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Anthropologists have had a long‐standing interest in crime and criminalization in different parts of the world. Although criminal anthropologists of the late nineteenth century influenced understandings of criminals and criminal behavior through an embrace of social Darwinism and positivistic methods, anthropological inquiries on criminalization have since problematized beliefs about who commits crime and what constitutes lawbreaking across societies and contexts. What then has anthropology contributed to knowledge about criminalization? How are anthropological studies of criminalization distinct from knowledge produced by criminology, the discipline whose primary object of inquiry is crime? And are there synergies between them?
Australian National University, Australia
Criminalization denotes the state processes that render behavior criminal in nature.
Criminalization processes have long tended to target marginalized groups, or “dan-
gerous classes,” as the sources of crime. Anthropologists study both the diversity of
criminalizing processes and the human consequences of criminalization on the part of
criminalized individuals and groups.
(2003, 21). Accordingly, anthropologists have employed ethnographic analyses to unveil
and explore how such categories disguise and reduce the social relationships that con-
tribute to the criminalization of particular groups, actors, and behaviors. For example,
contributors to the edited volume Crimes Power: Anthropologists and the Ethnography of
Crime (Parnell and Kane 2003) not only use ethnography to reveal the experiences and
forces that inform criminalization, but they also dwell on the power of crime categories
themselves. In a similar vein, Josiah McC. Heyman and Alan Smart argue in States and
Illegal Practices (1999) that illegal practices are inextricably linked to state power, reveal-
ing a complex landscape in which scrutiny of the “illegal” can reveal critical insights into
commonsense beliefs about legality. In short, deeper, hegemonic processes of exclusion
underpin criminalization.
Collections such as Crime’s Power and States and Illegal Practices t within a longer
anthropological tradition that illuminates how crime and criminalization take shape as
cultural constructs, which become articulated through a host of social arrangements,
symbols, and rituals. Criminalization is not simply about who commits crime; it is a
labeling process to which some are more susceptible than others. It is constitutive of
social dierences and material inequalities.
But anthropological studies of criminalization have not always reected this critical
trajectory. Criminal anthropologists of the late 1800s inuenced understandings of
criminal behavior through an embrace of social Darwinism and positivistic methods
that were themselves criminalizing in eect. Cesare Lombrosos 1876 foundational
criminological publication, L’uomo delinquente (Criminal Man), advanced this form
of explanation, detailing physical characteristics of what he characterized as “born
Criminological and anthropological approaches to criminalization have both shied
signicantly since the heyday of Lombrosian thought, with mainstream criminology
oen characterized as a postpositivist discipline that still advances casual explanations
of crime and the quantication of criminal behavior and its measurement. In contrast,
anthropological inquiries of criminalization have problematized beliefs about who
commits crime and what constitutes lawbreaking across societies and contexts.
e International Encyclopedia of Anthropology.EditedbyHilaryCallan.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2018 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1439
Anthropological studies throughout the early and mid-twentieth century, many of
which focused on smaller communities, drew on observations of deviance—in the
gists documented sanctions taking the forms of condemnation, shame, retribution, or
ogy more generally, expanded to include analyses of other criminalized actors: bandits
and hustlers, trackers and gangsters, maa, crime-ridden communities, and even
state agents. No longer conned to small or isolated communities, anthropological
studies of criminalization came to reect a global spread. In addition, they paid
increasing and detailed attention to how multiple forms of marginalization, as well as
dissent, became implicated in criminalization processes.
A critical branch of criminology—aptly called critical criminology—also diverged
from the positivist tropes of its parent eld. It actively called into question main-
stream criminology’s narrow focus, which failed to attend to the concerns of and
interconnection between crime, criminalization, culture, power, structure, history,
(mis)recognition, and social stratication. In pursuit of richer understandings of
the lived aspects of criminalization, ethnographic studies of crime and criminalized
communities have since become an important part of critical criminological inquiry.
Despite commonalities with anthropological studies of criminalization, there was little
sustained dialogue about the synergies across elds until recently (e.g., Penglase, Kane,
and Parnell 2009).
In light of these emergent connections and the continued growth of ethnographic
research on criminalization, two trends distinguish anthropological contributions:
the analysis of criminalization on the one hand, and ethnographic research on social
practices dened as crime on the other (Schneider and Schneider 2008). Perhaps
more pressing for future research, however, is the question of how postcoloniality
and globalized social change complicate contemporary notions of “the illegal” and
its relationships to criminalization. As Carolyn Nordstorm contends, globalization
challenges perceived distinctions between legal and “extralegal” ows, which together
operate as ebbs and ows that constitute “the power grids that shape the fundamental
econo-political dynamics of the world today” (2007, xvii). us, distinctions between
legality and illegality are not nite. If anything, they are contextually contingent and
are negotiated by the various actors who encounter them.
Anthropological studies of criminalization encourage critical reection on the
production and circulation of crime categories and licit/illicit distinctions in relation
to power. In doing so, they also gesture to broader questions about regulation,
securitization, surveillance, and technologies of social control. How, for example, with
classes changed in dierent parts of the world? And what can these shis tell us about
inequality, conict, and global capitalism in the contemporary moment? As there
is a burgeoning critical criminological literature posing similar kinds of questions,
anthropological and criminological agendas are again pursuing common concerns
around criminalization—this time resulting in the destabilization, not advancement,
of positivistic notions of criminality.
SEE ALSO: Addiction; Crime; Detention; Gangs; Penal State; Positivism; Sex Work;
Slums and Shanty Towns; States: Police Powers
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Nordstrom, Carolyn. 2007. Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
A pdf is available upon request to . Lays out a fundamental groundwork for the study of the interplay of states and illegal practices. Rather than thinking of state legality and illegal practices as polar opposites, we approach them with an open inquiry as to their mutual constitution, interactions, and in some cases interpenetration. The role of illegal practices in capital accumulation is also considered.
