Showing posts with label criminology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label criminology. Show all posts

December 21, 2018

Marc Balcells returns to Amelia this summer to teach "How to Analyze Art Crime Empirically” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

In 2019, the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 31 through August 15th in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, a number of this year’s professors will be interviewed. 

This time, I have been speaking with Marc Balcells, who sits in his office at Pompeu Fabra University, overlooking the busy and beautiful harbor of Barcelona. Pompeu Fabra University is among the five fastest-growing universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, and a place of excellence in both research and education.

Marc Balcells giving a lecture at the prestigious Conervatori del Licieu in Barcelona

Can you tell us something about your background and work?

I am a professor at the open university of Catalonia (UOC) and an associate professor at Pompeu Fanta University (UPF). I teach mostly criminology and criminal law. I hold degrees in Criminology, Law and Human Sciences, as well as a Masters in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. I also hold a PhD in Criminal Justice. My research focuses mostly around transnational and organized crime, mostly related to cultural heritage crime. I also conduct research on cybercrime (and antiquities trafficking) among other issues such as the history of criminology and crime.

What do you feel is most relevant about your course? 

My course is all about researching empirically from a criminological angle. It implies that participants must learn to research also from this angle: that is, instead of piling up information on any given art crime that will probably be collected from books and newspapers.  The course gives participants a tool to conduct serious research and learn how to design a research project within the field of cultural heritage crime. Challenging participants to see what serious research they are able to conduct in order to improve our knowledge on this field is essential! And of course, in the meantime participants not only learn about cultural heritage crime but also about criminology and criminological theory, using other crimes as examples of crime in general, as it is one of our everyday realities that we must live with.

What do you hope participants will get out of the courses? 

A fascination for a criminological point of view when analyzing cultural heritage crime, as well as an enchantment with the field of criminology and a fascination for the craft of research.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

A dialogue between myself and the participants. I do ask a lot of questions in order to prompt debate: getting to know what participants think about on different topics is very enriching. But I also like to challenge them and to see how they research art theft, or looting, to name two crimes, by giving them research examples and seeing how they would improve them or simply do things differently.

Marc Balcells explaining crimes in the art world on Spanish television

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your course, is there anything that you learn from them in class?

So many things! Participants must know that before I became a professor in this degree, I was a student in it: I sat on both sides of the classroom and, therefore, I do know what is to be a student participant and what I wanted from a professor when I was studying. I am not only a professor on the ARCA Program but a am a graduate of it! 

I am inquisitive by nature, but much more in class. I love to ask questions and see their points of view. Also, I do love to meet with the participants after classes and enjoy a tea with them while chatting about art crime in general or helping them with their projects.

In anticipation of your course, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to the participants? 

In my case, I would recommend that they read academic research produced by scholars in whichever field of cultural heritage crime they are interested in. I can assure you that they are as fascinating as any other art crime book that is being written by journalists, for example. Therefore, I would recommend they read everything that interests them, both scholarly and non-scholarly.

What makes the annual ARCA program so unique?

Let’s say it like this, it is the intensity: where else can you learn so much, working with top experts in this field? It is intensive and complete and, at the same time, it immerses you in the local culture of Amelia, in Italy, which is an open-air museum. Field trips organized by the program gives participants the in-depth experience needed to grasp most of the subjects discussed in the courses. It is the perfect setting!

Field trips and an open-air museum around you….
Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why? 

So many. Since I was once an ARCA participant myself, new courses have developed, and I would love, especially, to attend Professor Christos Tsirogiannis’ course on the hidden market of illicit antiquities. I admire his work and he is a great colleague. He was a great help with my earlier research and I could not be more grateful. He is widely acknowledged as an expert in the field and his media attention and the scope of his work is simply amazing! Again, it is the living proof of what I mentioned in my previous answer. Learning all about antiquities trafficking with Professor Tsirogiannis in Italy is an opportunity not to be missed!

Is there anything you can recommend to future participants of things to do in Amelia or Umbria? 

Come with an open and ready mind. Learn the culture of the place in which you will be living during your summer there. And be ready to learn a lot: work hard and there can be fantastic rewards afterwards. It is a fantastic field and it requires more and more trained minds to work in it!

