Queering Criminology (2015) Edited by Angela Dwyer, Matthew Ball, Thomas Crofts Palgrave Hardcover 272 pages
The luxury of reviewing for the web and for my own site means I can use a longer form and even publish over time. In this first review I’ll take up some of the issues in the introductory chapter and the second by Dalton. Some might note these are the only chapters to cite my work to which I respond that I hope I have something relevant to say. But also they come first and address big theoretical issues in which I am interested. I will then go on to make some initial observations about some of the later chapters which will be covered more fully in a later review(s). The headings are taken from the book but these first two chapters might be seen as addressing issues of where a queer criminology might fit - margin or mainstream?
I should make it clear I like the book and feel a wide audience within criminology should read it. Sadly I fear this may not be the case.
I should make it clear I like the book and feel a wide audience within criminology should read it. Sadly I fear this may not be the case.
As an introductory chapter this sets out the themes and introduces us to the chapters that derive from a seminar held at Queensland University of Technology inspired by the earlier work of one contributor Stephen Tomsen. All are at Australian institutions.
First a textual observation. The book is called Queering Criminology yet the chapter is called Queering Criminologies (Extract here).
They open by discussing the ‘articulation’ or ‘nexus’ between queer and criminology (p1) and more entertainingly use Ball’s (forthcoming) borrowed expression, ‘dangerous bedfellows’ to describe the debate about whether to jump into bed with criminology. And how often and under what conditions of consent? Is there a ‘safe’ word?
Activists may see no need or reason to cosy up to a homophobic discipline. Early mention of Stonewall’s place in the history of LGBTIQ activism is appropriate but a chance is missed to note that for mainstream criminology and criminal justice this is a crime which might need explaining/condemning. Moreover such criminal activism runs counter to stereotypes of the passive queer.
We quickly come to Tomsen’s provocative contention that criminology was ‘a very queer discipline’ and mention of Dalton’s discomfort (Chapter 2) about ‘where queer fits in criminologies’ (p2). They too are unclear but intend queer to act as a noun and as a verb; to be ‘disturbing, challenging, and asking uncomfortable questions that produce new ways of thinking in in relation to to the lives of LGBTIQ people and criminal justice processes’ (p3). I think that is too limiting. It should be challenging all people about crime and criminal justice processes using the analytic of sexuality. They suggest (and Dalton takes this up too) that such disruptive work may necessitate working at the margins.
Some hope is seen in the recent publication of the Handbook of LGBT Communities, Crime and Justice and the special edition on Queer/ing Criminology of Critical Criminology. In addition we now have Queer Criminology by Buist and Lenning. Which I’ll review if Routledge send me a copy.
I won’t repeat what they say about the chapters but will draw on that for some of my comments. They conclude with the connections between, and the need to queer both, criminal law and criminology. Was that why I opted to submit my Perverse Criminologies, which they and Dalton quote often, to Social and Legal Studies? Or was it I feared to submit it to the British Journal of Criminology (BJC)? Dalton mentions the BJC and its very few mentions of ‘queer’. He found 19. I now find 22 but not all them are even relevant.
PART I: QUEER CRIMINOLOGY: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
2. Reflections on the Emergence, Efficacy and Value of Queer Criminology; Derek Dalton
I’m very pleased that he has not only quoted my Perverse Criminology stuff but also the entry on Queer Theory in Sage Dictionary of Criminology. Mention of the complementary entry on Sexuality would have completed my day. What’s more he uses it to engage with important issues.
He speaks of his discomfort in criminology, even at criminological conferences, to be in or out of criminology but he doesn’t take Carol Smart’s postmodern feminist decision to shut the door to it. He ‘tends to disagree’ (p26) with me yet by page 29 he is contemplating throwing bricks through criminology’s window with Ball. He decides, however, to be a ‘charming man’ (my Smith’s reference not his) and offer advice to criminology not on a ‘make-over’ but a ‘make-better’ in the style of Queer Eye for a Straight Guy.
He recognises that criminology may need some convincing that it is a ‘naked Emperor’ (my coining) that needs sartorial advice or, at least, a modest and modish drape. So I think he is a little harsh in disagreeing with Sorainen (‘overblown’, p30) in her desire to problematise criminology. I’m very much with him in being ambivalent, playful, even up for ‘flirting,’ but I think he is getting a little overblown in ‘imploring all of you who read this chapter to seek to engage more directly with mainstream criminology so we can queer it and make it better’ (p31).