List of Maps, Illustrations, and Tables Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction: Anthropology with an Accent PART ONE: The Talk of Crime 1. Talking of Crime and Ordering the World Crime as a Disorganizing Experience and an Organizing Symbol Violence and Signification From Progress to Economic Crisis, from Authoritarianism to Democracy 2. Crisis, Criminals, and the Spread of Evil Limits to Modernization Going Down Socially and Despising the Poor The Experiences of Violence Dilemmas of Classification and Discrimination Evil and Authority PART TWO: Violent Crime and the Failure of the Rule of Law 3. The Increase in Violent Crime Tailoring the Statistics Crime Trends, 1973-1996 Looking for Explanations 4. The Police: A Long History of Abuses A Critique of the Incomplete Modernity Model Organization of the Police Forces A Tradition of Transgressions 5. Police Violence under Democracy Escalating Police Violence Promoting a "Tough" Police The Massacre at the Casa de Detencao The Police from the Citizens' Point of View Security as a Private Matter The Cycle of Violence PART THREE: Urban Segregation, Fortified Enclaves, and Public Space 6. Sao Paulo: Three Patterns of Spatial Segregation The Concentrated City of Early Industrialization Center-Periphery: The Dispersed City Proximity and Walls in the 198s and 199s 7. Fortified Enclaves: Building Up Walls and Creating a New Private Order Private Worlds for the Elite From Corticos to Luxury Enclaves A Total Way of Life: Advertising Residential Enclaves for the Rich Keeping Order inside the Walls Resisting the Enclaves An Aesthetic of Security 8. The Implosion of Modern Public Life The Modern Ideal of Public Space and City Life Garden City and Modernism: The Lineage of the Fortified Enclave Street Life: Incivility and Aggression Experiencing the Public The Neo-international Style: Sao Paulo and Los Angeles Contradictory Public Space PART FOUR: Violence, Civil Rights, and the Body 9. Violence, the Unbounded Body, and the Disregard for Rights in Brazilian Democracy Human Rights as "Privileges for Bandits" Debating Capital Punishment Punishment as Private and Painful Vengeance Body and Rights Appendix Notes References Index
The growth of mass incarceration in the United States eludes neat categorization as a product of the political Right. Liberals played important roles in both laying the foundation for and then participating in the conservative tough on crime movement that is largely credited with the rise of the prison state. But what of those politicians and activists on the Left who reject punitive politics in favor of rehabilitation and a stronger welfare state? Can progressive policies such as these, with their benevolent intentions, nevertheless contribute to the expansion of mass incarceration? In Progressive Punishment, Judah Schept offers an ethnographic examination into the politics of incarceration in Bloomington, Indiana in order to consider the ways that liberal discourses about therapeutic justice and rehabilitation can uphold the logics, practices and institutions that comprise the carceral state. Schept examines how political leaders on the Left, despite being critical of mass incarceration, advocated for a "justice campus" that would have dramatically expanded the local criminal justice system. At the root of this proposal, Schept argues, is a confluence of neoliberal-style changes in the community that naturalized prison expansion as political common sense among leaders negotiating crises of deindustrialization, urban decline, and the devolution of social welfare. In spite of the momentum that the proposal gained, Schept uncovers resistance among community organizers, who developed important strategies and discourses to challenge the justice campus, disrupt some of the logics that provided it legitimacy, and offer new possibilities for a non-carceral community. A well-researched and well-narrated study, Progressive Punishment offers a novel perspective on the relationship between liberal politics, neoliberalism, and mass incarceration.
Carolyn Nordstrom explores the pathways of global crime in this stunning work of anthropology that has the power to change the way we think about the world. To write this book, she spent three years traveling to hot spots in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States investigating the dynamics of illegal trade around the world-from blood diamonds and arms to pharmaceuticals, exotica, and staples like food and oil. Global Outlaws peels away the layers of a vast economy that extends from a war orphan in Angola selling Marlboros on the street to powerful transnational networks reaching across continents and oceans. Nordstrom's extraordinary fieldwork includes interviews with scores of informants, including the smugglers, victims, power elite, and profiteers who populate these economic war zones. Her compelling investigation, showing that the sum total of extra-legal activities represents a significant part of the world's economy, provides a new framework for understanding twenty-first-century economics and economic power. Global Outlaws powerfully reveals the illusions and realities of security in all areas of transport and trade and illuminates many of the difficult ethical problems these extra-legal activities pose.
The ambiguity of the concept of crime is evident in the two strands of anthropological research covered in this review. One strand, the anthropology of criminalization, explores how state authorities, media, and citizen discourse define particular groups and practices as criminal, with prejudicial consequences. Examples are drawn from research on peasant rebellion, colonialism, youth, and racially or ethnically marked urban poor. The other strand traces ethnographic work on more or less organized illegal and predatory activity: banditry, rustling, trafficking, street gangs, and mafias. Although a criminalizing perspective tends to conflate these diverse forms of "organized" crime, in particular erasing the boundary between street gangs and drug trafficking, the forms have discrete histories and motivations. Their particularities, as well as their historical interactions, illuminate everyday responses to crime and suggest ways to put in perspective the "crime talk" of today, which borders on apocalyptic.
Crime's Power: Anthropologists and the Ethnography of Crime
  • Philip C Parnell
  • Stephanie C Kane
Parnell, Philip C., and Stephanie C. Kane, eds. 2003. Crime's Power: Anthropologists and the Ethnography of Crime. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.