26-Mar-20 Indigenous Criminology


Photo credit: Ali Arapoğlu at Pexels

What would I read in Criminology, if I had the luxury of more time?  One area is ‘Indigenous Criminology’ and particularly the work of academic Dr Juan Tauri at the University of Wollongong in Australia. His article, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House: An Indigenous Critique of Criminology, published in 2018 is a great start for anyone interested in this area.

It is not possible to understand contemporary police-BME community relations and the BME experience of crime control, without recognising the historical context of colonialism, erasure and settlement, as well as the regimes of apartheid, subjugation and discrimination that follow(ed).

A similar historical argument is made in the Netflix film ‘13th’ – one to watch if you haven’t already.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5895028/

The importance of Indigenous Criminology is in challenging our assumptions about the world and our systems of knowledge.  The discipline of Criminology, like most academic subjects, was developed by White, middle class men in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Yet as Moosavi (2019, p.258) argues:

“Like all other social sciences, criminologists have insufficiently reflected on the ethnocentrism of their discipline, preferring instead to believe that criminology is ‘universal’ and ‘scientific’ rather than culturally and historically constituted, even though criminologists routinely prioritize Western concerns and ignore non-Western knowledge and experiences (Connell 2006: 258–262; Connell 2007: 44–47; Lynch 2000: 146–147; Tauri 2013: 221–222).”

Moosavi (pp.264-265) also says the risk of establishing separate categories, such as Southern Criminology or Asian Criminology, is that it can suggest they are just specialist sub-fields within the discipline.  And that means that mainstream Criminology continues business as usual, prioritising and valuing particular types of knowledge.  This is exactly the argument that feminist criminologists like Carol Smart made about bringing gender into Criminology… and they were probably right! 

So the takeaway is that we should be alert to the missing voices and missing perspectives in Criminology.  We should also take time to look at our history and see how the threads run through to the present day.

© Natasha Mulvihill and Criminology Tales, 2020. 

Reference:

Moosavi, L., 2019. A Friendly Critique of ‘Asian Criminology’ and ‘Southern Criminology’. British Journal of Criminology, 59(2), pp.257-275. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azy045

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