Southern Criminology is a contemporary perspective in criminology and criminal justice that encompasses criminal and law enforcement practices of the Global South. However, it is not new, as it derives from the century-long practices of colonization, oppression, and ignorance of the global periphery. With all of its peculiarities, terms, and features, the concept of southern criminology is initially about raising questions on the epistemology of criminal justice in a contemporary highly diverse and globalized environment. It is about the use and establishment of power relations in the production of criminological knowledge (Carrington, et al., 2017). On the other hand, southern criminology presupposes a theoretical perspective aimed at shifting the focus from the state criminal justice processes to global inequalities, transnational crime, and postcolonial politics (Travers, 2019). Paying attention to the contemporary rise of social and economic inequalities in the geopolitical relationships and understanding the higher number of people appearing under the scope and scale of southern criminology, a recent interest in the topic has become tremendously huge among scholars to reconsider and revise power relationships and criminal practices between the Global North and Global South but from the perspective of the latter. Therefore, with a variety of critical approaches and strategies in theory and practice, southern criminology reveals a largely underestimated and ignored sphere of criminal justice and criminology in the global context of its origins, links with other perspectives, and relation to the development of criminology, and its reflection and response to the challenges of the 21st century.
In the course of the Western and trans-Atlantic dominance in the world arena, the Global South has been outside of the main breakthroughs and transformations initiated and further maintained by western countries. In turn, the locus of the crime-and-punishment relationships associated with the ways to cope with them and sustain the social equilibrium in terms of the theoretical approach by Durkheim is getting more critical today. It touches on the colonization period, oppression of the indigenous people and occupied countries with local populations, and vision of modernity pursued solely by the developed western countries and those referred to the Western world. The colonization legacy has largely turned into a new paradigmatic shift of neo-colonialism fueled by the global capitalistic relationships that have left a deep imprint in the field of global criminal justice and criminology with its various perspectives.
According to Carrington, et al. (2018), global western influences and colonial heritage are not only about colonizing territories, as it is also about colonizing knowledge with a small bulk of countries (the US and the UK) of the Global North comprising 15% of the global population (versus 85% referred to the Global South) and producing half of the global academic knowledge. Because of the dominant academic thought in criminology coming mainly from Western countries with their power relationships based on the state provisions and institutions to take control over crime rates, the same approach in analyzing and evaluating criminal justice of the Global South is largely undervalued and ignored. Hence, western scholars have raised awareness of this field of inquiry to develop a theoretical framework so that to theorize and conceptualize a deeper and interrelated meaning of southern criminology.
Along with the colonial past, other features refer to the population diversity and ethical concerns highlighted in different countries and related to the Global South. The main features of the Global South that draw attention on the part of the representatives of the Global North relate to global inequalities associated with scarce resources and the lack of access to equal education, healthcare, housing, gender, and income (Carrington, et al., 2018). In turn, the problems associated with crime rates and diversification of criminal activities are not that huge in scope compared to the constant military conflicts, poverty, famines, epidemics, and violation of human rights, and other crimes threatening human security in Third World countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc. It is exactly what drives a theoretical approach to understand the causes and ongoing issues in the context of southern criminology: “Theory travels well when it transmits imaginative resources that inspire one’s own genealogical explorations, thus giving due weight to the historical antecedents of contemporary practices” (Steinbeck, 2016, p. 514). Thus, southern criminology should be perceived and further conceptualized and evaluated through the lens of cognitive justice because “there is no justice without cognitive justice” (Cited in Carrington, et al., 2018, p. 1). The criminal situation in these countries is more severe, complicated, and devastated based on the lack of research initially occupied and dominated by the investigations and thoughts of Western authors and from their position without putting more emphasis on the problem from the inside.
The colonial origin of southern criminology is also commensurate with the theoretical intricacies. The dominant role and place of the Northern theories and constructive approaches for normal social development under the international declarations and resolutions do not fully describe the theoretical background of criminal activities in the Global South. As long as the global criminology was for a long time a prerogative of the Global North in terms of the academic enterprise, southern criminology seeks to get rid of this bias by enlarging the criminological imagination to encompass experiences and ideas from the Global South (Carrington, et al., 2018). In this respect, a variety of different theoretical approaches used predominantly in the field of criminology need further extension after an in-depth evaluation of the aggregate experiences of criminal activity and situation in the countries related to the Global South. To a degree, it is also a responsibility of the Global North because of the harm and degradation caused by the long-lasting period of colonization and further geopolitical transformations as a result of decolonization in the previous century.
