Cultural criminology places crime and its control within the realm of culture. Namely, it sees crime and crime control as social constructs or as cultural products; that is, their meaning is defined by the existing power relations of the social and cultural context of which they are part. As such, cultural criminology focuses on understanding how the meanings of crime, justice, and crime control are constructed, enforced, contested, and resisted within an increasingly globalized socioeconomic and cultural context. This is the context of late modernity where capitalism continues to infiltrate one community after the other, transforming people into consumers and experiences; emotions, life, and nature into consumer products. It is a context of transnational networks of flows of people, capital, goods, and images, where identities, communities, politics, and culture are increasingly constructed through the media and the Internet. There is a growing enmeshment of human communities—signified by the term globalization—in a way that events in one part of the world increasingly affect the other, and which make all the more evident perpetuating inequalities between Global North and South, as well as increasing marginality, exploitation, and exclusion of minorities within Global North and South. Simultaneously it is a world with effervescent potential for creativity, political activism, resistance, transcendence, and recuperation. This is briefly the context of late modernity within which cultural criminology endeavors to understand how perceptions about crime, justice, and crime control come to be constructed, enforced, and contested.
Cultural criminology adopts a triadic framework of analysis whereby it bridges the macro level of power (i.e., capitalism, patriarchy, racism, anthropocentrism, imperialism) to that of the meso level of culture (i.e., art forms, media, subcultures, knowledge, discourse) and the micro level of everyday life and emotions. Through this intertwined exploration of the macro, the meso, and the micro in the globally connected world of late modernity, cultural criminology embraces a highly interdisciplinary and critical stance that grants it a particular international edge, as it is attuned to contemporary issues that affect communities locally and internationally. Cultural criminology’s international edge, for example, is depicted in challenging globally established forms of criminological knowledge production, which are dictated by state definitions of crime and “law and order”-oriented policies. These definitions and their accompanying policies omit harms committed by the powerful or the state itself along with everyday life experiences of and with crime. The call for a cultural criminology is one of resistance to these dominant forms of knowledge that reinforce and legitimize the status quo at local, national, and international levels. It is a call that aims to reorient criminology to contemporary and perpetuating manifestations of power, inequalities, and resistance within the contemporary context of late modernity and globalization. To do so though, cultural criminology should also be more reflexive on its positionality within the realm of knowledge, as it represents largely a Global North perspective. As such, it should extend its attentiveness to forms of knowledge and perspectives stemming from the Global South and should seek to be critiqued from and open a dialogue with Southern and non-Western decolonial perspectives.