Frédéric Chauvaud, The killers of women and the improbable addiction. An archeology of serial killers

Preface by Daniel Zagury.

Serial killers today exert a morbid fascination: books, documentaries, series, films are devoted to them. Most often, they are presented as sinister characters who arose in the United States in the 1970s, then in France in the 1990s. The repetition of murders, the modus operandi, the identity of the “prey” are the main elements enabling them to be characterized, to understand what is at stake and to do everything possible to prevent other victims from suffering a disastrous fate.

In the 19th century, while knowledge about crime became more dense, police investigation, judicial investigation, medicine and forensic psychiatry were deployed, contemporaries were hardly interested either in the reiteration of the crime nor to “criminal passion.” Most of the victims are anonymous women: prostitutes, servants, shop girls, widows. So there have been killers of women – these days their crimes would be called “systemic feminicides” – who are serial killers and go almost unnoticed.

Thus, remains an enigma: what drives crime? Why do men attack women exclusively, what mysterious force animates them? Why can’t they help but start over? These serial killers, even those who have undergone mental expertise, are not considered insane, they are judged, sentenced, most of them to the death penalty, and executed. Justice is content with apparent motives. What matters is that the judicial institution can function. However, most of the motives mentioned do not make it possible to understand the passage to the act and this addiction to crime has remained untraceable.


Frédéric Chauvaud, professor of contemporary history at the University of Poitiers, is a specialist in criminal justice, violence and brutalized bodies. He co-organizes “Les Rencontres d’Angoulême. Thinking and understanding comics”. He co-directed counterfeit beings. Deformed bodies and grotesque bodies in comics (PUR, 2019) and Disabled bodies in comics (PURE, 2020). He is preparing, with Michel Porret, the publication of Bulles Sanglantes (Georg) and with Denis Mellier Gesture and comics (EVEN THOUGH).

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For the past ten years, he has worked more specifically on feminicide. He has published and edited numerous works, including recently: (in collaboration), Crime of passion does not exist, Paris, From one bank to another, 2021; (cod.), Make the bodies speak, Rennes, PUR, coll. “History”, 2021; Collective The Crime Almanac, Hachette, 2021; (charged.), The broken links, PUR, coll. “Histoire”, 2021. He is preparing, in collaboration with Lydie Bodiou, the publication of Femicide Archives (Hermann)

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