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Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies  

Hugo Goeury

In the mid-1970s, the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which came to be known as the “Birmingham School,” published two major books that contributed substantially to the field of critical criminology: Resistance Through Rituals (RTR) and Policing the Crisis (PTC). These two groundbreaking and complementary works aimed to contribute to the two main topics of criminological enquiry: deviance/crime and social reaction/punishment. In both cases, the Centre deployed a Marxist-inspired and sociologically driven approach whose main objective was to study both deviance and social reaction from a critical perspective that takes into consideration the broader social, political, economic, and cultural context in which they take place. RTR challenged the dominant discourse of the postwar era, which proclaimed the end of class antagonism and the exhaustion of “class” as a relevant social category. The Birmingham School’s research demonstrated that the many subcultures—punks, mods, teddy boys, rastas, etc. —that flourished in the United Kingdom at the time were not symptomatic, as many argued, of the rise of a “classless youth.” On the contrary, RTR made the case that subcultures are part of a century-long tradition of symbolic, working-class resistance against the hegemonic order. From this perspective, subcultures were seen as an attempt, on the part of working-class youths, to solve the many contradictions of their class experience at a time of broad, multidimensional changes. While the Birmingham School’s work on subcultures was a celebration of working-class resistance and agency, ultimately, it reached the conclusion that this form of resistance, which remained restricted to the symbolic sphere, could not offer a solution to the exploitation and oppression faced by working-class youth, which stemmed from the material, social relations of production of capitalism. While RTR focused on “deviance,” PTC shifted the analysis to the other side of the equation, that of social reaction and punishment. In this second publication, Stuart Hall and his co-authors developed an impressive “conjunctural analysis” approach that allowed them to move from the study of the so-called “mugging crisis” of the United Kingdom in the early 1970s, to the elaboration of their groundbreaking theory on crisis of hegemony and the rise of a new, “law and order society.” PTC is one of the pioneering studies that argued that the rise of “authoritarian populism” and the birth of a “law and order society” that were taking place in the United Kingdom in the 1970s were not temporary phenomena but were representative of a long-lasting change of epoch. More than 40 years after the publication of this seminal work, it leaves no doubt that the Birmingham School’s predictions have been validated, as is corroborated by an extensive literature studying the “punitive turn” that has taken over the globe over the last few decades. Overall, at a time when criminology was becoming increasingly dominated by positivism and disconnected from the sociological tradition, the Birmingham School’s most influential and long-lasting legacy resides in RTR and PTC’s invitation to critically investigate what the CCCS members called the “social and political ‘conditions of existence’” of both deviance/crime and social reaction/punishment.

Article

Colonialism, Crime, and Social Control  

Viviane Saleh-Hanna

Crime is a distinctly European concept that was institutionalized into the criminal justice system through the penal code, created in the 1700s by founding theorists of criminology’s classical school of thought. In practice, crime is a concept that limits what can be defined as harmful and violent. Written at the height of Europe’s genocidal colonial wars and chattel slavery, the penal code excluded, and continues to exclude mass atrocities and violations committed through these institutions. Since criminal justice institutions were birthed through and spread by Western Europe’s colonial wars around the globe, the study of colonialism, crime, and social control requires a re-evaluation of the pillars of Western European thought and the peculiar colonizing economies and punitive praxis that produced the criminal justice system. Through an anticolonial, genealogical framework scholars and researchers can better locate criminal justice institutions, practices, and concepts within their colonial contexts, allowing for a more thorough understanding of how history, power, politics, and economy shape crime and practice social control in the 21st century. At the core of an anticolonial study of crime and social control is an understanding that Europe’s crime-concept depends upon institutionalized constructions of dangerousness for colonized people and nations, and lack thereof, for colonizing people and nations. Dangerousness, as defined by colonial renditions of race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, nation, and so forth, anchors the cultural and implemented processes of criminalization; as a result, proper and comprehensive deconstructions of colonizing definitions of dangerousness require an intersectional understanding of power and oppression. Therefore, an effective framework for the study of colonialism, crime, and social control necessitates a re-evaluation and re-articulation of the following questions: what is colonialism?; what is crime?; what is colonial social control?; and what is criminology’s relationship to colonialism?