In the development of criminology, the perspective of southern criminology aligns with the ongoing highly connected and globalized world. Transnational criminal groups and syndicates emerge on the basis of natural and human resources of the Global South and tend to increase the scope of their activities as long as the problem of southern criminology is largely behind the scenes of the contemporary global perspectives in criminology. A common judgment on the imperfect realization of the ways to modernize universal theories and laws of development pursued by the developed societies of the Global North runs into a ‘deficit in recognition and circulation’ of the Global South, leading to the theoretical framework of metropolitan thinking that holds the historical perspective of colonization and conquest being initially emblematic of western capitalist modernity (Carrington, et al., 2017). Overall, as societies from the Global South are still stagnant to modernize and deal with the socio-economic and political issues, the criminal situation remains to be largely unsolvable and complicated without adding new theoretical approaches for better evaluation of the problem. In the context of cosmopolitanism, southern epistemologies bring about “unconditional inclusiveness of marginalized voices” (Bosworth & Hoyle, 2012, p. 417). Carrington, et al. (2017, p. 2) perceive southern criminology aimed at rectifying the omissions of western capitalist modernity “by adding new and diverse perspectives to criminological research agendas to make them more inclusive and befitting of the world in which we live.” Overall, the theoretical framework and current approaches to southern criminology should be reflexive rather than reductive in highlighting and classifying modern perspectives in the multifaceted body of crime rates and criminal activity in the Global South.
Admittedly, there are various challenges to the perspective of southern criminology in terms of the 21st century and its frantic-paced, ever-changing, and technology-savvy environment. For instance, increasing social diversity as a result of migration adds significantly to the population composition, creating new challenges and conflict situations that may arise between the two parties. However, one should be careful in identifying these terms sensibly and accurately so that to bring about more social equality or at least highlighting the social vices of sexism, racism, social inequality, and social neglect. Different criminological issues covering southern criminology and criminal justice are controversial but still consequential in their approach:
If southern criminology is to flourish in all its potential diversity, it must challenge the epistemological dominance of metropolitan thought. Southern criminology does not offer another form of opposition so much as a series of projects of retrieval. Its purpose is not to denounce but to re-orient, not to oppose but to modify, not to displace but to augment (Carrington, et al., 2017, p. 3).
In terms of social diversity, liberal movements, more tolerance, and raising social awareness of the new issues associated with widespread diversity non-acceptance, it is important to emphasize the need for shifting power relations and gender roles in the previously traditional society versus contemporary discourse on gender equality for all ethnicities, races, and religions to be under the universalized idea of southern criminology as having nothing to do with these terms, doing in the opposite way and following the primitive perspective of the state of nature by Thomas Hobbes. However, the way this new perspective aims to examine the field of criminology in the Global South is astonishing in that it makes a reverse and reflexive, at the same time, approach to the state policies and cognitive dominance of the Global North in the international criminology thought.
On the other hand, there is another global challenge to researching and further evaluating the southern criminology perspective in terms of the shifting paradigms of living in short-term and long-term perspectives. It is commensurate with the idea of shifting power relationships between generations and men and women, also in the context of the LGBTQI+ community. These complex questions in non-modernized and quite violent societies are likely to take place, and the need for predicting these impulsive and quite controversial intentions of the criminals and criminal groups should be researched more thoroughly. It is what Bosworth & Hoyle (2012, p. 140) conceptualize amid southern learning “impacting directly on criminological theorizations in, and off, the North.” From the critical perspective of social relations and the highly mobilized movement of individuals globally under the need for keeping globalization going on, the whole picture is still disruptive.
In the context of complex gender relationships in society when introducing a genuinely western perspective, new types of behavioral patterns and unique social experiences within southern criminology should be revealed, classified, and put into practice. This is a hard task for the averagely new perspective within the discipline of global (western) criminology and criminal justice further evident in the international bodies of criminal justice. The historic precedents of the North narratives on modern life through the lens of categorical judgment deriving from Europeans have influenced metropolitan thinking resting on the linear and panoramic appreciation of space and time (Carrington, et al., 2018). Everything related today to southern criminology is just a tip of an iceberg full of new precedents, methods, and strategies applicable uniquely to new cases in this perspective on global criminology.
Therefore, this study has shown the uniqueness and importance of studying southern criminology amid the demographic explosion, economic crises, pandemics, and other global issues affecting the next steps in human development and growth. As a consequence of the dominant possession of academic knowledge mainly in the hands of western societies, southern criminology has become a recent attempt of global criminologists to conceptualize and further apply new practices to withstand the growth of criminal activities locally, regionally, and globally. Without a proper approach to diminishing the influences of the conservative narrow-minded perspective of ignorance and discrimination, it is impossible to have a new historical, economic, and criminal perspective of the ongoing global transformation that may affect the normal development of modernity in different parts of the world. In other words, different studies have already identified the growing influence of southern criminology on the updates and revisions of the modern western criminological thought, which is largely impossible to change. Overall, contemporary efforts in identifying and further theorizing southern criminology should not necessarily avoid the western perspective, as these two entities were dynamically developing in the context of the colonizer-versus-colonized perspective.
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Bosworth, M. & Hoyle, C., 2012. What is Criminology?. Oxford: OUP Oxford.
Carrington, K. et al., 2018. Southern Criminology. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group.
Carrington, K., Hogg, R. & Sozzo, M., 2017. Southern Criminology. The British Journal of Criminology, January, 57(1), pp. 1-20.
Steinbeck, J., 2016. How Well Does Theory Travel? David Garland in the Global South. The Howard Journal, December, 55(4), pp. 514-531.
Travers, M., 2019. The idea of a Southern Criminology. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 43(1), pp. 1-12.