Penality in the Underground: Rebel Groups and the Punishment of Informers

Event date
13 October 2022
Event time
15:30 - 17:00
Oxford week
MT 1
Wharton Room - All Souls College (and online)

Notes & Changes

Please note that this event will be recorded, if you do not wish to be part of the recording, please feel free to turn your cameras off once the talk begins. The talk will be made available on the Criminology website and YouTube channel at a later date. 

Secret informers working for the regime are often the biggest threat faced by underground rebel groups, which must respond to this challenge in order to survive. Using the IRA as a case-study, and drawing on punishment and society theories, I offer an in-depth analysis of the causes, forms, functions and effects of the underground response to informers. While superficial media images tend to depict only ruthless killings, I argue that groups such as the IRA develop complex systems of punishment and social control in their pursuit of informers, shaped by their needs to maintain legitimacy, project a state-like image, and support internal governance efforts. This analysis is based on identifying and explaining some remarkable features of the IRA’s pursuit of informers, such as the establishment of ‘courts-martial’, the granting of ‘amnesties’, the expansion of social control, the productive function of labelling ‘treason’ in asserting sovereignty, and the long-term consequences of the issue during transition out of conflict. By exploring the penal logics, practices and discourses of armed rebel groups – engaged in direct struggle with the state agencies that normally carry out criminal justice – this research aims to expand the study of punishment and society, and demonstrate its utility to the understanding of non-state actors. 

Registration will close at 12 midday on Weds 12th October. The link will be sent to you later that afternoon. The event is open online only to anyone other than current Criminology students.



Ron Dudai

Ron Dudai is a senior lecturer at the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Ben Gurion University, and academic visitor at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford during October 2022. His research is in the fields of human rights, transitional justice, and the sociology of punishment. He is the author of Penality in the Underground: The IRA’s Pursuit of Informers  (Oxford University Press, 2022). He published on diverse issues such as human rights in the age of populism, treason and the death penalty, dilemmas of human rights activism, the commemoration of rescuers, transitional justice as social control, and the politics of analogies in divided societies, in, among others, the British Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Criminology, Punishment & Society, Law & Social Inquiry, Human Rights Quarterly, and the Oxford Handbook of Criminology. He’s an editorial board member of the Journal of Human Rights Practice, where he was previously co-editor. His article ‘Informers and the Transition in Northern Ireland’ was awarded the Brian Williams Prize by the British Society of Criminology, and was cited in The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, and the Irish Times.   

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