Obviously being playful here but my intention was to drive a bus packed with queer theory into the heart of mainstream criminology and detonate it, charmingly. Progress has been glacial. He notes that I said in my entry on Queer Theory that:
given the limited extent to which criminology has embraced feminism it seems that any serious consideration of sexualities as important to criminology - whether purely empirical, standpoint or queer - may take decades.
Evidence for this slow pace is that he quotes the 3rd edition. The article is unchanged since the first edition in 2001! Moreover, why is it by me? Why am I Queen of that Castle? Depose me. Charmingly. Some progress might be seen in that since Perverse Criminologies was published it has been cited 30 times (not counting these most recent mentions) but the first was not until 2003 and 21 of them only since 2012.
In discussing my entry on Queer Theory he notes that I do not call for a queer criminology and suggests I might be right not to have, as he says, ‘many more criminological incursions must be made if we are to leave a lasting impression on on criminology’ (p32) and earn its place in the dictionary. I was being diffident but also, unusually for me, seeking amity. I did not want to call for a further splits/schisms in criminology but to change it, profoundly; to queer it. Better markers might be the massive textbooks of criminology like Newburn’s, Carrabine et al or the Oxford Handbook which has no mention of any queer ‘ology.
LGBTIQ scholars have called for queer criminology now and it is not for me to deny it. Just note that it may be the gay empiricism or standpointism I imagined and not a criminology that had come fully to terms with sexuality. That is a criminology that even when carried out by cisgendered and cissexual criminologists was open to LGBTIQ currents and concerns. That the ‘Straight Guy’ could look in the mirror and use a ‘Queer Eye’.
We now turn to the remaining chapters which I’ve only scanned so far.
3. The Past is the Past? The Impossibility of Erasure of Historical LGBTIQ Policing; Angela Dwyer and Stephen Tomsen
Surprised that Marc Burke gets no mention. This is my use of him from Perverse Criminologies:
Burke (1993: 56–60) reports the double irony of a gay officer who tells of his ambivalence about his vice squad experience of policing cottages. In plain clothes and on duty – secure in his identity as a police officer – he was ‘queer-bashed’.
And this the link to his British Journal of Criminology article in 1994. I recall hearing him speak about officers like him being ‘doubly closeted’. Not out as gay in the police and not out as police when in gay milieus.
4. The 'Prison of Love' and Its Queer Discontents: On the Value of Paranoid and Reparative Readings in Queer Criminological Scholarship; Matthew Ball
For all my fighting talk, I’m a pacifist and broadly a supporter of Restorative Justice so favour the ‘reparative’ but fully understand the lure of the ‘paranoid’.
PART II: UNCOMFORTABLE SUBJECTS IN QUEER CRIMINOLOGY
5. Disturbing Disgust: Gesturing to the Abject in Queer Cases; Senthorun Raj
In my work on Sports Criminology (Policy Press late 2016) I have returned to examine the Spanner trial (R v Brown) which Raj discusses. All sports law books discuss it because of its relevance to the consent implied when stepping into the ring or onto the field of play. But from some you’d struggle to know the case involved sex let alone gay sado-mascohistic sex. A further example of the abjection of which Raj speaks? There is also lots of mentions boxing and rugby (and the refereeing of) in the reasoning given in the case. I’ve pulled no punches.
6. Who is the Subject of Queer Criminology? Unravelling the Category of the Paedophile; Dave McDonald
I’m old enough to remember when the Paedophile Exchange Campaign was an openly campaigning group aligned with others for sexual freedom in the late 60s around the age of consent. This is challenging stuff but the very test of emerging perspectives that is needed.
7. International Legal Norms on the Right to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Australian Reforms Contextualised; Wendy O’Brien
I don’t know the Australian cases of Toonen and Norrie or about issues of the regulation of intersex people there.
PART III: QUEER EXPERIENCES OF CRIME AND JUSTICE
8. Rainbow Crossings and Conspicuous Restraint: LGBTIQ Community Protest, Assembly and Police and Prosecutorial Discretion; Thomas Crofts and Tyrone Kirchengast
This raises the issue of relations with the police and their use of discretion. Neither the work on graffiti or policing cited is known to me. My references are UK/USA cultural criminology based or rely on the likes of Ben Bowling or Robert Reiner.
9. No Place Like Home: Intrafamilial Hate Crime Against Gay Men and Lesbians; Nicole L. Asquith and Christopher A. Fox
Clearly this raises sensitive issues that activists might prefer academics not to investigate but a truly queered criminology can’t have no go areas. Again my limited knowledge is UKcentric.
