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Critical Criminological Perspectives

Criminology and
Queer Theory
Dangerous Bedfellows?

Matthew Ball
Critical Criminological Perspectives

Series editors
Faculty of Law
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane,Queensland, Australia

Social Policy & Criminology
The Open University
Milton Keynes,United Kingdom
Aims of the Series
The Palgrave Critical Criminological Perspectives book series aims to
showcase the importance of critical criminological thinking when exam-
ining problems of crime, social harm and criminal and social justice.
Critical perspectives have been instrumental in creating new research
agendas and areas of criminological interest. By challenging state defined
concepts of crime and rejecting positive analyses of criminality, critical
criminological approaches continually push the boundaries and scope
of criminology, creating new areas of focus and developing new ways
of thinking about, and responding to, issues of social concern at local,
national and global levels. Recent years have witnessed a flourishing of
critical criminological narratives and this series seeks to capture the origi-
nal and innovative ways that these discourses are engaging with contem-
porary issues of crime and justice.

More information about this series at

Criminology and
Queer Theory
Dangerous Bedfellows?
School of Justice
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Critical Criminological Perspectives

ISBN 978-1-137-45327-3 ISBN 978-1-137-45328-0 (eBook)
DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016943517

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For Christian

Like all intellectual endeavours, this book is the result of numerous con-
versations and influences, and I owe a great debt of thanks to the many
colleagues with whom I have discussed these issues over recent years.
To begin, I want to acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, who
are the traditional owners of the land on which I work, walk, and live.
I want to thank Samantha Jeffries, who set me on this particular
research path. Our initial discussions about the need for research and
policy relating to intimate partner violence in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisex-
ual, transgender) relationships, and our subsequent publication in this
area, initially sparked my interest in sexuality, gender, and criminology.
My initial exploration of this area was aided substantially by a period
of sabbatical leave during which I was a Visiting Scholar in the Centre for
Sex, Gender, and Sexualities at Durham University, UK.I am grateful to
Jo Phoenix, who was instrumental in making this happen and in giving
me the space at Durham to explore my ideas, and who also constantly
challenged the directions of my research. During my time in the UK, I
was also lucky to benefit from the generosity of, and many discussions
with, Maggie ONeill, Mark McCormack, Liz Morrish, and Pat Carlen.
As always, all of my colleagues in the School of Justice at Queensland
University of Technology over the years have been incredibly support-
ive and absolutely key to the development of the ideas presented here.

viii Acknowledgements

In particular, I would like to thank Kerry Carrington for giving me the

space not only to write this book, but also the encouragement to pursue
this research path. Sharon Hayes, Molly Dragiewicz, Jodi Death, John
Scott, Debra Robertson-Stainsby, Juan Tauri, and Cassandra Cross have
also offered similar encouragement or provided their own feedback on
these ideas. I would especially like to thank Erin OBrien for being a
great motivator, writing colleague, and friend, whose good humour and
friendship I am truly thankful for.
Belinda Carpenter deserves special thanks for generously taking the
time in her busy schedule to read and comment in detail on the book,
and on these ideas more generally. I am very lucky to have had the oppor-
tunity to learn so much about academia from her as a mentor, and I
deeply appreciate it.
I cannot thank Angela Dwyer enough for being a great friend, men-
tor, co-supervisor, co-editor, and partner in crime (research). Her engage-
ment with similar research issues in queer criminology always helped me
feel less isolated on this journey than I might otherwise have been and her
generosity has always been appreciated.
Special thanks are also due to Jey Rodgers, who very ably compiled
much of the literature on which this book is based, who has always been
a great resource for anything and everything queer, and with whom I dis-
cussed a number of the ideas explored here in their early form. The book
would not have been possible without this assistance, and I am sincerely
thankful for it.
And I would like to acknowledge and thank the growing number of
queer criminologists whose work I have been inspired by, engaged with,
critiqued, or built on. It is indeed exciting to be working through these
issues and forging new criminological territory with you all. In particu-
lar, I would like to thank Vanessa R.Panfil, Carrie L.Buist, Jordan Blair
Woods, Aimee Wodda, Emily Lenning, Nicole Asquith, Derek Dalton,
Stephen Tomsen, and Dave McDonald.
There are also many people who provided me with the personal support
necessary to complete this book, and whom I would like to thank. First,
I want to acknowledge Reece Walters and Deborah Drake for believing
in the book and seeing it as worthy of inclusion in their series. I also
want to thank the editorial and production teams at Palgrave Macmillan,
Acknowledgements ix

specifically Julia Willan, Harriet Barker, and Dominic Walker, who have
all been incredibly supportive of the book, and who have continually tol-
erated requests to extend the delivery date for the manuscript. I do hope
these extensions have paid off.
My family continue to be a most incredible source of love, encourage-
ment, and happiness in my life. My parents Graham and Cheryl, and my
sister Christine, continue to support me in whatever I do, even though
at times I am not entirely sure they know exactly what it is that I do.
The rest of my familytoo numerous to mention individuallyare also
incredibly supportive, and I know for sure that they have even less idea
about what I do. I also want to thank my oldest and closest friend, Dave
Merrick, who has always been family to me, and who makes it easy for
me to take a break from myself.
Finally, I want to thank my partner, Christian. There is simply no
way to describe my gratitude to him for everything that he has done.
Everything that is beautiful and wonderful in my life is because of him.
When we met eight years ago, neither of us could have imagined the
journey that lay ahead of us. Every minute of iteven when we have
both been hard at work at whatever personal projects consume us at that
momenthas been a joy, and he has been unwavering in his love and
support for me. It is to him that this book is dedicated.

1 Introduction 1

Part I Approaching Criminology 21

2 Queer 23

3 Queer/ing Criminology 53

4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 75

Part II Within Criminology 105

5 Criminology for Queers? Charting aSpace forQueer

Communities inCriminology 107

6 Queer, Realist, andCultural: Grounding

Queer Criminology 137

7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 163

xii Contents

Part III Beyond Criminology 189

8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology,

and the Queer Value of Hope 191

9 Queer Shame andCriminology 219

10 Conclusion 245

Index 255

In October 2014, in an apartment in Brisbane, Australia just one block

from where I live, Mayang Prasetyo was murdered by her husband Marcus
Volke. Despite the alarming frequency of such domestic homicideson
average, in Australia, a woman is murdered by an intimate partner every
week (Mouzos and Rushforth 2003; Cussen and Bryant 2015)such
violence rarely attracts significant media attention, and almost never
makes the front page of the newspaper. This particular case, however,
did hit the front page of the local newspaper, The Courier Mail, the next
day, not because of any shift in public concern over domestic homicides,
but rather because two key aspects of Prasetyos life and death were ripe
for sensationalising in what is one of Rupert Murdochs less prestigious
First, the circumstances of her murder were particularly grisly, and
rarely seen in Brisbane. When police were called to investigate reports
from neighbours about an overpowering smell coming from the apart-
ment, they found that Volke was allegedly cooking parts of Prasetyos
body, having killed her in a domestic dispute a few days prior. He fled the
scene and subsequently killed himself in a dumpster located in the apart-
ment building in which I live. Such circumstances rarely go unreported.

The Author(s) 2016 1

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_1
2 Criminology and Queer Theory

Second, Prasetyo was a transgender woman and had been a sex worker.
The front page of The Courier Mail thus featured an image of Prasetyo
posing in a bathing suit, along with a headline that read Monster Chef
and the She Male. The report, which continued inside under the head-
line Ladyboy and the butcher, contained more photos of Prasetyo in
bikinis, and focused on the fact that she was a transgender woman and
had advertised herself as a top high-class Asian shemale (Brennan etal.
2014; Stephens 2014).
This reporting drew considerable community outrage, with the
Australian Press Council later finding that the focus on these details
was gratuitous, caused substantial offence, and was not sufficiently
warranted in the public interest (APC 2015). While it is certainly not
representative of the general reporting of the case, much of the report-
ing did devote inordinate attention to such details, over and above
what we might consider to be a more pressing and concerning point
about this casethat it occurred at the intersection of the epidem-
ics of violence against women (particularly at the hands of intimate
partners), violence against transgender people generally, and more spe-
cifically violence against transgender people of colour. This misplaced
focus on Prasetyos transgender and sex worker status turned her into
an aberrant object whose intimate life and tragic demise could then
serve as the targets of fascination and titillation as much, if not more,
than they could as prompts for empathy. This focus also made it more
difficult for her to be able to access the status of victim, at least in some
mainstream media reporting.
Mayang Prasetyos death and its aftermath highlight some issues that
are central to the criminal justice experiences of many transgender peo-
ple. It illustrates the limitations of the state in preventing intimate part-
ner violence, violence against transgender people, and violence against
people of colour, not to mention violence against sex workers. It brings
to light the difficulties that transgender people experience accessing the
status of victim. And it shows just how tenuous ones hold on that sta-
tus within the media may be. While they play out in different ways and
to varying extents, these issues are also encountered by those who con-
sider themselves to be part of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex,
1 Introduction 3

and queer (LGBTIQ) communities.1 These groups often find their lives
defined by their sexuality and gender difference, and experience injus-
tices at the hands of criminology and criminal justice institutions as a
result, including similar difficulties accessing this victim status.
Only three months prior to Mayang Prasetyos murder, this time in
San Francisco, USA, another set of events highlighted an entirely dif-
ferent relationship between LGBTIQ communities and criminal justice
institutions. During the 2014 Pride celebrations, fetish pornography
website hosted a prison-themed dance party, the Prison of
Love, where they invited revellers to [l]et [their] fantasies run wild in
solitary, fall in love in the shower, plan [their] jailbreak with [their] mates,
[and] celebrate [their] creative freedom (WE Party 2014). This prison
theme, however, proved controversial, attracting criticisms from promi-
nent activists and community organisations that it was trivialising the
serious issues of over-policing, the expansion of the carceral state, and the
violence experienced by trans women and gender nonconforming people
of colour (Fireworks Bay Area 2014). Others defended the party, sug-
gesting that it was an appropriate venue for the expression and celebra-
tion of sexual fantasies involving prison motifs, pointing to the morally
ambiguous presence of prison motifs in queer cultural production. This
clash of ideas led to a physical confrontation between protesters and rev-
ellers on the night of the party, with partygoers being physically attacked,
police and security being called in, and some protesters arrested (see Ball
2016, in press).
The events surrounding the Prison of Love party can also offer an
insight into the relationships between LGBTIQ communities and
criminal justice institutionsan insight somewhat different from that

Throughout this book, I will employ a range of terms to refer to the many communities that
might be considered sexuality- and gender-diverse. I will generally utilise the terms LGBTIQ
people, LGBTIQ communities, or queer communities unless a specific context warrants other-
wise. With these terms, I primarily wish to capture those who are positioned outside normative
frameworks relating to sexuality and/or gender, specifically heteronormativity and gender binaries.
I use these terms partly for variety, partly because they are less unwieldy than others, but in full
recognition of their limitations (and the failures of language in this regard more generally). I
acknowledge that not all people who might fall under these terms will necessarily agree with their
inclusion (for example, Davis 2015, 138139) or with the use of the term queer. Furthermore, I
do not imply that the experiences and struggles of these communities are equivalent. I will expand
on these debates in the next chapter.
4 Criminology and Queer Theory

illustrated by Mayang Prasetyos death. LGBTIQ communities and

criminal justice institutions have long had what might be described as
a troubled relationship (Dwyer and Tomsen 2016; Mogul et al. 2011).
LGBTIQ people have historically been the targets of such institutions
and their policing of deviance. Criminology has provided the intellectual
technologies on which these forms of regulation and intervention have been
based and through which they have been legitimised. Thus, the choice
of the party theme itself is complex and open to multiple readings.
For example, the sexualisation of criminal justice-related themes and
motifs within gay male cultural production has often been explicitly
political, operating as a form of resistance to those institutions. In this
light, the party might be understood as a continuation of such politics.
One could also argue that the party demonstrates some progress in
the relationships between LGBTIQ people and police. The embrace
of institutions that have been harmful in queer lives could suggest
this, as could the presence of the police at this eventwho were there
not to shut down the party (as they might have in the past) but to
protect those who sought to subvert and sexualise their very power.
And one could consider that the party and the events surrounding it
are a telling illustration of key dynamics that must be considered in any
examination of the relationships between LGBTIQ people and criminal
justice institutions. After all, they illustrate that progressive political
gains also reproduce cleavages within these communities, marking out
those subjects (white, socio-economically advantaged, normative gay
men and lesbians) deserving of the protection of the criminal justice
system from those who are not accorded the same protection (socio-
economically disadvantaged, transgender or queer people of colour),
and who remain subjected to the most punitive interventions of the
criminal justice system while simultaneously being overlooked by
mainstream lesbian and gay political movements.
These two very different eventsseparated by a few months and
occurring in countries with somewhat similar political and social
contextsindicate the complex and contradictory nature of the
interactions between LGBTIQ communities, criminal justice, and
criminology. In recent years, a body of criminological and criminal
justice-related scholarship has developed which has sought to critically
1 Introduction 5

interrogate these interactions, and respond to the ongoing marginalisation

of LGBTIQ people in (and by) the criminal justice system, as well as
their general exclusion from (or misrepresentation by) criminology.
Often termed queer criminology, this body of work has offered an
opportunity to ensure that criminal justice institutions become more
responsive to the needs of LGBTIQ people, redressing the serious harms
that these communities have experienced as a result of being criminalised
or positioned as deviant. It has also provided an avenue for the reform
of criminological theorising, whose silence on matters of importance
to LGBTIQ peoplewhen it has not been actively studying their
deviancehas been deafening.
This queer criminology, however, is difficult to pin down. The term
only appeared sporadically within criminology and criminal justice stud-
ies over the last few decades. It is only in the last few years that research-
ers have begun explicitly representing their work as (or having a relation
to something called) queer criminology. This queer criminology has
mounted its challenge to criminology and criminal justice studies in a
range of ways, drawing from within and outside criminology, taking a
number of different paths in the process. The last two years have seen the
publication of no less than four scholarly volumes that have further estab-
lished this emerging body of work: Dana Peterson and Vanessa R.Panfils
voluminous Handbook of LGBT Communities, Crime, and Justice; a special
issue of Critical Criminology on Queer/ing Criminology: New Directions
and Frameworks, edited by Carrie L. Buist, Jordan Blair Woods, and
myself; Queering Criminology, edited by Angela Dwyer, Thomas Crofts,
and myself; and Carrie L.Buist and Emily Lennings Queer Criminology.
These have been supported by a host of other texts detailing the experi-
ences of LGBTIQ people, crime, and the criminal justice system (see,
for example, Mogul etal. 2011; Stanley and Smith 2011; Johnson and
Dalton 2012; Meyer 2015; Laing etal. 2015; Colvin 2012). The momen-
tum provided by these publications has also seen queer criminological
scholarship develop a clearer presence at major international conferences
and international symposia, and contributed to it being taken more seri-
ously within (at least critical) criminology.
This book is one part of this broader movement. It makes a theo-
retical and critical contribution to this field. Taking my cue from the
6 Criminology and Queer Theory

notion of queer referenced in the term queer criminology, I specifically

interrogate the intersections between criminology and queer theory and
scholarship that currently exist, and I suggest ways in which these inter-
sections could be developed in order to articulate both a critique of this
developing field, and a possible direction for future queer criminological

The Need foraQueer Criminology

A number of key issues motivate the development of a queer criminology,
which will no doubt be familiar to those with at least a passing interest in
critical criminology and the experiences of LGBTIQ people more gener-
ally. I will not restate these reasons in great detail here (they are canvassed
exhaustively in the texts already mentioned, and will also be discussed
further in Chapter 3), except to say that queer criminology is often
positioned as a way of addressing the exclusion or misrepresentation of
LGBTIQ peopleas victims, offenders, and criminal justice agents
from criminology, and responding to the injustices produced by crimi-
nal justice institutions and practices that have not been designed with
LGBTIQ people in mind, have failed to protect LGBTIQ people from
victimisation and injustice, or have, in fact, formed a key component
in the regulation, marginalisation, and criminalisation of LGBTIQ lives
(see Mogul etal. 2011; Peterson and Panfil 2014a; Buist and Lenning
2016; Woods 2014b). Most calls for the development of a queer crimi-
nology, it is safe to say, are made with these aims in mind. As such, a lot
of hope is placed in queer criminology increasing the presence of queer
communities in criminological research. It is felt that using queer schol-
arship to think about criminological issues will not only work to produce
a discipline more inclusive of a broader range of perspectives, but also
a criminal justice system that is more responsive to these communities.
This book is no differentI would suggest that the direction that I chart
here will achieve these same goals. However, there is an added reason that
I have taken the approach that I have here, and that is because there are
many more opportunities for queer theory and scholarship to explicitly
feature within criminology which have yet to be explored.
1 Introduction 7

The term queer criminology might suggest that queer theory has already
been substantially drawn into criminology. However, I would argue that to
this point, queer criminological engagements with queer scholarship have
not, in fact, proceeded in a sustained way. Some aspects of queer scholar-
ship have been utilised in criminological studies, however the preference
continues to be to use the term queer primarily as an umbrella category for
LGBTIQ people, or largely as a way of accounting for sexuality and gender
in research (see Ball 2013b, 2014b). As I will show, this has limited the
ways in which the term queer has been engaged with, and has left room
for more sustained engagements such as those outlined here.2
For example, queer criminological research often identifies a crimi-
nological problem of relevance to LGBTIQ peoplewhether this be a
unique crime that is experienced by them (homophobic or transphobic
hate crime, for example); a crime conventionally studied by criminolo-
gists but where queer people have been overlooked or are largely invis-
ible (such as intimate partner violence); or a particular (usually negative)
experience of one or another aspect of the criminal justice system (such
as the impacts of policing or prison). Such research then seeks to gain
knowledge of the experiences of those subject to such injustices and
forms of victimisation in order to offer recommendations about how this
particular issue might be resolved or responded to.3 Many such studies
are labelled, or label the diverse group of people studied, queer, using
it as a catch-all term (Duggan 2012; Mogul etal. 2011; see further Ball
2013b, 2014b). To queer in many of these works means to add the
voices and experiences of LGBTIQ people to criminology or criminal
justice studies in order to ensure that they are represented in criminology
and that misrepresentations of them can be corrected. These approaches
have certainly been productive, allowing criminologists to challenge the
heteronormativity and gender binaries that pervade criminology, and to
open up a criminological space for injustices to be remedied and crimi-
nological silences to be broken.

These arguments have been developed further elsewhere (see Ball 2013b, 2014b).
Importantly, not all of the studies discussed here are strictly criminological, nor do they necessarily
refer to themselves as queer criminology. I am interested here in the diversity of criminal justice-
related research that has engaged with the notion of queer, and/or has been positioned as a part of
queer criminology, even if so labelled after the fact.
8 Criminology and Queer Theory

Other queer criminological research utilises queer somewhat dif-

ferently, engaging with queer theoretical insights in the process. Queer
theoretical work offers many conceptual tools to consider forms of regu-
lation, or understand sexuality and gender, in new ways. Some crimino-
logical studies engage with queer theory, then, in order to provide what
might be considered sensitising concepts for researchers to utilise when
designing and undertaking research in order to best represent LGBTIQ
people within that research.4 These tools have been used to understand
the government of sexuality and gender through norms embedded in a
variety of social sites, how these become the targets of regulation (for
example by police in public spaces or through forms of self-regulation),
and how queer lives and forms of victimisation may be erased or over-
looked because of their non-normativity (see, for example, Dalton 2006,
2007; Dwyer 2011, 2012; Lamble 2008; Mason 2001; Robson 2011;
Tomsen 1997, 2006, 2009). Some of this work also engages with queer
theoretical critiques to not only identify heteronormativity within crimi-
nal justice institutions, but also to question whether, in fact, the reform
of such institutions can ever hope to address the injustices experienced by
LGBTIQ people (Conrad 2009; Mogul etal. 2011, 123127; Narrain
2008, 50; Tomsen 2006, 2009; Meyer 2014). These approaches have also
been productive, as they have introduced new ways of understanding and
representing queer people in criminology, making it more attuned to the
complexities of sexuality and gender diversity, and the impact of hetero-
normativity within the criminal justice system.
However, despite their productivity, these different ways of using queer
have a number of further effects. As I will discuss in Chapter 2, the use of
queer as a catch-all identity category can reinforce essentialised notions
of identity, and overlook important differences between those who are
included in the term (Jagose 1996; Gamson 1995). In addition, both
of these ways of using queer tend to anchor queer to sexuality and/or
gendera connection that I will problematise in Chapter 4. This means
that only some aspects of queer scholarship are taken up, and some of the
Notably, not all such insights are unique to, or originated within, queer theory. For example, the
critique of essentialised identities and a concern with their regulation has been central to a variety
of critical perspectives such as feminist criminologies and counter-colonial criminologies (see
Chapter 5), as well as work on victims of crime (Walklate 2011, 5458).
1 Introduction 9

more deconstructive insights that queer scholarship offers are not devel-
oped further within such research. In effect, this means that the people
who constitute the focus of the research are queer, but other aspects of
the research are not (see further Ball and Scherer 2011, 12; Eng etal.
2005, 3). Those researching intimate partner violence might, for example,
queer their research by noting that our societal responses to such vio-
lence are heteronormative, or that we need to recognise complexities of
gender and sexuality in research on this issue, however this only amounts
to a queering of the subjects of such violencenot necessarily a queering
of our understandings of violence itself (see Ball 2013a; Holmes 2009).
Similarly, queer theories might be utilised in explorations of hate crime,
but only insofar as they can help to include victims of homophobic and
transphobic violencethey might not be utilised to queer the concept of
hate crime itself (see Chakraborti and Garland 2009, 75). This means that,
by and large, regardless of how theoretically sophisticated and productive
such analyses may be, many engagements with queer remain what are
otherwise rather conventional criminological analyses, and do not stray
too far into the realm of queer scholarship. Queer theoretical tools may be
utilised to contribute to criminological knowledge about LGBTIQ com-
munities, but there ends criminologys engagement with queer.
These reflections are not intended as an exercise in policing the ways in
which queer is utilised, but rather, to extend debate about its use and,
as Judith Butler puts it, make us consider at what expense and for what
purposes [it is] used, and through what relations of power such categories
have been wrought (Butler 1993, 229). This ought to remain at the heart
of any development of queer criminology. It is important that we are con-
stantly asking how queer is being used in our work, to what ends, and
with what effects. We need to consider what questions it allows us to ask
or prevents us from asking, and even whether our deployments of queer
are likely to work against us, and perhaps exacerbate the problems that
have motivated the development of queer criminology in the first place.
As I will explore in greater depth in the second chapter, these uncer-
tainties arise largely because of the referential slipperiness and malleability
of the term queer. There is, after all, no strictly correct or solid mean-
ing to the term. Nonetheless, the current deployments of queer within
criminology do not exhaust the possibilities that it affords. One such
10 Criminology and Queer Theory

possibility, which I draw on in this book, is the view that queer can also
be used as a verb, to denote a position or attitude. This use of queer
aligns most closely with the poststructural foundations of queer schol-
arship, and particularly with the conceptual tools of Michel Foucault
and the concept of deconstruction as developed by Jacques Derrida and
others. Queer scholarship and politics have long been disruptive enter-
prises, challenging normativity and disturbing the taken-for-granted. A
queer criminology that utilised queer more thoroughly in this manner
might move further away from the conventional knowledge projects of
criminology and reduce its investment in criminal justice institutions. It
might more fundamentally shift the ground upon which criminology
and, indeed, criminologists themselvesstand. And it might see itself as
offering critiqueparticularly a Foucaultian-informed critique that con-
sists of a constant challenge to what is taken as solid and unchallengeable
(see Ball 2014a).
A project like this carries its own dangers. Using queer as an impe-
tus for deconstruction in this manner may push queer criminology in
directions that are perceived as irrelevant, beyond the boundaries of the
discipline, or contributing little to struggles against material injustices
refrains that have already been sung (Dalton 2016; Woods 2014b, 30).
There is also the danger that too much self-reflection and critique may
stifle progress in a body of work that is still developing. However, I will
suggest here that such engagements with queer will allow queer crimi-
nology to realise new possibilities, address some of the limitations that
might otherwise hamper its progress, and even help in responding differ-
ently to the very problems that queer criminologists seek to address. The
time is ripe, in the early stages of the development of this body of work,
to explore the many possibilities available.

