Cultural Criminology

Keith Hayward

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Cultural Criminology

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Cultural criminology is a distinct theoretical, methodological, and interventionist approach to the study of crime that places criminality and its control squarely in the context of culture; that is, it views crime and the agencies and institutions of crime control as cultural products or as creative constructs. As such they must be read in terms of the meanings they carry. The focus of the field is broad, comprising situated and symbolic meaning; constructed social identity; subcultural analysis; space, place, and cultural geography; the ongoing transformations and fluctuations associated with hypercapitalism; vicissitudes of power, resistance, and state control; and existentialism and concepts of risk, “edgework,” and embodied practice. In all this, cultural criminology attempts to reorient criminology to contemporary social and cultural changes and thus to imagine a “postmodern” or “late modern” theory of crime and control. In this regard cultural criminology is interested in how individuals strive to resolve certain internal psychic and emotional conflicts that are themselves spawned by the contradictions and peculiarities of contemporary life. Put differently, cultural criminology seeks to fuse “a phenomenology of contemporary transgression with a sociocultural analysis of late modern culture” (Hayward 2004, p. 9, cited under Markets, Consumption, and Crime). Although cultural criminology is a fairly recent development (dating from the mid-1990s), it actually draws heavily on a rich tradition of sociologically inspired criminological work, from the early interactionist, subcultural, and naturalistic ideas of the Chicago school to the more politically charged theoretical analyses associated with the British tradition of 1970s Marxist and neo-Gramscian critical criminology. However, while it is undoubtedly the case that many of the key themes and ideas associated with cultural criminology have been voiced elsewhere in the criminological tradition, it is also clear that this dynamic body of work offers something new, primarily in the way it seeks to reflect the peculiarities and particularities of the late modern sociocultural milieu. Such complex foci require the utilization of a wide-ranging set of analytic tools. Not surprisingly, then, cultural criminology is stridently interdisciplinary, interfacing not just with criminology, sociology, and criminal/youth justice studies but with perspectives and methodologies drawn from, inter alia, cultural, media, and urban studies; philosophy; postmodern critical and social theory; cultural geography; anthropology; social movement studies; and other “action” research approaches. The strength of the “cultural approach,” then, is the way it tackles the subject of crime and criminalization from a variety of new perspectives and academic disciplines. In effect its remit is to keep “turning the kaleidoscope” on the way we think about crime and, importantly, the legal and societal responses to it.

Article.  5974 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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