminology, because of its long history and its having achieved the necessary critical mass of researchers, represents one of the main hubs of francophone criminology and examine three key issues that have defined Quebec (and to some extent francophone) criminology over the past 10 years, sketching in some of Jean-Paul Brodeur's thoughts on these issues. I conclude by stressing that he left an intellectual legacy that extends well beyond the walls of academia.

Jean-Paul Brodeur's numerous contributions to Quebec (and international) criminology were remarkable and will be recognized for years to come. However, it is easy to forget that he was not initially destined for a career in this discipline. In 1975, he completed an acclaimed Ph.D. dissertation in philosophy at the University of Paris-Nanterre, supervised by the famous French phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur, in which he analysed Spinoza's ethics. What particularly fascinated him was the idea that good and evil can be understood through a higher form of knowledge that transcends empiricism and theory--not a light subject. Upon his return from Paris, he took a position in the philosophy department at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), where a brilliant career awaited him. It was in the fall of 1977, while on leave in Benin where his wife was running a cooperative project, that he became convinced, after a long solitary meditation on a beach, that philosophy was incapable of offering a convincing explanation of--or remedy for--violence and evil. (1) He shifted his interest to the fledging field of criminology, which he believed offered a more promising alternative. When he returned to Quebec a few months later, the newly created School of Criminology (2) at the University of Montreal welcomed him.

His decision to abandon philosophy hurt his former colleagues, who at first could not understand how such a promising scholar could be lured away by such a minor discipline. For those in criminology, however, his bold career move reflected the high expectations that the discipline had raised among a broad range of activist academics. For instance, Michel Foucault had published Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison just a few years earlier, and the prison abolition movement was gaining momentum (one of its most ardent proponents, Louk Hulsman, predicted in 1975 that jails would disappear within fifteen years (Brodeur 2007: 161). Far from being an isolated event, Jean-Paul Brodeur's choice epitomizes the way in which Quebec criminology has acquired and solidified its institutional independence over the years by persuading scholars from more prestigious disciplines to join it. Twenty years earlier, Denis Szabo, a young Hungarian sociologist trained in Belgium and France, had also defected, persuaded that he could not fulfill his academic ambitions in the fossilized European sociological environment (Fournier 1998). When Szabo launched the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal, he was well aware of the potential hostility from those in more established disciplines, such as psychology, psychiatry, criminal law, or sociology, and not only picked the first criminology professors from among the students of his potential competitors but was careful to maintain a balance that reflected the complex DNA of this emerging field.

Fifty years on, most of the initial objections to the development of criminology as an autonomous field have been overcome (Dupont 2010: 12), and criminology's introduction in Quebec can arguably be considered a success. The number of student applications is rising, graduate placement rates verge on 100%, and research output is at record highs. In such a favourable context, one could be forgiven for experiencing a warm feeling of self-satisfaction. However, some recent developments and looming issues deserve scrutiny. In the rest of this article, I will highlight three features of contemporary Quebec criminology whose long-term repercussions, although hard to predict, will be significant and should, therefore, be debated. Jean-Paul Brodeur, who throughout his career had a sixth sense for thorny issues and the dilemmas they raised, reflected and commented on all of these issues.

The language of criminology

While work in criminology in Quebec is predominantly in French, the language of science is English. In the early 1980s, 85% of international peer-reviewed articles and 97% of citations in the four years following publication were in English (Garfield and Welljams-Dorof 1990: 13). The situation in the social sciences is slightly more favourable to linguistic diversity: in Quebec, for example, in the early 1990s, political scientists and urban planners published around 40% of their work in French (Godin 1996: 58). By comparison, in 2000 and 2005, criminologists affiliated with the University of Montreal's International Centre for Comparative Criminology (ICCC) published 75% of their research in French, following a peak of 84% in 1980 (Dupont 2010). Although these numbers could be interpreted as demonstrating the insularity of criminology in Quebec, they actually reflect a very different reality.

In the French-speaking world of criminology, Quebec is an intellectual broker between the growing, nearly monopolistic discipline of criminology in English, on the one hand, and scholars from other parts of the world, on the other. Since the creation of the School of Criminology and the ICCC in the 1960s, a constant flow of francophone scholars from Europe (France, Belgium, and Switzerland, in particular, but also Spain and Italy), Latin...

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