Problematising Queer Criminology

As the above discussion suggests, queer criminology is not necessarily
a straightforward undertaking. Queer is a complex concept, and can
be utilised in many ways, each simultaneously productive and problem-
atic. On top of this can be added the diverse understandings of what
1 Introduction 11

constitutes criminology. After over a century of debate, criminology

remains a discipline that is difficult to define (Bosworth and Hoyle
2011). It is simultaneously an administrative assistant to the social con-
trol arms of the state, a discipline with quasi-scientific pretensions, a
bundle of competing theoretical and methodological positions with no
clearly defined object, and a target of vociferous critique by some who
nevertheless continue to step inside it to improve it. And there remain
questions about criminologys purpose, its objects, and (particularly for
critical criminologies) its subjects.
These questions are no less acute for queer criminology. For example,
should queer criminology investigate LGBTIQ victimisation, offending,
the experience of criminal justice, all of these, or something else? Does it
include only LGBTIQ people, or can it include others who experience
the regulation of apparently non-normative sexualities and genders? If
the former, would it necessarily include all LGBTIQ people? And if the
latter, does this mean that it could include some straight people or even,
as Dave McDonald (2016) has recently asked, paedophiles? Is the pur-
pose of queer criminology simply to add to criminological knowledge by
correcting oversights in the criminological canon, allowing criminology
and the practical interventions and criminal justice practices that develop
from it to help LGBTIQ people? Or is its purpose to queer criminology
and criminal justice institutions, and seek to fundamentally undermine
and reformulate them? Or is it both? And can it do both? Finally, is queer
criminology queer because of its potential subjectsqueer communi-
tiesor because of what it doesits particular methodological, theoreti-
cal, and conceptual approach and the tasks it sets itself?
Noting these complex questions does not mean that we give up on
developing such a field. Nor is it to suggest that we discard the label
queer criminology. If nothing else, this remains a useful shorthand term
to employ.5 And the questions about what queer means and how it is to

In this book, I will try to avoid using the term queer criminology where possible, preferring terms
such as queer criminological scholarship, or queer scholarship in criminology. While these are
more clumsy, and certainly not removed from the problems discussed above, they are an attempt to
reference the fact that queer criminology can and does include multiple, diverse forms of scholar-
ship. Queer theory and criminology are not singular objectsthey are best described in the
plural, and the possibilities of their interaction reflect this plurality.
12 Criminology and Queer Theory

be deployed are not simply theoretical flights of fancy. In fact, they cut to
the heart of the development of this field, impacting on the different pol-
itics that surround or are implied by various approaches, and ultimately
their success in responding to injustice. This book does not (and cannot)
answer all of these questions or interrogate all such issues, though it does
try to keep these complexities in mind.

In this book, I develop the intersections between queer scholarship and
criminology along two key paths. First, I engage with queer thought
generally to explore current critical criminologies, critically analysing
the extent to which these bodies of work (often suggested as allies in
the development of queer criminology) can both foster and limit fur-
ther engagements with queer scholarship within criminology, particularly
along the lines already mentioned. Second, I engage with queer thought
to chart possible future directions for the field, specifically by putting
some key currents within queer scholarship into conversation with crimi-
nology, articulating a vision for what queer criminological work might
become in the process.
To achieve these aims, the book is divided into three parts. Part I,
Approaching Criminology, outlines the general conceptual and theo-
retical basis for the rest of the book. Extending some of the points already
raised in this introduction, the second chapter begins by providing an
introduction to queer thought, focusing on the key currents (and cri-
tiques) of that work which reappear throughout the rest of the book. The
third chapter details the key suggestions that have been made thus far
about what a queer criminology ought to look like and how others have
suggested queer theory and criminology ought to be brought together.
The fourth chapter then explores some key problems encountered in any
attempt to draw queer theory and criminology together, particularly the
problems of evangelism in academic criminology, and those posed by
the faith of queer criminologists in the notion of queer, the discipline
of criminology, and the institutions of criminal justice. It also focuses on
the way in which the historically troubled relationships between queer
1 Introduction 13

communities and criminology and criminal justice institutions, not to

mention the slipperiness of queer, risk being forgotten. It is upon these
chapters that the analyses and critiques in the following sections are built.
Part II, Within Criminology, offers a critical analysis, informed by queer
scholarship, of the intersections between queer criminological work and a
number of critical criminological schools of thought. Given the close rela-
tionships between the tasks of queer criminology and critical criminologies,
and the reference made to critical criminological themes and concerns in the
development of queer criminology to this point, it is important to critically
analyse the intersections of these bodies of work. This allows a consideration
of their prospectsincluding the contributions that queer criminology can
make to themand their problemsthe ways that certain critical crimino-
logical themes may limit the development of further intersections between
queer scholarship and criminology. In addition, these discussions can help
to delineate the precise contribution that queer criminological work might
make, responding, in part, to Pat Carlens concerns about evangelism in aca-
demic criminology (Carlen 2011). Thus, Chapter 5 explores the intercon-
nections between queer criminologies and feminist and counter-colonial
criminologiestwo bodies of work that have sought to achieve similar
aims to much queer criminology in pushing, more or less, for the greater
representation of a group of people within criminology and for the devel-
opment of criminal justice institutions more responsive to their needs. It
argues that as these critical criminologies have trodden similar paths to
those being taken by many queer criminologists, there is much that queer
criminologists can learn from them. There are also several points at which
queer criminologists can (and should) contribute to those critical crimi-
nologies, which will be elaborated upon. Chapter 6 undertakes a similar
exercise, looking at left (or critical) realist and cultural criminologies, as
calls for the development of a queer criminology have often (implicitly or
explicitly) pointed to how these criminologies can contribute to the devel-
opment of such work. The chapter argues that while there are a number of
reasons to maintain and further develop those connections, there are also
some aspects of each of these bodies of work that might limit the uptake of
some queer scholarship, and which ought to be explored further. Chapter 7
then concludes this part of the book, and sets up the next one, by explor-
ing the use of deconstruction within critical criminologies. It considers
14 Criminology and Queer Theory

the extent to which deconstruction within criminology aligns with the

ways it is used in queer scholarship. The chapter also suggests that one way
in which queer deconstruction could be understood and utilised within
criminology is to think of it as the art of not being governeda style of
critique developed by poststructural thinkers such as Judith Butler and
Michel Foucault. The analyses and critiques offered in this part of the
book illustrate the critical potential of queer scholarship in reflecting on
critical criminologies in the present, and help to articulate more precisely
the contribution that queer criminology can make to criminology as a tool
of critique in the future.
Part III, Beyond Criminology, further develops queer criminological
scholarship by articulating possible intersections between queer theory and
criminology, and charting some directions for this field. These chapters
consider how some important developments in queer scholarship can help
us think in new ways about some of the more general tasks of crimino-
logy. Chapter 8 offers a queer reading of utopian thought in criminology.
Noting that some strains of criminological thought (including some queer
criminologies) are utopian in their efforts to produce a more just future,
this chapter utilises queer critiques of futurism and utopias to argue that
it may be productive for queer criminological scholarship to engage with
queer work on negativity and what has been termed the anti-social thesis.
Chapter 9 then offers a queer analysis of shame within criminology. Some
restorative justice responses to offendingmost notably, reintegrative
shaming practicesengage with shame as a way of repairing the harm
caused by offending and ensuring that the offender is brought back into the
fold of the community. This chapter turns to queer scholarship on shame,
which particularly explores its productive and disruptive potential, in order
to critically analyse such practices, their effects in queer lives, and the new
directions for queer criminological scholarship and politics that they make
possible. Finally, Chapter 10 concludes this part and the book as a whole
by noting how queer criminological scholarship might be approached as
an ethical task directed towards expanding the conditions under which
queer lives can be lived. It also highlights how queer criminologists might
reflect on and respond to some of the limitations of queer criminology
noted throughout the book, particularly its perhaps limited applicability
beyond the Global North. The discussions in these chapters can only scrape
1 Introduction 15

the surface of these issues, and are somewhat exploratory and provocative,
offering a handful of examples of what becomes possible when queer
scholarship and criminology are brought together.

Dangerous Bedfellows? ANote ontheTitle

Given the unabashedly disruptive potential of queer scholarship and
politics to challenge the epistemological, ontological, and ethical assump-
tions of whatever is in its sights, drawing queer theory and criminology
together can be (and should remain) a dangerous process. The approach
taken here is therefore sceptical of queers ability to contribute fully to
mainstream (and even some critical) criminological projects. Put simply,
in the conceptualisation engaged with here, queer is unlikely to remain
a silent partner in the queer criminology relationshipone that simply
goes along for the criminological ride. Instead it is going to be recalci-
trant, acting as a continual disruption and a constant danger, thwarting
criminologys attempts to capture it and put it to work for ends that
it does not agree with, that it was not designed for, or that it does not
understand. Here, queer scholarship and criminology will remain dan-
gerous bedfellows precisely because of the disruptive potential of queer.
My hope is that others will continue these explorations on the disruptive
and dangerous potential of queer scholarship in criminology, and ensure
that each party in this relationship remains perpetually unsettled.
Importantly, like all attempts to pin down queer, this one can only
ever be temporary and tentative. Queer always already escapes definition,
and the best we can hope for is to corner it for a brief period (perhaps
even as long as this book). Any attempt to define and deploy it needs to
remain attuned to its partiality, and work with the multiplicity and varied
productivity of the term. Every citation of queer mobilises a particular
understanding of it, and, along the way, reproduces the specific effects
that attend to that understanding. This means that there will always
be multiple queer criminologies. While this book takes one approach
to elaborating on the intersections between queer scholarship and
criminology, this is but a single direction. It is important to remember
that others are possible, and that there can be no security in queerit
offers only a permanent betrayal.
16 Criminology and Queer Theory

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Part I
Approaching Criminology

Queer is a notoriously slippery concept. Queer theorists themselves
often revel in such slipperiness, while their critics deride the apparently
obfuscatory nature of queer commentary as intellectually suspect. Within
cultural discourse, the term queer has come to signify people, groups,
communities, attitudes, behaviours, practices, social phenomena, activ-
ism, scholarship, cultural artefacts, and critiques, which are considered
out of the ordinary, abnormal, or in some way unfamiliar. Its use has
also been bound up with both implied and overt moral evaluationsto
ridicule and denounce that which is out of the ordinary or perceived as
socially disruptive at the very same time that it has been used by others
precisely to celebrate such disruption, and to triumphantly mark their
distance from the norm.
The use of the term queer as a general adjective is somewhat dated.
Throughout much of the early twentieth century, queer was used to
refer to LGBTIQ people or communities in a pejorative sense (includ-
ing in outwardly homophobic or transphobic ways), implying that there
was something abnormal and shameful about them. In the 1980s and

The Author(s) 2016 23

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_2
24 Criminology and Queer Theory

1990s, against a backdrop of radical activist work that sought to respond

to the AIDS crisis and challenge the forms of sexual normativity imposed
upon these communities, the term was reclaimed by many within these
communities and used to assert and celebrate the difference that they
represented. In the shadow of this reclamation, new forms of activism,
scholarship, and cultural production have emerged under the label of
queer, resulting in new political directions and agendas for LGBTIQ
communitiesand othersto follow. This work has continued to be
misrepresented, misunderstood, dismissed, and even derided by some
(including within these communities) as being opaque and too difficult
to understand, as being disconnected from the real injustices experienced
by LGBTIQ communities, and also because of its proximity to what are
taken to be morally suspect and nihilistic intellectual and political trends
such as deconstruction and poststructuralism.
This chapter provides an overview of queer scholarship and activism.
It will explore the historical development of this concept and the politi-
cal debates and contexts out of which it arose and to which it responded.
Focusing on key debates within queer scholarship and activism, this chap-
ter will canvass early discussions where queer was largely connected to
new ways of thinking about sexuality and gender, as well as more recent
debates wherein queer has progressively been uncoupled somewhat from
sexuality and gender, and its deconstructive critiques extended towards a
broader range of objects, including issues such as queer liberalism, homo-
normativity, citizenship and empire, affect, and futurity, to name a few.
These latter directions are particularly important in articulating the spe-
cific intersections of queer and criminology that will be developed in
this book. This chapter will also explore and address some of the more
prominent critiques of queer scholarship and activism, so as to get a sense
of the reactions that it has produced, to suggest how similar critiques in
a criminological context might be navigated, and to highlight why queer
work continues to be relevant.1
It is impossible in just one chapter to do justice to the sheer diversity
of queer activism and scholarship. I do not claim to provide such an over-
view here. Instead, in this chapter I balance the general task of providing

Parts of this chapter have been developed from previous work (see Ball 2013b, 2014b).
2 Queer 25

an overview of queer debates, with the more specific one of focusing in

some detail on the components of these debates that are relevant to the
kinds of intersections between queer scholarship and criminology that I
am seeking to foster. I have drawn largely from the work of Annamarie
Jagose (1996) and Nikki Sullivan (2003) here, and those seeking more
comprehensive explorations of this kind are directed to their work (and
also to Hall et al. 2013). Of course, not all queer scholars and activ-
ists will agree entirely with the points emphasised, nor the particular
approaches taken here. But, as I will show, the really productive aspect of
queer as a concept is that it opens up possibilities, as opposed to closing
them down. Thus, I am hoping to emphasise what it is that makes queer
scholarship and activism uniquewhat marks it out from other forms of
activism around gender and sexualityand what most clearly aligns with
the historical context from which it has appeared. These are the paths
that, as noted in the introduction and in the next chapter, have yet to be
followed by criminologists in any significant way.

Queer Beginnings
Since their development in the 1980s and 1990s, queer scholarship
and activism have always been interconnected (Morland and Willox
2005,5). While queer theory as a distinguishable object was only named
as such in the early 1990s (often credited to Teresa de Lauretis, who very
quickly disavowed it as a conceptually vacuous creature of the publish-
ing industrysee Jagose 1996, 129), the intellectual and activist roots
of such scholarship stretch further back. Today, the term queer is com-
monly used almost simply (Sedgwick 2011, 200, original emphasis)
to refer to same-sex sexuality or as a substitute for the unwieldy initial-
ism of LGBTIQ (Duggan 2001, 224), whether or not it is organised
around multiple crossings of definitional lines (Sedgwick 2011, 200). It
has become a noun or a broad umbrella category under which lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer-identifying people (among
other such identity categories) may be placed, or along the lines of which
they might identify. While this can be productive as a shorthand term,
the use of queer in this way is misleading (and problematic for other
26 Criminology and Queer Theory

reasons, which will be discussed below), as it implies that queer politics

and scholarship are simply an extension of gay and lesbian politics and
gay and lesbian studies. However, queer scholarship and activism are not
simply extensions of these previous movementsthey are in fact reactions
to their limitations. Thus, any investigation into the notion of queer
must start by moving away from the assumption that this is synonymous
with gay and lesbian.
There are two key limitations to which queer work responded: political
limitations inherent to identity politics; and intellectual limitations con-
nected to the notions of identity that were dominant at the time (and, to
some extent, continue to appear within some mainstream gay and lesbian
work). While I present these rather schematically here, it should become
apparent that these political and intellectual developments built off each
other and interacted in more complex ways.

Conventional Gay andLesbian Politics: Identity


Queer activism responded to a particular set of conditions in sexuality

and gender politics, including the radicalisation of HIV activism and a
turn to gay and lesbian coalitionism in the 1980s, and the limitations of
identity politics that underpinned gay and lesbian political movements
of the time, particularly gay liberation politics. For many such political
movements, sexual preference and gender were taken to be central, some-
what natural, unified, and essential, aspects of ones identity, on the basis
of which one was thought to experience injustice. It was assumed that
the best path for political movements seeking to address this injustice was
to seek liberation from the oppressive cultural forms and power relations
that produced discrimination and inequality, and to do so in the name of
this essential characteristic (Sullivan 2003, 3738, 42).
Many such political approaches continue to feature prominently
within the field of sexuality and gender politics. For example, politi-
cal battles are often still fought on the assumption that sexuality is an
essential characteristic, where it is held that, as this is the case, discrimi-
nation on the basis of a fixed and unchanging characteristic is unjust
(akin to discrimination on the basis of skin colour). Many mainstream
2 Queer 27

gay and lesbian political movements today posit something of a separa-

tion between homosexuals and heterosexuals and, through campaigns to
gain legal equality, protection from violence, a respect for lifestyle and
identity, and further rights in areas like adoption, marriage, and par-
enting, seek the inclusion of gay men and lesbians into existing social
institutions (Sedgwick 2011, 201; Duggan 2001, 217). As Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick points out, [t]he most visible political goals are demands to
be allowed to conform: alongside the legitimisation of same-sex mar-
riage and families, they involve the inclusion of gay and lesbian people in
the military, the Boy Scouts, electoral politics, and mainstream religions
(Sedgwick 2011, 201).
However, these kinds of approaches contained significant limitations,
which very quickly became apparent to many within those groups, and
continue to be critiqued today. Gay liberationist approaches often gave lit-
tle recognition to the intersections between different kinds of oppression.
For example, the way in which race or class might interact with sexuality,
and produce different experiences of injustice, was not well accounted
for (Sullivan 2003, 3738, 42). Similarly, many transgender people were
(and still are) excluded from gay and lesbian political movements, either
because of overt transphobic discrimination or because of a failure to
appreciate how sexuality and gender politics might be usefully connected
in places (Sullivan 2003, 116). In addition, the view that it was possible
to achieve this liberation, which permeated these movements, was based
on certain assumptions about power, including the binary of powerful/
powerless, the notion that it was possible to step outside of power rela-
tions, and the idea that sexuality represented an inherent truth about the
self and was not itself a construction of power (Sullivan 2003,42). These
limitations were made apparent in the wake of the new ways of thinking
about subjectivity that emerged from poststructural thought.

New Approaches toPower andSubjectivity:

TheInfluence ofPoststructural Thought

The work taking place at the cutting edge of social theory at the time,
particularly poststructural accounts of subjectivity, sexuality, and gen-
der, operated alongside these attempts to critique conventional gay and
28 Criminology and Queer Theory

lesbian politics, aligning with, reinforcing, or supporting those critiques

(Sullivan 2003,39; Jagose 1996, 7677). Poststructural thought, draw-
ing from Foucault as well as other key Continental philosophers, rejects
Enlightenment thought as well as progressive and liberatory political
movements in favour of a more complex understanding of the pervasive-
ness of networks of power. It moves away from the post-Enlightenment
notion that the subject is at the centre of all social action and meaning,
and challenges the idea that our identities are unified, coherent, autono-
mous, and self-determining. It also rejects totalising narratives of human
progress, and is suspicious of essentialising narratives that suggest we
have a human nature, or that forms of identification such as sexual-
ity are inherent to us (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 3; Sullivan 2003, 41;
Williams 2005). Three key sources of poststructural thought (beyond
Foucault, who will be discussed in more detail below) inform this view
of the subject: Louis Althussers notion of the constitution of person-
hood through ideology; Jacques Lacans attention to the ways that sub-
jectivity is learned; and Ferdinand de Saussures focus on the way that
language constructs the truth of social reality (Jagose 1996, 7879).
Drawing from these sources, poststructural thinkers recognise that sub-
jectivityeven the most intimate aspects that we take to constitute the
core of ourselvesis an effect of networks of power. As such, they prefer
to understand the social and historical processes through which these
notions arise, and to investigate their power effects.
In many respects, The Will to Knowledge, the first volume of Michel
Foucaults History of Sexuality, is central to these ideas, and is taken to be
one of the key texts in queer studies (though never articulated as such at
the time of its publication). In this work, Foucault argued that sexuality
is not an inevitable aspect of ourselves or a natural act of our bodies, but
is instead an object produced by an historically specific arrangement of
power relations, and maintained through the deployment of sexuality
into discourse, which governs our bodies and our subjectivities in vari-
ous ways as part of the broader regulation of life (Foucault 1998). The
category of the homosexual, for example, was produced in the late nine-
teenth century through medico-legal discourses seeking to regulate sexual
deviance and other perversions. As a key component of the consolida-
tion of modern power relations over bodies and subjectivities, Foucault
2 Queer 29

contends that there are very real problems if we seek to utilise the identity
category of homosexual as a rallying point for political projects seeking
to achieve liberation. By citing such discourses, one only further consoli-
dates the binary organisation of these categories, and leaves unchallenged
the relations of power and knowledge through which those categories
have been produced (Foucault 1998).
Thus, the political movements discussed above, which sought libera-
tion from oppressive power through the proud assertion of ones identity
as a homosexual, not only concealed the complex and subtle power rela-
tions through which subjectivity is constituted, but actively reinforced
them (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 3; Sullivan 2003, 40). Suggesting that
people adopt liberation politics in order to escape the oppression that
these movements identify is, in fact, part of the very same historical net-
work that those movements critique (and represent) as repression (Jagose
1996, 81). While the reinforcement of such categories and structures can
be understood as enabling and productive (as we will see belowsee also
Jagose 1996, 80), new approaches to political action that did not take
objects such as sexuality and gender to be essential components of the
self, and which recognised the complex power relations that governed
subjectivity, were necessary if these insights were to be taken seriously.

Queering Gay andLesbian Politics

By calling into question the major tenets of much progressive politics in

the service of marginalised communitiessuch as identity politics, the
importance of opening a space for the authentic voices of the marginalised,
and the goals of seeking liberation from oppressive powerthese insights
significantly altered the terrain of sexuality and gender politics. For queer
politics in particular, these insights challenged the notion that effective
political intervention requires organising around an identity category
(Lance and Tanesini 2000, 172; Duggan 2001, 221; Jagose 1996, 77).
Queer scholars and activists have pushed against identity in a number
of ways. They have extended Foucaults insights into homosexuality as
a regulatory category by highlighting how the adoption of that category
implies an acceptance of the historically produced division between
30 Criminology and Queer Theory

heterosexuality and homosexuality. This, they suggest, reinforces the

power of heterosexuality by functioning as its binary opposite, while
also allowing it to remain unmarked and unremarkable as a social norm
(Jagose 1996, 92; Sedgwick 1990; Corber and Valocchi 2003, 3).
Further, while traditional political movements might recognise the
social construction of identity, they often still hold a relatively unified
notion of identity as stable and coherent with relatively fixed boundar-
ies. This subsequently implies homogeneity in the experiences of those
who identify within that category, and the community that is assumed to
form under that category (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 2; Moran 2009).
Queer scholars and activists have attempted to move away from these
assumptions by opening up identity categories, highlighting that they
are provisional and contingent, and exploring their complexity. In doing
so, they have also pointed out that, in reality, such categories can offer
only very limited representation, and can in fact actively marginalise
and exclude those whose experiences fall outside of the assumed col-
lectivities that such categories assert (Jagose 1996, 77, 82; Corber and
Valocchi 2003, 3). This becomes particularly clear when considering the
significant emphasis on coming out within mainstream gay and lesbian
movements, which requires one to assert ones identity through such cate-
gories, in line with the view that this will lead to greater social justice and
acceptance. Those who do not come out have often been thought of as
repressed or even in denial of their sexuality (Sullivan 2003, 31; Sedgwick
1990). However, coming out relies on a person understanding their sexu-
ality and identity in the ways described above, further entrenching them
in the processes of being named and known through these discourses.
Mainstream gay and lesbian politics that adopt such an emphasis may
not only fail to adequately represent those who do not identify in such
ways, but, given that coming out is also a culturally specific response to
sexual subjectivity, these politics may also have colonising effects (Walters
1996, 20; Duggan 2001, 221).
Queer theorists do not dismiss identity categories entirely. They
recognise that, despite their constructedness and their limitations,
they do have significant and real effects in many lives (Jagose 1996,
78). They also recognise that they are often necessary parts of political
movements. Judith Butler highlights that identity categories can be used
2 Queer 31

for a specific political purpose, in what can be a strategic essentialism

(Butler 1993). However, they remain necessary errors, which albeit
productive, carry significant risks. After all, it is not possible to control
the way in which they may be taken up, and there is always the potential
that they will introduce essentialist assumptions into political discussions
(Butler 1993, 227; Gamson 1995).
Interestingly, Butlers reflections on identity categories were crafted
in response to the way in which queer had come to be utilised as an
identity category itself, in the years after it was reclaimed (Sedgwick
2011, 200; Duggan 2001, 223). Queer can be a productive short-
hand way of referring to those who share broadly similar experiences
outside of heteronormativity and gender binaries, and, as such, can
open up some space for injustices to be remedied and silences broken.
However, this also shows up the very limitations of a broad identity
category. As Gloria Anzalda highlights, queer is a false but unifying
umbrella (cited in Giffney 2009, 2). This means that queers of all
races, ethnicities and classes are shoved under [this umbrella], erasing
other important differences between people that shape their lives (cited
in Sullivan 2003, 44). Again, Anzalda recognises that this umbrella is
sometimes necessary in order to solidify our ranks against outsiders,
but cautions that in doing so, it homogenizes, erases our differences
(cited in Sullivan 2003, 44). Even those that one might expect to be
included under this term have not always been accommodated. For
instance, while transgender people are often nominally included within
the category queer, for many, queer has become a synonym for gay
and lesbian, reinforcing the historical exclusion and invisibility of trans-
gender people. Thus, using the term as a broad category implies solidar-
ity among queers which does not always exist in practice. Additionally,
when used as a broad umbrella category, queer can actually reinforce
essentialism and the identity politics that much queer activism has
sought to avoid, thereby limiting the critical potential of the concept
(Giffney 2009, 2; Anzalda cited in Sullivan 2003, 44; Sedgwick 2011,
200). As Judith Butler states, I worry when queer becomes an iden-
tity. It was never an identity. It was always a critique of identity. I think
if it ceases to be a critique of identity, its lost its critical edge (Butler
cited in Giffney 2009, 4).
32 Criminology and Queer Theory

These questions about the political utility and strategic necessity of

contingent identity categories represent ongoing (and perhaps unresolv-
able) issues in queer politics (see Gamson 1995; Butler 1993). They are
certainly questions that will reappear throughout this book (though not
ones I would claim to resolve) and offer productive tensions. Queer car-
ries with it a lot more than simply LGBTIQ identification and politics.