Museums, museums, museums…

Are there any funny or interesting things you experienced in Italy, outside class? 

Indeed! We are still good friends after all these years, with my colleagues. We have so many good memories with the locals, the professors, regarding the field we made... it is a summer-long experience. The food, the setting, the people...

What is your experience with the annual ARCA conference in June? 

Sadly, I am always immersed teaching courses at that time and I cannot attend as much as I want, but I am changing this. I presented or attended years ago, and it is overwhelming being able to meet colleagues in this field and getting to know their research and the latest advances. These are very intense days: it is not only the conference, but the networking involved, in every single meeting. And of course, some fun to be had too, as the dinners and lunches are always fantastic!


Anything last thoughts? 

I would like to end this interview by saying that I am looking forward, as every year, to meeting our new cohorts. I always come back to Amelia and ARCA with a fluttering heart, knowing I will get to meet and get to know new participants, see again some old friends, and spend days teaching and talking about cultural heritage crime.


For a detailed prospectus and application materials, or for general questions about this postgraduate program, please contact us at 

Edgar Tijhuis in the ARCA Library

Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. Since 2008, Edgar Tijhuis has also been teaching a number of classes on the program and he will teach again in 2019.

August 15, 2013

Erik el Belga's "Por amor al arte. Memorias del ladrón más famoso del mundo" reviewed by Marc Balcells (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Marc Balcells reviews Erik el Belga's Por amor al arte. Memorias del ladrón más famoso del mundo (Editorial Planeta 2012) in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
We criminologists teach a particular theory: neutralization techniques, named by its authors, Matza and Sykes. In a nutshell, the theory states that committing crimes is illogical, and offenders need to rationalize it. Analyzing the perpetrator's discourse, from the perspective of this theory, will pour forth a chain of excuses/rationalizations that convert his or her actions into something rational and logical: something he can live with. 
This was the recurring theoretical framework that came to my mind while reading the life of art thief Erik el Belga, the nickname behind René Alphonse Ghislain Vanden Berghe, a Belgian citizen, long established in the south of Spain who, alongside his wife, has published his memories, in Spanish. 
To date this book has not been translated, so the practical question for the potential reader is: should he or she invest his or her time in this text, if not well-versed in Cervantes' mother tongue? It depends. Of course, if one is interested in reading the memories of an art thief, it is, indeed worth turning to. But if not, I seriously think this is not a book to recommend, outside of those specifically interested in the subject. The first edition had no fewer than 683 pages, which makes the reading a quite daunting task. 
You may finish reading this review in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney (available electronically and in print via subscription and Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

June 29, 2013

Saturday, June 29, 2013 - ,, No comments

ARCA Alum Marc Balcells Speaks with about the beauty of theories and art crime

Here's a link to an interview published June 27th with criminologist Marc Balcells (ARCA Alum '11) on the blog, It's in Spanish but there's an option to click on Google Translate for those who need assistance in comprehending the text. Mr. Balcells is a Fulbright scholar, Spanish criminologist, and a criminal lawyer. He currently lives in New York where he is completing a PhD in Criminal Justice.

In this post on, Mr. Balcells discusses the beauty of theory and his approach as a criminologist is in examining the motives of art thieves which may lead to prevention of art crimes.

Mr. Balcells is also co-editor of The Journal of Art Crime, a publication of ARCA.

October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - ,,, No comments

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Role of the Police in the Co-Production of Art Security in London" by John Kerr

In the Fall 2012 electronic edition of The Journal of Art Crime, criminologist John Kerr examines the role of the police in the co-production of art security in London in an article:
It draws on empirical research conducted on the under researched security network for art in the capital. In light of ‘new policing’ theses (McLaughlin 2007), the article investigates how the theory of nodal governance (Johnston and Shearing, 2003) can operate in an actual policing arena. With other government nodes and private stakeholders producing much of the art security, this article argues that a nodal governance framework is beneficial to the public police as it allows them to take an important role in the policing when they are best suited to doing so, and a lesser role in other areas when and where other nodes have greater capacity.
John Kerr is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Roehampton in London.  Until 2012, he was based at City University, London, and also lectured at London South Bank University.

Here's a link to the ARCa website and information about subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.