Important research focuses on why thousands of young men and women join youth gangs, but much can be learned from looking at a single life in order to understand ways individuals manage to leave gang life behind them, in this instance by Christian conversion. This life story, told in an effort to decipher its structure and its sources of efficacy, is of Julio, a born-again, ex-gang member who grew up in Los Angeles, California but has since been deported back to Guatemala. His story provides a window into Christianity’s relationship to hemispheric security by exploring the growing world of Central American gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio Dieciocho (18th Street) from the perspective of gang ministry. Julio’s story joins a growing conversation about Central American gangs and the efficacy of Christian conversion.
Case Study: Black Cannabis Dealers in a White Welfare State Race, Politics, and Street Capital in Norway
An ethnographic study of a group of young black men dealing cannabis at a drug scene called The River in Oslo demonstrates that accumulation and use of street capital can be seen as responses to processes of social and economic exclusion. In Norway, as elsewhere, many immigrant youths are marginalized by ethnic discrimination, racism, lack of education and job opportunities, and immigration policy. Street capital is a means to gain respect, status, and money. The concept is inspired by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and highlights how street culture becomes embodied and emphasizes the practical rationality involved when marginalized youths become involved in crime. Street capital is upheld by and embedded in gangster stories, but the young men also see themselves as victims. There are ongoing shifts between gangster- and oppression discourses; neither represents the “true story” of these men. Ethnographic study of street dealers’ language use demonstrates the complex relationship between street culture and a benevolent Nordic welfare state.
Sara K. Thompson
Most criminological theory and research on the black homicide victimization is grounded in the American context, which raises important generalizability issues given the exceptional level of lethal violence that is used as the standard in this inquiry. This case study examines the social and spatial distribution of black homicide victimization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada between 1988 and 2003. Results suggest that, as in American cities, blacks in Toronto are over-represented as homicide victims and offenders, but there are important differences in the spatial distribution and ecological correlates of this violence. These findings highlight the importance of cross-national research when investigating the generalizability of findings from U.S.-based research on racially disaggregated homicide rates.
Sebastian Roché, Mirta B. Gordon, and Marie-Aude Depuiset
Race and ethnicity are important political issues in France but not important research issues. Even liberals concerned about inequality disagree about the need to study the subject and are reluctant to use racial or ethnic data. Many politicians say they are proud that France ignores matters of race and ethnicity. Whether and to what extent ethnicity is associated with sanctioning for serious crimes by juveniles was investigated in two juvenile courts, in two jurisdictions, over more than 20 years (1984–2005). Logistic regressions were carried out for violent crimes for which juveniles were indicted (“all violent crimes”) and subsequently for two subsets: “nonlethal and nonsexual violence” (acquisitive or not) and “sexual violence” (sexual assaults and rapes). Massive and systematic discrimination based on ethnicity was not found for the overall sample or for the subsamples. The best predictors of severity were the type of crime for which the defendant was indicted and his criminal history. However, there were traces of sentencing discrimination. In one jurisdiction, especially for sexual crimes, race explained a share of sentencing severity.
Much negative public and media attention in Germany focuses on Muslim immigrants, particularly those with guest worker backgrounds. A study based on 5 years of ethnographic fieldwork with 55 second-generation male Muslim immigrants in Germany who engaged in drug dealing provides major new insights into how they try to make sense of the negative stereotypes of Muslim immigrants prevalent in German society, into distinctive forms of exclusion they face in the public education system, and into the effects on them of a restrictive and unwelcoming naturalization system. The exclusion the young men face significantly limits their opportunities for social and economic success, shapes their opinions about Germany, and provides them with rationales for explaining and legitimizing their drug dealing activities.
Colonial processes, indigenous people, and criminal justice systems interact. There are commonalities in the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the white settler societies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Understanding of the over-representation of Indigenous people in crime and victimization statistics needs to be contextualized within the broader framework of the effects of colonization. These effects include long-term social and economic marginalization, and limited recognition of indigenous law and governance. Current criminal justice processes (including risk assessment) continue to single out indigenous peoples as a “crime-prone” population. Indigenous demands for greater recognition of Aboriginal law and greater control over criminal justice decision-making must be taken seriously. Neo-liberalism and “law and order” politics are likely further to entrench the over-representation of indigenous peoples within western criminal justice systems.
A Comparison of British and American Policies for Managing Dangerous Prisoners: A Question of Legitimacy
Roy D. King
This essay traces the development of policies regarding difficult and dangerous prisoners in Britain and the United States from the 1960s to the present day. In essence policies about dangerous prisoners in the Unites States have been driven primarily by concerns about bad behaviors inside prisons control problems whereas in Britain the driving force has been fears about escapes security risks. Although control problems and security risks can and do sometimes overlap, it is argued that the two issues can be analyzed separately and have different solutions. Failure to distinguish clearly between security and control issues has bedeviled policies in both countries, sometimes seriously undermining the legitimacy of the system concerned, and led to misunderstandings on both sides of the Atlantic. The essay is organized in three chronological periods in the hope that moving the discussion between the two countries will better bring out the similarities and differences.