Varieties ofQueer Work

So, how has queer work marked itself as separate from the approaches
mentioned above, and what does it mean when these scholars utilise
queer to describe their work or when they state that they are engaging
in the practice of queering? As will become apparent below, given that
queer loosely describes a diverse, often conflicting set of interdisciplin-
ary approaches to desire, subjectivity, identity, relationality, ethics and
norms (Giffney 2009, 2), this is not an easy question to answer. This
section will discuss the key varieties of queer scholarship, and how these
have developed in the two decades since queer studies were established.

Interrogating Binaries andIdentity Categories

Queer scholarship, particularly in its earliest incarnations, has sought

to explore and critique the social, political, and epistemological binaries
(such as homo/hetero or male/female) and identity (and other) catego-
ries (such as gay, lesbian, and bisexual) that are taken to exist, as well
as to find new ways of understanding and engaging with identity and
subjectivity. Queer works suspend any assumptions that identity is fixed,
coherent, and natural. They problematise the universalising tendencies
behind a concept such as sexuality, and highlight that there is no stable
relationship between what is (problematically) taken to be anatomical
sex, gender, and sexual desire, and therefore that sex, gender, and sexual-
ity are not just socially constructed but also not causally related (Jagose
1996, 74, 76, 98; Giffney 2004, 73). Queer scholars attempt to bring
to light the historical contingencies through which these categories have
2 Queer 33

formed, come to appear as solid, are regulated, and become institution-

alised (see Foucault 1998; Butler 1990; Sedgwick 1990; Whittle 1996,
117). And they are particularly interested in the political effects of these
categories and the way that binary constructions of identities operate to
support heterosexuality and make it appear natural and stable (Corber
and Valocchi 2003, 1).
Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick are two scholars whose works
have been instrumental in articulating and developing these perspectives,
and setting the scene for early queer studies. In her book Epistemology of
the Closet, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick notes that an understanding of virtu-
ally any aspect of modern Western culture must be, not merely incom-
plete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not
incorporate a critical analysis of modern homo/heterosexual definition
(Sedgwick 1990, 1). To this end, she examines the effects of binary con-
structions (such as heterosexual/homosexual) in our discussions around
sexuality, noting the ways in which one is privileged over the other. This
also allows us to understand the contradictions in our definitions and
representations of homosexuality and heterosexuality, which render both
unstable (Sedgwick 1990).
Judith Butlers work, which specifically extended the critiques of iden-
tity discussed above, was also important in the early development of
queer thought. In her book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion
of Identity, she argues that gender is performativethat is, the effect of
repeated enactments of practices and citations of cultural signs that we
use to signify gender, sexuality, and other aspects of the self (Butler
1990). Building on the poststructural notion that our identities are not
the expression of any essence, Butler argues that it is the constant citation
of these signs that constitutes our subjectivity, creating the appearance
of solidity. The current arrangement of these practices in the context of
gender privileges and reinforces heterosexuality (Butler 1990).
These works seek to emphasise the complex ways in which we can
understand social categories like sexuality and gender. For example,
Sedgwick tries to expand our understanding of sexuality, which is often
just focused on the gender of ones object choice, by highlighting the
multiple orientations that one can have, and the multiple objects that
one might be oriented towards (Sedgwick 1990, 8). This complexity
34 Criminology and Queer Theory

is captured in what she suggests queer might refer to, which is the
open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances,
lapses, and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of any-
ones gender, or anyones sexuality arent made (or cant be made) to sig-
nify monolithically (Sedgwick 2011, 199200). There is no definitive
and inevitable alignment of what is taken to be ones sex, gender, and
Importantly, following the lead of Foucaults History of Sexuality, this
particular kind of queer work is not seeking to produce a theory of, or
explanation for, sexuality (or, indeed, other such categories). Nor is such
work simply trying to reverse that which is taken as normal and that
which is taken as abnormalsuch as by pointing out that homophobia
and heterosexuality are actually problematic and to be derided. And nor is
this work simply attempting to highlight homophobia and heteronorma-
tivty in order for them to be denounced. While these tasks are important,
queer scholars suggest that engaging in them requires some acceptance of
historically constructed categories and the discourses through which they
are produced. For queer scholars, these must instead remain the targets of
investigation themselves. As such, queer work offers an analytica way
of thinking about and understanding the fundamental construction of
these categories, how they function, and their effects.

Anti-normativity andDeconstruction

One way that queer scholars have highlighted the effects of these catego-
ries, as well as their instabilities, has been to focus on the non-normative.
Understanding the ways in which people actively challenge and subvert
expected normative alignments of sex, gender, and sexuality not only
brings to light the sites in which these norms operate, but also makes
new realignments possible. Pushing against, and dissenting from, these
norms and what is taken to be normative are central components of
queer scholarship and activism, as doing so opens up new discursive and
political spaces in which queer lives can be lived.
In pushing against the normative and by charting how social categories
have come to exist and with what effects, queer work has drawn heavily
2 Queer 35

from the deconstructive intellectual and political enterprises that are

central to poststructural work. The critical work of queer scholarship
does not simply involve resistance to a particular norm in preference
to another norm. Rather, it constitutes a protest against the idea[l] of
normal behaviour (Warner cited in Sullivan 2003, 50; Giffney 2009,
3). In this sense, queer has come to refer to a set of practices and a
range ofpolitical and epistemological positionsit defines a strategy, an
attitude [and] articulates a radical questioning of social and cultural
norms, notions of gender, reproductive sexuality, and the family (Smith
cited in Sullivan 2003, 43).
One particular approach to the notion of queer, developed in a sub-
stantial amount of queer work drawing on these understandings, takes
queer to signify a position or an attitude. Here, to queer something is
to do something (Sullivan 2003, 50). As Sullivan (2003, 52) highlights,
dictionary definitions of queer often define it as to quiz or ridicule, to
spoil, to put out of order. Queering something involves a deconstruc-
tive disposition that points to norms, resists them, and opens up a space
in which things might be done differently. While many authors focus
on deconstructing or queering norms of sexuality and gender (Duggan
2001, 223; Smith cited in Sullivan 2003, 43; Doty cited in Jagose
1996,97), others suggest that the constituency of queer is open-ended,
and thus what connects those working in this area is their shared posi-
tion vis--vis norms and normativity (Jagose 1996, 98; Sullivan 2003, 43;
Giffney 2004, 7374). After all, norms do not only exist in the realm of
In this sense, queer work is constantly troubling what we take for
granted, and constantly refusing what is taken as solid. This approach
sees queer as working at the site of ontology, to shift the ground of
being itself (Case cited in Sullivan 2003, 52). This involves pulling apart
essences, oppositions, and what might be understood as some of the
foundational assumptions of Western metaphysics in various contexts so
that we can understand how our social world has been constructed and
divided up in specific ways. The primary strategy of many queer theorists,
therefore, becomes denaturalisation, and the confounding and unpack-
ing of a wide range of categories and assumptions (Jagose 1996, 98;
Sullivan 2003, 5051). Often tied to this is considerable self-reflexivity
36 Criminology and Queer Theory

on the part of queer scholars, in order to ensure that one avoids as much
as possible stepping into problematic discourses, or adopting particular
categories (Giffney 2009, 1).
In his Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, queer theorist
David Halperin articulates this view quite clearly by suggesting that
queer acquires its meaning from its oppositional relation to the norm.
Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legiti-
mate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily
refers (Halperin 1995, 62, original emphases). For Halperin, this means
that queer can therefore be a provisional position in relation to the norm,
rather than an entity (Halperin 1995, 62).
This deconstructive and anti-normative approach makes it difficult
to pin queer down in a way that makes it easy to discuss. As Jagose
states, [g]iven the extent of its commitment to denaturalisation, queer
itself can have neither a foundational logic nor a consistent set of char-
acteristics (Jagose 1996, 96), and therefore must remain an ongoing
and necessarily unfixed site of engagement and contestation (Berry and
Jagose cited in Sullivan 2003, 43), unable to offer any subject a name-
able identity (Sullivan 2003, 50). While, as we will see further below,
this has meant that queer work has attracted some significant criticism,
these aspects offer perhaps the clearest points of difference between queer
work and sexuality studies more broadly. It is this approach that I sug-
gest constitutes a useful path for criminological engagements with queer
work to take.

Beyond Sex andGender

As this discussion has shown, for many, queer refers to more than just
sexuality and gender. Rather, it refers to a position of dissent and critique
against norms. As such, particularly over the last decade, queer work has
begun to explore a wider variety of issues, all of which are directed towards
normative modes of thought in a wide range of spheres, including affect,
futurity, the nation-state, and queer politics itself. While the regula-
tion of sexuality and gender might be what initially attracts scholars to
explore these various norms, their analyses often move quickly past them.
2 Queer 37

In some respects, without a specific connection to sexuality and gender,

these paths can become difficult for some to untangle conceptually from
other forms of deconstruction (discussed in Chapter 7). Nevertheless, it
is important to consider these paths in order to understand the full range
of scholarship that proceeds under the label queer.
Given that queer work does not generally take categories and bound-
aries to be fixed and encourages some self-reflexivity on the part of queer
scholars to consider that which they take for granted as stable in their
analyses, it was somewhat inevitable that questions would be asked about
what constitutes the proper objects of queer critique and analysis, and
whether sexuality and gender ought to remain their major focus. For
example, in an article titled Whats Queer About Queer Studies Now?,
Eng etal. (2005) suggest that it is important for queer studies to recon-
sider its objects in these ways because the mainstreaming of gay and les-
bian identityas a mass-mediated consumer lifestyle and embattled legal
category has resulted in some important intersections between sexuality
and other forms of identification and difference having been overlooked
or downplayed. As such, we must be ever vigilant to the fact that sexual-
ity is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes of difference, and cali-
brated to a firm understanding of queer as a political metaphor without
a fixed referent (Eng etal. 2005, 1). In this sense, one of the important
promises of ongoing queer analyses in both theory and politics is the
critique of the exclusions that these queer analyses themselves produce
(Eng etal. 2005, 3).
Eng et al. hold closely to the importance of a subjectless critique
for queer studies, which disallows any positing of a proper subject of
or object for the field by insisting that queer has no fixed political refer-
ent (2005,3, original emphases). As discussed above, to adopt sexual-
ity or gender as the appropriate objects of a queer analysis would be to
adopt concepts with positivist and historical assumptions that ought to
remain the target of deconstruction. A subjectless critique within queer
work would mean a more specific focus on forms of normalisation and
the often violent operation of these norms. This would create a more
thorough resistance to regimes of the normal (Warner cited in Eng etal.
2005, 3) within queer studies, which is what the concept of queer has
always promised.
38 Criminology and Queer Theory

Unsurprisingly, queer scholars have been somewhat divided about this

issue, with many being troubled by a move away from sexuality and gen-
der within queer analyses, suggesting that this de-specification of the
term would lead to it becoming rather useless (Jagose 1996, 112; Halley
and Parker 2011, 6). There are certainly dangers with any such project.
However, it might also be argued that it is equally dangerous and prob-
lematic to arbitrarily limit queer critiques on the basis of an historically
produced category that may in fact only give limited comfort to some. If
queer is to act as a horizon of possibility whose precise extent and het-
erogeneous scope cannot in principle be delimited in advance (Halperin
1995, 62), and is to signify an anti-normative position and not a shared
identity (Jagose 1996, 98), then an ongoing problematisation of what is
taken to be the proper objects of queer work is necessary.
In the wake of these moves, queer studies has already produced some
innovative and risky work of this kind on a range of issues (Eng etal.
2005, 2). For example, queer scholarship has increasingly examined the
issue of queer liberalismthat is, the continual enfolding of queer sub-
jects into the nation-state and the mainstream. Lisa Duggan has exam-
ined the homonormativity that aligns with this, which involves the
mainstream inclusion of LGBTIQ people along the lines of neoliberal
individualism and shuts down more radical possibilities for politics, soci-
ality, and living (Duggan 2003; Eng et al. 2005, 11). This perspective
rhetorically remap[s] and recode[s] freedom and liberation in narrow
terms of privacy, domesticity, and the unfettered ability to consume in
the free market (Eng etal. 2005, 11). Studies of queer liberalism and
homonormativity are connected to other recent queer analyses of the
nation-state, and issues of citizenship and empire in the current global
context, particularly in the wars initiated under the pretext of fighting
terrorism (Puar 2007; Eng etal. 2005, 7; Schulman 2012; Ritchie 2014).
Other studies pushing beyond the objects of sexuality and gender chal-
lenge normativity in other guises. For example, Elizabeth Freeman has
recently considered issues of temporality, in effect seeking to queer temporal-
ity by examining those lives that challenge heterosexual life courseswhat
Freeman terms chrononormativity (Freeman 2010; see also McCallum
and Tuhkanen 2011; Halberstam 2005a). Others have considered the
queer value of positive and negative affects (Cvetkovich 2003; Love 2007),
2 Queer 39

and even interrogated queer investments in hope and the future (Muoz
2009; Edelman 2004)discussions that will feature in the third part of
this book. What each of these studies has demonstrated is that the concept
of queer still has value when it pushes beyond its supposed proper objects
of sexuality and gender.

Queer Politics

In light of these different kinds of queer scholarship, and given the close
connections between scholarship and activism in these contexts, queer
politics has also taken on unique approaches. Importantly, deconstructive
queer work is not an abstract and disengaged activity. It is thoroughly
interventionist, and much queer thought involves a productive desire
to make new forms of political and social change, and to institute new
and original interventionsqueer carr[ies] with [it] the promise of new
meanings, new ways of thinking and acting politically (Duggan 2001,
215). Through the queer work described above, Halperin suggests that it
may become possible to envision a variety of possibilities for reordering
the relations among sexual behaviours, erotic identities, constructions of
gender, forms of knowledge, regimes of enunciation, logics of representa-
tion, modes of self-constitution, and practices of community (Halperin
1995, 62).
Despite queer critiques of identity as politically ineffective, exclusionary,
and limiting, Butler points out that this does not imply a deconstruction
of politics itself. While queer critiques of identity may seem problematic
or even politically limiting to some, given that they challenge a com-
mon tool for political action, Butler suggests that these critiques should
instead lead one to engage with identity categories in more effective ways.
Recognising that the very terms through which identity is articulated are
political and not neutral is necessary for any effective engagement with
an identity category (Jagose 1996, 103). What we might do then is, as
Giffney suggests, treat identities as spaces to be navigated, revisited and
elided on a moment-to-moment basis, and not as categories to be occu-
pied, owned, protected or rejected (Giffney 2009, 7). Instead of taking as
a political goal the liberation of a repressed nature, queer work encourages
40 Criminology and Queer Theory

people to engage in an ongoing process of self-transformation, which

would constitute a queer politics anchored in the perilous and shifting
sands of non-identity, positionality, discursive reversibility, and collective
self-invention (Halperin 1995, 122). The resignification or queering of
discourses, and the embrace of the performativity of subjectivity are cen-
tral queer political strategies in this regard.
Of course, queer activism has also taken other objects as targets for
intervention and disruption. For example, the key tenets of progressive
social movements in the Westthe achievement of justice, the granting
of increased rights, greater tolerance, and an increased representation of a
groups political interestsare themselves targets of queer critiques seek-
ing to reinvent the terrain of progressive politics (Halperin 1995, 122;
Warner cited in Jagose 1996, 98). Queer politics is not about a desire
to share in the privileges and presumptions of normality or the inclu-
sion of queers in key social institutions, but rather attempts to question
the roles of such institutions and their very desirability (Sedgwick 2011,
Ultimately, then, given that their target is norms in general, queer
politics will always be ongoing. As norms are open to change, and
constantly do so, the targets of queer politics will always shift. In this
sense, queer is a permanent becoming, which requires us to look
forward without anticipating the future (Jagose 1996, 131), and to
maintain a political commitment specifically to the unknowability, the
non-identifiability, of [queers] own identity in the future (Morland and
Willox 2005, 5). As I will discuss in Chapter 7, these are the fundamental
bases of queer forms of critique.

Critiques ofQueer Work

It would come as no surprise that the radical deconstructive and anti-
normative positions of queer scholars and activists have not been wel-
comed by all. Scholars from the array of disciplines touched by queer
work have reacted, sometimes quite viscerally, to these analyses. Some
working within lesbian and gay political movements, and even members
of LGBTIQ communities generally, have also pushed against some queer
2 Queer 41

analyses. A number of the key critiques that have been directed towards
queer scholarship will be discussed below. Exploring these critiques, and
how queer scholars have responded to them, is useful in order to under-
stand what may prevent the uptake of queer thought in criminology,
and to see how queer criminological scholars might respond to similar
In many cases, the critiques that have been raised are either reactions to
the challenges that queer work mounts to the foundational assumptions
and categories upon which intellectual and political work is based, or
they reflect concerns about the political effects and exclusions that queer
work continues to foster. While some of these critiques are legitimate,
the discussion below will suggest that many such critiques misrepresent
specific instances of the use of queer as representative of queer work gen-
erally, or are based on misunderstandings or rejections of the frameworks
from which queer work has developed. The problems that are identified
within these critiques are not necessarily key to, or inevitable within,
queer work as is sometimes implied.

Perpetuating Erasure andExclusion

The first key critiques that have been made relate to the way in which
queer work is said to maintain particular forms of erasure and exclu-
sion. Despite having developed partly in response to the exclusions of
identity-based liberation politics, queer work has not always adequately
appreciated the intersections that exist between particular forms of
social difference, or the ways that sexuality and gender may interact
with other identity markers (Giffney 2009, 3). The radically decon-
structive, anti-normative position of queer, which seeks to challenge
identity categories and encourage people to play with new forms of sub-
jectivity (which has developed out of one reading of Butlers (1990)
work), has been critiqued as a position only able to be taken up effec-
tively by gay, white, advantaged men, who rarely need to rely on politi-
cal activity based on identity categories. This has led to some queer
work remaining male-centred, anti-feminist, and race blind (Sullivan
2003, 48; Jagose 1996, 116; Walters 1996, 1112). In particular, the
42 Criminology and Queer Theory

difficulties that queer scholars have had grasping the subtleties of racial
dynamics in relation to gender and sexuality has limited the potential
for queer work to speak at these intersections. After all, the term queer
is not one that all people of colour are necessarily comfortable using or
empowered by, particularly given that within racist social structures,
the term queer has been used to reinforce the supposed sexual devi-
ance of people of colour (Sullivan 2003, 48; Mendes 2015, 7576).
Further, queer developed as a response to impasses in specific histori-
cal and political contexts in Western liberal societies, with most queer
work reflecting Western concerns and exploring Western contexts. As
such, questions are rightly asked about the utility of such work in other
political and cultural contexts, and the potentially colonising ambitions
of some queer work. The insights and unique perspectives offered by
queer are not able to be directly reproduced by simply translating the
term queer into its local equivalent, and trying artificially to reproduce
queer politics (Bao 2011).
These critiques are certainly warrantedqueer work has maintained
such exclusions. In the case of the exclusion of gender dynamics and
queers male-centredness, it is very possible to argue that these exclu-
sions are not inevitable in queer work. Queer work is feministit
has drawn from feminism, takes gender as a central concept, and has
also developed in response to some of the exclusions that lesbians
in particular experienced within feminist work. In addition, while
Sedgwick suggests that there is important potential for analytic dis-
tance between gender and sexuality (Sedgwick 1990, 2930), there
are also important points within queer work where analyses of gender
and sexuality can and should continue to intersect and build on each
other, while, of course, making sure that problematic assumptions
about gender are not perpetuated, or the stability of gender is not
reinforced (Jagose 1996, 121).
The charge that queer work has excluded issues of race and is less use-
ful outside of Western liberal political contexts is a more difficult one to
counter. At the heart of queer work, some have suggested, is a transparent
white subject, who is only able to participate in some forms of queer poli-
tics because of existing racial and cultural privilege (Eng etal. 2005,12).
For example, the move to reclaim and embrace the term queer may be
2 Queer 43

easier for a white gay man to make than it is for a person of colour, given
the way in which supposedly deviant sexuality has been utilised in racially
discriminatory ways to reinforce the marginalisation of people of colour
(Mendes 2015, 7576; La Fountain-Stokes 2011; Muoz 2009; Jackson
and Sullivan 1999). The term has also been critiqued for reinforcing
the white hegemony of lesbian and gay politics (Crichlow 2004,217),
instead of opening up space for the terms relating to sexuality and gender
that are specific to a cultural context. As I will expand on in Chapter 8,
despite queer critiques of hope and optimism, queers of colour or people
outside of the Global North cannot necessarily afford to give up on the
power of hope in animating social and political change (Muoz 2009).
And, as Chapter 5 will illustrate, in settler colonial societies, queer politics
can be read as continuations of settler colonialist projects (Morgensen
2012; Giffney 2009, 3). More recent queer scholarship has been attuned
to these issues and intersections, and has attempted to articulate how and
where such scholarship might be relevant outside of the Global North
(Muoz 2009; Schulman 2012; Reddy 2011). However, it ought always
to be kept in mind in any engagements with queer that it has developed
out of a unique political and cultural context, and thus may have limited
utility outside of such contexts. I will return to these concerns throughout
the book.

Queer asExpansive Position

The second key critique made of queer work relates to its amorphous,
often unbounded and expansive tendencies, particularly when queer is
understood to denote a position. It has been suggested that the lack of
specificity of this term, and thus the lack of precision regarding the con-
tent with which queer as a sign can be filled, is problematic because
it might actually be claimed by a large range of people representing all
kinds of non-normative sexualities and genders, or who are seeking to
push against all sorts of norms (Grosz cited in Sullivan 2003, 49). This
is thought to be problematic because of the false unity or sense of inclu-
siveness that such a grouping may foster, and because it might associate
LGBTIQ communities with people or groups that they have fought for a
44 Criminology and Queer Theory

long time to be distinguished from. Along these lines, queer may come
to be used by those who engage in otherwise ethically questionable sexual
practices or those who do not necessarily support anti-homophobic and
gender inclusive policies, and even by those who do not experience the
same injustices that LGBTIQ communities regularly experience. Such
an expansive approach to queer may in fact reduce its utility for gay,
lesbian, and transgender communities (Halperin 1995, 6465; Jagose
1996,112). In addition, this lack of a firm definition means that identify-
ing which forms of resistance might count as queer is difficult (Halperin
1995, 115).
It is somewhat difficult to counter these critiques. As discussed above,
though, conceiving of queer as a monolithic category is problematic,
and there is little to be gained in treating it as such. There is no easy
response to this desire to draw boundaries around queer. Any such
boundariesif drawnshould remain context specific, and always open
to movement and negotiation. These issues are always a potential danger
as long as queer marks an anti-normative stance, and always an issue
that such a positionone that challenges the construction of categories,
and thus, is no respecter of boundarieswill face. Embracing these dif-
ficulties, though, and not disavowing them, can also allow for significant
flexibility and creativity in queer politics.

Queer Elitism andtheReproduction ofBinaries

The third key set of critiques of queer work maintains that it reproduces
troubling binaries that can lead to what might be described as forms
of elitism among queer scholars and activists. To varying degrees, queer
work has produced and deployed a range of binary distinctions between
queer scholarship or politics and other scholarly and political approaches
to sexuality. For example, dichotomies between assimilation politics
characterised as normative, conservative, un-queer, and represented by
gay and lesbian studiesand radical politicscharacterised as the most
appropriate political resistance as represented by queer politicsserve to
position queer approaches as superior, more desirable, radical, and cut-
ting edge, and imply that others are less desirable as a result (Sullivan
2 Queer 45

2003, 47). Additionally, some have felt that queers celebration of the
array of non-normative possibilities within relationships and subjectivi-
ties is at the same time a denigration of more conservative or traditional
relationships, or a suggestion that those who still adopt fairly rigid and
essentialising understandings about their identity are somewhat out-
dated, unsophisticated, or unenlightened (Sullivan 2003, 49; Halperin
1995, 65; Sedgwick 2011, 198199; Berlant and Warner 1995, 346).
In many respects, these dynamics have led many within more tradi-
tional gay and lesbian movements to be critical or wary of queer politics,
feeling that queers do not value the gains that have been made by these
political movements or that queer work implies a wholesale turn away
from those movements. However, many queer scholars have recognised
the importance of both queer and gay and lesbian approaches, and the
key points at which their concerns overlap. Of course, these approaches
cannot be conflated, given that they are each underpinned by different
aims, speak to different publics, carry with them different assumptions,
and can lead to divergent implications. But, it is important that they
recognise their key similarities as well (Sedgwick 2011, 198199; Berlant
and Warner 1995, 346). Certainly, a deconstructive critique of main-
stream political approaches does not necessarily constitute a dismissal of
the gains that have been made in the past, nor of the important ways that
identity categories can still shape and have real impacts in a persons life.
Rather, they offer a necessary critique of their oversights and exclusions
(Jagose 1996, 126). This is a particularly urgent task when those over-
sights impact disproportionately on certain groups.

