Killer Anders Behring Breivik’s Manifesto provides a valuable resource for those studying the narrative and discursive dimension of crime

Are self-narratives strategic or determined, unified or fragmented? Reading Breivik’ Manifesto in light of narrative criminology

From Acta Sociologica

In 2011 Anders Behring Breivik carried out two terrorist attacks in Norway killing 77 people. Breivik was an anti-Islamic, critical of the government’s policy of multiculturalism. His apparent targets were the government and the future political leadership of the Social Democratic party. Only hours before the attacks, Breivik had emailed a 1500-page Manifesto, in English, to several thousand people explaining his acts and describing their planning in detail. It is a collection of texts from different sources. Some parts are written by other people, others are plagiarized but with some minor changes and finally there are parts written by himself.

This article analyses the manifesto and further develops a theoretical framework of narrative criminology. The Manifesto is a valuable resource for sociologists and criminologists studying the narrative and discursive dimension of crime. This paper demonstrates the fruitfulness of a theoretical framework of narrative criminology. Together with political, socioeconomic and psychological studies, narrative analysis can thus add to our understanding of crime.

Abstract

Anders B In line with narrative criminology, it is suggested that when narrative and crime are closely connected, their study gets to the core of the complex causes of crime.

Anders Behring Breivik carried out two terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011, killing 77 people. In a 1500-page Manifesto, he justifies the attacks, describes his ideology and presents his life-story. The Manifesto is Breivik’s attempt to present a coherent story, although one that shifts between different, sometimes competing, characters and narrative tones. He relies heavily on the narratives of an anti-Islamic or ‘counter-jihadist’ social movement, mainly present on the internet, but he makes creative adjustments. Some studies emphasize that narratives are unified, others that they are fragmented. Similarly, some emphasize the strategic and others the structural aspects of story-telling. This article further develops a theoretical framework of narrative criminology. The main argument is that offenders’ stories need to be analysed as agency conditioned by culture and context. Such stories must also be understood as attempts at coherency and unity, drawing on a wide variety of cultural narratives and discourses. It is suggested that researchers can benefit from further reflecting on the diversity of ways in which self-narratives are analysed and understood. In line with narrative criminology, it is suggested that when narrative and crime are closely connected, their study gets to the core of the complex causes of crime.

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Article details
Sandberg, S. (2013). Are self-narratives strategic or determined, unified or fragmented? Reading Breivik’s Manifesto in light of narrative criminology Acta Sociologica, 56 (1), 69-83 DOI: 10.1177/0001699312466179

     
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