Vilja med förhinder: Polisers samtal om kvinnomisshandel

Magnus Lundberg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Police officers often talk about wife abuse as a practical problem in their work situation. This problem is often used to explain why the officers do not file a complaint when they have reason to believe that a woman has been abused, something they are obliged to do according to Swedish law. One may approach these explanations as reflections of “reality”, as expressions of complicated work conditions. Another way of approaching these explanations is to take the analysis one step further and focus on descriptions as representations. This means that descriptions are not mere reflections of reality but rather a way of expressing, presenting and explaining oneself. The concept of “accounts” is central to the understanding of descriptions as explanations. As applied here, this concept focuses on how the officers use explanations of their work to repair potentially troublesome identity attributions. The concept of “disclaimer” is also applied in the analysis of the officers’ explanations. This notion has similar repairing aspirations as accounts. The difference, though, is that disclaimer is focused on the future while accounts should be understood from a retrospective perspective. Disclaimers try to defuse problematic statements before uttered, while accounts focus on performing this defusion afterwards. In what sorts of situations do these explanations and attempts to free oneself from responsibility occur? The most obvious answer is that they occur when officers feel a need to explain themselves. When doing so, their descriptions seem to be grounded in several discourses. In one discourse, certain images of domestic violence, are constructed and promoted (mainly by the woman’s movement and shelter activists). In the “activist-image” of wife abuse, the woman often has obvious injuries indicating her victim status, she should be willing to press charges and be ready to leave the husband. In a police context however, one describes a problematic client who qualifying as a victim. When describing the enforcement of law, which is the second discourse, in relation to domestic violence, this is often preceeded by statements about how laws seldom affect perpetrators. In their explanations, two different perspectives on the law are visible. In the first case the law is described as a rather constraining force, i.e., the law very clearly defines what the officers are obliged to do. In this context, one seem to focus on the risk of making wrongful arrests and how that would affect the officer, entering a residence with weak legal grounds etc. In these cases, one might say that the officer has excluded himself as an agent; the law is depicted as an absolute force which is not possible to influence. In some instances though, one may talk of the “resurrection of the agent”. This may occur in situations when it is stated that the law is not adaptable to “reality” and hence difficult to invoke unless the officer uses some tricks. As officers explain their inaction, their own organization, thirdly, is mentioned as problematic. As was the case with the law, there is a tendency to reify the organization.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Sociology
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Apr 19
ISBN (Print)91-7139-512-1
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2001-04-19
Time: 13:15
Place: Carolinasalen
External reviewer(s)
Name: Hydén, Margareta
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: Stockholms universitet

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • criminal proceedings
  • Criminal law
  • national insurance
  • Swedish police
  • domestic violence
  • accounts
  • disclaimer
  • judicial system
  • Sociology
  • Social problems and welfare

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