Article

Critical Criminologies  

Walter S. DeKeseredy

There is no single critical criminology. Rather, there are critical criminologies with different histories, methods, theories, and political perspectives. However, critical criminology is often defined as a perspective that views the major sources of crime as the unequal class, race/ethnic, and gender relations that control our society. Critical criminologists oppose prisons and other draconian means of social control. Their main goal is major radical and cultural change, but they recognize that these transitions will not occur in the current neoliberal era. Hence, most critical criminologists propose short-term anticrime policies and practices and fundamental social, economic, and political transformations, such as a change from a capitalist economy to one based on more socialist principles.

Article

Cross-Cultural Causation of Violence Against Women  

Nicholas J. Chagnon and Laura Rouse

Cultural analysis has historically been a core part of activism and scholarship surrounding violence against women. For instance, first-wave feminists linked domestic violence to cultural dynamics. Regrettably, they did so in a xenophobic and ethnocentric way that stigmatized new immigrants to the United States around the turn of the 20th century. More recently, feminism’s second wave problematized violence against women partly through the use of patriarchy as a cultural-structural concept. Following that, liberal feminists often reproduced the ethnocentrism of first-wave feminism, at times linking violence against women in the Global South to local cultures. Such viewpoints have been characterized as “feminist Orientalism.” Much of the extant scholarship on violence against women and culture focuses on cultural difference, looking at how the specificities of individual cultures may promote or stifle violence against women. Some of this scholarship has been criticized for promoting racist notions and anxieties, but much of this scholarship has documented important cultural variation connected to high levels of violence against women. Yet, a lens focused on cultural sameness is an equally valid analysis. An analysis based on cultural sameness is particularly useful for understanding the etiological role played by transnational institutions in promoting violence against women. For instance, warfare, borders, and the prison-industrial complex are highly influential transnational institutions that play a powerful role in the etiology of violence against women. Much sexual violence, physical abuse, and killings of women occur in the context of these institutions, including forms such as rape used as a weapon of war, sexual violence against immigrant detainees, and rapes committed by prison staff. The violence plays out in clear and important gendered patterns. Not only are these three institutions influential transnational ones, but they are also core elements of contemporary states. Warfare is a central element of state-making, while borders are intrinsic to securing the territorial integrity of states. Furthermore, prisons have become a principal tool of social control throughout this planet. Thus, one can conclude that the violence meted out in the context of these institutions is, among other things, state violence. The systems of power underpinning the state are salient here as well. Systems such as patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism predate the contemporary state and have defined the social conditions that gave rise to contemporary states. The state emerges and exists at the intersections of these systems. The state’s core institutions, such as warfare, borders, and prisons, are highly influenced by these systems, and the roles played by such institutions often reproduce these systems of power. In light of these dynamics, an institutional analysis of violence against women reveals the ways in which it is central to the operation and reproduction of contemporary states, and in turn, it illuminates the state as a primary force in the etiology of violence against women.

Article

Global Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children  

Julie Anne Laser-Maira, Charles E. Hounmenou, and Donna Peach

The term commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) refers to the for-profit sexual exploitation of children and youth through buying, trading, or selling sexual acts. CSEC is a subset of children and youth who are victims of human trafficking or trafficking in persons (TIP). The Stockholm Declaration defines CSEC as a form of coercion and violence against children that amounts to forced labor and a contemporary form of slavery; there are many forms of CSEC, including child prostitution, child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage, temporary marriage, mail-order brides, child labor, child servitude, domestic servitude, begging, massage, sex tourism, child pornography, online streaming of sexual abuse, sexual extortion of children, and sexual solicitation of children. Not all experiences of sexual servitude are globally recognized. It is critical to explore the concepts of race, inequality, power, culture, and globalization and how they impact the commercial sexual exploitation of children.