A few weeks ago, four well-known scientists were guests on a popular, early evening Dutch entertainment television program to show the audience their personal favorite, universally valid formula from their discipline (physics, mathematics, astronomy and econometrics) and to explain why they liked that formula very much. I will not even try to repeat these formulas but I must admit that for just a split second a feeling of jealousy overtook me. We do not possess such formulas in criminology; we do not claim overtly to have universal theories or knowledge anyway. My momentary feeling of jealousy is of course ridiculous and very naïve knowing the complexity of our discipline. Who in our discipline sincerely believes that one universal theory (in an elegant formula) is valid everywhere and at all times as physicists do? But denying one grand theory does not imply that we are convinced that our stock of knowledge is completely contextualized.
I remember my first presentation at the annual ASC meeting as a young PhD student. The sheer vastness of the conference was intimidating – the endless, windowless corridors surrounded by dozens of identical conference rooms; the crowds of people packed into each session and talking about criminology, as I was anxiously rushing between panels, desperate not to miss anything; the social events in hangar-sized spaces with thousands of people talking and drinking. American criminology seemed to exist on an industrial scale that absolutely frightened me. At the time, I felt that nothing could possibly be said about anything having even remotely to do with criminology that was not first said in that endless row of rooms.
Over 12-13 March 2015, the Law School at the University of Edinburgh hosted a two-day ESC TWGJJ symposium. The symposium was chaired by Professor Barry Goldson (University of Liverpool, England) and Professor Jenneke Christiaens (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) and attended by Dr Nicola Carr (Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland), Professor Els Dumortier (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium), Dr Eef Goodseals (Belgium); Dr Kristina Kanz (University of Munster, Germany), Professor Lesley McAra (University of Edinburgh, Scotland), Professor Susan McVie (University of Edinburgh, Scotland), Dr Stefaan Pleysier (University KU Leuven, Belgium), Professor Johan Put (University KU Leuven, Belgium), Dr Anna Souhami (University of Edinburgh, Scotland) and Dr Jolande Uit Beijerse (De Erasmus Universiteit, Netherlands).