Queer andtheMaterial

The fourth key set of critiques levelled at queer scholarship and activ-
ismand particularly their more deconstructive approachessuggest
that within such work, there is a lack of attention paid to the material
social relations that have direct impacts in queer lives (Walter 1996, 12).
This view will arise a number of times in the chapters that follow. It sug-
gests that queer politics is too focused on encouraging discursive play,
parody, and deconstruction, and does not focus enough on achieving
46 Criminology and Queer Theory

material gains in equality and justice. Related to this, queer work has
been described as opaque and denseinaccessible to general members
of the community who most need political change. This is another way
in which queer work has been characterised as elitist (Giffney 2009, 3),
being only available to those with a certain level of privilege and whose
existence is not precarious given that they do not experience the worst
hardships of disadvantage and marginalisation.
Queer scholars and activists defend their approaches here by high-
lighting that these forms of politics are directed at very real injustices,
and open up new avenues through which political action may be under-
taken. In line with poststructural thought, they suggest that it is impor-
tant to engage discourse and utilise starkly original political tactics in
order to move beyond the limitations that are currently imposed by exist-
ing approaches (Williams 2005, 3). For example, Judith Butlers work
has been described as unnecessarily dense and inaccessible. Butler has
responded to this criticism, however, by saying that her writing style is
an attempt to push against taken-for-granted discourses and styles used
in the areas in which she is working. In her writing, she is taking the
discursive as a key site of political activism, trying to institute real change
by pushing against those discourses and styles which structure dominant
modes of thought relating to those issues (Lloyd 2007, 21). In this sense,
Butler argues that we always have to question the language that is given
to us or taken for granted because, if we engage the terms that these
debates supply, then we ratify the frame at the moment in which we
take our stand. And this signals a certain paralysis in the face of exercis-
ing power to change the terms by which such topics are rendered think-
able (Butler 2004b, 129). Thus, consistent with poststructuralisms view
of the political stakes of discourse, pushing against existing discourses
and frameworks is necessary in bringing about more fundamental social
change than traditional political approaches.
The critiques outlined above help to give a sense of the way in which
queer thought has been received, and are some signs of how effective its
disruptions have been. While these critiques have been addressed to some
extent here, the preceding sections of the chapter help to suggest that
many of the critiques are based either on a misunderstanding or rejection
of the theoretical frameworks and tools underpinning queer work, or on
2 Queer 47

the view that queer necessarily aligns with sexuality and gender diversity.
Some are based on an assumption that it is possible to extricate oneself
from these dynamics of power and discourse, or they misrepresent queer
scholars by suggesting that they make this claim. Regardless, considering
these critiques foreshadows, to some extent, the reception of queer schol-
arship in criminology.

Conclusion: OntheUses ofQueer

As the foregoing discussion has illustrated, queer is by no means an
uncontested term. As this cursory examination of the fields that label
themselves queer studies or queer theory has borne out, queer has come
to mean many different things, has been deployed to achieve many dif-
ferent goals, and thus contains within it many different hopes. Each of its
uses as a noun, an adjective, a verb, or an adverb means something
different and leads to different questions, different conclusions, and differ-
ent effects (Giffney 2009, 1). It ranges from denoting an identity category
for some, to an impetus for deconstruction for others. There continue to
be considerable debates over who can do queer theory, what can count
as queer, and in which direction queer scholarship ought to head. And it
is clear that there is not a single definition of queer, nor is there a shared
understanding of what the proper object(s) of queer might be. Judith
Butler details this complexity by pointing out that queer is a discursive
rallying point for a variety of subjects (Butler 1993, 230). Queer can never
fully describe those that it represents, but rather needs to always remain
in contestation, and be vanquished by those who are excluded by the term
but who justifiably expect representation by it, or those who expect to use
it in different ways. This is so that it is able to take on meanings that can-
not now be anticipated, and also by those whose political vocabulary may
well carry a very different set of investments (Butler 1993, 230).
The complexity and polyvalence of queer can be difficult to grasp,
and, as we have seen, has been the source of some key critiques. However,
this complexity is nevertheless productive, and something to be fostered.
Analytical closure, a settling of critique or interrogation, and the cessa-
tion of deconstructive impulses seems to run counter to the tenets of the
48 Criminology and Queer Theory

analyses instigated and encouraged by queer. If queer is going to be of

any use in an analysis or critique, then serious thought needs to be put
into how one places the boundaries around the notion of queer, and
how one responds to the effects of doing so.
For the purposes of the discussion in the chapters that follow, I will
end this chapter by articulating the broad parameters that I have placed
around queer. Put simply, the approaches that I want to foster are those
that align with the political and historical background out of which
queer has developed, and the poststructural and deconstructive currents
that mark queer out from previous and mainstream gay and lesbian
studies and politics. This is an approach that holds queer to be a set
of practices and political positions that challenge normative knowledges
and identities, and that seeks to change these by opening up new pos-
sibilities (Sullivan 2003, 43)an approach that engages in a constant
reflection and deconstruction, even of the ground upon which it stands.
This position will become clearer in Chapter 7.
In advocating for these poststructural and deconstructive approaches,
I do not want to give the impression that more mainstream engagements
with queer are not, in fact, queer. After all, they have been taken up
by the groups of people that much of this work has tried to fight for
and represent in various ways. And, as we have seen, queer work is not
entirely antithetical to those approaches. However, the reason that I push
for particular parameters around what queer might mean, and particu-
lar uses of the concept in criminology, is twofold. First, because of its
originalityqueer criminological scholarship to this point has not thor-
oughly engaged with this particular approach. Thus, there is significant
scope in which to explore more deconstructive approaches to queer in
criminology, which accord with its historical, political, and philosophical
development. Second, because of its political efficacyits potential to
reframe taken-for-granted debates and contribute to critical interroga-
tions of criminology and criminal justice politics warrants further con-
sideration. In this sense, it may prove to be quite useful for addressing in
new ways some of the key problems motivating the development of queer
criminology, not to mention bringing to light new problems and political
or analytical targets.
2 Queer 49

Ultimately, I suggest that the possibilities and potential of queer are

limited to some extent if it is used solely as a shorthand term for LGBTIQ
people. There is space for us to engage with the broader implications of
this concept in criminology. As Lee Edelman (in Giffney 2009, 2) puts
it, queerness can never define an identity; it can only ever disturb one,
and to solely utilise queer as an identity may lead to a taming of [its]
critical energy, a domestication, a declawing and detoothing of its sharp-
est assets (Kemp 2009, 22). As Lisa Duggan points out, queer carr[ies]
with [it] the promise of new meanings, new ways of thinking and acting
politically (Duggan 2001, 215). We must always be troubled by queer
and the deconstruction and critique that it carries with it, for [q]ueer, if
it names anything, names a critical impulse that can never, must never,
settle (Kemp 2009, 22).

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Queer/ing Criminology

When we argue that we need to queer criminology or produce a queer
criminology, what exactly do we mean? What do we seek to achieve
by deploying queer in the realm of criminology, and setting these two
bodies of scholarship into conversation with each other? Do we want to
ensure that queer communities are better represented by criminological
knowledge? That is, do we want to make sure that criminology deals with
their experiences as victims of crime, as offenders, and throughout their
various interactions with criminal justice institutions (including as agents
of those institutions)? After all, queer communities have been, at best,
neglected, and, at worst, harmed, by criminological knowledges and the
agents and institutions of criminal justice. As such, do we assume that a
branch of criminology explicitly devoted to these communities and their
needs and experiences will help to address these oversights and injus-
tices? Furthermore, do we assume that these diverse communities share
a common set of experiences in these contexts by virtue of their non-
normative sexuality and/or gender diversitywhich would warrant their
being considered together in this new queer criminology? Or could we

The Author(s) 2016 53

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_3
54 Criminology and Queer Theory

view queer differently and suggest, in line with the discussions in the
previous chapter, that queer may be better utilised to refer to a process,
and that an engagement with queer theory may not only help criminolo-
gists correct oversights in criminology, but also allow us to do something
more to criminologyto queer it, reform it, and more fundamentally
critique it?
These are big questions, brought up by the complexity of queer,
which lack any straightforward answers. They make us think very care-
fully about the ways in which queer scholarship and criminology can
be drawn together, and their answers shape the directions that queer
criminological work can take and how such work will respond to the
major hurdles that may confront it. Some aspects of these questions have
already been explored (though certainly not resolved) in queer crimino-
logical scholarship to this point.
Not long after queer theory had established its presence on the intel-
lectual scene, and a broad range of queer political movements were
gaining momentum, a handful of criminologists began to consider the
possibility that queer theories could usefully contribute to criminology.
At that stage, most Western nations had decriminalised sodomy (or were
in the process of doing so) and, in many respects, LGBTIQ people were
not conceptualised within criminology as the deviants that they once had
been (though the shadow of the deviancy thesis [Woods 2014b] contin-
ued to loom). In fact, to some extent, a discursive reversal was occurring
within criminology, wherein LGBTIQ people were increasingly being
thought of as victims of crime, particularly homophobic and transphobic
hate crimes, with the perpetration of such crimes becoming understood
as the deviance that criminology needed to explain.
As the idea that the sexuality and/or gender of LGBTIQ people con-
stituted deviance in itself worthy of criminological attention was finding
less favour, it became increasingly apparent that criminology had little
else to say about LGBTIQ people and more possible to suggest that such
oversights needed to be addressed. By the late 1990s, some calls for crimi-
nologists to queer criminology or to produce a queered criminology
had appeared, followed by a steady increase in criminological work focus-
ing on the experiences of LGBTIQ people in relation to crime and justice
issues. It was not until almost two decades later (that is, over the last few
3 Queer/ing Criminology 55

years) that queer criminology developed a much more established pres-

ence within criminology and more sustained reflections on its purpose
and possible futures have appeared.
In this chapter, I will explore the current state of debate about queer
criminology.1 I will outline and critically examine those works that have
argued for the development of a queer/ed criminology and have offered
suggestions as to how this might be achieved. The purpose of this chapter
is to provide a broad overview of the state of the field while at the same
time focusing more specifically on the detail of some of these suggestions,
their common themes, and, importantly for the purposes of this book,
to consider the extent to which these directions open a space for more
deconstructive engagements with queer. This discussion is not meant to
suggest that existing queer criminological scholarship is inherently prob-
lematic or misguided, but merely to note the limits that they place on
criminological engagements with queer. As mentioned previously, the
diversity of possible queer criminologies is unavoidable and is a strength
of the field rather than a weakness.

Queer Criminology
Since the late 1990s, scholars have made a number of explicit calls for
a queer criminology or for the queering of criminology, and sug-
gested how stronger connections between queer theory and criminology
might be forged. While there were some brief mentions of the need to
queer criminology, or to bring criminology out of the closet through
the 1990s (Messerschmidt 1997; Burke 1994), one of the more substan-
tial of these early calls was made by Stephen Tomsen. Tomsen suggested
that the critical eye of queer theory has not yet been fully turned on
the more conventional output of the social sciences such as criminol-
ogy, and that criminologists ought to explore [t]he role of criminology
and crime researchers in defining the boundaries of this homo/hetero
divide in modern culture and academic discourse, and their relationship
to homophobic oppression in the twentieth century (1997, 34). This

Parts of this chapter have been developed from previous work (see Ball 2013b, 2014a).
56 Criminology and Queer Theory

call was extended by Nic Groombridge, who argued that much crimi-
nological work understood sexuality as normatively heterosexual and
often explicitly possessed by the young or black (1999, 543), and that
any engagement that criminology had with gay and lesbian communi-
ties more or less gave the impression that they have just been added to
the list of victims studied by realist and critical criminology/victimology
(Groombridge 1999, 538). For Groombridge, this state of affairs neces-
sitated asking [w]hat explanations might a queer criminology offer?
(1999, 539). Recently, Jordan Blair Woods has articulated a vision of
a queered criminology that builds on the work started in these previ-
ous articles and suggests that such studies would consider how sexual
orientation and gender identity/expression as non-deviant differences
in combination with other differences, such as race/ethnicity, class, and
religionmay influence victimisation, involvement in crime, and expe-
riences in the criminal justice system more broadly (2014b, 18). And,
most recently, Carrie L.Buist and Emily Lenning (2016) have developed
these calls and offered their own suggestions about the directions for
queer criminological scholarship.2
Tomsen, Groombridge, and Woods each contextualise their calls for a
queer criminology after having first systematically highlighted the short-
comings of criminological theory and research. They detail the embar-
rassing historical and intellectual origins of criminology in the regulatory
projects initiated by sexologists and those extending Lombrosos work
(Groombridge, 1999, 534, 543; Tomsen, 1997, 3336; Woods 2015),
which defined sexual and gender minorities as deviants, inverts, or as
posing social threats, leading to the greater regulation and surveillance of
queer lives. Further, they discuss the variety of engagements between crim-
inology and (primarily) sexual deviance as it has appeared in biological,
psychosocial, sociological, and critical schools of criminological thought,
noting the (missed) opportunities for criminologists to consider sexuality
and gender in queer ways (Groombridge 1999, 536, 538; Woods 2014b,

While these are by no means the only such calls, they are the most developed and hence discussed
in more detail here. Many other such calls tend to simply restate the necessity of undertaking such
work (see Sorainen 2003), or provide relatively limited suggestions (Ferrell and Sanders 1995,
319). Additionally, as Buist and Lennings work was published as this book was in its final stages of
development, it has not been possible to fully incorporate their arguments and suggestions here.
3 Queer/ing Criminology 57

2129). Woods goes further to detail what he terms the homosexual

deviancy thesis, which suggests that until the 1970s, criminology was
beholden to assumptions about the deviance of non-normative sexualities
and genders (though his focus is primarily on sexuality), and that while
these assumptions have largely disappeared, they continue to structure
criminological thought in some ways, given that they were not replaced
by any alternative representation of LGBTIQ people (Woods 2014b, 17,
2015, 132135).
The desire to identify and challenge the heteronormativity of crimi-
nologydrives many calls for a queer criminology. As Dana Peterson and
Vanessa R. Panfil state in the introduction to their ground-breaking
Handbook of LGBT Communities, Crime and Justice (2014b), [c]rimi-
nological and criminal justice research has typically been heteronor-
mative, assuming traditional sex-based gender roles and heterosexual
orientation. Non-normative sexual orientation, gender identity, and/
or gender expression remain relatively unrecognized and certainly under-
examined, leading to criminology being somewhat unable to respond
effectively to LGBTIQ people (Peterson and Panfil 2014b, 6). Similarly,
Buist and Lenning (2016, 1) point out that queer criminology seeks to
highlight the stigmatisation, the criminalisation, and in many ways the
rejection of the Queer community as both victims and offenders, by
academe and the criminal legal system. However, scholars do not only
take criminology to task for the general absence of queers from the field,
but have argued that many of the discussions about them that do exist
are incomplete and need to provide a much better picture of their expe-
riences in relation to crime and criminal justice. They point out that
when criminologists do turn their attention to LGBTIQ people as vic-
tims of crime, they generally tend to focus on issues such as homopho-
bic hate crime, bullying, and intimate partner violence, with LGBTIQ
victims of other crimes seeming to disappear. And when criminologists
have explored LGBTIQ people as offenders, they have primarily focused
on sex work or sexual deviance, and regarded LGBTIQ people as sub-
jects without agency (Peterson and Panfil 2014b, 3, 7; Panfil 2014, 104).
Additionally, such research has often overlooked the key structural issues
that may push LGBTIQ people towards committing crimes, particularly
crimes related to their survival (Woods 2014a, 14).
58 Criminology and Queer Theory

Given the recent increase in publications contributing to the theoreti-

cal and conceptual development of this field, one could quite comfort-
ably say that queer criminology has arrived, and that, as Derek Dalton
points out, [t]o the extent that criminology chooses (continues) to be
blind to queer criminologys presence, this suggests a failure of imagi-
nation to behold that which is already present and visible in its midst
(Dalton 2016, 33). The range of views proposed by these authors illus-
trate that [q]ueer criminology is a diverse array of criminology related
researches, critiques, methodologies, perspectives, and reflections (Ball
et al. 2014, 2), including empirical projects, overtly political engage-
ments in the justice system, and theoretical and conceptual reflections.
From these diverse suggestions, slightly different aims for queer criminol-
ogy, locations for it within criminology generally, and subjects of queer
criminology have been articulated. I now turn to these key themes.

The Tasks ofQueer Criminological Scholarship

The authors discussed above suggest a number of aims and tasks for queer
criminological scholarship to take up. While these generally tend in the
same direction, there are some interesting and important differences
between them that bear further discussion.
For Tomsen, one of the major aims of any intersection between queer
theory and criminology ought to be deconstructing the division between
homosexual and heterosexual, as this binary has important implications
which make its deconstruction imperative in any sexually emancipatory
politics (1997, 34; see also Tomsen, 2006, 2009). Relatedly, he critiques
identity categories in this work. While he notes the strategic advantages
of identity categories, such as in the context of the legal protection of,
or the production of knowledge about, hate crimes, he also points out
that the related essentialism simplifies the battle lines, and forgoes an
opportunity to impact upon the wider operation of sexual regimes
(Tomsen 1997, 44). He follows these critiques further in his research by
examining the effects of essentialised representations of homosexuality in
court cases involving hate crimes and the homosexual panic defence and
the ways divisions between hetero- and homosexuality are perpetuated
3 Queer/ing Criminology 59

(Tomsen 1997). In a later article he added, along these lines, that his
view of a queered understanding of crime would include an ongoing
emphasis on the performativity of criminalised masculine identities and
a progressive psychoanalytic stress on the tense proximity of homo and
hetero desire that feeds much male aggression, misogyny and risk taking
(2006, 403). Tomsens queered understanding of crime is framed largely
as an explanatory criminological project aimed at seeking to understand
how the effects of such a binary feed into the commission of crime.
Groombridge (1998, 119) develops a more detailed argument about
how a queered criminology might proceed. He suggests that such an
approach would be connected to a sociological enterprise within crimi-
nology, where, following Seidmans definition, it would not just study a
minority but also incorporate the study of those knowledges and social
practices that organise society as a whole by sexualisingheterosex-
ualising and homosexualisingbodies, desires, acts, identities, social
relations, knowledges, culture and social institutions (Seidman cited in
Groombridge 1999, 533). He argues that postmodern work in socio-
legal studies can also offer some useful ideas in this regard, particularly
the many ways that such scholars have pointed out the invention and
deployment of the category of the homosexual and how this category is
taken up in various projects of regulation.
It is possible, Groombridge suggests, that a queer criminology would
consist of a simple inversion of the ground of criminology. For example,
as mentioned previously, as sexuality and gender diversity are understood
less as forms of deviance, criminological attention thus turns towards
understanding why people commit homophobic and transphobic vio-
lence. It is possible, then, for queer criminologists to simply study
homophobia as a deviation from the norm in the way that criminolo-
gists used to approach homosexuality (Groombridge 1999, 540, 541).
However, this does not challenge these binaries in their entirety, and nor
does it produce new ways of knowing. It can also reinforce an investment
by queer criminologists in the state and the lawby seeking protection
from the newly identified deviants such as homophobes.
Groombridge also suggests that a queer criminology could produce
more statistics on crimes, and include sexual orientation as a key piece
of data collected from victims and offenders. However, he notes that it
60 Criminology and Queer Theory

is not always the case that such data is, in fact, relevant. Furthermore,
this would not necessarily reduce the regulatory presence of the criminal
justice system in queer lives, as it means that victims and/or perpetra-
tors would be made to out themselves[n]o longer outlaws, but outed
by the law (Groombridge 1999, 540). Such knowledge could also be
utilised for a range of problematic ends. Ultimately questioning whether
even a gay perspective would be welcome in criminology, let alone
whether a fully queered criminology would be welcome (Groombridge
1999, 531532), Groombridge suggests that this kind of work belong[s]
squarely within mainstream criminological concerns, not on the crimi-
nological margins (1999, 543), working alongside, contributing to, and
being part of, mainstream criminology. I will return to this later below.
Woods position on queer criminology differs slightly from the above,
in that he stresses the importance of producing knowledge about crime
and LGBTIQ people a little more than Tomsen and Groombridge do. In
his view, queer criminology would provide a space in which LGBTIQ
people can represent themselves within criminological conversations, be
recognised as part of these conversations, and ensure that accurate and
appropriate understandings of themselves are furthered. Such a project
would aim to reorient the focus of criminological inquiry to give
due consideration to the relationship between sexual orientation/gen-
der identity differences and victimisation, offending, and desistance
from crime (Woods 2014b, 16). Additionally, Woods suggests that such
work could also further the understanding of how gender norms may
lead LGBTQ people to commit crime (Woods 2014b, 29). Defined
along these lines, queer criminology is an extension of existing projects
of criminological knowledge production concerned with understanding
and explaining crime, undertaken to capture new people and their expe-
riences. This approach is reinforced by Woods discussion of the exclusion
of sexual orientation and gender identity from large-scale crime surveys
in the US, and the binary understanding of biological sex that exists
within these instruments (Woods 2014b, 1820). He argues that these
need to be changed so as to more effectively capture the experiences of
LGBTIQ people and craft more appropriate criminal justice programmes
and interventions.
3 Queer/ing Criminology 61

This interest in extending criminological projects of knowledge pro-

duction to include LGBTIQ people is also evidenced by Woods inter-
est in exploring whether existing theories should or could be applied to
LGBTIQ people, or whether they need to be modified (Woods 2014b, 17).
It seems that he hopes that queer theories might be able to help in this
regard. As he suggests, [q]ueer criminology must equip criminologists
with the tools to explore how various circumstances shape LGBTQ peo-
ples experiences of crime without inherently labeling them as victims, or
as criminals, on account of their sexual orientations and gender identities
(Woods 2014b, 32). It needs to break down the power that the homo-
sexual deviancy thesis still holds. In fact, he suggests that queer criminol-
ogy has an obligation to do this, given criminologys historical role in the
unjust regulation of queer lives (Woods 2013, 29).
The other works that expand on these calls for queer criminology are
variations on these same themes. Many of them focus primarily on the
tasks of producing knowledge about the criminal justice experiences of
LGBTIQ people, including their engagement with the institutions of
criminal justice, their experiences as victims, and their experiences as
participants in crime. Echoing Woods discussion of these issues above,
these tasks are often taken to be necessary so as to address the injustices
encountered by LGBTIQ people. As Carrie L. Buist and Codie Stone
argue, particularly in the context of transgender people, queer criminol-
ogy is a necessary addition to the field; not only for the sake of knowl-
edge, but also for the lives of those in the LGBTQ community impacted
by injustice in the criminal justice system (Buist and Stone 2014, 37; see
also Peterson and Panfil 2014a; Dalton 2016; de Carvalho 2014; Buist
and Lenning 2016, 1).
Similar themes underpin the views of those who seek to ensure that
queer criminology expands the range of crimes that it focuses on when
considering LGBTIQ victimisation and offending. As mentioned above,
Panfil is particularly interested in ensuring that queer criminology prop-
erly accounts for the agency of LGBTIQ people and provides a better
picture of these dynamics (Panfil 2014; Panfil and Peterson 2014, 558).
Panfils research suggested that prior victimisation and marginalisation
featured in the initial decisions made by LGBTIQ people to join gangs.
62 Criminology and Queer Theory

Thus, queer criminologists ought to argue that LGBT persons should be

seen as citizens with the same capabilities for control and (or, and thus)
crime (Panfil 2014, 104, original emphasis). Derek Dalton, too, notes
in this vein that [q]ueer criminologists should be wary of restricting
their inquiries to research agendas that shore-up models of victimisation
(Dalton 2016, 24), while at the same time being cognisant of the poten-
tial that such discussions do not simply feed existing negative stereotypes
about LGBTIQ people as deviants (Panfil 2014, 106; Woods 2014b, 32;
see also Buist and Lenning 2016, 113).
Derek Dalton (2016) has also contributed reflections on queer
criminology, and how it might best make an impact. In a move that runs quite
obviously counter to Carlens concerns about brand-name criminologies
outlined in the next chapter, he argues that queer criminology has what
amounts to a branding problem, and that we need to build a stronger
brand if we are to occupy a more prominent shelf space in the already
busy marketplace that is criminology (Dalton 2016, 2728). Dalton
suggestsfollowing the notion that queer constitutes a positionthat
queer criminology should attempt to gain a more prominent place within
the broader discipline of criminology through what amounts to a charm
offensive as opposed to smashing its way in (Dalton 2016, 29). In the
place of angry queers, he wants to substitute the Fab Five from Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy, giving criminology a make better instead of destroying
the joint (Dalton 2016, 30). In doing so, Dalton suggests,

we can skillfully and gently disabuse criminology of its ignorant ways by

pointing out how its well-entrenched heteronormative and positivistic bad
habits are holding it back. We can help it unshackle itself from the vestiges
of its past, encouraging it to blossom into something more open, inclusive,
and considerate of sexual and gendered difference (Dalton 2016, 30).

