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.

De-constructing the ‘Legitimate’ War Victim

Rashaam Chowdhury1
1School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

This paper utilises data gathered from interviews conducted in Bangladesh to explore victimisation experienced by Bangladeshis during the 1971 liberation war. It considers the multifaceted nature of victimisation during the war – from well-known kidnappings, torture, rape to little known long-term impacts of women who underwent abortions, ‘forced’ adoptions; to effects on standards of living amongst whole families and other traumas. Criminological and transitional justice research overwhelmingly focuses on the extreme aspects of victimhood that define particular wars. Such processes of categorizations render experiences of individual victims invisible. Drawing on existing research in the area of ‘victimology of ordinary crimes’, the paper argues that such invisibility results in the ‘common’ war victim receiving less public sympathy. Ultimately, the failure to gain a ‘legitimate’ war victim status, along with limited academic and activist curiosity has the capacity to erase the ‘common’ victim from transitional justice efforts – whether it be trials and tribunals or broader efforts of remembrance or truth seeking.


Rashaam is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in areas of state crime, refugees, genocide and war victimisation. Her thesis explores feelings of victimisation and perceptions of justice amongst Bangladeshis in relation to the 1971 liberation war.

State Recognition, Ontological Justice, and Transgender Children

Matthew Mitchell3
3School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia,

Between 2004-2017, the Family Court of Australia regulated minors’ access to gender-affirming hormones. In these cases, access to hormones depended upon being recognised as a legitimate subject for treatment by the Court. From an analysis of these cases’ reasons for judgment, I examine how the Court constructed and deployed an ontology of gender identity as part of the “conditions of recognisability” that governed this process. First, I describe the characteristics of this ontology and identify several inconsistencies and incoherencies within. I then analyse this in terms of ontological politics—that is, showing how power shaped and enabled the Court’s conception of the ‘real’ nature of transgender identity and the subjects before it. From this, I argue that these cases prompt important questions about ontological justice—that is, about who has the power to construct this reality, and the consequences of that reality for those who must live it. I conclude by discussing how these questions help us to consider what a more just encounter between law and gender difference might look like, and how this might help us to better understand the struggles of queer lives lived with law.


Matthew is a PhD Candidate in Criminology at the University of Melbourne. He is interested in examining issues of gender and sexuality through the lens of the sociology of law. His PhD dissertation examines how the Australian legal system regulated transgender young people’s access to gender-affirming medical technologies between 2004-2017.

Identities beyond conflict: Rights, recognition, and reconciliation within Myanmar’s post-conflict justice agenda

Bethia Burgess2
2School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia

Despite the military’s gradual withdrawal from the Myanmar government and the commencement of state-wide peace talks in 2016, armed conflicts remain virulent across several of the state’s ethnic regions. Media and scholarly reporting on the political and security situation in Myanmar suggest that ethnoreligious identities are at the core of ongoing violence, with the term ethnic conflict used widely as shorthand across a complex landscape of social and political discord, and ethnic identities pathologised as such. My research focuses on the ways in which identities matter in establishing peace, justice and reconciliation in Myanmar. Its central aim is to develop a better understanding of the relationship between post-conflict justice and intergroup reconciliation in deeply divided societies by investigating the roles that identities play in grassroots justice agendas. This approach adopts a broad understanding of post-conflict justice to include not only immediate responses to the violations of human rights, but also to the structural roots of such violence. It will seek to understand what makes initiatives successful in promoting reconciliatory agendas within communities, how intergroup tensions are acknowledged and approached through these initiatives, and what identities mean to those involved in seeking justice. It will further investigate the ways in which justice initiatives that acknowledge group identities are able to make visible the collective prejudices underlying mass violence that must be addressed before reconciliation can occur. A particular effort to understand multiple sources of identity formation, including gender, ethnicity, location, and class, will be made through the application of feminist theories.


Bethia is a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in how structural harms and state crimes are actively resisted through innovative approaches to justice in the absence of traditional legal responses. Her PhD dissertation focuses on the microdynamics of peace and justice processes in Myanmar, with a particular emphasis on gender and ethnic identities.


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.

Seeing Red: Correctional Reform and the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

Elizabeth Athaide-Victor1, Madeline Blouir1, Martha Jerew1, Olivia Osborn1, Breanna Steiff1
1Tiffin University

The fastest growing segment of prison population is women.  Yet, they continue to be ‘absent from the table’ when discussions of prison reform occur. A prime example of this originated in the Arizona prison system, which supplies women incarcerants with 12 feminine hygiene products a month.  This was not enough for inmates.  The correctional system allowed women to buy products, but the cost was determined that they would have had to work 27 hrs (at their rate of pay) to be able to afford to buy them.  An all-male panel was assembled to look into the issue.  The panel determined they would not hear a bill addressing this.  This prompted women from all over Arizona to mail in feminine products to elected officials in protest.  In July 2017, Senators Booker and Warren introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, aimed at a multitude of issues incarcerated women face.  The authors of this research outline in great detail some of the issues female incarcerants face. They conducted a mixed factor 2x2x3 design examining several variables of concern such as gender, attitude, and knowledge regarding female incarcerants. Results indicated there was a direct bearing on variables and practices of state DOCs.

Attention Deficit: The School-to-Prison Pipeline and how to interrupt its Path

Sarah Devyn
1Trifari Tiffin University

The School-to-Prison Pipeline has been discussed for many years. The pipeline is where problem students are funneled into the criminal justice system directly from schools. There are many contributors to this phenomenon, but whatever the cause, it is taking center stage in many school systems. Out of school suspensions have increased ten percent from the previous decade, and have doubled since the 1970s.  A study in Texas revealed that children under suspensions are more likely to be held back or drop out of school entirely.  An MIT study found that 40 percent of kids who went into juvenile detention ended up in prison by the age of 25. Proposed remedies could be preventative or interruptive along the pipeline in nature.  This research focused on foundational theories in social sciences/criminal justice such as attachment theory and contact theory.  The study was a 2x2x2 mixed measure, factorial, between persons, non-repeated measures design examining parental parenting style, divorce, gender, and internal analyses of IEP/teacher attachment.  Results indicated significant differences in the likelihood of the development of delinquent behavior.

CJ Cultural Competence and Deaf Culture 

Tiffany Turner1
1Tiffin University

There have been well documented difficulties for deaf persons throughout the criminal justice system.  These start with encounters from law enforcement, lack of interpreters, poor communication, limited access to attorneys, limited access in the court system, issues in corrections, reentry, etc.  Recently, civil rights organizations such as the ACLU has teamed up with non-profits, and state Civil Rights Commissions to level the playing field and have equal access to the legal system for the deaf/hard of hearing community.

The researcher in this study assessed deaf culture and law enforcement in Ohio.  A 2x2x2 mixed factor, between persons, non-repeated measures design was used to determine knowledge, attitudes, and preparedness of large and small police departments.  Attitudes and knowledge of individuals within and outside of deaf culture were assessed, and analyzed along with gender differences.  An interview portion of the study was also included.  Results revealed striking legal situations, and focused on need-based corrective actions for the legal community.


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