ABSTRACT

The place of cultural analysis and critique within the criminological canon is a source of some sustained, although generally under-developed and even misunderstood, theoretical and applied research.1 This absence of scholarship and this confusion about the same are related, in substantial part, to the interpretive processes that underscore and inform the cultural investigation that one undertakes. The analysis questions and probes the often concealed and therefore unexamined forces that help to form the self, the social, and their mutuality. Stated differently, the cultural lens “unearths” and “dissects”: (1) the images of reality that are preferred; (2) the types of knowledge (i.e., the “texts”) that these favored mental constructions privilege; (3) the lived versions of truth and moral accountability that these circumscribed texts produce; and (4) the replications of each artifact, especially when disseminated through society’s informational (and increasingly carnivalesque) outlets (e.g., Carrabine 2008). Collectively, these forces or conditions establish an ordering of things (e.g., Foucault 1965; 1966; 1977). This ordering adversely impacts and, in some contexts, even harms far too many people in far too many instances throughout the world. Regrettably, for those held captive by this ordering, the harm that is both legitimized and reified is unreflectively taken to be emblematic of healthy, natural and inevitable human/social progress. Thus, critique must follow. To borrow a metaphor from archeology, the interpretive lens of cultural inquiry excavates and studies the artifacts of human expression (e.g. the images that inform how we engage in justice rendering, the texts that signify how we forgive offenders or restore victims, the ethics by which we make peace with crime and the techno-rational and seductive mechanisms/techniques that derivatively sustain each cultural expression given the artifact’s rapacious consumption).2