Broadening the Criminological Terrain – Public Criminology meets Southern Criminology

Karen Joe Laidler1
1Sociology and Centre for Criminology, University of Hong Kong

At present, Northern criminological circles are in heated debate about the nature and meaning of their role in the public arena. Within public criminology discussions, Turner (2013) reminds us of the importance of considering the characteristics of the discipline and contemporary socio-political circumstances. At the same time, calls from “afar” are emerging for a broader, even alternative criminologies, including Southern criminology. Those from “far” have challenged the dominant frames with reminders of the salience of culture, geopolitics, globalization, and colonialism in understanding crime, its control, and justice. This paper examines these two dialogues in the context of doing criminology in Asia where there has been increasing interest in the discipline and its role in public policy. NGOs, government departments, and policymakers in the region are increasingly turning to criminology in an attempt to make sense of emerging social problems – establishing estimates and trends of crime, evaluating treatment and control strategies, and reviewing crime control philosophies and practices from other countries. This growth in criminology in Asia, is due, in part, to the emergent social issues and problems arising from the rapid and phenomenal growth and presence of the region in the global economy, global consumption, large scale migration. What has emerged in many Asian locales is a type of administrative criminology (differing from that of the North) that has fundamentally shaped the ways research and policy questions are raised, projects funded, and influenced public policy. In what ways are these directives in the Asian context similar and different from what is being asked of public criminology? I draw from several research projects and ongoing justice issues to examine these questions.


Karen Joe Laidler is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Criminology. Her research focuses on drugs, sex work, youth gangs, and women’s imprisonment. As a native San Franciscan, she has been involved in criminological research since the 1980s, working with non-profit organizations and government agencies in Northern California. She has worked on a variety of primary and policy related research including: evaluation of drug intervention programmes; juvenile court intervention; inmate grievance processes; bail reform; sentencing guidelines; risk assessment for juvenile detention; prison planning and classification systems for adult prisons; and drug use problems among methamphetamine users.

She moved to Hong Kong in the 1990s, and has witnessed the development of the city’s drug market over the past two decades. Her recent projects include a study on how young people obtain their drugs and social supply, drug use and risks among young gay men, investment fraud, and social harms and service access for ethnic minority youth in Hong Kong.

She sits on the editorial board of Contemporary Drug Problems and Feminist Criminology, and on the international associate editorial/advisory board of Punishment and Society and Criminology and Criminal Justice respectively. She serves as a member of the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission’s subcommittee in a review on laws and policies related to sexual offenses.

Karen teaches criminology, social problems, and gender studies courses.

State crime, art and making harm visible

Associate Professor Jennifer Balint2
University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

This paper reflects on the Minutes of Evidence Project (, a collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, education experts, performance artists, community members and government and community organizations, to consider how theatre, education and research can be harnessed to make visible structural harm. To address the intransigent and yet often hidden harm of enduring colonial inequity, the project used the record of law from an 1881 Parliamentary Inquiry to expand the field of engagement beyond the academy, creating public spaces to explore, share and interrogate the colonial past and present in new and engaging ways.

This paper draws out from this project to consider how we may activate legal records to make visible structural injustice and reflects on the role of art in this. How might our legal records be heard and responded to and the absences and harms of law be brought to account? How may we understand the role of art as partnering in this ‘translation’ work of law? Drawing on recent and developing work, it considers how as part of a public process, forms of art can be used to create new meeting points, in law and outside that enable structural injustice to be made publicly visible and accountable.


International Crime, Justice and the Promise of Community

Dr Nesam Mcmillan1
University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

From a criminological perspective, the internationalisation of crime and justice is a significant historical development. International crime and international criminal justice are distinguished from their national counterparts, framed as new categories of crime and justice. International crimes are popularly conceptualised as crimes against humanity, crimes against ‘us’ all, whilst international justice is represented as an enterprise undertaken on behalf of an international community. Embedded in ideas and practices of internationalised crime and justice are promises of global interconnectedness: that certain suffering matters and is the concern of ‘us’ all.

This paper charts and interrogates the nature and effects of the internationalisation of crime and justice. First, it discusses how (on what grounds) certain crimes and forms of justice are figured as distinctly ‘international’. I draw on the fields of international law, socio-legal studies, cultural geography, anthropology, global criminology and post-colonial theory to trace the shifts in scale, subjectivity and meaning that this entails. Second, the paper explores the subjective and relational effects of dominant approaches to international crime and justice – by asking what ways they make it possible to relate and respond to the injustice and injury experienced by others? Ultimately, it argues that dominant approaches to international crime and justice, and their contemporary valorisation, problematically function to separate these notions from life as it is lived.

A post-criminological framework for Indigenous children’s wellbeing: an analysis of the NT Youth Justice Royal Commission

A/Prof. Thalia Anthony1
1Faculty Of Law, University Of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia

Criminology has classically relied on deviant characterisations of minority populations. This continues today internationally – as revealed in the 2017 Lammy Review (UK) – with a particular targeting of Indigenous peoples in settler colonial societies. This paper considers the penal segregation and torture of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, based on proceedings and findings of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children. It argues that the Royal Commission applies a set of punitive assumptions that Aboriginal children in detention are deviant, disorderly and difficult to comprehend the state’s violence in detention. This narrow criminology frame prohibits the Commission’s capacity to consider responses outside of a criminal justice framework and hear to the viewpoints of Aboriginal witnesses about their needs for the wellbeing of their children. Ultimately, as reflected in the Final Report, the Royal Commission reinforces criminal justice responses and the role of the state in Indigenous peoples’ lives. A post-criminological framework that identifies the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and world views would challenge the sovereign position of the state and in doing so enable more meaningful and relevant support for Indigenous children, families and nations that is decentred from the state.


Dr Thalia Anthony is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of Technology Sydney who specialises in criminal law, settler colonial legal processes and Indigenous justice. Her book Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment explored the colonial gaze of courts and the state in relation to Indigenous Australians. She is currently the lead investigator on an ARC project on hearing Indigenous women’s voices in sentencing; and a chief investigator on the ARC projects on Indigenous justice mechanisms and the criminalisation of homelessness. She coordinates the criminal justice cluster at UTS and has co-convened the Indigenous Justice Research Network.


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