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Constructing Reformatory Identity

Girls’ Reform School Education in Finland, 1893-1923

Kaisa Vehkalahti

By focusing on one particular re-education institution, this book offers a multifaceted analysis of practices of diagnosis and curing what was defined as «delinquency», «criminality» or «disorderly behaviour» at the turn of the twentieth century. The study provides an important corrective to the existing accounts of re-education by proposing an approach in which institutional practices are analysed both from above and from below. The book draws attention to the process of reforming identities – the construction of reformatory identities – as the core of residential re-education. Special emphasis is placed on the interplay of notions of gender and social background.
The book is based on extensive archival research drawing from a wide range of new and neglected sources. The primary material includes a unique collection of documents produced by the girls of the Vuorela State Reform School in Finland. Narrative analysis of correspondence, and careful scrutiny of the official sources created for re-educational purposes, form a basis for the investigation of the interaction between pupils’ own self-expression and the aims of re-education in the construction of reformed identities. The practices developed in Finland are carefully contextualised in the European history of re-education.
Contents: History of education – Girls’ cultures – Girls’ delinquency – History of child welfare – Re-education – Reform schools – Juvenile criminality – Juvenile justice system – History of Nordic countries – Finnish history – Cultural history.