Police, race, punishment: New directions in Criminology. Seminar Series 2019-20 by Jennifer Fleetwood & Theo Kindynis,

Goldsmiths has long played a role in British scholarship on crime and justice. Professor Stuart Hall’s scholarship was, and remains, hugely influential in British criminology. Goldsmiths has also been home to well-known criminologists including Frances Heidensohn, Tim Newburn, Mike Shiner, Geoff Pearson, Tara Young and Jenni Ward – to name just a few. Building on the Sociology Department’s expertise in social divisions and exclusions, human rights, crimes against humanity, transitional justice, and international criminal justice, the Department of Sociology enrolled their first cohort on the BA Criminology in 2016.  

The first seminar series reflects Goldsmiths’ sociological approach to criminology and draws together an array of scholarship on the themes of police, race and punishment. Speakers were asked to present for between 30 and 40 minutes, followed by questions and discussion. Seminars were attended by a mix of students and academic staff from across the University.  

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it seems likely that the next seminar series will take place online. Members of the department were joined by colleagues from around the world for our first criminological “webinar” last week to celebrate the release of Visiting Professor John Lea’s new book, co-authored with Prof. Wendy Fitzgibbon (University of Leicester), Privatising Justice: The Security Industry, War and Crime Control (Pluto Press).   

Seminars are kindly supported by the CUCR. Look out for more seminars – online, of course – in 2020-21.  

Below you can find an archive of the seminars from 2019-2020.  

The New Platform Policing 

Professor Dean Wilson (Sussex)  

Dean is Professor of Criminology in the Department of Sociology, University of Sussex. An historian by training, his research examines policing, surveillance, security and technology.  

The infusion of information technologies within policing ecologies has accelerated considerably since 2008. Frequently this is couched in the language of efficiency and of enabling police agencies to do more with less. While engaging various models including the notion of software as a service, the valence is towards cloud-based information architectures that infuse police organizations and which meld together disparate sources of data into modulated flows of maximal utility. 

While much is made in marketing materials to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these new digital policing ecologies also engage with a lineage of policing techniques, such as hot-spot policing, which have considerably longer lineages. This article examines the emergence of ‘platform policing’, arguing that it draws upon imaginaries of efficient and cost-effective law enforcement that have their origins in the US context of the 1960s.  

You can read the published version of his paper, here.  

Asymmetric Policing at a Distance: Frontiers, law and disorder in the weaponised South. 

Professor Peter Squires 

Peter Squires recently retired from the University of Brighton, where he spent much of his academic career. His impressive publication record includes research on gun crime, policing, public safety, youth crime and anti-social behaviour. You can read more about Pete’s work here on his website.  

A preliminary look at two related aspects of the imperial legacy in the global south: both the weaponisation of frontiers and the production of conflict and the imposition of ‘asymmetric’ policing systems upon these same regions along with the reproduction of inequality and disorder. Of course, whether all policing systems are asymmetric and ‘force reliant’ anyway, may be an implicit question, especially with the shift to a ‘high policing’ agenda globally and the related paramilitarisation of policing practices. Learning southern lessons, perhaps? 

Police Vigilantism, Patronage and Extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. 

Dr Zoha Waseem (University College, London).  

Dr Zoha Waseem is a Research Associate at University College London. Her doctoral research focused on the impacts of security policies on the culture of civilian policing in Karachi, Pakistan. Her research interests include policing, security, surveillance, counterterrorism, and urban violence. You can read more about Zoha and her research here.  

‘Police encounters’ have been a notorious phenomenon in South Asia since the 1980s. Encounters can be broadly defined as specific interactions between police officials and suspects in which the latter are shot dead by the police, with few or no police casualties. Recent scholarship has referred to encounters as a product of ‘police vigilantism’, a term used to explain how and why the police act outside the law in the deliverance of security and justice. Using the case of Karachi, I discuss the political factors and social considerations that facilitate reliance upon encounters and analyse how this practice has been legitimised through narratives of police vigilantism. I suggest that the politicisation of policing and police vigilantism are connected through the concept of patronage, and for politicisation and patronage to translate into vigilantism, political actors rely upon existing fragmentations and divides within police organisations and reinforce them. These dynamics are crucial for understanding the forces that sustain authoritarian cultures of policing, as well as for further developing the concept of ‘police vigilantism’. 

Racialising Mercy: Capital Punishment and Race in 20th Century England & Wales 

Dr Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex) 

Lizzie Seal is Reader in Criminology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Sussex. She has researched widely on the death penalty in the UK. You can read Lizzie’s paper here, and more information on her research project here.  

Fifty-six men of colour were sentenced to death by the courts of England and Wales in the twentieth century and were statistically less likely to receive mercy than white contemporaries. Though shocking, this is perhaps unsurprising considering institutional racism and unequal access to justice widely highlighted by criminologists since the 1970s. However, discourses of racial difference were frequently mobilised tactically in nineteenth- and twentieth-century England and Wales to support arguments for mercy and attempt to save prisoners from the gallows. Scholars have identified historically and culturally contingent narratives traditionally deployed to speak to notions of lesser culpability. I will identify the strategic mercy narratives told in twentieth-century England and Wales that called on contemporary tropes about defendants’ race. Though officially secret, analysis of Home Office decision-makers’ reasons to hang or reprieve reveal how they racialised practices of mercy and capital punishment by categorising and describing defendants and crimes. The narratives and cases I will explore suggest contemporary racism in the criminal justice system of England and Wales has a longer history than previously acknowledged 

The final seminar of the series was subject to a last-minute cancellation due to Coronavirus. We hope to hold Johnny Ilan’s Seminar ‘Free Rap: Against the Criminalisation of Drill Music, in 2020-21.  

Jennifer Fleetwood is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Theo Kindynis is a Lecturer in Criminology, Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Enquiries: j.fleetwood@gold.ac.uk

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