Imagining Criminology :Eamonn Carrabine

Imagining Criminology: Eamonn Carrabine

Currently unedited text…. sorry.

In the department now over half the undergraduate students are taking criminology degrees, and this trend shows no sign of abating.

The Formative Years

The sociology of deviance has been taught at Essex since at least 1972, with the appointment of Stan Cohen as a senior lecturer in the Department, the same year as his ground breaking study of Folk Devils and Moral Panics was published. Stan was a key figure in the National Deviancy Conference (NDC) and the book distils some of the central concerns animating a generation disillusioned with the medico-legal character of much criminology. As British sociologists began to study such topics as drug taking, youth cultures and mental illness they found themselves ‘doubly marginalized’ (Downes, 1988:46) by both their own discipline and orthodox criminology. In his indispensible guide to these developments, Stan recalls how a more radical approach to crime and deviance was conceived: In the middle of the 1960s, there were a number of young sociologists in Britain attracted to the then wholly American field in the sociology of deviance…Official criminology was regarded with attitudes ranging from ideological condemnation to a certain measure of boredom. But being a sociologist – often isolated in a small department – was not enough to get away from criminology; some sort of separate subculture had to be carved out within the sociological world…We decided to form a group to provide some sort of intellectual support for one another and to cope with collective problems of identity. (Cohen, 1981/1988:80) The NDC was thus formed in 1968 as a breakaway faction and while there was no shared view of what it was for, it was very clear what it was against. This opposition transformed the field into the site of exciting, formidable and urgent political questions that remain central to critical criminology. The initial aim was to establish a forum including not only academics, but also activists involved in militant social work, radical prisoners’ groups, gay liberation, the anti-psychiatry movement and campaigners against state violence. Soon conflict and division would characterise the group as tensions rose over the different directions critical work should take – but not before the approaches pioneered at the NDC became established and institutionalized themselves. By the time of the last conference in 1979 they had fractured along the same rifts as sociology more generally, acrimoniously disputing the merits of Marxist, Feminist and Foucauldian approaches then dominant. Ironically, this was just as Margaret Thatcher came to power with a radical right wing government, which was intent on advancing a free market vision of society, while successfully capturing the terrain of law and order politics for the coming decade. The seven founding members of the NDC were Stan Cohen, Kit Carson, Mary McIntosh, David Downes, Jock Young, Paul Rock and Ian Taylor, each of whom have since shaped sociological understandings of crime, deviance and social control in significant ways. Mary Mcintosh joined the Department in 1976 and worked here for over twenty years, by this time she had already published ‘The Homosexual Role’ (1968) in Social Problems and the book The Organisation of Crime (1974), which helped to establish a rigorous sociological analysis of these diverse fields. She not only pioneered the teaching of feminism and gender in the Department, but also taught across a wide range of areas. Later, she became the first female head of the department (1986-9) and continued to publish influential work. A committed activist, she was a prominent figure in the London Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in the early 1970s, becoming friends with Ken Plummer in the process. Ken had joined the Department, a little earlier (in 1975), having also been involved in the NDC and the GLF and going on to perform many roles here – including being head of department in the early 1990s, when the first steps were taken to set up a joint degree in sociology and criminology. Well before then his study of Sexual Stigma (1975) can lay claim to being among the first accounts of the social organisation of sexual difference, rejecting the language of perversion the book provides a strong sense of the constructed nature of sexualities. The symbolic interactionism that runs through the text is a theoretical perspective that Ken would do so much to develop over the coming decades and continues to frame his commitment to humanist methodologies across some fifteen books and over a hundred journal articles. These include Documents of Life (2001), Telling Sexual Stories (1995), Intimate Citizenship (2003) and the co-authored (with John Macionis) textbook Sociology: A Global Introduction. After Stan left teaching in 1977, Ken took over the course calling it ‘Stigma and Social Control’ (to avoid both the link with ‘criminology’ and ‘deviance’ – both terms that had become very problematic) and taught it for fifteen years. It was one of the most popular options throughout the 1980’s. Ken gave the course up in 1992 to be HOD – and Nigel South took it over, changing the title to the ‘Sociology of Crime and Control’. It should be clear then that the sociology of deviance established at Essex in the 1970s very quickly became an important strand in the department’s evolving identity. Stan was promoted to professor in 1974 (becoming only the fourth professor), and chaired it between 1974 and 1977, during which time he also began the research that would culminate in his Visions of Social Control (1985). Although influenced by Foucauldian ideas on punishment, the work was infused with a humanist spirit that cemented his international