Ryoko Yamamoto and David Johnson
When Japan experienced a “crime crisis” at the turn of the 21st century, crimes by foreign residents became a major target of police. Since then, one main focus of policing has been rainichi (visiting) foreigners who stay in the country on temporary status. Rainichi foreigners comprise a small fraction of Japan’s Penal Code offenders despite the substantial political and law enforcement attention that their activities have drawn. Prosecution and sentencing in Japan do seem to result in some disparities by nationality, but the available data are too limited to arrive at confident conclusions about their nature or magnitude. What is clear is that crime control and immigration control have converged in contemporary Japan, partly as the result of a more general shift towards “punitiveness” in the country’s crime control field (genbatsuka). This convergence is hamstringing efforts to deal with Japan’s deepening demographic crisis.
This chapter provides an introduction to ethnographic research on criminal courts, focusing on the scientific and policy objectives in this diverse field. A central theme is that court ethnographers in observing hearings and interviewing practitioners have a choice in employing analytic strategies that focus on “micro” and “macro” level of analysis. Landmark studies conducted in the United States and United Kingdom are summarized, locating these in their political and intellectual context. Practical issues are reviewed including obtaining access, ethics approvals, and data analysis. The chapter also considers future trends and issues: internationalization of this field, practical contributions to understanding criminal justice, and policy implications for debates about social justice. Ethnographers can assist in evaluating emerging philosophies and court-based practices, and new types of specialist courts.
Katharyne Mitchell and Key MacFarlane
In recent years social scientists have been interested in the growth and transformation of global cities. These metropolises, which function as key command centers in global production networks, manifest many of the social, economic, and political tensions and inequities of neoliberal globalization. Their international appeal as sites of financial freedom and free trade frequently obscures the global city underbelly: practices of labor exploitation, racial discrimination, and migrant deferral. This chapter explores some of these global tensions, showing how they have shaped the strategies and technologies behind urban crime prevention, security, and policing. In particular, the chapter shows how certain populations perceived as risky become treated as pre-criminals: individuals in need of management and control before any criminal behavior has occurred. It is demonstrated further how the production of the pre-criminal can lead to dispossession, delay, and detention as well as to increasing gentrification and violence.
This article discusses crime policy in small jurisdictions which to date have been underexamined in the criminological literature. In Section I, arguments concerning the dynamics of small-scale systems and the manner in which elite networks operating within them can act to resist larger transformative processes are discussed. In Section II, the impact of country size on penal policy is examined in more detail, with a view to assessing whether it can act as a protective factor against punitiveness. In Section III, the limits of macro-level accounts of punitiveness are explored through a number of small-country case studies.
This chapter explores the many dynamics linking cultural criminology and ethnography and outlines the distinctive features of cultural criminological ethnography. The chapter first notes the ethnographic sensibility on which cultural criminology is constructed and summarizes some of the foundational ethnographies in cultural criminology. It next documents the dynamic interplay between ethnography and theory in cultural criminology, especially in regard to the concept of verstehen. The chapter then considers ethnographic innovations in cultural criminology, among them instant ethnography, liquid ethnography, visual ethnography, and autoethnography. A larger innovation is also explicated: cultural criminological employment of ethnography as an alternative epistemology within criminology, and a methodological critique of conventional criminological research. The chapter concludes with two discussions: cultural criminology’s use of ethnographic research findings as counterpoint and corrective to harmful criminal justice policies, and the trajectory of cultural criminological ethnography as it increasingly engages with interdisciplinary approaches, and explores issues of absence, drift, and ephemerality.
Susyan Jou, Bill Hebenton, and Lennon Chang
Culture, whether invoked as a dependent or independent variable, has become increasingly significant with respect to the study of white-collar criminality. Indeed, it can be argued that it has moved from the periphery to the center of criminological concerns and research. This chapter considers the conceptual underpinnings of geographic cultural variation on values and organization, together with its uses and implications within particular forms of cross-national research on white-collar crime, particularly corruption (including bribery and intellectual property fraud). To illustrate the explicatory value of the cultural, the chapter examines the Chinese practice of guanxi. Culture is just one partial aspect of any adequate explanation for white-collar crime, part of the mix with other aspects of action that are more commonly understood as political or economic.
