Total Karlberg: The Swedish Royal War Academy as a Total Institution during the 1800s
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Erving Coffman’s concept of the total institution is one of those concepts within social sciences that are often used in a routine way, but are not always implemented to their full potential. The purpose of this paper is to investigate to what extent total institutions can be used to describe and explain social situations at elite boarding schools, even though the concept was primarily developed based on experiences from mental hospitals. This is done by an empirical study of life within the cadet corps at the Swedish Royal War Academy (Kungliga Krigsakademien) in the nineteenth century, using official documents as well as private archives and autobiographical works. The main objective of this study is to test the scope of the concept when dealing with historical studies of elite school environments.As shown in this study there are several aspects of the concept that can be recognized in investigations of an elite 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. One can therefore argue that Goffman’s ahistorical concept only partially captures an activity like the Royal War Academy. Whether, for example, the inmates were able to form a more cohesive community within the framework of a total institution can probably not be answered by the theoretical framwork itself. There is a great deal to indicate that this aspect is dependent on the external context, in this case the internees’ social status, which may have played a crucial role here.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-286749OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-286749DiVA: diva2:921969
European Social Science History Conference, Wien, Österrike, 23-26 april 2014