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Oxford University Press - Online Resource Centres

Hale et al: Criminology 3e

Chapter 18: Chapter synopses

This chapter explores the ways in which criminal practices and cultural dynamics intertwine within contemporary society. Criminologists recognize, for example, that many forms of criminality emerge out of criminal and deviant subcultures, and that these subcultures are themselves shaped by shared conventions of meaning, symbolism, and style. Increasingly, criminologists also explore the intensely collective experiences and emotions that emerge within these subcultures?experiences and emotions that define subcultural members' identities and reinforce their marginal social status.

At the same time, criminologists note that those who undertake enterprises conventionally defined as "cultural" in contemporary society?popular music, art photography, film and television programmes?regularly confront public accusations of promoting criminal and delinquent behaviour, and may even face criminal justice actions ranging from police raids to obscenity trials. Moreover, in today's society all such phenomena?criminal identities, popular controversies, crime control campaigns, experiences of crime victimization?are increasingly offered and displayed for public consumption. All of these phenomena also take shape within a larger mediated universe?a universe in which criminal subcultures appropriate popular images and create their own forms of mediated communication; political leaders launch public campaigns of criminalization and panic over crime and criminals; and everyday citizens go about consuming crime as news and entertainment. Because of this, criminologists today realize that a critical awareness of cultural dynamics is necessary if we are to understand even the most basic dimensions of crime and crime control.

In this context a new form of criminology?'cultural criminology'?has now emerged. After exploring the British and U.S. roots of this new approach, and highlighting its basic orientations, this chapter focuses on five key intersections of crime and culture?intersections that cultural criminologists find to be of particular importance in analyzing contemporary crime and crime control. In each of these intersections, complex cultural dynamics shape not only the practice of crime, but the politics of crime control and criminal justice.

There is a need to understand how crime, both in everyday life and as represented within the omnipresent media, has the power to produce a repulsed fascination and a seductive edginess which can be harnessed to sell a range of products or policies. In short, cultural criminologists argue that a critical awareness of everyday cultural dynamics is necessary if we are to understand even the most basic dimensions of crime and crime control.