Criminology in Practice

Carrington on Southern Criminology and Cognitive Justice

In this article Kerry Carrington, co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South, discusses the rise of criminology beyond the Global North.

While empire building used to be about colonising territory, in the information age, it is also about colonising knowledge. Until recently the knowledge in the social sciences, including criminology, has generally been sourced from a select number of English speaking countries from the Global North, whose journals, conferences, publishers and universities dominate the intellectual landscape (Connell 2007; Hogg, Scott and Sozzo 2017; Graham, Hale and Stephens 2011). This has resulted in silences and biases in publishing, as noted in a blog by Joshua Pitt, Senior Commissioning editor for Palgrave Macmillan for Social Science.

In Southern Theory (2007) Raewyn Connell argues that the theories and methods of the social sciences are rooted in the experiences and concerns particular to the North Atlantic world and its path to modernity. Thus, Connell argues, social science succeeded in representing itself, and being widely accepted, as universal, timeless and placeless. According to this logic, social phenomena in the ‘periphery’ would be investigated from the standpoint of universal theories and laws of development generated in ‘modern’ or ‘western’ societies of the Global North. The South could be mined for data, but little in the way of novel ideas or theoretical insight. Yet, as Connell reminds us, theory, research agendas and innovations can be generated from the specific experiences of the Global South, and northern thinking can be cross-fertilised by it in a way that enhances global epistemology (Connell, 2014a). In any case, as Santos remarks, ‘there is no global justice without cognitive justice’ (Santos 2006: 14).

Almost 85% of the world’s population live in what might be termed the ‘Global South’, comprising three continents. A large proportion of the world’s police and around half the world’s 10.2 million prisoners are to be found in the continents of the Global South, across Asia, Africa, Oceania and South America (Walmsey, 2016). Issues of vital criminological research and policy significance abound in the Global South, with important implications for south/north relations, and for global security and justice. Yet much of criminology – as a theoretical and empirical project – has overlooked the Global South (Carrington, Hogg and Sozzo, 2016). Southern criminology aims to fill this void, to trans-nationalise and democratise criminological practice and knowledge, to renovate its methodological approaches and to inject innovative perspectives into the study of crime and global justice from the periphery. To be clear, however, the purpose of southern criminology is not simply to add to the growing catalogue of new criminologies. Rather southern criminology is a theoretical, empirical and political project of redemption, aimed at bridging global divides and creating intercultural epistemologies (Carrington, Hogg and Sozzo, 2016: 2).

As an empirical project southern criminology seeks to modify the criminological field to make it more inclusive of histories and patterns of crime, justice and security outside the Global North. It is concerned with the analysis of networks and interactions linking South and North which have been obscured by the metropolitan hegemony over criminological thought. It seeks to demonstrate that North and South are globally interconnected in ways and with effects, both historical and contemporary, which warrant inclusion in criminological research, theoretical and policy agendas. Southern criminology is also a theoretical project that seeks to generate theory and not just apply theory imported from the Global North. Deconstructing and reconstructing criminology’s origin stories is a crucial project for southern criminology (Carrington and Hogg, 2017). The purpose of southern criminology is not to dismiss the conceptual and empirical advances that social science has produced over the last century. Southern criminology is a democratising epistemology that challenges the power imbalances which have privileged knowledges produced in the metropolitan centres of the Global North. The International Journal for Crime Justice and Social Democracy, published by the Crime and Justice Research Centre, QUT, is an open access non-profit journal that is free to download and publish. It has become a major publishing outlet for southern criminology, publishing special editions and original research across the globe that aims to bridge global and language divides. The journal also publishes translations to promote access to quality research originally published in languages other than English.

Southern criminology is being pioneered by a collective of scholars from 27 countries who recently attended the Crime and Justice in Asia and the Global South, co-hosted by the Asian Criminological Society and the Crime and Justice Research Centre, QUT. The program content ran over 66 sessions and showcased new and interesting ideas from diverse global perspectives including Europe, America, Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. The Handbook in Criminology and the Global South, soon to be published by Palgrave Macmillan will be the first comprehensive collection of its kind to redress the imbalance in scholarship between the Global North and south. The authors of this volume question whose voices, experiences, and theories are reflected in the discipline, and argue that diversity of discourse is more important now than ever before. Approaching the subject from a range of historical, theoretical, and social perspectives, this collection promotes the Global South not only as a space for the production of knowledge, but crucially, as a source of innovative research and theory on crime and justice. Wide-ranging in scope and authoritative in theory, this Handbook will appeal to scholars, activists, policy-makers, and students from a wide range of social science disciplines from both the Global North and South, including criminal justice, human rights, and penology.

Kerry Carrington is Professor and Head of School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She is co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South with Russell Hogg, John Scott, and Máximo Sozzo