An undeniable advantage of being a criminologist is that it sounds cool. Granted, the coolness factor of saying, ‘I’m a criminologist’ wears off quickly, usually when you admit that you cannot solve crime, are not a profiler and know little about psychopaths. But criminology is still one of the flashier branches of sociology.
Critical criminology is especially cool. We fight the system and question cultural hegemony. We investigate the criminal justice system and modes of surveillance. We challenge definitions of crime. We like hanging out with drug dealers, refugees, prostitutes or anyone, really, who is perceived as deviant by mainstream society.
There are many different schools of thought within critical criminology. We may have our differences, but we can all agree on who we are not like: financial analysts and bankers, clean-cut, serious people in suits who have starting salaries tenured professors can only dream of – those people we all know who sit in steel and glass towers and play with highly complex mathematical models, who can make millions at the wink of an eye. We criminologists may work with concepts like capitalism, neo-liberalism or consumer culture. But we mostly look at how they affect people at the bottom of the social ladder. Rarely do we look at those prospering from our current financial system. Continue reading
This criminological theory monster is based on Charles Tittle’s (2000) article ‘Theoretical Developments in Criminology’. For references (and to find out what theories exactly I am talking about) please look at the original article.
Among the many marvelous things to be found around the internet is the tumblr Hey, Michel Foucault
My personal favorites:
Having leveled my palace, don’t erect a hovel and complacently admire your own charity in giving me that for a home. – Emily Bronte
How I stifled a revolution
The first time I heard someone say that social work played a distinct role in maintaining social inequality on oppressive political systems I got really angry. I felt personally insulted by the suggestion that social work could be seen as a form of control – as part of the force that keeps those who suffer worst from social injustice in check. “Why don’t you go piss someone off who deserves it?” I thought. “We’re only trying to help.”
That night I had a shift in the homeless shelter I worked. I worked with homeless men with drug abuse issues. People who are often considered the ‘underbelly of society’. As I settled down in my office one of the residents came in. He was obviously upset and angry about a visit to the local Job Centre that day. He had had an appointment with his caseworker and felt he had been treated disrespectfully. ”She treated me like scum.” He said. “If she talks to me like that again I will take her fucking computer screen and bash it in her face”. I talked to him for a while. I told him I understood how he felt. That I knew how unfair it was. But that this was just the way it was. And that he would just have to suck up to her and smile and nod, or he would be even worse off. He seemed calmer after we talked and went to bed after assuring me that he was not going to physically attack anyone. As I watched him walk away it dawned on me that I had just successfully stifled someone’s plan to resist being a victim of oppression.
This experience is not untypical. By sticking band aids onto the gaping wounds of social injustice we alleviate some of the most obvious symptoms of a systemic violence in our society. We become part of the problem while trying to be part of the solution. This conflict is made all the more difficult by the fact that we can’t just choose not to do what we do. I can’t pretend I believe I should have not tried to dissuade that young man from acting out his frustration by physically harming someone who was just as stuck in the system as he was. I can’t claim that I think homeless shelters shouldn’t exist because people who are at the bottom of the social ladder should be made to feel even worse than they already do so that they will start fighting back. But this episode does keeps bothering me.
In today’s edition of the Guardian there is an article by Dave Hill in the Comment is Free section titled Don’t give money to beggars – help them instead.
In this article Hill argues that you shouldn’t give money to people begging on the street because it harms them more than it helps them as they will probably spend it on drugs and alcohol. As far as Hill is concerned this is such an obvious argument that everyone agrees. He writes “Outreach workers know it.[That money given to beggars will mostly be used for drugs] The police know it. They are the ones who have to deal with the consequences, handling the harder cases, directing them to rehab, hoping not to have to fish a corpse out of a hostel’s bath.”
As I am a former outreach worker Hill apparently thinks he can speak for me. He isn’t completely wrong, of course, when he writes that money people get from others may be spent on drugs and alcohol. He is, however, wrong about almost everything else and I’d like to take this opportunity to respond.
To start of this blog off I am crossposting asomething I wrote a while ago.
At the height of my procrastination efforts, I have made a criminological mixtape. Enjoy!
- Traditional – Little Sadie/Cocain Blues
The first written version of ‘Little Sadie’ is dated 1922. In its long history the song has been recorded Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Woody Guthry, and many others.
2. Bob Dylan – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (1964)
Dylan wrote this song at the age of 22, after reading about the killing of Hattie Carroll in a newspaper. In 1963, on the same day that Martin Luther King Jr. held his ‘I have a dream’ speech, the white tobacco farmer William Zantzinger had been sentenced to six months in prison and a 500 $ fine for manslaughter after killing Carroll, a black barmaid, in a drunken rage. Dylan turned the case into a powerful metaphor for race and class in America that transcends time and space.