Some authors are more wary of criminological projects like these that
might see the expansion of traditional criminological knowledges and
approaches. Arvind Narrain, for example, echoes the calls of Tomsen
and of Groombridge to move criminology beyond the homosexual as
an object of study and towards an exploration of the knowledges and
social practices that regulate sexuality instead. The difficulties faced by
3 Queer/ing Criminology 63

criminologists in doing this, though, is that criminology perpetually

returns to the task of identifying the homosexual and who the
criminal/homosexual is, and continually seeks to explain the causes of
crime (2008, 48). As such, [t]he distance between queer theory and
criminology appears to be an unbridgeable chasm based upon the very
different starting points of the two disciplines (Narrain 2008, 48).
While there might not be complete agreement as to the tasks of queer
criminology, some scholars are quite optimistic about its future (Dalton
2016, 32), and there appears to be more general agreement about a few
key issues. Many such researchers suggest that queer criminology ought
to remain critical (Woods 2014a, 17; Ball 2014a; Dwyer etal. 2016a, 3;
Buist and Lenning 2016, 89), largely utilise qualitative methodologies
that can creatively capture the diverse experiences of a range of people
connected to the notion of queer, and ensure that it is intersectional
(Panfil 2014, 108; Woods 2013, 28, 2014a, 17, 2014b, 31; Buist and
Lenning 2016, 123). A number of scholars also recognise the inevitabil-
ity that queer criminology will remain a diverse field, generally taking up
the tasks of disrupting, challenging, and asking uncomfortable questions
that produce new ways of thinking in relation to the lives of LGBTIQ
people and criminal justice processes (Dwyer et al. 2016a, 3). As Ball
etal. (2014, 4) note:

[q]ueer criminology can speak to a number of people and communities. It

can take us down multiple paths, and it can remain an open space of intel-
lectual and political contestation. And, like all critical criminologies, it can,
and indeed should, remain engaged in a constant struggle to achieve jus-
tice, eliminate inequality, and challenge subordination.

Situating Queer Criminological Scholarship

Many of the authors discussed above have also suggested a number of

places where queer criminology might be situated within criminology,
as well as which other bodies of criminological work might articulate
with queer criminology. These suggestions also guide the development of
queer criminology in particular ways that are worth exploring.
64 Criminology and Queer Theory

One of the key themes in such discussions is whether queer criminology

should connect with mainstream concerns within criminology, and, if so,
the extent to which it should do so. Underpinning such questions is perhaps
an assumption that queer criminology does not necessarily automatically
fit within criminologya view that is perhaps understandable given
the almost total absence of LGBTIQ people and their concerns from
criminology. This means that these authors generally anchor queer
criminology to particular critical criminologies. Queer criminological
work clearly bears a number of similarities to other critical criminologies,
seeking to enhance our understandings of the criminal justice experiences
of a group of people and advance the interests of social justice (Ball etal.
2014). However, Woods cautions against a hasty embrace of critical
criminologies by queer criminologists, as critical criminologies have
themselves utilised or reinforced problematic representations of LGBTIQ
people (Woods 2014a). Buist and Lenning (2016, 9) also note that it
has only been very recently that critical criminology has really turned its
attention to the concerns of LGBTIQ people. These dynamics are only
beginning to change as a result of some of the work discussed here.
One body of critical criminological thought that was suggested very
early as a place for queer work was cultural criminology. Jeff Ferrell and
Clinton R.Sanders suggested this because cultural criminology can help
to understand the criminal worlds of lesbians and gays, and especially the
ongoing criminalisation of gay and lesbian life (Ferrell and Sanders 1995,
318). In their view, the codes of conduct and personal style developed by
members of gay and lesbian subcultures as a response to the criminalisation
and marginalisation that they experience seem to be the very same
codes that have been targeted in campaigns to further marginalise and
criminalise lesbian and gay lives (Ferrell and Sanders 1995, 318). As they
point out, it is the culture as much as the sexuality of gay and lesbian life
that constitutes the locus of criminalisation (Ferrell and Sanders 1995,
319). Groombridge too suggested that it is possible to connect queer and
cultural criminology, notwithstanding some reservations noted below
(Groombridge 1999, 543). This perspective has been developed recently by
Frederick (2014), who turned to cultural criminology to help understand
some forms of deviance among gay men as signs of resistance to not only
heteronormativity, but homonormativity and stigmatisation exercised by
3 Queer/ing Criminology 65

the queer community. The extent to which cultural criminology and queer
criminology can intersect productively and cultural criminology put into
effect a queer criminology will be explored further in Chapter 6.
Other queer criminologists hint that perhaps queer criminology might
align with realist criminology, given that suggestions about the develop-
ment of this field are often tied to a desire to change criminal justice
practices and have criminology respond to the real concerns of LGBTIQ
people. Vanessa R. Panfil and Jody Miller point out that such work is
important because ensuring that the specific needs of LGBTIQ people
are accounted for and responded to through such scholarship can con-
tribute meaningfully to justice policy and practice, and to the promotion
of human rights, democratic participation, and social justice (Panfil and
Miller 2014, 3, 5). Additionally, these perspectives can help to improve
pedagogical practices in this fieldparticularly important in the educa-
tion of future criminal justice agents and justice professionals (Panfil and
Miller 2014, 3). Further, when critiquing some of the deconstructive
impulses that attach to queer (discussed below), Woods and Dalton both
imply that such approaches would take queer criminology somewhat
away from its key task which is to address real injustices (Woods 2013,
2014b; Dalton 2016, 20). The prospects of realist criminology in the
context of queer criminology will also be discussed further in Chapter 6.
It should not come as a surprise that some have also suggested that queer
criminology would connect well with critical criminologies that explore
gender. Groombridge noted the promise of criminological studies in gender,
including those developing beyond feminism at that time (Groombridge 1999,
538). He was particularly focused on the insights that studies of masculinity
and (hetero/homo)sexuality could provide into much offending behaviour.
As discussed above, Tomsen also explored this area when analysing the role
that the achievement and maintenance of masculinity plays in homophobic
hate crimes (Tomsen 2006, 395). Woods also notes the important research
within feminist criminology that is particularly of use for understanding the
experiences of queer and transgender women (Woods 2014b, 28). And Buist
and Lenning briefly suggest some of the lessons and directions that feminist
criminology can provide as a criminological ally to queer criminology (Buist
and Lenning 2016, 78). Feminist criminologies and their intersections with
queer criminology will be considered further in Chapter 5.
66 Criminology and Queer Theory

While there are many prospects for queer criminological scholarship

being situated within critical criminologies, some have also suggested that
queer criminology should make a more concerted effort to connect to
mainstream criminology. Groombridge, for example, suggests that queer
criminology should not be situated solely within cultural criminology
because issues of homosexuality, heterosexuality, and transsexuality are
more than cultural representations or attempts to criminalise them,
and that those issues belong squarely within mainstream criminological
concerns, not on the criminological margins (1999, 543). In a sense,
Groombridge is suggesting that the work of queer criminologists is
too important to leave on the sidelines, at the same time limiting the
ability of the margins to work as a site of productivity for queer analyses.
However, in another publication, Groombridge does note the dangers
of such mainstreaming, suggesting that the disruption and queering as
analytical tasks and political strategies are precisely the sort of sub(per)
version that will render it unpalatable to the criminological mainstream
(Groombridge 2013, 356, emphasis added).
Dalton sympathises with the view that mainstream criminology is
unappealing because it does not speak to queer communities, but is also
cognisant of the fact that it is difficult to reshape a discipline that one is
not part of. With this tension in mind, he poses the question [i]f you are
part of a largely invisible and unrecognised subdisciplineas queer crim-
inology patently isto what extent do you seek to leave the comfort of
the frontier to engage in an arguably futile activity? (Dalton 2016, 26).
In contrast to Groombridges caution about remaining in the margins
of criminology, Dalton suggests that the margins are, in fact, a realistic
place for queer criminologists to inhabit, and that the margins ought to
be embraced for the freedom and creativity that they offer. Furthermore,
if we are to charm criminology in the way he suggests, he argues that it
is not necessary to leave the margins. Rather, we can simply make more
sorties onto their turf to engage with criminology (Dalton 2016, 30).
In fact, Dalton seems to be arguing for further reflection on how we
inhabit the margins, and what we do while we are there. Staying for too
long in the margins may actually work against queer criminology, limit-
ing its potential to make an impact. Dalton therefore suggests using the
margins to nurture queer ideas, departing to engage with the mainstream
3 Queer/ing Criminology 67

and offer our challenges, and then retreating again in order to ensure that
queer values and ideas continue to inform our work (Dalton 2016, 31).

The Subjects ofQueer Criminology

As already discussed, many scholars have suggested that queer

criminological scholarship ought to represent the lives and experiences
of queersspecifically understood to consist of LGBTIQ people. In this
sense, queer criminology is supposed to have clear subjects, with queer
tied once again to sexuality and gender (McDonald 2016). Groombridge,
for example, notes that queer is short-hand for gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgendered experience applied to literature, politics, the arts and social
sciences [and] presents a challenge to both homophobic heterosexism
and to affirmative homophilic theories of homosexuality (2013, 355).
While he does take a somewhat expansive definition of queer, pointing
out that you do not have to be homosexual to be queer and that queer
seeks more than gay liberation (Groombridge 2013, 356), it invariably
remains connected to sexuality and gender. In fact, to be even more
precise about it, queer is most often tied to homo/bi sexuality and non-
normative genders, and rarely heterosexuality and/or cisgender people.
And sexuality usually seems to be focused on over the experiences of
transgender or intersex people.
Woods also makes another move that reinforces the connection
between queer and these objects, which is to suggest that queer crimi-
nologists must explore questions regarding the nature of sexual ori-
entation and gender identity, and whether they are innate, socially
constructed, or a combination of both. These are important questions,
he suggests, because of the significant moral and political implications
of such a debate. As a range of different answers to these questions have
been proffered, Woods argues that if queer criminology were to hold
to one view over another, then it would risk alienating some schools of
thought (Woods 2014b, 3132). Again, introducing such questions into
queer criminology only ties queer criminology further to these objects.
In addition it opens queer criminology to ahistorical views of sexuality
and gender, possibly providing a space for new forms of essentialist anal-
yses in queer criminological scholarship.
68 Criminology and Queer Theory

These assumptions about the subjects of queer criminology tend to be

taken for granted, though there have been some attempts to think more
broadly about who these subjects might be. Dave McDonald has recently
offered some reflections on this, suggesting that the subject of queer
criminology ought to be extended to the paedophileor, more precisely,
the discursive construction and utilisation of that category. He has sug-
gested that queer theory may help to explore that category, because, as he
suggests, one of queer theorys promises lies in its capacity to expand or
extend the subjects and sites that criminology has typically neglected to
fully address. As he puts it, doing so may produce a more sophisticated,
all-encompassing conception of sexed and gendered identities and prac-
tices (McDonald 2016, 102). Further, he argues that if queer criminol-
ogy is indebted to queer theory more generally, it follows that its remit
must be informed by the impulse to queer sexed and gendered identities
or categories more generally. The subject of queer criminology should
thus not be taken for granted (McDonald 2016, 117, original emphasis).
McDonald is right to push queer criminologists into uncomfortable
territory, so as to better understand relevant criminological issues and
the conceptual categories that are mobilised in criminological research.
While this might be an uncomfortable suggestion for many, concerned
that it might reinforce problematic representations of the supposed link
between homosexuality and paedophilia, he notes that we need to be
careful about foreclosing prematurely on what subjects might be consid-
ered using a queer lens. As he states, while sexed and gendered difference
may constitute criminologys neglect, paedophilia may be described as
the neglect of queer criminology (McDonald 2016, 104, original empha-
sis, reference removed). Clearly, the question of who should constitute
the subjects of queer criminology is likely to remain open and contested
(see also Franklin 2015).

The Meaning ofQueer

While there appears to have been an unspoken assumption in much of the

queer criminology literature about what queer refers to, there have been
a few instances of debate about the meanings of queer, and the implica-
3 Queer/ing Criminology 69

tions for the future of the field, not to mention the extent to which queer
criminology ought to connect to and draw from queer theory. Among
queer criminologists there is an apparent reluctance to engage too much
with some of the more disruptive and deconstructive aspects of queer
because of the dangers of doing so.
For example, Dalton rehashes some of the critiques of queer theory
already explored above, particularly its inapplicability to criminology. He
says that he finds queer theory inapplicable to criminology on account of
its theoretical complexity and its esoteric nature (Dalton 2016, 18). As
he asserts, [t]he discipline of queer theoryin so far as it can rehearse
dazzling feats of textual analysiscan do so unencumbered by the sort of
cautionary anchors that typically inform criminological analysis (Dalton
2016, 19), and while the analysis of literature and film in some of these
studies can offer clever feats of deconstruction, it is important to note
that fictive subjects do not bleed or suffer real trauma (Dalton 2016,
1920). Continuing, he suggests that queer theory might be so entan-
gled in and enamoured with literary and cinematic tropes that it cannot
offer living subjects any practical tools that can better their lives (Dalton
2016, 20). Given that he argues that queer criminological work is to be
tethered to the social world and deal with real flesh and blood sub-
jects (Dalton 2016, 20), then we need to limit the extent to which queer
theoretical tools are brought into criminology.
Dalton is not the only one to have raised such concerns, which ulti-
mately impact on the meanings that are attributed to queer in crimi-
nology. Woods similarly argues that if criminologists were to utilise the
disruptive and deconstructive aspects of queer to a significant extent,
then they could dilut[e] demographically relevant social differences to the
extent that it may discount the experiences of people who identify with,
and experience marginalisation on the basis of, those differences (Woods
2014b, 30). Buist and Lenning agree, arguing that we are probably never
going to be in a world without categorical descriptions that are used in
some way or another to provide an understanding of who people are
(Buist and Lenning 2016, 15). And, as Panfil and Miller (2014, 6) also
point out, for many people, identity categories matter in real life, partially
as a way of claiming group membership and reducing visibility. These
categories are also a way to organise social life by managing complexity,
70 Criminology and Queer Theory

and are often used by organisations and institutions regularly studied by

criminologists, including institutions of formal control (Panfil and Miller
2014, 6).
I would suggest that this critique is slightly misplaced. In effect,
Woods argument against deconstructive approaches appears to be that,
given that people still utilise these identity categories, then queer decon-
struction, if taken too far, would risk harming those people. In support
of this view, he points out that many defendants appearing before court
still adopted and employed such categories, and achieved legal victories
in doing so (or at least had legal proceedings run in their favour) (Woods
2013). He also discusses an example of the reporting of the suicides of
gay teenagers, wherein attempts were made to disregard homophobia and
transphobia as being a factor in these deaths. In doing so, he problemati-
cally aligns this with the tasks of deconstruction by suggesting that such
reporting raises a dilemma for deconstruction because it leads to a lack
of focus on the criminologically relevant struggles that LGBTQ people
currently face because of homophobia or transphobia rooted in those dif-
ferences (Woods 2014a, 16). I would suggest, however, that it is quite a
leap to align this position with those of queer scholars. It is, in fact, quite
a misrepresentation of queer work, aligning it with perhaps conservative
attempts to downplay the effects of homophobia and transphobia. While
queer work does deconstruct these categories, it does so at the same time
as recognising the power that they have and their effects. Queer scholars
do not simply dismiss the interests and experiences of people who iden-
tify using these categories, or the discrimination that is linked to them.
To be fair, Woods is referring to extreme deconstructionist positions,
and is just as critical of taking the view that queer simply refers to
LGBTIQ people too far. Such a view would risk being void of criti-
cal introspection, and, while it might help focus criminological atten-
tion on LGBTIQ people, it may also perpetrate the subordination of
individuals with sexual orientations and gender identities who do not
identify with, or fit within, accepted definitions of lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender terms (Woods 2014b, 30). He adds that deconstruc-
tionist approaches can identify those excluded from such identity catego-
ries, and that queer theory can challenge conceptualisations of sexuality
and gender (Woods 2014b, 3031). In this sense, he and others hope
3 Queer/ing Criminology 71

to find a happy medium between identity-based and deconstruction-

ist approaches (Woods 2014b, 30; Buist and Lenning 2016, 1314).
Ultimately, though, this may continue to limit the meanings of queer
that can be put to work within criminology.

Conclusion: Queer Directions andTroubling

Despite having only recently emerged in any sustained way, there is a
diverse array of views as to how queer criminology ought to proceed,
what it ought to achieve, who it ought to refer to, and how queer can
best be put to work in related research. This chapter has canvassed many
of these debates, in order to highlight this diversity, but also in order to
establish that these suggestions may also limit the ways that queer can
be utilised.
Of course there are many other possible directions that have not yet
been explored in the existing literature. For example, Ball etal. (2014, 4)
point out that much of the queer criminology that has been produced so
far lacks any significant discussion of issues outside of the Global North,
or relating to indigenous peoples within the Global North. Queer
criminological work could also extend its intersectional analyses further
(Meyer 2015; Potter 2015). Additionally, Cara Gledhills suggestion that
criminology look at the ways in which states propagate particular ideals that
marginalise and harm LGBTIQ people ought to be expanded (Gledhill
2014). And there is certainly more to be said of queer criminologys
connection to feminist criminology (Buist and Lenning 2016, 78), and
how these bodies of work might intersect and draw from each othera
task I take further in Chapter 5. Given that this field is still developing and
has not yet fully explored all of the possible avenues that it may take, queer
criminologists are still formulating answers to these questions.
Importantly, this overview suggests that two key assumptions underpin
many of the proposed directions for queer criminological scholarship thus
far, which may limit the kinds of criminology produced through them.
The first assumption appears to be that ultimately, queer criminology can,
more or less, contribute to and improve criminology generally. In many
72 Criminology and Queer Theory

respects, this set of views does not move criminology very far away from
its mainstream tasks. In fact, they often resemble approaches that seek to
explain crime more effectivelyconsider Tomsens queered understanding
of crime or Groombridges positioning of queer criminology in the
mainstreamor, they seek to add people to criminological knowledge
consider Woods desire to gain baseline data about the experiences of
LGBTIQ people in order to develop targeted crime programmes, which
serves as one justification for his suggestions.
The second assumption that underpins many of these discussions, as
mentioned previously, is that sexuality and gender are taken for granted
as the proper objects of queer. While there have been some attempts
to move beyond the use of queer as an umbrella categoryconsider
McDonalds suggestion that queer criminology provide space for the
category of the paedophilethese attempts do not stray too far from
(homo/bi)sexuality and (trans)gender. While these assumptions can
be productive, it is important to note the ways that they can also limit
the potentially disruptive possibilities and radical challenges posed by
the notion of queer. In the next chapter, I move on to develop a more
extensive critique of this literature, drawn from criminological, queer,
and poststructural thought.

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& J.Tauri (Eds.), Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: Proceedings of the 2nd
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Research Center, QUT.
Ball, M. (2014a). Queer criminology, critique, and the art of not being gov-
erned. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 2134.
Ball, M., Buist, C.L., & Woods, J.B. (2014). Introduction to the special issue
on queer/ing criminology: New directions and frameworks. Critical
Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 14.
Buist, C.L., & Lenning, E. (2016). Queer criminology. Oxon: Routledge.
Buist, C.L., & Stone, C. (2014). Transgender victims and offenders: Failures of
the United States criminal justice system and the necessity of queer criminol-
ogy. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 3547.
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Burke, M.E. (1994). Coming out of the blue: British police officers talk about their
lives in the job as lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. NewYork: Cassell.
de Carvalho, S. (2014). On the possibilities of a queer criminology: Homophobia
as the object of study in the criminal sciencesA perspective based on the
Brazilian reality. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 110.
Dalton, D. (2016). Reflections on the emergence, efficacy, and value of queer
criminology. In A.Dwyer, M.Ball, & T.Crofts (Eds.), Queering criminology
(pp.1535). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dwyer, A., Ball, M., & Crofts, T. (2016a). Queering criminologies. In A.Dwyer,
M.Ball, & T.Crofts (Eds.), Queering criminology (pp.111). Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Ferrell, J., & Sanders, C.R. (1995). Toward a cultural criminology. In J.Ferrell
& C.R. Sanders (Eds.), Cultural criminology (pp.297326). Boston, MA:
Northeastern University Press.
Franklin, A. W. (2015, November 20). Minor attraction: A queer criminology
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Meeting, Washington, DC.
Frederick, B. J. (2014). Delinquent boys: Toward a new understanding of
deviant and transgressive behaviour in gay men. Critical Criminology: An
International Journal, 22(1), 139149.
Gledhill, C. (2014). Queering state crime theory: The state, civil society and
marginalisation. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1),
Groombridge, N. (1998). Letter to the editor. Theoretical Criminology, 2,
Groombridge, N. (1999). Perverse criminologies: The closet of Doctor
Lombroso. Social and Legal Studies, 8, 531548.
Groombridge, N. (2013). Queer theory. In E.McLaughlin & J.Muncie (Eds.),
The Sage dictionary of criminology (3rd ed.pp. 355356). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
McDonald, D. (2016). Who is the subject of queer criminology? Unravelling
the category of the paedophile. In A.Dwyer, M.Ball, & T.Crofts (Eds.),
Queering criminology (pp.102120). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Messerschmidt, J. (1997). Crime as structured action: Gender, race, class, and
crime in the making. London: Sage.
Meyer, D. (2015). Violence against queer people: Race, class, gender, and the persistence
of anti-LGBT discrimination. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Narrain, A. (2008). That despicable specimen of humanity: Policing of homo-
sexuality in India. In K. Kananbiran & R. Singh (Eds.), Challenging the
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rule(s) of law: Colonialism, criminology, and human rights in India (pp.4877).

New Delhi: Sage.
Panfil, V.R. (2014). Better left unsaid? The role of agency in queer criminologi-
cal research. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 99111.
Panfil, V.R., & Miller, J. (2014). Beyond the straight and narrow: The import
of queer criminology for criminology and criminal justice. The Criminologist:
The Official Newsletter of the American Society of Criminology, 39(4), 18.
Panfil, V. R., & Peterson, D. (2014). Hardly queer, or very queer indeed?
Concluding thoughts about the Handbook of LGBT communities, crime, and
justice. In D.Peterson & V.R. Panfil (Eds.), Handbook of LGBT communities,
crime, and justice (pp.557561). NewYork: Springer.
Peterson, D., & Panfil, V.R. (Eds.) (2014a). Handbook of LGBT communities,
crime, and justice. NewYork: Springer.
Peterson, D., & Panfil, V.R. (2014b). Introduction: Reducing the invisibility of
sexual and gender identities in criminology and criminal justice. In
D.Peterson & V.R. Panfil (Eds.), Handbook of LGBT communities, crime,
and justice (pp.313). NewYork: Springer.
Potter, H. (2015). Intersectionality and criminology: Disrupting and revolutioniz-
ing studies of crime. Oxon: Routledge.
Sorainen, A. (2003). Queering criminology. Paper presented at the 3rd Annual
Conference of the European Society of Criminology: Crime and Control in
an Integrating Europe, Helsinki.
Tomsen, S. (1997). Was Lombroso a queer? Criminology, criminal justice, and
the heterosexual imaginary. In G.Mason & S.Tomsen (Eds.), Homophobic
violence (pp.3345). Annandale: Hawkins Press.
Tomsen, S. (2006). Homophobic violence, cultural essentialism and shifting
sexual identities. Social and Legal Studies, 15, 389407.
Tomsen, S. (2009). Violence, prejudice, and sexuality. NewYork: Routledge.
Woods, J.B. (2013). The lingering stigma of homosexual deviance and constructions
of criminal guilt. Paper presented at the Explorations in Justice: Gender,
Sexuality and Violence Conference, 25 April 2013, Albany, NY.
Woods, J.B. (2014a). Queer contestations and the future of a critical queer
criminology. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 519.
Woods, J. B. (2014b). Queering criminology: Overview of the state of the
field. In D.Peterson & V. R. Panfil (Eds.), Handbook of LGBT communities,
crime, and justice (pp.1541). NewYork: Springer.
Woods, J.B. (2015). The birth of modern criminology and gendered construc-
tions of homosexual criminal identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(2),
Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting

As I have already discussed, a number of scholars have posited a variety
of directions for queer criminological scholarship, and I have noted some
critiques of these directions. This chapter expands on these critiques,
drawing from both criminological and queer scholarship in the process,
and considers three interrelated problemsthe problems of evangelism,
faith, and forgetting. In doing so, it further develops the critical and con-
ceptual background of this book, and establishes the basis for the follow-
ing two parts of the book and the analyses developed therein.
Drawing from criminology, the chapter will first explore the prob-
lem of evangelism in academic criminology, as articulated by Pat Carlen.
Carlen has raised concerns about the evangelism associated with the rise
of brand-name criminologies, which claim to offer new insights but
are really only nominalist rebrandings of existing critical enterprises in
criminology that reinvent the wheel (Carlen 2011). While queer crimi-
nology is perhaps not established enough for this critique to stick as well
as it might for other criminologies, it is nevertheless important that queer
criminologists pre-emptively confront these concernsafter all, some of

