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Criminal questions, colonial hinterlands, personal experience: a symptomatic reading

Earle, Rod, Parmar, Alpa and Phillips, Coretta ORCID: 0000-0001-9796-7792 (2023) Criminal questions, colonial hinterlands, personal experience: a symptomatic reading. In: Aliverti, Ana, Caravalho, Henrique, Chamberlen, Anastasia and Sozzo, Máximo, (eds.) Decolonizing the Criminal Question: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Problems. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 277 - 292. ISBN 9780192899002

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Identification Number: 10.1093/oso/9780192899002.003.0016


This chapter considers the challenges and opportunities that a postcolonial practice might generate for analysis of offending, punishment, and desistance. It argues that there is methodological and theoretical merit in seeking to understand contemporary experiences of crime and offending through the lens of race and colonialism. While accepting that categorical or aetiological links between colonial dynamics and contemporary experiences of criminal justice may be hard to specify empirically, this chapter suggests that our understanding of the relationship between race and crime can be enriched by connecting personal biography, criminological analysis, and historical colonial experience. Specifically, Althusser’s ideas about symptomatic reading (Althusser and Balibar, 2009) are particularly valuable in the approach adopted here. Symptomatic reading is a strategy for interpreting the ‘latent content’ behind the ‘manifest content’ of a text, in this case, the authors’ research interviews. The approach outlined in this chapter suggests that if we want to appreciate the magnitude of race and racism in questions of crime, social order, and disorder, a simple or ‘innocent’ reading of the criminal question (Aliverti et al., 2021) is not enough. The specific contribution of this chapter, then, is to supplement and encourage diverse approaches to decolonizing criminology through revisiting empirical studies, developing teamwork, and collaborative analysis to better inform our understanding of otherwise obscured colonial dynamics.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2023 08:45
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2024 19:43

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