reputation and revealed how there is a blurring of where the prison ends and the community begins. As Howard Becker (2008) later recalled, these issues were brought into sharp relief in the spring of 1974, when he was giving a seminar in the Department and the student occupations on the campus at that time left a profound effect on him – forcing Becker to reconsider the relations social scientists have with the people they study. The study of incarceration at Essex in fact predates Stan’s work, not least since the first PhD awarded in Sociology was produced by Pauline Morris in 1968, which was published a year later as: Institutions for the Mentally Retarded. Pauline, with her then husband Terrence Morris, had earlier (1963) pioneered the sociology of prison life, in a British context, through their research at Pentonville. Among the other PhD students who played a major role shaping the sociology of deviance in these formative years were Maurice Punch, who had researched progressive schooling but went on to become a leading authority on policing and corporate crime, returning as a visiting professor in the late 1990s to teach criminology and collaborate with Maggy Lee in a research project on police education. In the late 1970s and 1980s Barbara Hudson was a key presence, teaching across a range of areas and she went on to write on a number of topics, including on social control, the sociology of punishment and penal abolitionism. At around the same time Liz Kelly was carrying out her research on women’s experiences of male violence, developing the concept of a ‘continuum of violence’ and then publishing the book Surviving Sexual Violence (1988). Like others she has combined activism with impressive scholarship and her more recent work has focussed on human trafficking through a human rights violation framework. Consolidation and Critique If the 1970s witnessed the expansion of the sociology of deviance, then the next decade can best be described as an era of consolidation as major government cuts to the level of funding across the social sciences began to bite. The 1980s began with Stan Cohen leaving for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1981-95), where he would lead a major inquiry into the Israeli army’s use of torture in the occupied territories, forming the subsequent basis for his major work on States of Denial (2001). His replacement was the anthropologist Judith Okely, and that there was only one other appointment in the Department in the decade (Oriel Sullivan in 1984, as a ‘new blood’ lecturer, a quantitative sociologist specialising in stratification) gives an indication of how far the Department was forced to contract. At the national level academic criminology remained a small social world, while teaching was restricted to a handful of postgraduate courses and specialist options in the final year of law or sociology degrees. Indeed, some recall how it was still possible to read all that was published in the field. Much of it was produced by a few dozen or so active researchers, while those who wanted to now enter the profession found they had missed the great wave of recruitment to teaching posts. Towards the end of the 1980s Paul Rock (1988:63) described how the ‘central terrain of the sociology of deviance is no longer subject to bellicose dispute, most criminologists having become more conciliatory and catholic’, where many of the ‘fortunate generation’ (those recruited to university posts in the 1960s and 1970s) had now attained ‘respectability and influence’ in their own institutions. Later in his essay on the then state of the discipline, he depicts a quietly contented corner of the social sciences: British criminology itself is the work of only two hundred or so scholars…British criminologists know one another, they educate one another, they sometimes marry one another, they read each other’s work and they gossip about each other…But quite strenuous efforts have been made to suppress the acrimony which once marked British criminology and, indeed, an unstable pattern of agreement has started to emerge. (Rock, 1988:67) No doubt this passage reflects a particular view of one of the ‘fortunate generation’, but it also reveals how a shared interest began to consolidate around a vision of criminology as a discrete, mature scientific discipline that would soon come to fruition. On any measure the rapid expansion of criminology over the last couple of decades has been remarkable (the reasons are discussed in more detail in Carrabine, 2014). The major stimulus for such growth has been the successful creation of criminology as an autonomous, independent subject that no longer regards itself as a subsidiary of the legal, social, or medical sciences (Peters, 2006). Criminology has very quickly established itself within mass higher education systems, exhibiting an impressive ability to attract students, scholars and research grants. In Britain the rapid expansion of academic posts over the last twenty or so years has been accompanied by a publishing boom where handbooks, textbooks, monographs, edited collections and journal articles now proliferate. This is partly due to the pressure of various government research assessment regimes causing academic overproduction across the sector, but the period has also seen increasing internal specialization of the subject as criminology takes on the organizational qualities of an academic discipline (Loader and Sparks, 2012:8). Such institutional forces include the growth of separate departments, new degree schemes, graduate research funding, large annual conferences, and the appointment of researchers whose entire higher education experience has only been in criminology. Indeed, the sociology of deviance had come under sustained attack for its internal contradictions and