Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason

By Onyeozili, Emmanuel C. | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason


Onyeozili, Emmanuel C., African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


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

The counterpoint of Counter-Colonial Criminology is the unmasking of Eurocentric criminology for what it is. In exchange, Agozino proffered sound academic reasoning grounded on reality. He suggests decolonization of criminology based on label-free discourse. By his approach, Agozino has, like Lombroso of scientific approach, and Durkheim and Sutherland of mainstream criminology, charted a new theoretical path in the way we do criminology. Henceforth, criminology will no longer concentrate in the study of crime and criminals, but will also include the study of justice.

In conceptualizing Counter-Colonial Criminology Agozino has again proven himself worthy of joining the ranks of Walter Rodney (1972), Frantz Fanon (1963, 1965, 1967, 1991), Achebe (1959), and Wa Thiongo (1977) in demystifying colonial mystic. Avowed apologists of colonial criminology may disagree (and they have every reason to do so), but in time, Counter-Colonial Criminology will revolutionalize criminology by interjecting Africentric perspective unto the discussion table. He did not mince words in identifying the aims and purposes of the book as a "transdisciplinary theoretico-methodological intervention aimed at decolonizing theories and methods of imperialist reason in criminology." He backs this up by arguing that criminology as it currently is represents nothing but imperialist science designed to control others.

This book highlights the shortsightedness of criminologists who acquiesced and turned blind eyes in the face of the brutish tortures, dehumanization, and degradation of other humans in the name of 'colonizing mission', while non criminologist writers like Kwame Nkrumah, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Fanon and Rodney were able to speak out against the attendant evils of colonialism and related policies. Related atrocious examples include the genocidal trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the genocidal massacre of Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. Eurocentric criminology further compromises itself by accepting that the punishment of the innocent is normal just as class, race, and gender-related punishment of offenders under colonialism is a civilizing "pitfall along the penal paths of progress."

Counter-Colonial Criminology assumes critical criminologists' stance that crime and punishment is a function of power relations, and explains that it is relative power rather than relative deprivation that explains crime. On this note it faults Merton, Cloward and Ohlin, as well as Edwin Sutherland for focusing so much on individual's crimes while ignoring the wider and higher impact imperialist crimes. It also faults the radical perspectives of Becker for ignoring colonialism in its social discourse. Even in the 21st century, he contends, mainstream criminology has not caught up with practical analysis of colonial white collar crime elaborated as early as in 1965 by no less than Kwame Nkrumah with specific reference to the 'Belgium' Congo situation. Additionally, 'Western' criminologists have yet to muster courage to discuss the imperialist crimes committed against humanity in Biafra, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Middle East, Rwanda, and South Africa. …

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