J. Bryan Page
This chapter outlines some of the history and key attributes of ethnographies of drug users. Long before the invention of writing, human beings began noticing that other human beings behaved oddly when they consumed certain materials. In some cases, the observers imitated the consumption that they saw, and the behavior spread. Eventually, protoethnographers such as Herodotus and Bernardino de Sahagún wrote extensively about what they saw (and heard) about the consumption of drug plants and preparations among people outside their personal cultural experience. Until the fifth century before the common era (500
Tim Turner and Tony Colombo
The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate how ethnographic research can generate unique insights into the situated meaning of illicit drug use within bounded play spaces of pleasure and excess. The case study draws on three summers of participant observation with British tourists on the Balearic island of Ibiza, a holiday resort culturally defined by narratives of hedonism, drugs and dance music. The chapter discusses three principal aspects of the ethnographic research. First, a step-by-step outline of the methodological framework is provided. Second, key findings on the pleasures of drug use are discussed, demonstrating how ethnography can generate unique insights into this area of study. Third, future directions for ethnographic research in relation to drug users are proposed.
This chapter makes the case for criminological ethnography as a form of negotiated boundary work between separate sociocultural domains. Drawing on the conceptualization of “field” articulated by Pierre Bourdieu, as a semiautonomous site of contest, the chapter conceives of fieldwork as a distinct form of emotional labor; in short, as fieldwork. In making this argument, the chapter presents findings from a four-year ethnographic study of street gangs in Glasgow, Scotland, which involved navigating multiple, overlapping fields. The first section introduces the study, covering the experience of entering the “street field” of Langview. The second and third sections outline two empirical contributions flowing from the study, covering cultural reproduction in the “street” field and bureaucratic misrecognition in the “police” field. The fourth is a reflexive account of the disjuncture between the “street” and “academic” field, and the reflections this prompted. In conclusion, the chapter suggests a number of implications and conclusions for ethnography, gang studies, and public policy.
Ethnicity and racism feature at each stage of the criminal justice process in the United Kingdom. Some minority ethnic group people are more likely to be victimized, are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, and are more likely to be arrested. The cumulative effect of disproportionate treatment of black people throughout the criminal justice process is reflected in high numbers of black people in prison. Patterns of crime vary among minority ethnic groups and between them and the white majority, but not in ways that adequately explain imprisonment patterns. Research findings indicate that racism is levelled towards ethnic minority groups and explain ways in which discrimination occurs. Explanations for variations in group patterns of offending and criminal justice system involvement need to take account of differences between black and Asian groups in experiences at each stage of the criminal justice process, and in the migratory contexts within which minority ethnic groups have settled in Britain. These issues have been complicated by the effects of contemporary concerns about terrorism and counter-terrorism—a contemporary insecurity that affects minority ethnic groups to a disproportionate degree.
France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe and a long immigration tradition. Official data do not recognize race, ethnicity, or religion as fundamental characteristics of people. For a long time crime data ignored foreigners and non-French immigrants as distinct groups. They are significantly overrepresented among criminal suspects in custody and in prison, though this varies by offense and according to status; an important proportion have violated immigration laws and are not a threat to society. Their overrepresentation may result from lack of fixed residence and the possibility they will not turn up if summoned by a judge. Research on this issue is scant. It is unclear whether disparities represent invidious bias or result from socio-economic disadvantages or differences in records of past criminality. Xenophobia among the broad French public, after declining substantially, is on the rise again, in great part due to the recent economic crisis.
Godfried Engbersen, Arjen Leerkes, and Erik Snel
The development of research on relations among ethnicity, migration, and crime in the Netherlands reflects the ways migration flows and immigration control policies evolved after World War II. In the 1980s and 1990s, research primarily focused on four immigrant groups that are today established minorities: Surinamese, Turks, Moroccans, and Antilleans. Research later expanded to include criminality among asylum seekers, irregular migrants, and labor migrants from Central and Eastern Europe. The effects of migration management on immigrant crime are also the subject of research; focal topics include the effects of open borders as a result of the European Union enlargements (resulting in mobile banditry), of external border control (the growth of human trafficking organizations), and of internal border control (forms of subsistence crime as a consequence of barring irregular migrants from access to conventional means of acquiring income). Dutch research can be categorized into five themes: differential involvement of ethnic groups in criminality, subcultural explanations for criminality, victimization and fear of crime, social organization of human trafficking, and functioning of the criminal justice system.
Michael L. Walker
This chapter marshals ethnographic data from county jails in southern California to examine how a penal environment shapes the ways prisoners experience time, track time, and orient themselves to the past, present, or future. Building from research that conceptualizes the ordering of social behavior according to “event” or “clock” time, it is argued that incoming prisoners experience a disorienting incongruity between clock time in free society and event time in jail. Temporal congruity is conceptualized as another kind of social need like identity verification, group inclusivity, and other basic social needs identified by social psychologists. Additionally, and in part because penal time was organized around events, prisoners use somewhat idiosyncratic quality-of-life events to create timetables and thereby break indefinite time into manageable segments. Finally, a relationship between self-efficacy and temporal orientation (past, present, or future) is shown with the argument that as self-efficacy increases, so does the likelihood of prisoners being oriented to the future. On the other hand, the lower the self-efficacy, the greater the likelihood of an orientation to the present. Given the findings, it is recommended that jails operate on more conventional time schedules with regular access to natural light. This work has implications for the sociology of time as well as future studies of punishment.