The Paradox of Violence

When and Where

Tuesday, November 29, 2022 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm
CG 265
Canadiana Gallery
14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9


Vanessa Barker


This is a free event, but registration is required

This project aims to disrupt the normalization of violence in democratic societies. It asks how liberal democracies have come to rely on high rates of repression to block unwanted mobility, particularly by people of color from the global south, and how such reliance may undermine democratic society itself.  The paradox of violence, like the tragic quality of the prison, suggests that the same tools and logic used to ensure society’s survival, may corrode it from the outside in. Empirically, this talk focuses on Sweden’s historic border closure in 2016 and its aftermath. It highlights how the criminalization of migration and penal nationalism undercuts Nordic exceptionalism, reproduces social and racial hierarchies of national belonging, and has now created new social fault lines within society and beyond into transnational spaces. These structural, legal, and social developments make it difficult to repair our societies but not impossible. 

About Professor Vanessa Barker

Vanessa Barker is Professor of Sociology at Stockholm University, Editor in Chief of Punishment & Society, Visiting Professor of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo, Advisor to Border Criminologies at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on questions of democracy and border control, welfare states and immigration, the criminalization and penalization of migrants, and the role of civil society in social change. She teaches courses on qualitative research methods, globalization, complex inequalities and introduction to sociology. She is the author of a number of academic articles, including pieces on Nordic Exceptionalism, the American crime decline, border control, civic repair, and mass imprisonment, including her first book The Politics of Imprisonment. Her work has received grants and awards from Riksbanken, the National Science Foundation and the American Scandinavian Foundation. She served on the Board of Trustees for the Law & Society Association, as Co-editor for the Howard Journal of Crime & Justice, as book review editor for Punishment & Society, and Associate Editor of Theoretical Criminology. She completed her doctoral degree at New York University and worked at Florida State University before moving to Sweden.

Professor Barker’s visit is financed by the Nordic Council in cooperation with the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.


A light lunch will be served at 12:00pm in the Centre Lounge, 2nd floor of the Canadiana Gallery. 

Please note that the location does not have a working elevator. If you are a person with a disability and require accommodation, please contact us at and we will do our best to make appropriate arrangements.


14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9