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Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity

Profiling Parricide in Nineteenth-Century America, 1852-1899


Phillip Chong Ho Shon

Ever since Oedipus unwittingly killed his father and married his mother in Sophocles’ play, parricide – the killing of a parent or another close relative – has been a dominant motif in works of literature, film, psychoanalytic theory, and criminology. Yet, parricide, for much of the twentieth and twenty-first century, has been framed as an adolescent phenomenon, with child abuse proffered as the overriding cause related to the killing of parents. Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity provides a new way of understanding parricides by analyzing the behavior of offenders and victims at the scene of the crime in relation to the sources of conflict. This book examines the conflict between parents and their offspring across the life course and argues that parricides are shaped by factors such as respect, defense, and self-identity. Respect, Defense, and Self-Identity is recommended for classroom use in courses such as criminology, homicide, family violence, and social work.
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I must confess that there are very few new ideas in this book. Any student can readily see the influence that American historians of crime and violence have had on this project, in particular, Barbara Hanawalt, Roger Lane, Jeffrey Adler, and Eric Monkkonen. Indeed, the preceding scholars have had a tremendous influence on how I have thought about and understood the act of killing within a social, political, and economic context. Furthermore, others may see a rather obvious connection in the ideas presented in this book to the works of David Canter, Robert Keppel, and Gabrielle Salfati, especially in relation to how victims and offenders interact with one another and with others who happen to be present at the scene of a parental killing. I would like to think that I have simply—and successfully—aimed the analytical lens at parricides in nineteenth-century America. Finally, and although it may not seem like it at times throughout this book, I am heavily indebted to Kathleen Heide: her pioneering work on adolescent parricides has served as a reference point for how I have understood parricides, and has served as an invaluable impetus for my own diverging works.

Portions of chapter 1 were previous published as “Sources of conflict between parents and their offspring in nineteenth-century American parricides: An archival exploration,” Shon, P., Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, ← ix | x → November 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 4, pp. 249–279, and is reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis (http:...

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