Cultural criminology Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_criminology

Cultural criminology is a subfield in the study of crime that focuses on the ways in which the "dynamics of meaning underpin every process in criminal justice, including the definition of crime itself."[1]: 6  In other words, cultural criminology seeks to understand crime through the context of culture and cultural processes.[2] Rather than representing a conclusive paradigm per se, this particular form of criminological analysis interweaves a broad range of perspectives that share a sensitivity to “image, meaning, and representation” to evaluate the convergence of cultural and criminal processes.[3]: 395 

As opposed to other theories, cultural criminology views crime in the context of an offenders culture as a motive to commit crime. The theory gives motives to a crime, whereas other theories, such as rational choice theory, explain what was gained.


Sociologist Jack Katz is recognized by many as being a foundational figure to this approach[4] through his seminal work, Seductions of Crime, written in 1988.[5] Cultural criminology as a substantive approach, however, did not begin to form until the mid-1990s,[6] where increasing interest arose from the desire to incorporate cultural studies into contemporary criminology. Developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the approach has had transnational impacts.

Recent theories within cultural criminology take into account the role of space (such as urban space) in the construction of crime, positing, for example, that where an action takes place is as important as the effect of the action in determining criminality. The roles of excitement and control in cultural criminology has laid the foundation for the sociological concept of "edgework".[7] Edgework's focus on prototypically masculine, high-risk pursuits has been criticised by a number of feminist criminologists. More recent works, however, suggest that edgework can be applied to either gender.[8]


In Katz (1988) and other works, the goal is to find the overlap between the emotions associated with everyday life and those associated with crime.[4][9] As such, one of the main tenets of cultural criminology is the role of affect in crime.[10]

Jeff Ferrell, cited by many scholars as a forerunner of the subfield as it is known today, describes the purpose of cultural criminology as being to investigate “the stylized frameworks and experiential dynamics of illicit subcultures; the symbolic criminalization of popular culture forms; and the mediated construction of crime and crime control issues.”[3]: 395  Moreover, the approach has often been used to demonstrate the ways in which power affects the construction of crime, such as the creation and breaking of law, as well as the interplay of moral entrepreneurship, moral innovation, and transgression.[11]


Since the approach itself consists of a mélange of various perspectives linked together by dynamics of meaning, deliberations in this domain often invoke an assortment of theoretical elements. Cultural criminological analysis unambiguously roots itself in interactionist and constructionist tradition. More specifically, such approach concedes Howard Becker’s (1963) labelling theory, while augmenting it with a phenomenological dimension that considers the “webs of meaning and perception in which all parties are entangled.”[3]: 398 

Along with interactionist and constructionist theories, as well as ideas posed by Katz and Becker, cultural criminological work tends to explicitly cite, or be reminiscent of, the following theories and/or theorists among others:


Originally, cultural criminologists utilized one of two main research methods: either ethnographic and fieldwork techniques,[14] or the main qualitative research techniques associated with the scholarly readings.[3] Cultural criminologists today also employ research methods such as participatory action research or "narrative criminology". They remain constant, however, in their rejection of abstract empiricism, positivism and administrative criminology;[2][15] these rejections and criticisms were influenced by C. Wright Mills in his seminal work The Sociological Imagination and then further developed in The Criminological Imagination by Jock Young.[16]


A key criticism of cultural criminology states that the perspective romanticizes the criminal which downplays the severity of criminal action.[17] However, theorists such as Jock Young remind critics that the aims of cultural criminology is to place deviancy within a context of culture, regardless of how the criminal comes across.[18]


  1. ^ Ilan, Jonathan (March 2019). "Cultural Criminology: The Time is Now" (PDF). Critical Criminology. 27 (1): 5–20. doi:10.1007/s10612-019-09430-2. S2CID 150671940.
  2. ^ a b Ferrell, Jeff, Keith Hayward, and Jock Young. 2008. Cultural Criminology: An Investigation. Los Angeles: SAGE. ISBN 9781412931267.
  3. ^ a b c d Ferrell, Jeff (1999). "Cultural Criminology". Annual Review of Sociology. 25: 395–418. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.395. JSTOR 223510.
  4. ^ a b Ferrell, Jeff (1992). "Making Sense of Crime: A Review Essay on Jack Katz's 'Seductions of Crime'". Social Justice. 19 (3): 110–123. JSTOR 29766697.
  5. ^ Katz, Jack. 1988. Seductions of Crime: Moral and Sensual Attractions in Doing Evil. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-07615-4.[page needed]
  6. ^ Ferrell, Jeff, and Clinton Sanders, eds. 1995. Cultural Criminology. Boston: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 978-1-55553-235-2.[page needed]
  7. ^ Lyng, Stephen (1990). "Edgework: A Social Psychological Analysis of Voluntary Risk Taking". American Journal of Sociology. 95 (4): 851–886. doi:10.1086/229379. JSTOR 2780644. S2CID 144098424.
  8. ^ Rajah, Valli (1 March 2007). "Resistance as Edgework in Violent Intimate Relationships of Drug -Involved Women". The British Journal of Criminology. 47 (2): 196–213. doi:10.1093/bjc/azl064.
  9. ^ Young, Jock (August 2003). "Merton with Energy, Katz with Structure:: The Sociology of Vindictiveness and the Criminology of Transgression". Theoretical Criminology. 7 (3): 389–414. doi:10.1177/13624806030073007. S2CID 145314044.
  10. ^ Young, Alison (2009). The scene of violence: Crime, cinema, affect. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-00872-8.[page needed]
  11. ^ Hayward, Keith, and Jock Young. 2012. "Cultural Criminology." In The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (5th ed.), edited by M. Maguire, R. Morgan, and R. Reiner. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959027-8.[page needed]
  12. ^ Nelson, Kristopher A. 2007. "'Webs of Significance,' Clifford Geertz." In Propria Persona: https://inpropriapersona.com/articles/webs-of-significance-clifford-geertz/. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  13. ^ Presdee, Mike. 2000. Cultural Criminology and the Carnival of Crime (reprint ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-23909-7.[page needed]
  14. ^ Ferrell, Jeff, and Mark Hamm, eds. 1998. Ethnography at the Edge: Crime, Deviance, and Field Research. Boston, US: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 978-1-55553-341-0.[page needed]
  15. ^ Ferrell, J., Hayward, K and Young, J. (2015) Cultural Criminology: An Invitation. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1-4462-5915-3.[page needed]
  16. ^ Young, J. (2011) The Criminological Imagination. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 978-0-7456-4106-5.[page needed]
  17. ^ Farrell, Graham (February 2010). "Situational Crime Prevention and Its Discontents: Rational Choice and Harm Reduction versus 'Cultural Criminology'". Social Policy & Administration. 44 (1): 40–66. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9515.2009.00699.x.
  18. ^ Ferrell, J., Hayward, K and Young, J. (2015) Cultural Criminology: An Invitation. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1-4462-5915-3.[page needed]

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