The Author(s) 2016 75

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_4
76 Criminology and Queer Theory

the calls for the development of a queer criminology may tend towards
the evangelistic. In exploring the problem of evangelism in queer crimi-
nology, this chapter suggests that those calling for the development of
a queer criminology must consider whether their suggestions reinvent
the criminological wheel, or whether they offer something more original.
Doing so could not only help counter such evangelism, but also better
delineate the original contribution that queer criminology can makea
task that is taken up in the second part of the book.
The chapter will then explore the interrelated problems of faith and
forgetting, drawing from poststructural and queer scholarshipand spe-
cifically the work of Michel Foucaultin the process. First there is the
problem of faith. A certain amount of faith attaches to calls for queer crim-
inology to address the oversights in, and injustices produced by, crimi-
nology and the criminal justice systemfaith that these knowledges and
institutions can be reformed in more just ways, and faith that justice can
be achieved through the very production of criminological knowledge.
As I have suggested, there is even faith placed in the use of queer as an
identity category. These views often exhibit some faith in the established
objects of knowledge, forms of governing, and ways of knowing currently
embedded within criminology. They also imply that such knowledge has
the potential to expose injustice, correct misunderstandings, and lead to
appropriate reforms and more accurate knowledge about queers, produc-
ing better lives for these communities. This chapter problematises those
views by aligning with a different understanding of the connections
between power and knowledgeone that highlights that faith in the pos-
itive potential of such knowledge to effect social transformation overlooks
the potentially dangerous governmental impacts that can simultaneously
be produced. It argues that we need to be cautious of the dangerous faith
in criminologys knowledge objects, its largely Modernist ways of know-
ing, and the criminal justice institutions and forms of subjectivity through
which we are governed, that we may (at least be tempted to) exhibit.
The chapter will at the same time discuss the interrelated problem of
forgetting. As already established, queer communities have a historically
troubled relationship with criminological knowledges and the institutions
of criminal justice. These knowledges and institutions have beenand
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 77

continue to beutilised to regulate queer lives in unjust ways. At times,

the impact of this history in our present can be downplayed (Dwyer
and Tomsen 2016), with the above-mentioned faith in criminology
potentially leading to a short memory of pastand ongoinginjustices
undertaken by or through the very institutions and disciplines that queer
criminologists seek to reclaim. These moves also suggest that the power
effects of a category such as queer have been forgotten. This chapter
will argue that the memory of such injustice, and the recognition of the
ongoing power relations embedded here, is central to the development of
the conceptual and political outlook of queer criminological scholarship.
This chapter will conclude by addressing the problems of faith and for-
getting directly by drawing from queer scholarship. In particular, it turns
to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwicks work on paranoid and reparative readings.
Sedgwick argues that much critical scholarship has been structured along
paranoid lines, which, by focusing on the exposure of hidden meanings
and the true nature of a particular state of affairs or institution, and by
maintaining a suspicious stance towards those relations, is actually quite
limited in instituting change. Instead, she proposes the development of
critical scholarship structured along reparative lines, which would seek
to repair the injury and trauma caused by that state of affairs or institu-
tion in a way that is not only fully cognisant of the potential for repeated
future injury, but potentially more effective at instituting change. This
discussion will argue that while it might be tempting for paranoid read-
ings of criminology and criminal justice to motivate queer criminology,
there is scope for reparative readings to be developed further. Doing so,
it suggests, can help to simultaneously avoid having blind faith in crimi-
nology, and forgetting the injustices mentioned above. A cautiously
reparative approach may, in fact, be quite productive for the development
of queer criminological work and is somewhat implied in any attempts
to draw queer scholarship and criminology together. The discussions in
this chapter are meant largely to problematise some of the directions or
assumptions in queer criminological scholarship, and to further estab-
lish how the intersections between queer scholarship and criminology
developed in the third part of this book can help in responding to the
problems discussed here.
78 Criminology and Queer Theory

The Problem ofEvangelism

The first problem I turn to is that of evangelism. In a recent essay, Pat
Carlen raised a concern that some of the most exciting criminological
bodies of work that have allegiances to both academic criminology and
criminological politicsparticularly critical, cultural, and public crimi-
nologieshave evangelistic tendencies that work against the desire for
open debate that they espouse, and which are inappropriate in the con-
text of scientific enquiry (Carlen 2011, 96). For Carlen, evangelism refers
to the grand pronouncements made by what she terms niche criminolo-
gies, which, in various ways, encourage other criminologists to work
against the criminological mainstream (Carlen 2011, 9899). The evan-
gelistic features of these criminologies include:

a tendency only to define themselves in opposition to mainline or conven-

tional criminology; an ahistorical tendency to reinvent the wheel; [the]
reiteration of conversion calls to those practising non-brand name other
criminologies to join the new orthodoxies; [and] an emphasis on crimino-
logical subjectivity (being critical, being reflexive, being public) rather than
on the more achievable objects of doing criminology. (Carlen 2011,

Such evangelism is also problematic, Carlen argues, because it rarely

goes beyond a position of opposition to conventional criminology and
towards a position of creativity. It often silences and closes down other
ways of knowing, despite claiming to welcome a variety of different (criti-
cal) approaches (Carlen 2011, 100). Thus, Carlen suggests that these new
brands of criminology do not seek to convince by argument but instead
seek followers to join themnot as workers on specific projects, but as
believers in a particular brand of criminology (Carlen 2011, 101, original
Carlens concern over evangelistic tendencies centres on the way in
which these political positions, and the critiques that develop from them,
begin to influence or overtake the production of criminological knowl-
edge. If criminology is conceived as a scientific art, which Carlen prefers,
then the act of critique inevitably forms part of criminologyafter all,
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 79

scientific endeavours are critical insofar as they constantly recognise and

reflect on the conditions of their own existence. For Carlen, criminologi-
cal politics ought not to impact on the questions that criminologists form
or the conclusions that they draw, particularly if criminological knowl-
edge is to have a wider impact and relevance in effecting change (Carlen
2011, 97). In fact, according to Carlen, it ought to be on its scientific
credentials that the impact of criminology is based, and not on the ethical
or moral stance that underpins it (Carlen 2011, 97).
As mentioned above, Carlen is concerned that evangelistic tendencies
also tend to reinvent the criminological wheel. Carlen suggests that, in
their rush to do away with that which has been produced by the main-
stream of criminology, evangelistic scholars within these critical crimi-
nologies also do away with much that they then spend time reinventing.
In this sense, these criminologies do not clearly produce anything new,
given that such creativity stems from, and relies on, existing knowledge.
And this is only reinforced by the tendency, once a new brand of crimi-
nology is developed, to erect boundaries around it. As she warns:

at the moment when a critical, cultural, or public criminology is recog-

nised, or recognises itself as such, its institutional, political, or policy influ-
ence may well be strengthened but its freedom to imagine the new is
compromised: certain questions can no longer be asked and all those refus-
ing the label are othered. (Carlen 2011, 100)

In contrast to these tendencies, Carlen encourages criminologists to

remain artisans, not partisans. For Carlen, artisan refers to a state of
working consciousness that is ready to give, sell or lend its professional
expertise to many different types of enterprise, different because each of
them requires a different type of practice and expertise (Carlen 2011,
106). She suggests then that criminological knowledge might be more
productive if it were to concentrate on doing a good job in terms of ful-
filling a desired object of researchwhich might well be pure, applied,
political, or campaigning research and conducted according to any one of
an unlimited range of transparent research methods (Carlen 2011, 105).
Thus, while our political positions may help inform the kinds of problems
that we are interested in researching, they cannot determine the method
80 Criminology and Queer Theory

that is taken. As she suggests, [t]here is nothing inherently critical in eth-

nography for instance, just as there is nothing inherently non-critical in
quantitative methods (Carlen 2011, 102). Taking criminological work as
a scientific art is also necessary because, despite our best efforts, our work
may not have the desired political effects, given that we can never define
the conditions of its uptake and circulation. In this sense, criminological
work must stand on its own (Carlen 2011, 102103).
While it might be difficult at this point to describe queer criminologi-
cal scholarship as an established niche or brand-name criminology in the
same way as the criminologies that Carlen discusses, I would argue that
the growing body of work using the term queer criminology and the
recent calls to develop this field may tend in this very direction. (Also
note Daltons [2016] suggestion that queer criminology needs to fix its
branding problem.) It is very easy to see the points at which evangelistic
tendencies might arise in such work. After all, one of the founding posi-
tions of a lot of queer criminological work is the notion that mainstream
criminology is heteronormative, has excluded the perspectives and expe-
riences of queer communities, and, for some, is a problematic discipline
to engage with. Regardless of the accuracy of such claims, it is the fact
that such evangelistic statements are easy to make and feature as the ratio-
nale (whether explicitly or not) for a lot of queer criminological work
which is of concern to Carlen.
Therefore, it is important to confront the problem of evangelism in the
development of queer criminological work, as this forces us to ask some
key questions about the development (and even necessity) of such work.
For example, to avoid reinventing the wheel, we must ask whether the
work that we seek to produce fundamentally differs from other crimino-
logical research, except with regard to the population of concern. Would
queer criminological work differ fundamentally from other schools of
criminological thought, and do anything substantially different from
them? These questions will be confronted in the second part of this book.
However, it is important to consider the limits of Carlens critique,
because a central component of queer scholarship is a struggle with, and
a pushing against, what is taken as the mainstream or the normative. In
this sense, queer thought might be considered inevitably and unavoidably
evangelistic. If queer criminology sought to temper its evangelism, would
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 81

this mean that such research would no longer actually be queer? Would
this in itself limit the way in which queer is utilised in criminology?
Furthermore, while we can certainly accept Carlens point that there is
no research method that is inherently critical, and that many different
kinds of criminological work can be considered to be critical, we must
also acknowledge that some research methods, such as surveys, can be
quite problematic in queer-related research. The categorical definition
and boundary construction necessary to a successful survey cannot cap-
ture and represent queer lives effectivelylives that defy easy classifica-
tion and whose gender and sexual non-normativity may for too long
have been captured solely in the category of Other (please specify).
Additionally, regardless of which way you approach it, scientific endeav-
our involves a particular set of procedures for producing, authorising,
and circulating truth. As many critical movements have convincingly
arguedwithout lapsing into the evangelical, in many casespushing
against these dominant methods for legitimating knowledge is necessary
because scientific approaches cannot capture many other ways of know-
ing (see the discussions in Chapter 5 below).
The final key aspect of Carlens critique is that terms like cultural crim-
inology are limiting because they diminish and reduce the broad range of
outlaw perspectives in criminology to a single label (Carlen 2011, 99).
This is certainly a position to pay heed to in queer work. While queer
criminology might be strategically useful as a term in arguing for a set
of related movements and directions in criminology, we ought to also be
cautious of reducing the range of different voices and views that may rally
under this term to the one label.
Thus, it ought to be clear that the problem of evangelism is one that
queer criminologists must consider very carefully. While one need not
agree with all of Carlens positions on this matter, it is difficult to argue
that evangelism is necessarily all that helpful, or that all of mainstream
criminology is something to rail against. Queer criminological work
remains based quite firmly on an ethical stance that argues for queers to
have a say in criminology and criminal justice, and for these knowledges
and practices to respond to them. There are very good reasons for queer
criminologists to push against mainstream criminology that need not be
given up, and how to navigate these tensions appropriately and effectively
82 Criminology and Queer Theory

remains an ongoing concern. It at least raises the question: should we

continue to have faith that queer criminology might be useful and save
us? The next section explores this question.

The Problems ofFaith andForgetting1

I have used the terms faith and forgetting to summarise the interrelated
problems that arise around some key issues that feature in these
conversations about queer criminology. The critiques I develop here
largely arise from poststructural scholarship, and particularly Foucaults
work on discourse, power, and subjectivity in the context of sexuality
and criminology. Below, I explore: the ways that, within such projects,
faith may be exhibited in the nation-state and projects of regulation,
which can often lead to forgetting the damage that these have done and
the exclusions that they produce; the related faith in criminology and
projects of knowledge production to expose injustice, which can produce
a forgetting of the power effects of these same dynamics; the faith in
the concept of queer as a useful term, which can lead to its referential
slipperiness and the multiple uses to which it can be put being forgotten;
and the faith that queer can be used as a category, which may involve a
forgetting of the ways in which it reinforces binary structures and power
relations that have had a problematic history.

Faith inRegulation, Forgetting Exclusion andInjury

As discussed above, underpinning the work of many queer criminologists

is at least an implicit desire to improve the interaction between crimi-
nal justice institutions and queer communities. It is often suggested that
addressing gaps in the knowledge of these issues can lead to the develop-
ment of specifically targeted responses that would address injustice. These
kinds of approaches in criminology may tend towards the dominant and
more mainstream criminological tasks that align with administrative

These arguments have been developed further elsewhere (see Ball 2014b).
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 83

criminology and governmental criminological projects. In their invest-

ments (to various degrees: see Narrain 2008; Tomsen 2006, 2009) in
these institutions of the nation-state, one could suggest that these schol-
ars are exhibiting some degree of faith in the possibility that these institu-
tions may be reformed in order to achieve justice.
There is a constant need to interrogate such investments in regulatory
projects and justice institutions. While such projects (like the develop-
ment of programmes to prevent intimate partner violence, the intro-
duction of harsher sentences for those that commit homophobic hate
crime, or the expanded use of police liaison programmes) might appear
to be progressive in addressing these injustices, in line with a Foucaultian
understanding of power, it is important to consider them to be exer-
cises of power themselves, reproducing particular forms of violence and
exclusion, and perpetuating new hierarchies (Ball 2013a; Dwyer 2012;
Mogul etal. 2011; Moran 2009, 311). Queer scholars and activists have
questioned such queer investments in these institutions for these very
reasons, contending that these kinds of projects make a demand for the
laws violence (Moran cited in Narrain 2008, 50). As Wendy Brown
(1995,27) puts it, they cast the law in particular and the state more
generally as neutral arbiters of injury rather than as themselves invested
with the power to injure.
As such, having faith in these institutions requires to some extent for-
getting the way in which these very same institutions continue to have a
violent presence in the lives of some, producing mass incarceration, the
over-representation of indigenous people and specific groups in prison,
and entrenching other social disadvantages and exclusions (Moran
2009,311). It is thus troubling that the task of addressing criminal injus-
tices is placed here in the hands of the very system that is responsible for
many of those same injustices, and the heteronormative state is suddenly
transformed into the guardian of queers (Mogul et al. 2011, 129). As
Mogul etal. (2011, 140) suggest:

LGBT people need to deeply question whether institutions rooted in the con-
trol and punishment of people of color, poor people, immigrants, and queers
can ever be deployed in the service of LGBT interests without abandoning
entire segments of queer communities to continuing state violence.
84 Criminology and Queer Theory

Queer scholars are particularly concerned with these issues, given the
developing interest in identifying the way in which some aspects of gay
and lesbian politics reinforce homonormativity, which was discussed in
Chapter 2. When LGBTIQ people seek to share in the privileges and pre-
sumption of normality (Sedgwick 2011, 201) in these ways, queer schol-
ars raise the concern that such investments in criminal justice institutions
do not benefit all queer lives equally but continue to effect divisions within
queer communities, such as between which queer lives are respectable and
which ones are not, and thus, who ought to be protected by the law and
state institutions and who should not. In this context, fellow members of
the community (however that community might be conceived)such as
those who have sex in public or at beats (Conrad 2009), or those who are
visibly queer in public space (Dwyer 2012)can be othered in order
for the rest of the community to achieve a claim to decency. Furthermore,
queer scholars have also suggested that this faith in the reform of existing
institutions is limiting, as it prevents the field of political action from being
more fundamentally rethought. While reform might be a good short-term
goal, a more effective long-term queer goal may be opening up the space
to think otherwise about such institutions. Thus, queer criminological
work that has faith in the reform of these institutions may risk forgetting
the exclusions that such progressive reforms can reinforce.

Faith inKnowledge andExposure, Forgetting

thePowerKnowledge Nexus

It is important also to consider the way in which calls for developing

queer criminological scholarship might exhibit a faith in the progressive
potential of such knowledge to create change. It is implied that such
knowledge will help move from injustice towards justicethat crimi-
nology can, to some extent, save us, as long as it is inclusive and listens
to queers. This view, however, can require forgetting (or being unaware
of ) the power effects of the production of such knowledgesomething
that Foucault sought to highlight when it came to criminology (Foucault
1980, 1991).
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 85

As explored in the last chapter, many of the discussions about the need
for queer work in criminology point to the necessity of producing robust
and systematic information about crime and justice issues of relevance
to LGBTIQ people (Woods 2014b; Tomsen 2006; Groombridge 1999;
Buist and Lenning 2016; see also, generally, Peterson and Panfil 2014a).
These standard criminological tasks of producing knowledge about the
frequency of particular crimes often overlooked in crime statistics and
descriptive accounts of crimes, the motivations of offenders, and the expe-
riences of victims, are not entirely problematic in themselves. However,
it remains important to consider the ways in which such knowledge is
produced, the ends to which that knowledge is put, and the assumptions
made about the potential of such knowledge to transform the experiences
of queer communities in the context of criminal justice.
The production of such knowledge, like much work within criminol-
ogy, is often justified as a way of contributing to administrative projects
such as the development of crime control policies or responses to offend-
ing (see, for example, Tomsen 1997, 37; Woods 2014b). These tasks,
however, are not necessarily always progressivethe production of crimi-
nological knowledge in this way does not automatically lead to gains that
address injustice. Foucault in particular problematised these assumptions
that knowledge could be used to reduce the effects of power that exist
in peoples lives. In fact, his work on power and knowledge sought to
highlight the multiple interconnections between power and knowledge,
and the ways in which the production of knowledge extended the reach
of power relations and the ability to govern, leading to the production of
new knowledge and the implementation of further power relations in the
process (Foucault 1980). The connections between knowledge and the
exercise of power mean that the production of knowledge invariably leads
to the legitimation and, indeed, expansion of such relations.
Queer criminological scholars are certainly cautious on this point, not-
ing the dangers involved in producing knowledge and the potential for
this to be harmful to queers (Groombridge 1999, 540; Tomsen 1997, 33,
4344; Woods 2014b, 20). However, it appears that, at times, the push
to produce criminological work about the experiences of queer people
holds at least some faith that doing so, and using this to reform criminal
86 Criminology and Queer Theory

justice institutions, can, at some point, be untroublingthat it can, in

fact, be positive.
Further, while producing knowledge about the lives of queer popula-
tions in order to challenge normative orders is a feature of a lot of queer
scholarship and is valuable precisely because of this challenge, as already
discussed above, many queer scholars are also wary of having too much
faith that existing institutions and dominant ways of knowing are useful
paths to addressing injustice. In a similar vein, we might be critical of the
faith placed in the production of what amounts to traditional crimino-
logical knowledge for those ends, the forms of government perpetuated,
and the institutions legitimised as a result (see Duggan 2003; Johnson
2014; Puar 2007; Warner 1999).
It is also possible to critique the faith held in the power of crimino-
logical knowledge as a force for change by considering the production
of criminological knowledge itself. After all, if we are to produce queer
criminological knowledge by simply including queer perspectives in
positivist, administrative, or explanatory criminological projects through
traditional criminological and social science research methods, then we
limit our own ability to challenge these dynamics, and even to effec-
tively represent queer lives. As seen above, queer critiques largely seek to
alter the production of knowledge itself. Many of the research methods
utilised in social sciencesincluding criminologycannot always effec-
tively represent the fluidity and the challenge to normative orders and
boundaries that queer can signify. In fact, to attempt to pin it down is
decidedly unqueer. Queer lives (if taken to refer to a group of people for
a moment) are not easily inscribed in a way that would make them mea-
surable (see Johnson 2014). While multiple identity categories such as
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender can be incorporated into a survey
in recognition of the diversity of people that might be captured under
the umbrella of queer, this in itself does not queer the research, and
even then this does not allow the fluidity and complexity of these subjec-
tivities to be made apparent. This impacts considerably on the ability to
use the knowledge thus produced to make recommendations and push
for change. The result is that the very margins that are of interest to
the researchers are effectively designed out of the instruments used to
gather such information (Browne 2008, 1.1, 1.2, 4.114.13; see also
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 87

Chapters 5 and 6 below). Such faith in the dominant methods of crimi-

nological knowledge production may in fact rely on having forgotten
that queer lives and subjectivities are complex, that attraction is different
from establishing relationships, that gender is different from sexuality,
that binaries of heterosexual and non-heterosexual do not help to give the
complexity of queer lives their due, and that queer criminological work
may need to reconsider quantitative methods that reduce such experi-
ences into measurable categories.

Faith inQueer asaCategory, Forgetting its


The next concern extends from the points made just above and in earlier
chapters, and relates to the way in which the widespread use of the term
queer as a shorthand for LGBTIQ people within criminology can simul-
taneously exhibit a faith in the reliability of that term, and a forgetting of
its multiple uses, its referential slipperiness, and the dangers of using it as
an umbrella term. As discussed earlier, using queer as an umbrella cat-
egory can homogenise, marginalise, and imply some stability to identities
(Corber and Valocchi 2003, 23; Jagose 1996, 77; Sullivan 2003, 41,
44; Giffney 2009, 2). It is also used largely to refer only to sexuality and
gender, with the relationship between queer and sexuality- or gender-
diversity being essentialised. This is reinforced by queer criminological
work that focuses on advocating for the interests of LGBTIQ people and
taking the heteronormative (and sometimes gender-normative) aspects of
criminology as its target. Not only do these take for granted and repro-
duce the heterosexuality/homosexuality binary, but they also imply that
queer insights are only of relevance to addressing issues around gender
and sexuality, as opposed to norms more generally.
Underpinning these approaches appears to be a faith that queer has to
refer to something. However, such approaches tend to forget the problems
that queer scholars have noted with identity categories. As previously
mentioned, despite the strategic value of adopting identity categories,
queer scholars express concern that these categories can tend to fix
fluidity, which often means foregoing other opportunities to alter power
88 Criminology and Queer Theory

relations more fundamentally (Butler 1993, 230; Jagose 1996, 91). As

such, instead of having faith in the category of queer, we should not
forget that queer work in criminology might be more effective if, instead
of simply taking queer to refer to LGBTIQ issues and people, it were
to shift the ground on which the criminological knowledges and politics
that queer criminologists often have faith in are built. After all, queer
work has long sought to de-naturalise categories, avoiding moves such as
seeking inclusion on their basis. We ought not to forget the reasons that
the term queer might have been chosen for such political moves, and the
potential that it therefore carries.

Faith intheCategorys Deployment, Forgetting Its

History andPower Effects

Finally, I want to point to what seems to be the faith that the category
queer, deployed as a shorthand for LGBTIQ communities, can easily
work in the interests of queer communities and not undermine them.
This faith may lead to some extent to forgetting the way that such uses
of the term in criminology (as discussed above) can remain connected
to binary structures and forms of power which are otherwise the targets
of queer analyses. Underpinning these concerns are perhaps larger issues
relating to the political faith placed in discourse.
As already discussed, attempts to formulate queer criminological schol-
arship and include queer voices in criminological discussions imply that
a discursive reversal of some form is required. There are certainly compel-
ling reasons to make such arguments. After all, criminological knowl-
edge has been used to regulate queer lives in unjust ways, and for many
years, queer people were spoken about by criminologists, sexologists, and
others seeking to know about those considered sexually deviant. The
development of queer criminological scholarship is therefore a tempt-
ing opportunity to wrest control from those who have historically been
authorised to speak in these ways about queer lives, to allow for homo-
phobic discourses to be made apparent, and to provide a space in which
queer people can speak for themselves (Halperin 1995, 52, 56).
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 89

This kind of approach implies that a reversal or shifting of the privilege

of heterosexual subjects within criminological discourses is necessary,
with the queer subject being made a legitimate position from which to
speak.2 However, doing so does not remove these power relations, and
exhibits some faith that this is an effective way of ensuring that crimino-
logical knowledge can not only be more accurate, but can have a posi-
tive impact on queer lives. Such approaches assume that the divisions
and oversights within criminology that drive the development of queer
criminological scholarship are observable and independent of our abil-
ity to represent them. Queer scholars, though, note that these are not
simply descriptions of divisions and oversights within criminology, but
rather reproduce those divisions and the very discourses about sexuality
that have contributed to the current injustices that queer people experi-
ence (Browne 2008, 4.14.2, 4.54.8; Butler 1993, 2).
Thus, for example, in such discussions, a distinction is maintained
between heterosexual and homosexual, with homosexual voices being
those that need to be introduced further into criminology. However,
queer thought points out that, as a category, homosexuality operates
to stabilise its binary oppositeheterosexuality. This ensures that het-
erosexuality is unmarked as a social norm, and contributes to the view
that heterosexuality and homosexuality are relatively stable and oppos-
ing categories (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 3; Jagose 1996, 92; Sullivan
2003,45). As Umphrey states, [b]y making the marked half of the het-
ero/homosexual binary visible, we paradoxically gain recognition while
constantly reinscribing the terms of our own disempowerment in reified
categories (1995, 23).
So, queer criminological scholarship may express some faith that these
categories are useful and able to be deployed effectively in ways that are
productive for queers. The problem is that such work can also reinscribe
the power and knowledge relations that exist, like the way that, for exam-
ple, struggles to achieve marriage equality or to allow LGBTIQ people

This is a different kind of discursive reversal to that discussed in Chapter 2, where the criminologi-
cal gaze shifts from viewing the homosexual as deviant towards seeing the homophobe as deviant
(Groombridge 1999, 540, 541; Narrain 2008, 49; Tomsen 2009, 137138).
90 Criminology and Queer Theory

to serve openly in the military legitimate marriage and the military as

social institutions, respectively (Corber and Valocchi 2003, 11; Jagose
1996, 81). As Simon states, [t]he satisfaction that comes from aveng-
ing oppression carries the price of reinforcing the very categories of the
original victimisation (in Lamble 2008, 29; see also Douglas etal. 2011,
113114). Speaking for queers in these ways can cite identity catego-
ries and marginalize other ways and modes of inhabiting queer sexu-
alities (Douglas etal. 2011, 115). By citing these very categoriesthe
same categories that have featured in numerous projects of government
over queer livesin attempts to establish a queer criminology and posi-
tion it somewhat in contrast to mainstream forms of criminology, queer
criminologists are not pushing for a fundamental reformulation of the
contours of knowledge production in this context and might not be mov-
ing as far away from the injurious categories and knowledges as they oth-
erwise might assume (Halperin 1995, 56). While this is not necessarily
always a bad thingas Foucault (1998, 101) points out, discourse can
be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a
stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an oppos-
ing strategy, and historically constituted identity categories have long
featured in political campaigns, with some successit is important to
interrogate the effects of doing this. These categories are lent more weight
through this very citation, and do not fundamentally move away from
the regulatory regimes of power and knowledge, or the discursive prac-
tices that produced the categories in the first place.
Additionally, the suggestion that one discourse ought to be set up in
opposition to a repressive and negating other, as appears here, is precisely
one of the strategies of power through which the dominated discourse
can enrol allies and establish its own position of power. These processes,
including attempts to break the silence in criminology, may then be
mischaracterised as a movement into liberty, assuming that a state of free-
dom or liberation can be achieved with the removal, or redevelopment,
of problematic knowledges and practices. An allied assumption is that
an oppositional politics can replace a false knowledge or ideology with
a non-normative truth. However, as Foucault and queer scholars would
argue, this is not possible, and such moves expose us to potentially new
powers, dangers, and constraints (Sullivan 2003, 42; Dowson 2009, 281).
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 91

The approaches discussed above may somewhat forget the power effects
of what they think is a relatively straightforward way of addressing the
oversights in criminology.
As such, those that hold faith in the production of queer criminol-
ogy along these lines may, in fact, be in a counter-productive position,
given that they seek to improve the lives of queer people by having them
invest themselves in projects of knowledge production in the discipline
that has traditionally sought to govern a variety of deviants, and to do so
under the sign of an identity category that has been connected to those
very same regulatory projects. The faith that these approaches have in
identity categories, and in the referential utility and stability of queer,
might not be warranted. It seems that there is a danger, then, that this
important history of regulation and injustice has been forgotten (Dwyer
and Tomsen 2016). Thus, it is possible to suggest that if we want to
develop a queer project of criminology, we ought to be careful about
engaging with the discourse that has disqualified queer lives as part of the
strategy to reclaim those lives from that discourse and its silences, over-
sights, and other effects (see further Halperin 1995, 56). Instead, queer
work might seek to produce more discursive spaces for queer people to
inhabit, and seek to fundamentally shift the way we think about, talk
about, and research these issues, interrogating the assumptions that we
make and concepts that we use when doing so. The queer push to jettison
taken-for-granted frameworks, terminologies, and discourses as a politi-
cal strategy makes more sense here (Butler 2004b, 129).

