Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason

Article excerpt

Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason by Biko Agozino. London: Pluto Press, 2003.

The development and maintenance of criminology-expressed as a "repressive technology," and along with other constraining and dominant technologies, such as militaries, law enforcement institutions, and penal systems-has been the primary strategy of neo-colonial powers in their quest for control in underdeveloped nations and elsewhere. Biko Agozino extends this compelling argument in his laudable depiction of western imperialism and criminological thought. A primary question posed by Agozino concerns the unparalleled escalation of criminological-based technology in the West that is juxtaposed to its relative absence in impoverished Third World nations.

In a review of European legal philosophy, Agozino informs of the prevalence, potency, and practicality of European ideology, and articulates how its proliferation-along with the vulnerabilities of other social systems-has facilitated the hegemonic arrangement that Europe has secured in its relationships with lesser-empowered systems. He focuses particularly on the practice by Europeans of drawing on their social control doctrines as justification for using colonized peoples as laboratory experimental subjects.

Through an examination of the question of power and a refutation of the characterization of corruption as being unique, Agozino argues that there was significant defiance of colonial criminological ideology that followed wars against imperialist powers. As an enhancement to this general framework, he connects recently developed theoretical perspectives to progressive grassroots movements worldwide. Agozino also stresses how limitations inherent in the societal reaction view-which have generated various labels for the perspective-have thwarted attempts to move crime theories out of the domain of the colonialist paradigm.

Agozino contends that a highly divisive phenomenon and an impediment to the struggle against imperialist domination of criminological thought is the splintering of radical criminological theory into rivaling secondary camps. The historical foundations of these radical perspectives of critical social theory are traced, and each view is assessed in terms of its contributions to the development of criminological theory. Tying together colonialist and anti-colonialist principles and comparing the radical criminological paradigms to the major criminological paradigms, Agozino describes how the latter have become the standard.

Agozino argues that an emerging group of feminist scholars-not given to the criminologist label-questions the plausibility of critical criminology. Employing the tenets of diverse feminist perspectives-feminist empiricism, standpoint feminism, and postmodern feminism among them-they have begun to resist, at the expense of sustained marginalization, the dominating theorizations of the crime perspective. Agozino suggests that it would be to the benefit of crime scholars, feminists and otherwise, to look in earnest at what feminist scholars bring to the discipline.

That feminist scholars are non-contributors to the discourse on the "colonial genealogy" of criminology implies, Agozino argues, a deficiency in the general suppositions of feminist criminology. To support his contention that gender analyses of criminology could be enhanced by being receptive to resistance movements to colonialism, he offers a critical assessment by allegorizing rape as a component of international relations.

Agozino illustrates how criminology-related poststructuralist perspectives are applicable to the study of criminology and how they have been influenced by colonialism. Using a post-colonialist literary approach in a critique of post-structuralism, he derides the theory's relative absence of a critique of colonialism, and underscores its functional contributions.

Emphasizing two contemporary contrasting perspectives on the sociology of knowledge, Agozino demonstrates how the precepts of post-structuralism have supplemented the discipline of criminology. …