Gendered objects and gendered spaces: The invisibilities of ‘knife’ crime

Elizabeth A. Cook, Sandra Walklate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The knife is a relatively mundane, domestic and easily accessible household item. At the same time, it is the most commonly used weapon in intimate partner homicide. Recently however the knife has become an object of fear and panic in England and Wales when used in public by mostly young men on other young men. This aim of this article is to offer some reflections on the conundrums posed by these two observations. Here the ‘knife’ is considered through the integrated lenses of space, gender and materiality. Situated in this way the contemporary preoccupation with ‘knife’ crime illustrates the ongoing and deeply held assumptions surrounding debates on public and private violence. Whilst criminology has much to say on gender and violence, the gendered, spatialized and material presence of the knife remains poorly understood. In prioritizing ‘knife’ crime as a ‘public’ problem over its manifestation as an ongoing ‘private’ one, its gendered and spatialized features remain hidden thus adding to the failure of policy to tackle ‘knife’ crime in the round.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Sociology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jun 2020


  • Gender
  • intimate partner homicide
  • knives
  • space
  • violence

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