Studies on Pupils and Informal Schooling Processes in Modern Europe
Edited By Anna Larsson and Björn Norlin
III. Karlberg as a Total Institution: The Royal Swedish War Academy in the 1800s
Erving Goffman’s “total institution” is one of those social science concepts that are routinely referenced but not always implemented to their full potential. The purpose of this essay is to investigate the extent to which total institutions can be used to describe and explain social situations at boarding schools, even though the concept was originally developed based on experiences from mental hospitals. This is done as an empirical study of life within the cadet corps at the Royal Swedish War Academy (Kungliga Krigsakademien) in the nineteenth century. The main objective of this study is to test the scope of the concept when dealing with historical studies of school environments.
As will be shown, there are several aspects of the concept that can be recognized in investigations of a Swedish boarding school during the 1800s. But there are also important differences between Goffman’s presentation of the concept and the results indicated in this study. The most obvious difference concerns the importance of the internal hierarchies within the group of internees.
Erving Goffman’s Asylums
Erving Goffman’s Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates was published for the first time in 1961 and consists of four essays on the subject. Of these it is primarily the first essay – “On the Characteristics of Total Institution” – that deals with the concept in general, while the others are more in-depth analyses of mental patients and mental hospitals.1 ← 49 | 50 →
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