inability to confront larger questions of power, control and ideology. These issues were exemplified in Alvin Gouldner’s scathing critique of the ‘zookeepers of deviance’ who presented ‘man-on-his-back’, rather than ‘man-fighting back’ (Gouldner, 1968/1973:38-9), which was a major influence on Taylor et al’s (1973) The New Criminology – a work capturing the radical position of the NDC. The demise of the concept is also captured in books like Geoffrey Pearson’s (1975) The Deviant Imagination, which argued that the romanticization of crime, deviance and illness in what he called ‘misfit sociology’ was ultimately a dead end. Although the concept of deviance was further reworked at the Birmingham Centre it quickly became subsumed under broader debates surrounding culture, ideology and politics. By the 1980s it is clear that cultural studies had moved on to questions of difference, identity and postmodernism, while a major ‘obituary’ from the 1990s claimed the entire ‘field had died’ (Sumner, 1994:ix). Nevertheless, it is clear that throughout the decade the sociology of deviance continued to be taught and was the most popular course in the department. From the outset many of the leading figures insisted that criminology is not a discipline, and much sociological work can be seen as a form of ‘anti-criminology’, which has gradually had to ‘absorb the implications of its own creations’ (Cohen, 1988:16). In a further irony, it was radical, sceptical and critical versions of criminology that fuelled the remarkable growth of the discipline over the last two decades. As Pat Carlen (2011:98) recently put it, ‘it was only as result of the advent of critical criminology that, in the United Kingdom at any rate, the discipline of criminology was reinvigorated sufficiently to put up a successful fight to become recognized and institutionalized as a university discipline independent of its parent disciplines of law and/or sociology’. This expansion has been particularly striking in Britain. Although Carlen set up the first undergraduate degree programme in criminology at Keele University in 1991, she would never have predicted that today some 94 universities teach criminology and criminal justice in single or joint schemes. Expansion and the Centre The expansion of criminology at Essex is also part of this broader trend. The 1990s began with some 10 new appointments, among them Nigel South, who had previously been in an undergraduate in the Department in the 1970s and had gone on to study for a PhD at Middlesex in the 1980s with Jock Young. This research was published as Policing for Profit (1988), by which time Nigel was working at the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence (ISDD), and his appointment at Essex was ostensibly to teach in the field of health studies, as well as to take on some of Ken’s teaching when he became Head of Department. When I recently asked Nigel about the development of criminology at Essex he explained: The story at Essex is that the University wasn’t interested in the subject – and neither was the dept. I took over SC242 and renamed it from stigma and control to ‘crime and control’ that was it really (Jim Gobert ran a law based criminology course in Law). Some growth might have happened eventually but it only happened when it did because Essex police phoned me and asked if we’d run a degree course for them. That’s what paid for Maggy and that, in turn, allowed more courses to be run and then later for us to recruit you! Ken was head at the time and we had meetings with Ivor Crewe who was then PVC Academic – we felt it was all a bit above our heads… In the end, Essex police only funded two cohorts to study at the Department, but these were part-time, meaning the students were here for five years and provided enough resources to put on a legitimate joint degree in Sociology and Criminology. Maggy Lee joined the Department in 1996, having previously worked at ISDD and lectured at Birbeck College, where her main areas of research included policing, drug policy, youth crime, migration and human rights. I was appointed in 1998, the year the joint undergraduate degree in Sociology and Criminology was launched. A year later Pam Cox joined from the History Department and we were able to collaborate on a number of projects together, including the co-authored book Crime in Modern Britain (Carrabine, et al, 2002). This led to the first edition of the textbook Criminology: A Sociological Introduction (2004), where the writing team had expanded to include Paul Iganski and Ken Plummer. Paul was appointed in 2000, and his main areas of research are in hate crime, racial stratification and equal opportunities. Both Maggy and Paul were to leave later in the decade, but both played key roles in enlarging the criminology curriculum, and their departure led to the appointments of Jackie Turton and Darren Thiel in 2007. By this time the British Society of Criminology had produced the subject benchmarks enabling Higher Education Institutions to provide single honours undergraduate degrees in Criminology. It was partly this development, but also a desire to build up the taught postgraduate provision, which led to the further appointments of Pete Fussey and Dick Hobbs in 2010 and the establishment of a Criminology Centre at Essex in 2012. The criminology group now covers a diverse range of areas, including youth crime, imprisonment, terrorism, policing, drugs, gender, crime and the media, trafficking, human rights, organised crime and green criminology, but each are approached from distinctive sociological perspectives. This is important, as the recent rapid expansion of criminology is not just restricted to Britain, it has been especially pronounced in the United States. According to the American Sociological Association (ASA), criminology