Against Paranoid Exposure, forCautious

Reparation inQueer Criminological
There is a danger that the foregoing critiques of the regulatory history of crim-
inology, the instability of the categories and discourses that might be utilised
in the development of queer criminological scholarship, and the exclusions,
injuries, and power relations that may be produced through these dynamics,
might be misread as an argument either against moving forward with queer
92 Criminology and Queer Theory

criminological scholarship, or for a view that criminology is beyond saving.

The intention here is not to suggest that nothing can be gained by engaging
with criminologythat all that faces us when moving forward with queer
criminological scholarship are problems, and that queers can never hope to
have a productive engagement with criminology and criminal justice institu-
tions. As Foucault pointed out when his analyses of power were criticised
on similar grounds, this ought not to produce an anaesthetising effect, but
rather an awareness that any changes are potentially dangerous (Foucault
1978a). These dynamics have been outlined in order to encourage greater
caution among queer criminological scholars, as such dynamics are inescap-
able and can only be negotiated and engaged with. If they remain unexplored
and unconfronted, then they are likely simply to reproduce the undesirable
and counter-productive effects discussed above.
The remaining chapters in this book, particularly those in Part III,
constitute an attempt to take these cautions seriously in exploring the
intersections between queer theory and criminology. To conclude this
chapter, I outline one possible way that these concerns can be responded
to by queer criminological scholars and, more specifically, how queer
criminological scholarship might avoid the paralysis and suspicion that
the above problems can produce.
My suggestion here is that queer criminology could benefit from engag-
ing with the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick on paranoid and repara-
tive readings in critical scholarship. This is particularly the case because
Sedgwicks work in this regard developed out of her own dissatisfaction
with the dominance of what she termed paranoid reading practices and
positions within critical scholarship, and particularly with the politics
that grew out of such readings.3 Her subsequent suggestion that we foster
reparative readings was a response to the need to open up a space for
new possibilities in critical scholarship and its politics. I suggest below
that cautious reparative readings are worth engaging with further in queer
criminological scholarship in order to confront the potential problems of
faith and forgetting. While thinking about the reading practices utilised
in queer criminological scholarship along these lines is not intended to
solve the problems of evangelism, faith, and forgetting discussed above, it

Parts of this section have been previously published (see Ball 2016).
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 93

does offer ways of responding to them. The issues raised by the problem
of evangelism will be considered further in the chapters in Part II.

Paranoid Readings

As mentioned above, Sedgwick posed reparative readings against par-

anoid ones. For Sedgwick, a paranoid reading is a close reading of a
cultural text which culminates in a triumphant exposure of the false
consciousness and secret meanings that may be evident within it, fol-
lowed by an explanation of what is really being said, what is really meant
by its authors and audiences, and what its real effects might be (Albury
2009, 648). Importantly, Sedgwick uses the term paranoid position to
indicate the position taken within discourse by critics here, and does not
suggest that those scholars are actually paranoid (Sedgwick 2003, 128).
While not all critical readings develop from this kind of position, the
shadow of such approaches looms large within, and continues to struc-
ture, much critical scholarship. In fact, Sedgwick notes that for many,
theoris[ing] out of anything but a paranoid critical stance has come to
seem nave, pious, or complaisant (Sedgwick 2003, 126, original empha-
sis). As I will suggest below, at times, queer criminological scholarship
may tend in this direction, and this may be intensified in response to
some of the problems outlined above.
It is worth exploring exactly why Sedgwick seeks to move past paranoid
readings. First, they are problematic because assuming that the exposure
of unjust relations invariably leads to their reform does not allow for
the likelihood [t]hat a fully initiated listener could still remain indiffer-
ent or inimical, or might have no help to offer (Sedgwick 2003, 138).
Additionally, paranoid readings are anticipatorythe critic receives no
bad surprises, as they have always already anticipated the bad things
that might happen and are therefore prepared for what they know is
coming. Thus, their suspicions are always confirmed. They also suggest
that their privileged objectwhether that is sexual differentiation, het-
eronormativity, or whateveris ever present, or if not, that its presence
can never fully be ruled out. Finally, paranoid readings are readings that
fail to move beyond negative affectwhile they initially seek to respond
94 Criminology and Queer Theory

to negative affect such as pain, violence, or injury, they end up actually

blocking attempts to achieve positive affect. Thus, they actually do little
to achieve reparation, or to address the range of injustices to which they
seek to respond (Sedgwick 2003, 130138; Wiegman 2014, 10; Love
2010, 237).
For Sedgwick, perhaps the key problem with paranoid readings
beyond their inefficacyis that their dominance prevents other possible
critical readings from gaining traction, and other political solutions from
being suggested (Sedgwick 2003, 124125). As Sedgwick puts it, the
mushrooming, self-confirming strength of a monopolistic strategy of
anticipating negative affect has the effect of entirely blocking the poten-
tially operative goal of seeking positive affect (2003, 136), thereby limit-
ing the political possibilities seen as tenable. The faith that critics place
in a single and overarching narrative doing the work of exposure means
that other alternatives are foreclosed upon arbitrarily. From this posi-
tion, any political strategy that offers less than complete social change
is always rejected in advance (Albury 2009, 650). As such, the variety
of alternative ways in which readers might read a text, the other mean-
ings or possibilities that someone may take from a situation, or the ways
in which people may make sense of and reshape a set of meanings, are
not considered. While this is not to say that paranoid approaches ought
to be avoidedafter all, [p]aranoia knows some things well and others
poorly (Sedgwick 2003, 130)there is scope for critical scholarship to
open itself to other reading practices, because paranoid approaches make
it more difficult, not less, to unpack power relations.
It is unsurprising that some queer criminological scholarship is
informed in various ways by a paranoid position. For example, as seen
when discussing the problems of faith and forgetting, above, some of
this work is devoted to exposurewhether that be exposing injustice
produced within criminal justice institutions as a result of the hetero-
normativity, homonormativity, or gender binarism that underpins them,
or exposing the oversights in criminological knowledgein order to
produce change. Some queer criminological work posits an overarching
narrative (heteronormativity, gender binarism) in order to explain the
cause of such injustices. And the more critical views align closely with
the suspicion of paranoid readings by suggesting that criminal justice
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 95

practices and institutions are inherently problematic, and cannot be dis-

sociated from their anti-queer structuring discourses or their historical
role in the regulation of queer identities. For these scholars, the building
of any kind of connection or engagement between queers and the institu-
tions of criminal justice is characterised as assimilation or a neutralisation
of their cutting critiques.
Of course, it is almost inevitable that these tasks are seen as central
to the development of queer criminological scholarship, and it would
certainly be easy to understand if queer criminological scholarship were
to continue in these directions. It is important to expose the power rela-
tions that impact on queers, it is difficult to argue that heteronorma-
tivity and gender binaries do not structure criminological knowledge
and the criminal justice system, and there are many reasons to be cau-
tious in assuming that criminal justice institutions can work for queers.
However, taken to their extreme, such positions may actually prevent
productive movement. Rejecting out of hand the possibility of any con-
nection to the institutions of criminal justice, for example, may be quite
problematic, and those kinds of approaches are limiting for many of the
same reasons that Sedgwick outlines above. It is possible that reparative
readings may be more effective in helping to respond to the critiques
discussed in the previous section and to move queer criminological
scholarship forward.

Reparative Readings

Sedgwicks response to the dominance of paranoid readings is to encour-

age what she termed reparative readings. Where paranoid readings
restrict critical analyses to negative affect, Sedgwicks reparative readings
are proposed as a way for critical scholars to widen their affective regis-
ter (Sedgwick 2003, 145). Where paranoid readings place epistemological
authority in the task of exposure, view power as repressive, and imbue the
critic with the power to illuminate hidden meanings, reparative readings
instead privilege those communities with a stake in that object, their needs,
and their existing knowledges about that object (Wiegman 2014, 7). And
while both paranoid readings and reparative readings often begin from
96 Criminology and Queer Theory

a position of trauma or injury, reparative readings seek to repair that

trauma in some way, and reformulate an affective bond to the harmful
object (Sedgwick 2003, 128). This possibility of reparation is essential if
critical scholarship is to be effective in helping to address injustice, build
a different future, and institute new political possibilities. Importantly,
though, this repair does not equate to a return to the status quo, but
constitutes the formation of a new connection that is conscious of the
injuries that have already been sustained, and which may be sustained
again in the future, through such a connection (Wiegman 2014, 11).
Iwill return to this below.
Reparative readings take time, require numerous re-readings with
different aims, and must remain open-ended. In contrast to paranoid
readings, in which there can be no bad surprises, reparative readings are
open to, and in fact welcome, surprise as a necessary part of reading and
the process of reparation. Cultural texts, objects, and phenomena might
harm us, but they can also help us, and reparative readings are open to
such multiplicity, complexity, and creativity. Through a reparative read-
ing, we can learn the many ways selves and communities succeed in
extracting sustenance from the objects of a cultureeven of a culture
whose avowed desire has often been not to sustain them (Sedgwick 2003,
150151). Thus, we can understand why particular communities might
seek to repair a connection to what has been a damaging and injurious
object. Reparative readings therefore direct the act of critique towards
valuing, sustaining, and privileging the needs of those attached to that
object (Wiegman 2014, 7). In this process, they avoid utilising restrictive
moral terms to describe the world (i.e. good and bad), and move towards
thinking about these objects in ethical terms (Albury 2009, 647648;
Love 2010, 237). And, like many queer analyses, they try to recognise
ambiguities, challenge binaries, and read the world against the taken-for-
granted (Edwards 2009, 112113; Sedgwick 2003, 146; Love 2010, 237;
Barnwell 2012, 201).
Politically, reparative readings offer a wider range of possibilities than
paranoid readings. While from the paranoid position, reparative readings
may be seen as inadmissible both because they are about pleasure
(merely aesthetic) and because they are frankly ameliorative (merely
reformist) (Sedgwick 2003, 144), Sedgwick asserts that they are [n]o less
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 97

acute than a paranoid position, no less realistic, no less attached to a

project of survival, and neither less nor more delusional or fantasmatic
(Sedgwick 2003, 150). They simply make different affects, ambitions,
and risks available to the critic, producing new possibilities for politics
(Sedgwick 2003, 150). Reparative readings encourage us, when consider-
ing how to politically engage with the various objects of our critiques, to
ensure that we respect even those readings or engagements with objects
that appear problematic when thought of through a paranoid lens, or
which may appear to exhibit complicity with power. As Melissa Gregg
notes, Sedgwicks different emphasis is on generating concepts that add
to the complexity and inclusiveness of our representations, rather than
trying to prescribe the right revolutionary path (in Albury 2009, 649).
Of course, Sedgwick is not suggesting that we begin to only undertake
reparative readings within critical scholarship and political practice. She
still maintains that there are benefits to paranoid readings (Love 2010,
238239), and that we must remain cautious of some of the more nave
reparative readingsparticularly those that might lead to ethically trou-
bling political avenues and which fail to consider that injury remains a
possibility (Wiegman 2014, 17). Furthermore, we must be cautious of
what Lauren Berlant has called cruel optimism, which refers to a relation
that comes about when something you desire is actually an obstacle to
your flourishing (Berlant 2011, 1). However, there is considerable scope
to introduce more reparative readings into contexts where paranoid read-
ings may have dominated and, to this point, set the key terms of debate.
Just as some queer criminological scholarship has developed along
paranoid lines, some has also developed along reparative lines. As previ-
ously noted, there is a sizeable body of research in this field that seeks
to contribute generally to the tasks of criminologyof measuring and
understanding crime more effectively, exploring the experiences of vic-
tims, or improving criminal justice practices through proposing rec-
ommendations, or advising or formulating partnerships with various
institutionsoften without any clear recognition of the potential prob-
lems with which these tasks are fraught. Given the histories of queer
interactions with criminal justice discussed earlier, these might be con-
sidered to make attempts to, as Sedgwick says, extract sustenance
from the objects of a culture that has largely sought not to sustain them
98 Criminology and Queer Theory

(Sedgwick 2003, 150151). They seek to repair the relationship between

queer communities and an institution that has been injurious and which
certainly has not sustained queer lives. This reflects the position of those
among queer communities who might seek for that connection to be
rebuiltwho might desire the protection of the institutions of criminal
justice, for instance. Some of these approaches may be critiqued as nave,
or as merely reformist, however to dismiss them out of hand for such rea-
sons is also to potentially dismiss the value that communities may draw
from such connections and reforms. It is also possible (and valuable) to
craft a cautiously reparative narrative as a way of avoiding such concerns
and still respond to the critiques discussed earlier in this chapter.

Cautious Reparation

While both positions discussed above already underpin queer crimino-

logical scholarship (and ought to continue to do so, as they are both use-
ful), it is suggested here that moving further towards a reparative position
is potentially most useful in addressing the critiques raised above, partic-
ularly the problems of faith and forgetting. The reparation that Sedgwick
seeks to foster is one that, while it involves repairing a relationship to an
injurious institution, does so in a way that maintains a memory of the
historical injuries that have been sustained through that connection, and
the possibility that future injuries might occur. In that way, it is pos-
sible to avoid (to some extent) the more extreme and unproductive views
drawn from a paranoid position, as well as the potentially more nave
views about the possibilities afforded by reparation that can be produced
from a reparative position. This may help to produce more productive
approaches through which change might be achieved.
As such, there is great scope within queer criminological scholar-
ship for a kind of reading that attempts to grapple with these different
approaches. As such, I would suggest that a cautiously reparative posi-
tion within queer criminological scholarship might open up a greater
range of affects within such work, and seek to address injustice, but with-
out disregarding any of the key issues outlined earlier that might make
this a fraught task from the outset. Such a position might recognise the
4 Evangelism, Faith, andForgetting 99

potential impacts of criminology and criminal justice practices in reflect-

ing heternormative and gender binarist structures, but would also rec-
ognise that there are possibilities for these relations to be improved and
altered. It would do so particularly by noting the ways in which queer
communities seek to engage with these institutions, and by not taking
the view that such engagements are mistaken. It would also recognise that
criminology and the criminal justice system are both complex social insti-
tutions with diverse rationalities and power effects, and that it is always
possible to engage in reform or to seek other outcomes without entirely
perpetuating those structures. After all, resistance to power does not need
to involve a fundamental overturning of those structuresresistance
can be just as important at the level of everyday struggles against power
(Foucault 1982). In this sense, a cautiously reparative approach could be
a way of navigating between the unbridled faith in criminology and the
justice system that some may exhibit, and making sure that the historical
relationship between queers and these institutions is not forgotten. In
short, such an approach might argue: have some faith, but do not forget.

This chapter has outlined some of the important foundational conceptual
problemsproblems of evangelism, faith, and forgettingthat must be
grappled in any attempt to draw queer theory and criminology closer
together. It has suggested that queer criminological scholars need to con-
sider and respond to Carlens concerns regarding evangelism in academic
criminology, and the tendency for scholars of niche criminologies to
reinvent the criminological wheel. It has also suggested that such scholars
need to consider and respond to the related problems of faith and forget-
tingwhether that be a faith in projects of regulation, and a forgetting
of the exclusion and injuries that this can cause; a faith in the production
of knowledge, and a forgetting of the power relations that attend to such
moves; a faith in queer as a category, and a forgetting of its referential
slipperiness and multiple uses; or faith in the deployment of queer as a
category, and a forgetting of the power effects of such a deployment.
100 Criminology and Queer Theory

While the problem of evangelism will be explored further in the sec-

ond part of this book, this chapter has concluded by suggesting a way
of responding in some ways to the problems of faith and forgetting.
Recognising that these are productive problems that are difficult to escape
and cannot be solved but merely responded to, this chapter has suggested
that cautiously engaging with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwicks notion of repara-
tive readings in queer criminological scholarship can be useful. Such an
approach allows one to recognise that it is possible to foster a relation-
ship with objects that are injurious in the life of a community, such as
criminology or criminal justice institutions. Expanding the affective reg-
ister of critical readings in this sense can help to ensure that future queer
criminological scholarship avoids simply producing paranoid readings,
and offers new possibilities for queer criminological politics responding
to the unavoidable problems discussed in this chapter. It is this cautiously
reparative position that underpins the view developed within the rest of
this book that queer theory and criminology can intersect, but must
remain dangerous bedfellows.

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Part II
Within Criminology
Criminology for Queers? Charting
aSpace forQueer Communities

Pat Carlens concerns about evangelism in criminology, discussed in the
previous chapter, encourage us to avoid reinventing the criminological
wheel when developing critical criminologies. Such evangelical tenden-
cies are certainly possible in the development of queer criminology. Thus,
it is important to consider the existing criminological scholarship that
has already confronted many of the problems or questions that queer
criminologists face. Most notably, critical criminologies have focused on
many similar tasks, and queer criminologists can learn much from that
Jock Young famously suggested that critical criminologists metaphori-
cally throw bricks through establishment or mainstream criminologys
windows (DeKeseredy 2011, 6)a somewhat disruptive image that
aligns closely with queer theorys disruptive tasks. Critical scholars and
queer scholars alike seek to transgress boundaries, embrace deviance,
and engage in projects of deconstruction, often with cheeky relish, and
both perspectives share a common attitude of pushing against orthodox
knowledges, politics, and ways of thinking. And particularly relevant for

The Author(s) 2016 107

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_5
108 Criminology and Queer Theory

the discussion in this chapter is that strands of each body of thought are
concerned with identifying the marginalisation of some groups of people
(feminist, counter-colonial, radical criminologies), and the role that vari-
ous policies, knowledges, and forms of regulation play in creating and
maintaining such marginalisation (DeKeseredy 2011, 7; Young 2002).
For many of these reasons, as discussed in Chapter 3, critical criminolo-
gies have been turned to as sites in which queer criminology can be devel-
oped. It is worth taking some time, then, to reflect in more sustained
ways on the prospects and possibilities that these critical criminologies
may offer, and the problems they may raise, in the development of queer
The chapters in this part of the book have three key aims. First, by
considering some of the critical criminologies to which queer criminol-
ogy has been allied or with which it shares similar goals, these analyses
respond to Carlens critique of evangelism. They force us to consider what
these critical criminologies already offer, and therefore to delineate more
precisely the unique contribution that queer criminological scholarship
might make so as to warrant the brand name of queer criminology.
Second, they help us to see new ways that queer criminological schol-
arship can contribute to these critical criminologies. And, third, these
analyses illustrate the critical potential of queer scholarship in reflecting
on critical criminologies at present.
This chapter focuses specifically on critical criminologies that have
fought for the inclusion into criminology of a group of people generally
excluded from it. It goes without saying that queer criminological work
is not the first to make one of its main goals a critique of the oversights
of criminology and the injustices produced by criminal justice practices
on behalf of a group of people. Some of the earliest critical criminologies
sought to do this. They developed from the identification of a particular
set of injustices within and/or perpetuated by the institutions and prac-
tices of criminal and legal justice, and the intellectual machinery of crimi-
nology and criminal justice studies that support them.
In doing so, these critical scholars have, in various ways, confronted
a number of key problems that face any sustained attempts to hold
the power of criminal justice institutions and criminology to account,
carve out a space for critical scholarship of this kind to be recognised as
5 Criminology for Queers? 109

legitimate, and ensure lasting change. In many respects, they have devel-
oped from a reparative position (Sedgwick 2003), in that they have had
to confront the problems associated with establishing and nurturing a
presence in the very field that they are critical of and which, in many
cases, would not otherwise sustain them. They have offered multi-faceted
ways of understanding the power relations reflected within and perpetu-
ated by criminological knowledges and criminal justice practices. And
they have proposed a range of possible responses to the injustices that
they seek to address, and how best to implement themnot all of which
have been fully embraced by the systems that they critique.
While we must remember that there are important differences between
these critical criminologies, the critiques that they provide, and the goals
that they seek, it is still possible to identify some similarities across them
that can help queer criminologists reflect on the key issues that confront
us. Queer criminologists have intellectual and political allies in other
critical criminologies, and it would be remiss not to learn from their
struggles and their successes (Buist and Lenning 2016, 89).
In this chapter, I will focus specifically (and rather ambitiously) on
feminist and counter-colonial criminologies. In doing so, I do not seek
to conflate the struggles, experiences, and political targets of different
groups, and nor do I want to suggest that it is inevitable that all those
who engage with the notion of queer are the allies of all others who
experience disadvantage or marginalisation. As discussed in the second
chapter and further below, queer politics and scholarship reproduce their
own exclusions and normativities, including along the lines of gender
and race, which calls into question the view (often espoused) that queer
is a safe space for all LGBTIQ people. What concerns me here is how the
experiences of those who have pushed against criminology and criminal
justice institutions in the interests of a group of people who experience
injustice can be instructive.
Importantly, though, these critical criminologies are not focused solely
on adding the voices of the marginalised to criminological debates. They
have also confronted other issues, such as the problematic dynamics of
knowledge production within criminology, and whether a project of
inclusion within criminology is, in fact, desirable. As mentioned ear-
lier, similar questions have arisen in discussions about which directions
110 Criminology and Queer Theory

queer criminology might take. Hence, exploring such issues should prove
While the discussion that follows will consider the broad themes of
these bodies of scholarship, explore how some of the key debates within
them have been approached or resolved, and suggest how these can con-
tribute to queer criminology, it will not simply articulate what queer
criminologists can learn from the experiences of these criminologies. I do
not hold the view that these bodies of scholarship can only be of use to
queer criminologists pushing our own agendas. It is important to develop
a more reciprocal relationship between these criminologies and queer
criminology, and to consider both whether (and how) queer criminology
can be part of their struggles, and what this means for the development of
queer criminology. As such, the chapter will conclude by discussing some
of these intersections and exchanges, furthering the intersections between
queer scholarship and criminology. While it is more straightforward to
imagine how these exchanges would pan out in the context of feminist
criminologies, we cannot ignore the insights offered by counter-colonial
scholars when charting the future of queer criminology. Of course, I am
keenly aware that my own positioning and privilege as a white, gay, cis-
gender male academic with Anglo-European heritage (and thus my out-
sider status to the criminologies discussed) inescapably impacts on my
own engagement with this scholarship, and on what I take to be their
important lessons. If nothing else, I want to use this chapter as a way
of initiating a conversation on these dynamics that can be developed by
others who are better placed to do so. A queer criminology that seeks to
be truly reflexive and intersectional cannot do otherwise.