10. Queering Safety: LGBTIQ Young Adults' Production of Safety and Identity on a Night Out; Bianca Fileborn
I am looking forward to finding out how young LGBTIQ negotiate a night out.
11. Sexual Coercion in Men's Prisons; Paul Simpson, Joanne Reekie, Tony Butler, Juliet Richters, Lorraine Yap and Basil Donovan
The extent and complexity of consent issues outside of prison is difficult enough but doubly so in prison. My only partial knowledge is of the situation in England and Wales. This is the Howard League Report on sex in prison.
12. Intimate Partner Violence within the Queensland Transgender Community: Barriers to Accessing Services and Seeking Help; Natasha Papazian and Matthew Ball
This feels like Public Criminology on behalf of the a particular community in a particular part of Australia that may be useful to them. I’ll see it I can draw out some wider lessons, if only for me.
One reason I have given so much time to this - and more to come - is that the final signs of interest in this area means I am now writing an article in which I seek to review what I’d got right, what wrong etc and show how, despite not inventing or naming ‘queer criminology’, I continued to queer my criminology if nobody else’s. Examples from 1999 and 2016 illustrate.
Though an inspiration I suggest a more queer reading for Tomsen’s work in my Perverse Criminologies:
However, the very real difficulties of doing this are illustrated by Thomsen’s (1997b) article ‘Social Protest, Masculinity and the Culture of Drinking Violence’. Despite his rhetoric about Lombroso’s ‘queerness’ in one article (1997a), he makes no mention of the sexuality of the participants or the place of homophobia in the construction of the homosociability he describes. He rightly places the drunken brawling in a context of male honour and carnival. However, imagine the club bouncers witnessing a same-sex ‘kiss-in’. That would surely reveal the shared homophobia of bouncers and bounced. Fisticuffs is easily assimilated by mainstream and masculinity criminology; fisting presents a challenge to both.
And this from Sports Criminology:
In a cultural criminology collection Jackson-Jacobs Curtis (2004) writes about the ‘brawling’ culture of some young men in Tucson. There is a very rough continuum from brawling through prize-fighting to boxing where the illegality/legality respectable/disreputable marker falls in different places at different times and in different jurisdictions (as shown in Chapters 1 and 2). He sets out his dissatisfactions with theories of failed self-control, psychic or status frustration to assert, ‘All patently fail to account for violence looked at in the context of spectatorship, performance, and participatory attractions’ (2004:232). As good a definition of sport as many.
In his former hometown he hung out with and interviewed a loose group of 85 young men, mostly white but with some diversity of the region. Many were from economically comfortable families, most had jobs and some were doing military service. The network included women who were current or ex-girlfriends but some of them had ‘brawled’ too and not all the men had. His account concentrates on one brawl in March 2000 that had entered the groups joint narrative.
Essentially the group went looking for brawls. Parties, to which they had not formally been invited, were good venues as they provided the alternative of picking up girls as well as or instead of a fight. His account hints at the near equivalence, ‘the brawl is intended to be a onetime affair … Strangers entice by promising a non-committal relationship’ (2004:234) and ‘a brawl experienced through the metaphor of the sexual ‘pick up’ (2004:236). This reminds me of the joyriders I engaged with (Groombridge, 1997) and suggests ‘joyfighting’ or ‘one-night fight’ as alternative labels for the activity. He tells of the groups attempts to get into a fight with some University of Arizona footballers - in which they eventually, though contingently, succeed.
They expect that they will get beaten and are, but claim victory on the basis of some digs they get in and not being as injured as they expected. Moreover, ‘Rick’ fantasises about seeing ‘Dukey’ being beaten up or coming to the rescue of ‘Dukey’. Some psychodynamic or queer explanations might have been appropriate here for such homosocial sadism and chivalry. Moreover, the invitation to fight even has a ‘flirtatiousness’ about it that reminds of the ‘party girls’ that athletes claim swarm them. Furthermore, there is certain aggressive passivity in seeking to be the victim by provoking the attack that will justify their response. Interestingly Redhead describes the performance of hyper-masculinity given by the football fans he studies as, ‘camp’ (2015:23). Camp might also describe much professional wrestling though Corteen and Corteen (2012) focus on the real pain involved even in ‘scripted’ fights.
Another joy or online reviewing is that if any of the writers - or indeed others - want to join the debate they can make comments. Moreover, happy to give you space on here to expand.