Theories of Criminology: 2650
Lecture March 13 th
CULTURAL CRIMINOLOGY (critical) is concerned with the production and
exchange of meanings between social groups and different members of
society. It begins with the recognition that we are all enmeshed in the
process of social construction. Cultural criminology is a critical theory that
examines the cultural conditions that make ideas and images of crime and
criminality possible in today’s society.
2 strands of cultural criminology
1. Subcultural Criminology: Entails a rejection of administrative,
deterministic, and positivist criminology. Focuses on “real life” subcultures
and their participants; particularly on how society uses media to form their
own subcultural lifestyles and identity.
-Phenomenology and emotional experience (what are the sneaky thrills)
>Lifestyle of deviant subcultures (I.E. clothing style) and how these are
shaped by media choices.
>Focus on the differences of subcultures vs mainstream pop culture.
Subcultures are seen as a site for creativity and non-conformity.
2. Criminology Aesthetics: Examines representation and images of crime
and criminality in media and not necessarily how they are used.
>Representations and images of crime in mainstream culture. These
images are what construct the public’s perception of the world.
-"Representation:" these images organize our reality.
-“Imagination”: Process through which we make images.
Why study the representation of crime?
>Popular views of crime form our views about certain crimes and ultimately
lead to our ideas about what solutions should be. This is apparent when we
think about moral panic.
>Policing and correcting media images; some criminologist try to police
inaccurate portrayals or crime. The question “How do media images construct crime and criminality?” would be to take a constructionist view of
Alison Young: Criminological Aesthetics
Binary logic of representation: This is how crime images are constructed,
the logic of these images relies on the use of binary opposites. So images
are constructed in oppositional terms. Good vs. Evil.
How is this image interpreted by the spectator? You need to do a close
textual analysis of a text to determine this. A critical criminologist would
focus on how a frame is shot and the representation of characters (film).
We are also interested in its format, music queues, wardrobe, etc. The films
format also has an effect on the audience, spectators are moved by film
and images because of the format of a piece. The portrayal of crime is an
affective process, which allows for audience identification with, as, or
against law/criminal. How these pieces are interpreted are based off of how
the producer/creator/director/author wanted it to be.
Nicole Rafter: Pop Criminology
Broad definition: Criminology is the study of crime and the criminals.
1. Academic criminology definition: (What we learn in university) Empirically
accurate, theoretically based, scientific discourse.
2. Popular criminology: Discourses based on images of crime found in
films, television, novels, rap music, myths and on the internet. It has a far
bigger audience and has a larger social significance.
According to Nicole Rafter these two different versions of criminology are
equal but different ways of knowing.
“The Dark Knight”
>What type of criminal, or how can you explain the Joker?
-He is a born criminal; so he is pathological, irrational, and he is
expressive. Focus on Post-modern criminology-Chaos Theory. Foucault:
criminality is constructed. >Culture (e.g. crime films) is a reservoir of images about crime and