Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Neo-Colonial Criminology: Quantifying the Silence

Academic journal article African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS

Neo-Colonial Criminology: Quantifying the Silence

Article excerpt


The university [...] is oriented toward the transportability of both knowledge and credentials; it gazes toward a vast ocean horizon, but misses its own reflection.

(Marker, 2004: 107)

Debates around neo-colonialism and academic imperialism have advanced since the issue was first raised in the 1960s (Stevenson, 1998). Only few scholars have, with reference to the marginalisation of Indigenous peoples, critiqued mainstream criminology and its researchers (Agozino, 2003, 2004, 2010; Blagg, 2008; Cain, 2000; Cunneen, 2011a; Lynch, 2000; Tauri, 2012a, 2012b). Apart from such critical qualitative contributions, the degree of neo-colonialism in mainstream criminology has not yet been determined. This study seeks to start closing that gap by determining the quantity of content that focusses on 'Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice context' published in high-ranked criminology journals over the past decade (2001-2010). It links a dearth of topical articles to the ongoing marginalisation of Indigenous peoples, arguing that an inadequate quantity of criminological discourse inhibits public attention to the social problem of disproportionate incarceration rates; and that mainstream criminology journals therefore contribute to the marginalisation of Indigenous peoples, the reproduction of social inequality and the preservation of elite power. The study is comparative and examines criminological research undertaken in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America (US). These four nations have been selected because they share similar colonial histories; and 'process' Indigenous peoples through the criminal justice system at disproportionate rates (Broadhurst, 1999; Cunneen, 2006, 2007, 2011b; Nielsen & Robyn, 2003). Therefore these nations have similar opportunities for de-colonisation (Smith, 1999).

Marginalisation through Academic Criminological Discourse and Lack Thereof Foucault (1969) defined discourse for sociological enquiry and in particular for his analysis of power structures. Later, Said (1979) refined Foucault's definition for his examination of 'Orientalism'. Following in their footsteps, discourse is, for the purposes of this study, understood as a system of thoughts, ideas, concepts, theories, and practices that makes statements about the world it seeks to explain and thus generates new knowledge, simultaneously limiting that knowledge as it authorises and rejects statements in an effort to ensure internal consistency (Said, 1979) of its ongoing narrative. In doing so, discourse constructs the world it describes and the identity of the subjects who live in it.

Discourse that prevails generates political, intellectual, moral, and cultural power (Said, 1979). First and foremost, criminological discourse has enabled disciplinary power over the subjects it describes; i.e. 'the criminal' and 'the deviant' (Foucault, 1969). Subsequently, criminological discourse has generated sufficient political power to institutionalise itself in criminal justice systems and restorative justice organisations. Finally, it has manifested in the academic discipline of criminology emancipating itself from its predominantly sociological and legal heritage. Within academia, criminological discourse expands and limits thematic frontiers but also dictates ideological directions (Cohen, 1988). In constant interaction with other hegemonic discourses (Said, 1979), academic criminological discourse ensures its own survival by continuing to distinguish between the 'criminal' and the 'non-criminal'; that means by ways of 'othering' (Agozino, 2003; Lynch, 2000; Tauri, 2012a; Young, 2011).

The main instrument of discourse is language which creates and disseminates discourse, and also allows for interaction with it (Foucault, 1969; Lessa, 2006). Language reflects power because it legitimates particular versions of reality and simultaneously excludes alternative versions of it (Lessa, 2006). …

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