Criminology and Colonialism: Counter Colonial Criminology and the Canadian Context

Article excerpt


Biko Agozino opened his book with an adapted epigraph from Kwame Nkrumah. He replaced "finance capital" with "criminology". In part it reads: The signs of the times are a 'general enthusiasm regarding the prospects of imperialist reason, passionate defence of imperialism, and every possible camouflage of the real nature of imperialism and the complicity of criminology in its genealogy" (2003: 1). Centreing on criminology is an enduring feature of imperialist reason in the projects of colonialism and imperialism, he asserts the relationship between criminology and colonialism is fundamental in origin and pervasive in contemporary practice and theory.

It has been demonstrated that epistemology and methodology from disciplines both in the Social Sciences and the Humanities have been, and continue to be, justifying companions to colonialism, imperialism (and slavery). Criminology has heretofore avoided a socio-historical critique of its practice, epistemology and theory. While the intervention of labeling theory in the 1960's and the subsequent emergence of radical criminology have challenged the theoretical poverty of a discipline whose substantive preoccupation is with acts defined as harmful by the state, the sociology of knowledge from these radical quarters have not addressed criminology's origins and continued existence vis-a-vis colonialism and imperialism.

What is mainstream criminology's connection to colonialism and imperialism? Why is mainstream criminology silent on this contemporary and historical connection? Why has radical criminology failed to develop a thorough-going critique of racism, internal/colonialism and imperialism vis-a-vis the continued White and Western dominance of the field? Agozino suggests there is a "push" against interventions of the racial Other and a "pull," willingly engaged by the racial Other, away from a discipline that is negatively experienced and perceived. Agozino situates his thesis in the context of Third World countries. There, he contends, the failure of criminology to take root in these countries is proof of his thesis. Further, where criminology is at all to be found in non-Western countries (including Japan), he contends its theoretical insights are not indigenous but are impoverished caricatures of the conservative mainstream tradition imported from the West (particularly the US). But, apart from a quantitative review of criminology programs and departments in Third World countries and even more limited qualitative support, Agozino's thesis is not well-tested.

Given the emphasis placed on criminology's continued propagation from the West, how well does Agozino's thesis hold up in one of the criminology's heartlands--Canada. That Agozino suggests criminology plays a role in maintaining relations of internal colonialism and as well as colonialism, Canada uniquely qualifies as a locus to explore this thesis. In spite of African (and Aboriginal) enslavement and mass immigration from all parts of the globe, Canada was and continues to be organized on the principles of White settler colonial domination of Aboriginal and First Nations peoples. The thesis of internal colonialism might be critiqued because poor and immigrant Canadians 'of colour' who are isolated into concentrated urban geographies have no formal connection to independence movements. That, however, racialized pockets of social exclusion approximate labour, carceral and coercive relations akin to international core/periphery dynamics, of which labour exploitation and militarization are a part, ensures that though the analogue is not a perfect one, it retains explanatory power. The thesis may also be critiqued because the racial Other is both juridically equal and can experience upward mobility. That, however, racism and racial profiling mark the racial Other for disvaluation and stigmatization suggests the reproduction of race-based relations of ruling subjects the bodies and movements of the racial Other to the gaze of White normative surveillance. …


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