and criminal justice majors now outweigh those enrolled on sociology programmes by some two thirds (Hannah-Moffat, 2011:450). In the United States the movement towards independent criminology and criminal justice programmes was already well advanced and many are vocational rather than academic in orientation. This poses awkward questions over what criminology is for and whether it is actually an academic discipline at all (Garland, 2011). In the department now over half the undergraduate students are taking criminology degrees, and this trend shows no sign of abating. The institutional separation of criminology from sociology has also occurred at graduate level, while the major professional associations have grown much larger than the crime related sections of the American Sociological Association (Savelsberg and Sampson, 2002:101). Yet doctoral supervision has always been a key dynamic at Essex, where successive generations of PhD students have contributed enormously to the intellectual vitality of the Department and many have themselves carved out successful academic careers. Among the ten I have supervised, nearly all are now employed as permanent lecturers and each have had their work published, bringing distinctive sociological insight to their topics. One of the defining features of British criminology has been a humanitarian commitment to reforming the system and this aspiration continues to attract many to criminology. Equally the ‘romantic, voyeur-like appeal of the subject matter’ (Cohen, 1981/1988:81) should not be underestimated. Indeed, critics of the sociology of deviance concluded that it was simply the tawdry study of exotic difference, which problematically ignored crimes of the corporate economy and the state’s own violence (Liazos, 1972). This was an important intervention and drew attention to the limits of state defined criminality, which then as now is the result of political processes and a offered a reminder that legal categories are social constructions. Nevertheless, this titillating quality is another reason why the field is often accused of lowbrow populism, but it is these attractions to ‘lives that transgress’ that actually makes criminology a powerful stimulus to the ‘sociological imagination’ (Braithwaite, 2011:viii). This is an important point and one that needs to be emphasised as criminology further fragments and loses its ‘sociological soul’ (Hobbs, 2012:262). As should be clear, this is a tendency that we are strongly opposed to – individually and collectively. References Becker, H. (2008) ‘How we Deal with the People we Study: The “Last Seminar” Revisted’, in Downes, D. et. al. (eds.,) Crime, Social Control and Human Rights: From Moral Panics to Denial – Essays in Honour of Stanley Cohen, Cullompton: Willan Braithwaite, J. (2011) ‘Foreword’, in Bosworth, M. and C. Hoyle (ed.) What is Criminology? Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carlen, P. (2011) ‘Against Evangelism in Academic Criminology: For Criminology as a Scientific Art’, in Bosworth, M. and C. Hoyle (ed.) What is Criminology? Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carrabine, E. (2014) ‘Criminology, Deviance and Sociology’, in Holmwood, J. and J. Scott (eds.) History of Sociology in Britain, London: Palgrave. Carrabine, E., P. Cox, M. Lee and N. South (2002) Crime in Modern Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cohen, S. (1981/1988) ‘Footprints in the Sand: A Further Report on Criminology and the Sociology of Deviance in Britain’, in Cohen, S. (ed.) Against Criminology, Oxford: Transaction Books. Cohen, S. (1988) ‘Against Criminology’, in Cohen, S. (ed.) Against Criminology, Oxford: Transaction Books Downes, D. (1988) ‘The Sociology of Crime and Social Control in Britain, 1960-1987’, in Rock, P. (ed) A History of British Criminology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Garland, D. (2011) ‘Criminology’s Place in the Academic Field’, in Bosworth, M. and C. Hoyle (ed.) What is Criminology? Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gouldner, A. (1968/1973) ‘The Sociologist as Partisan: Sociology and the Welfare State’, in For Sociology, London: Allen Lane. Hannah-Moffat, K. (2011) ‘Criminological Cliques: Narrowing Dialogues, Institutional Protectionism, and the Next Generation’, in Bosworth, M. and C. Hoyle (ed.) What is Criminology? Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hobbs, D. (2012) ‘“It was never about the money”: Market Society, Organised Crime and UK Criminology’, in Hall, S. and S. Winlow (eds.) New Directions in Criminological Theory, London: Routledge. Liazos, A. (1972) ‘The Poverty of the Sociology of Deviance: Nuts, Sluts and Preverts’, in Social Problems 20(1):103-20. Loader, I. and R. Sparks (2012) ‘Situating Criminology: On the Production and Consumption of Knowledge about Crime and Justice’, in Maguire, M., R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 5th Ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pearson, G. (1975) The Deviant Imagination, London: Macmillan. Peters, T. (2006) ‘The Academic Status of Criminology’, International Annals of Criminology, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp.53-63. Rock, P. (1988) ‘The Present State of Criminology in Britain’, in Rock, P. (ed) A History of British Criminology, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Savelsberg, J. and R. Sampson (2002) ‘Mutual Engagement: Criminology and Sociology?’, in Crime, Law and Social Change, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp.99-105. Sumner, C. (1994) The Sociology of Deviance: An Obituary, Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Taylor, I., P. Walton and J. Young (1973) The New Criminology, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

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