Challenging Criminology: Feminist

andCounter-colonial Perspectives
Feminist Criminologies

I begin by discussing one of the more successful bodies of critical crimi-

nological thought, and one most closely aligned with the work that
queer criminologists seek to developfeminist criminologies. There are
5 Criminology for Queers? 111

many different schools of feministand thus feminist criminological

thought, and, as such, there is great diversity in feminist work in criminol-
ogy, with various (and sometimes competing) goals sought (Gelsthorpe
and Morris 1990, 2, 4; Daly and Chesney-Lind 1988, 501; Gelsthorpe
2002, 112). Generally, feminist theory recognises that gender is a basic
organisational element of social life and social structure, and that it is
embedded in all social interactions and processes of everyday life as well
as all social institutions (Renzetti 2013, 67, original emphasis). It is
particularly concerned with examining how this ordering of genderin
social relations, institutions, politics, the structures of knowledge, and
even in criminal justice knowledges and practicesestablishes and per-
petuates inequalities for women. By and large, such work is devoted to
achieving some sort of social change in the interests of justice (Flavin
2001, 272; Gelsthorpe 2002, 135; Renzetti 2013, 12). Feminist crim-
inologists have pursued these goals in the context of criminology and
criminal justice issues.
Developing initially in the 1970s, feminist criminologies sought to
address a number of key problems within what has been termed mal-
estream criminology. One concern was the way that the experiences of
female offenders had either been overlooked or discussed in problematic
ways within mainstream criminology. Equally important was the point
that criminology had largely overlooked womens victimisation, and had
not paid sufficient attention (if any at all) to issues such as domestic vio-
lence, rape and sexual assault, sex work, and the secondary victimisation
of women throughout the justice system (Gelsthorpe and Morris 1990,
3; Carrington 2008, 8687)in fact, one of the lasting legacies of femi-
nist criminology has been the development of victimology as a field of
study (Carrington 2008, 8687). And yet another goal was to under-
stand why so many more men than women commit crime (Daly and
Chesney-Lind 1988, 514515). On these points, Loraine Gelsthorpe
and Allison Morris (1990, 4) suggest that, within criminology, [t]he task
is one of re-visionof taking into account womens and mens experi-
ences [of crime], transforming existing knowledge foundations [within
criminology], transgressing traditional knowledge formations, taking
tentative steps towards theory-building and creating new methodologies.
Kathleen Daly and Meda Chesney-Lind also note that it is much more
112 Criminology and Queer Theory

than simply a focus on the concerns of women, but [i]t is and should
be a far more encompassing enterprise, raising questions about how gen-
der organises the discipline of criminology, the social institutions that
fall within its scope, and the behaviour of men and women (Daly and
Chesney-Lind 1988, 527).
Early feminist work offered critiques of traditional criminological
theories, which were developed from male subjects and validated on
male subjects and (incorrectly) assumed to be generalisable to women
(Gelsthorpe and Morris 1990, 3; see also Daly and Chesney-Lind 1988,
514515; Flavin 2001, 275; Gwynn 1993). In addition, those theories
that did focus on female offenders le[ft] much to be desired (Smart
1976, 176). They situated female offending in the body or sexuality of
women, suggested that criminality resulted from (supposedly universal)
characteristics that were inherent to women, and created distinctions
between good women who were normal and bad women who were
criminalsa distinction that Klein describes as a moral position that
often masquerades as a scientific distinction (Klein 1973, 4; see also
Carrington 2008, 83). As such, much early feminist criminological work
sought to address these issues through efforts to ensure that women were
included in the discipline, and to address the neglect and distortion of
women within it (Gelsthorpe 2002, 118; Carrington 2008, 82; Britton
2000, 72; Daly and Chesney-Lind 1988, 512).
However, from early in the development of this field, these studies
were criticised by other feminist criminologists for not going far enough
to challenge the assumptions and methodologies of criminology more
fundamentallyafter all, in many respects, inclusion in the discipline
was still inclusion in a thoroughly masculine discipline in which women
continued to be measured against men (Carrington 2008, 83; Renzetti
2013, 9). Suggesting that feminist criminologists ought to aim to do
more than simply fill the gaps, Smart argues that [t]he aim must be not
only to make visible the invisible, to restore women in their own right to
social science, but to find alternative modes of conceptualising the social
world so that the interests and concerns of women are addressed and
included rather than subsumed or ignored (Smart 1976, 180). These
concerns gave rise to scholarship that fundamentally sought to critically
5 Criminology for Queers? 113

interrogate the objects and assumptions of criminology, which will be

discussed further below (Carrington 2008, 82; Britton 2000, 72).
In line with feminist thought more generally, and particularly Third
Wave feminism, feminist criminologists have also sought to critically
interrogate who is included within their work and who is excluded.
Many early feminist (and feminist criminological) movements were
critiqued because of the dominance of white privileged women within
them, and their lack of engagement with the multiple issues that impact
on women, including race and class. For example, Sally Simpson notes
that [f ]eminist criminologists [had been] guilty of the add race and
stir shortsightedness that pervades feminist thinking (Simpson 1989,
619). According to Gelsthorpe, these criticisms hit hard and drew atten-
tion to the fact that privileging gender over race or class, for instance,
was problematic (Gelsthorpe 2002, 133134). Feminist criminological
work has thus highlighted that the categories of male and female and
man and woman tend to be essentialising and are, in fact, not homoge-
neousthose so categorised are unlikely to enjoy the same privileges (or
oppressions) simply by virtue of their inclusion in that category (Renzetti
2013, 10). As a result, more attention has been paid to the intersections
of oppression, issues of privilege, and a thorough questioning of who
is included (Renzetti 2013, 6, 10; Burgess-Proctor 2006, 31). In these
debates, new feminisms have become apparentblack feminisms, Third
World feminisms, and lesbian feminisms tooand these have begun
to inform feminist criminologies generally (Burgess-Proctor 2006, 30;
Gelsthorpe 2002, 115). These approaches suggest that gender relations
do not occur in a vacuum but, instead, that men and women also are
characterised by their race, class, sexuality, age, physical ability, and other
locations of inequality, with these factors being multiple and interactive,
not additive (Burgess-Proctor 2006, 36). As Amanda Burgess-Proctor
(2006, 28) notes:

the future of feminist criminology lies in our willingness to embrace a the-

oretical framework that recognises multiple, intersecting inequalities.
Contemporary feminist criminologies bear the responsibility of advancing
an inclusive feminism, one that simultaneously attends to issues of race,
114 Criminology and Queer Theory

class, gender, sexuality, age, nationality, religion, physical ability, and other
locations of inequality as they relate to crime and deviance.

These approaches have been aligned with the rise of poststructural

work within feminism, which recognises that there is no single feminist
standpoint, no universal truth about womens experiences, and which
focuses on identifying and disrupting the power relations that underpin
truth claims and position some as dominant (Carrington 2008, 8485).
Poststructural approaches here attempt to make greater room for other
truth claims and acknowledge a diversity of voices in order to challenge
essentialism. As Gelsthorpe points out, Otherness is a major theme in
the associated deconstructionist approaches and in the celebration of a
plurality of knowledges. Otherness thus symbolises plurality, diversity,
difference, and openness (Gelsthorpe 2002, 114). This interest in the
Other, Gelsthorpe suggests, does encourage some optimism, including
in the prospects of a queer criminology: There is possibly scope to see
more fluid/sensitive/gender aware criminologies on the horizon. At least
some elements of the criminological project are in transition (Gelsthorpe
2002, 136). The rise of poststructuralism within feminist criminology,
though, is not confined to deconstructing the category of woman so as to
allow marginalised voices to be heard. It also involves a deconstruction of
criminology in other respects. These will be explored further below.
From this initial discussion, it ought to be clear that feminist crim-
inologists have beaten many of the paths that queer criminologists
hope to in their own context. And this ought not to be surprising,
given that queer and feminist scholarship and activism have been
so closely connected. Queer communities have encountered similar
oversights within mainstream criminologywhere sexuality and gen-
der diversity have been overlooked in criminology or, when they have
been explored, have been understood in problematic ways as forms
of inherent deviance. The reflexivity of feminist criminologies in cri-
tiquing their own assumptions and exclusions is echoed in queer work
(as discussed in Chapter 3). And the move among feminist criminologies
to consider intersectional dynamics and reject essentialism mirrors
queer scholarship and politics. Feminist and queer criminologies are
clearly aligned, and feminist criminologies have generally provided
5 Criminology for Queers? 115

a space for queer work and been receptive to queer critiques. I will
return to some relevant key debates further below.

Counter-colonial Criminologies

The other body of scholarship that I explore here is counter-colonial crim-

inology, and the range of perspectives that are brought together under
that term. While, like feminist criminologies, the works that constitute
counter-colonial criminologies are diverse, they are united in the politi-
cal project of de-colonisation, responding to the injustices that indig-
enous peoples continue to experience in settler-colonial societies such
as Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and many parts
of Africa. Counter-colonial criminologists work to identify the ways in
which criminology as a discipline, and criminal justice practices, operate
as part of an ongoing colonial project, and they point out that criminol-
ogy needs to work with a theory of colonialism, which it has for a long
time gone without (Blagg 2008b, 11).
In his Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason,
Biko Agozino lays out many of the key positions of this comparatively
new approach. Noting the concentration of criminology in former colo-
nising countries and its near absence from colonised countries, Agozino
suggests that this can be understood by considering the historical emer-
gence of criminology as a discipline for disciplining and controlling the
Other at a time when colonial administrations were imprisoning most
regions of the world (Agozino 2003, 6; see also Agozino 2010, ii, iv).
Agozino states that criminology is a social science that served colonialism
more directly than many other social sciences (2003, 1) because it was
developed primarily as a tool for imperialist domination (Agozino 2003,
228; see also Agozino 2004, 343).
Indeed, as counter-colonial scholars have pointed out, the fact that
criminology devotes such attention to individual crimes, and has for a
long time remained quite blind to major state crimes such as slavery, colo-
nialism, and genocide, is perverse (Agozino 2003, 346; Kitossa 2014, 66;
Cunneen and Rowe 2014, 52). The lack of attention paid by criminolo-
gists to these historical connections between criminology and colonialism
116 Criminology and Queer Theory

means that criminology not only remains theoretically underdeveloped

(Agozino 2004, 350) but also connected to what Agozino terms imperial
reason (Agozino 2003, 245, 2004, 345). It therefore continues to oper-
ate in repressive ways (Agozino 2003, 228), or, as he has more recently
put it, as a control-freak discipline devoted to social control and domi-
nation (Agozino 2010, ii). In fact, colonial projects within criminology
and criminal justice continue in the guise of attempts by criminologists
in Western nations to export crime-control models and interventions to
colonised nations which experience very different issues (Agozino 2003,
8, 230, 245, 2010, ii). They also continue in the guise of many crimi-
nological studies about indigenous peoples which only extend crimi-
nological knowledges and criminal justice interventions, or which are
predominantly undertaken by non-indigenous scholars (Tauri 2012;
Tauri and Deckert 2014).
On the basis of these critiques, counter-colonial criminologists seek to
decolonis[e] theories and methods of the empire of law in criminology
(Agozino 2004, 344). This involves developing theories about social con-
trol from the perspective of those who fight against imperialism and colo-
nial legal and criminal justice reasoning (Agozino 2004, 350). This is not
just about indigenising existing schools of criminology, but rather about
learning from the experiences and struggles of others as well through
an exchange of knowledge contrary to the modernist assumption that
technology must be transferred from the west to the rest of us (Agozino
2004, 356, emphases added). These points will be developed later in this
A number of other scholar activists have expanded on these views.
For example, Juan Tauri details how dominant approaches within
criminologyparticularly what he terms authoritarian criminology
serve the interests of neo-colonial states and academic institutions,
and not the indigenous people that one should expect to be served by
such work (Tauri 2012, 220). These approaches include the preference
for undertaking research on instead of with Indigenous peoples, the
privileging of non-engaging research methodologies and the potent
useof myth to promote practitioners views of the world and silence the
Indigenous voice (Tauri 2012, 217, original emphases).
5 Criminology for Queers? 117

By and large, given that counter-colonial criminologists hold that a

key part of addressing the injustices and marginalisation experienced by
indigenous peoples is this critique of the very discipline of criminology,
there has not been the same movement among such scholars to achieve
inclusion into criminology as there was among many early feminist
criminologists. Counter-colonial criminologists, given the nature of their
critiques and concerns, seem to have been more reticent to articulate this
as a key goalthey certainly appear less divided on this point. As such,
some may wonder what connections could therefore be drawn between
this work and queer criminology beyond, perhaps, seeking to draw
attention to the experiences of sexuality- and gender-diverse indigenous
people in criminal justice. While this is certainly one important
component of engaging with counter-colonial work, it is not the only
one. I suggest below that there is much in the counter-colonial critique
of the epistemological assumptions and power relations of criminology
as a discipline that aligns with queer work, and which can particularly be
drawn from the critique of criminologys maintenance of colonialism and
the criminal justice practices that extend it. Additionally, as I will discuss
in the final section of this chapter, there is much that queer criminologists
can learn from counter-colonial criminologists if queer criminology is to
be more than simply about the inclusion of queer communities and their
concerns and interests.

Key Targets andQuestions ofFeminist

andCounter-colonial Criminologies
Both feminist and counter-colonial criminologists have asked some
very similar questions in developing their challenges to criminology.
Specifically, they have interrogated the epistemological assumptions of
criminology, and questioned whether inclusion within criminology or
remaining on the criminological margins ought to be their desired goal.
The discussion below canvasses these questions in order to explore what
these critical criminologists have argued must be done to achieve justice
for the groups they are working for, which can contribute to similar goals
in queer criminology.
118 Criminology and Queer Theory

Interrogating theEpistemological Assumptions


As a key component of the challenges that they mount, both feminist

and counter-colonial criminologists have interrogated the epistemologi-
cal assumptions of criminology, and the dynamics underpinning the pro-
duction and circulation of knowledge within the discipline. Doing so,
they suggest, is necessary not only in order to include the voices of those
historically overlooked by criminology, but also to shift these dynamics
as a way of providing space for new ways of knowing, or so as to respond
to some of the harmful effects of criminological knowledge. That is, it is
not only to act as a corrective to criminology, but to be more disruptive by
fostering feminist and/or indigenous epistemologies and ontologies and
allow perspectives and experiences that would otherwise be unspeakable
to be captured in their own terms and emerge without being forced into
existing criminological frames and categories (Gelsthorpe 2002, 122;
Flavin 2001, 275).
Within feminist criminologies, these tasks have been approached
in a range of different ways. Some feminist criminologists, seeking to
challenge the claims that mainstream criminology makes to objectivity,
suggest that what is presented as science in this context is in fact the
world perceived from the perspective of men, and that a truly objec-
tive science would not be androcentric but would take account of both
genders (Smart 1990, 7778). Many who follow this approachwhich
Sandra Harding refers to as feminist empiricismpush for the oversights
and gaps in criminology to be filled, effectively seeking to address what
they see as bad science (Smart 1990, 78; Flavin 2001, 274). Some argue
that this approach does not fundamentally challenge established orders.
Rather, it simply adds women to criminology, leaving unchanged the
way that men are understood within it, while also leaving empiricism as
an epistemologythe assumption that one can arrive at objective and
true knowledge through regulated proceduresunchallenged (Smart
1990, 78; Flavin 2001, 274). An alternative approach, which has pushed
these challenges to the epistemology of criminology further and tries to
avoid repeating what some see as the limitations of feminist empiricism,
5 Criminology for Queers? 119

has been what Harding refers to as standpoint feminism. The basis of this
approach is the view that it is important to understand the world from the
position of those (people and knowledges) that are socially subjugated,
because issues such as race, gender, and class influence what is known
(Smart 1990, 81; Gelsthorpe 2002, 123). In this context, some feminist
criminologists would argue that the experiences of women ought to be
placed at the centre of criminological knowledge (Carrington 2008, 84;
Gelsthorpe 2002, 124; Flavin 2001, 274).
Both feminist empiricism and standpoint feminism have been
challenged by other feminist criminologists aligned with feminist
postmodernism, particularly because of their assumptions that women
can be clearly defined as a group, and that there is a universal position
for women from which knowledge can be produced (Flavin 2001,
274). In line with postmodern challenges to modernist projects such as
criminology, and the difficulties associated with holding one particular
position as the Truth, postmodern feminist perspectives ask a different
set of questions and seek to achieve alternative aims (Smart 1990, 7475,
81; Flavin 2001, 274). As Smart points out, in these approaches, the
aim of feminism ceases to be the establishment of the feminist truth
and becomes the deconstruction of truth and analysis of the power
effects which claims to truth entail (Smart 1990, 82). Some feminist
criminologists have found that this is useful in shifting the epistemological
assumptions of criminology, given that criminology has long focused on
determining which explanation of crime is more correct than another,
because it has been unable to deconstruct crime. That is,

[i]t cannot locate rape or child sexual abuse in the domain of sexuality or
theft in the domain of economic activity or drug use in the domain of
health. To do so would be to abandon criminology to sociology; but more
importantly, it would involve abandoning the idea of a unified problem
which requires a unified responseat least at the theoretical level. (Smart
1990, 77)

For counter-colonial criminologists, contesting the way that crimi-

nological knowledge (particularly about colonised people) is produced,
which perspectives are taken as authoritative in criminological debates,
120 Criminology and Queer Theory

and, indeed, what counts as legitimate knowledge are all necessary tasks
in a decolonising process. However, given that the existing racist episte-
mologies of criminology have long operated to exclude indigenous voices
and ways of knowing, as well as to reinforce colonial projects (Cunneen
and Rowe 2014, 54), expanding criminology simply to include indig-
enous people, or understand their experiences in criminal justice con-
texts is not enough. After all, as Harry Blagg points out, criminologists
already have a lot of information on indigenous peoples, and that has
not necessarily been empowering for them or produced positive change
(Blagg 2008a, 130). For many counter-colonial criminologists, seeking
to include the experiences of indigenous people in a discipline so closely
tied to colonisation would only reproduce some of the key structural
inequalities that many indigenous people face (Kitossa 2012, 217). Thus,
decolonising criminology requires challenging the privilege accorded to
Western knowledges and epistemologies, and ensuring that criminolo-
gists recognise and articulate the epistemological worldview (and the cul-
tural positions and assumptions that attach to it) that underpins their
work, as opposed to making minor reforms that would keep these epis-
temologies intact (Cunneen and Rowe 2014, 61; Kitossa 2014, 65). It
is important to remember that [p]roblems emerge when we employ the
discursive apparatus of western scholarship to make sense of issues in the
Aboriginal domain without first engaging in dialogue with Aboriginal
people to determine the relevance of these constructs (Blagg 2008a, 132).
These challenges to the epistemology of criminology have primarily
been directed to its positivism and the scientific rationality that domi-
nates. As noted above, some feminists question the status and power of
positivism, and particularly the grand theorising that it leads to, the
interventions that it produces, and its claims to being scientific and neu-
tral (Smart 1990, 72; Carrington 2008, 84). As Smart notes, [t]he prob-
lem of positivism lies in the basic presumption that we can establish
a verifiable knowledge or truth about events: in particular, that we can
establish a causal explanation which will in turn provide us with objec-
tive methods for intervening in the events defined as problematic (Smart
1990, 7172). Such approaches also seek to establish mastery over
subjects demand the absence of feeling, and enforc[e] the separ-
ateness of the knower from the known (Hess and Ferree cited in Renzetti
5 Criminology for Queers? 121

2013, 10). There are at least two important ways in which many femi-
nist researchers seek to challenge these optimistic approaches. The first
is through the preference for qualitative research methods over quantita-
tive ones. While feminist criminologists utilise multiple methods, many
argue that qualitative approaches are rather more flexible in drawing out
experiences without fitting them into pre-existing categories or using
pre-existing labels and ultimately allowing an individuals experiences
to be narrated in that persons own terms (Flavin 2001, 278; Renzetti
2013, 12). The second is by recognising that research does not necessarily
require a hierarchical relationship between the knower and the known,
but is, in fact, relational and reciprocal, with researchers having social
responsibilities to those they study (Flavin 2001, 279, 280281; Renzetti
2013, 10). While feminist criminologists have faced the criticism that
they are biased because of this, such a criticism misses the point that
feminist criminologists have always made: no research is value-neutral
(Renzetti 2013, 11; Daly and Chesney-Lind 1988, 500).
Counter-colonial criminologists also raise similar points in relation
to the epistemological assumptions of positivism within criminology.
Many note that the scientific rationality on which criminology is based
is clearly racially coded and genderedwhite and maleand this needs
to be imagined as an act of cultural violence that produces and rein-
forces the marginalisation of those who do not reflect this positioning
(Kitossa 2014, 68; see also Cunneen and Rowe 2014, 53). On this point,
Tamari Kitossa is not so much critical of science (which allows for new
knowledge and changes to paradigms), but scientismthe socialised
deification of an approach to science as though by means of quantifica-
tion and technical definitions the vast domain of human experience and
interaction, like molecules in a test tube, are quanta (Kitossa 2014, 73).
Scientism operates as a form of epistemic violencewhich, following
Spivak, Blagg defines as a form of violence concerned with ripping open
the symbolic and cultural world of the colonised and imposing new forms
of knowledge (Blagg 2008a, 131)that works to dismiss as unscientific
or irrational other ways of knowing (Kitossa 2014, 63, 73). Given that
the dismissal and suppression of indigenous knowledgesand, by exten-
sion, indigenous cultureshas long been a central component of colonial
domination, counter-colonial criminologists argue that the dominance
122 Criminology and Queer Theory

of scientism and positivism in much (particularly authoritarian) crimi-

nologyas shown by their concern for evidence-based approaches and
understanding what works in criminal justice policyreinforces crimi-
nologys ongoing role in colonial projects (see also Cunneen and Rowe
2014, 50, 52). As Kitossa states, criminology is committed to a regime
of truth that grants practitioners of political domination epistemic cover
(Kitossa 2014, 67).

Situating Critical Work: TheMainstream

or theSidelines?

Part of what is at stake within these debates is the extent to which being
part of criminology as it exists can serve the goals and interests of these
critical criminologies, or whether remaining somewhat on the margins
and not being co-opted into criminology (for want of a better term)
is more desirable (Renzetti 2013, 14). There is perhaps a greater diver-
sity on this issue among feminist criminologists than counter-colonial
criminologists. Some feminist criminologists have felt that criminology
is beyond redemption because it is so thoroughly gendered (Carrington
2008, 84). For example, while Smart suggested in the 1970s that a variety
of criminological studies were needed simply because of the absence of
such feminist work within criminology (Smart 1976, 183, 185), in 1990
she suggested that we remember that the core enterprise of criminology is
problematic and that feminists attempts to alter criminology have only
succeeded in revitalising a problematic enterprise (Smart 1990, 70), and
thus we must keep asking ourselves whether feminism really does want
to enter (Smart 1990, 83). In this respect, Smart supports a deconstruc-
tionist approach in order to disrupt and subvert criminologys
traditional categories and frames of reference more thoroughly (Britton
2000, 73). Ngaire Naffine also articulates these problems of whether
(and how) to work within or outside existing frames of reference, arguing
that deconstructionist approaches can help to deal with some of these
issues, particularly through their challenges to the construction of mean-
ing, which show how apparently solid categories are actually more fluid
(Naffine 1997, 87; Gelsthorpe 2002, 125).
5 Criminology for Queers? 123

However, Naffine notes that these more deconstructive approaches have

encountered criticisms that their focus on textual meaning is not enough
to challenge the institutional structures that reinforce the power of men
over women and which help to keep traditional meaning in place and
make it appear natural and inevitable (Naffine 1997, 89). Thus, some do
not so readily abandon criminology, and nor do they unproblematically
embrace deconstructionist approaches. For example, Carlen argues that
it is still possible to engage in a feminist and realist approach, which
can involve both deconstruction and re-theorisation in understanding
women, crime, and criminology (Carlen 1992; Gelsthorpe 2002, 134).
She suggests that those encouraging separatism are actually reluctant
(or downright refuse) to recognise advances in criminology (Gelsthorpe
2002, 133). It could also be felt that such separatism may lead to an
abandonment of people to unjust criminal justice practices (Gelsthorpe
2002, 134135). As Gelsthorpe notes, [s]ome of the moral and political
dimensions of criminology are thoroughly defensible, even if certain epis-
temological assumptions are highly questionable but let us not cut off
criminologys political nose to spite its face (Gelsthorpe 2002, 134135).
As noted above, counter-colonial criminologists appear less divided on
these questions, largely because, as their goal is to decolonise criminology,
the possibility of situating oneself within criminologyparticularly
within mainstream criminologiesis less likely to be entertained. It
is possible to note Agozinos irony when he asks [s]hould third world
students be encouraged to study the science with which their countries
were subjugated for centuries? (Agozino 2004, 354; see also Agozino
2010, ivv). However, he does suggest that counter-colonial scholars still
require a presence within criminologyeven if this remains a critical
onebecause without this, there may be less hope of addressing the
injustices that colonised peoples face. As he notes, Third World countries
should not chicken out of the general meeting of criminologists or they
might remain the preferred sacrificial offering to the gods of imperialism
(Agozino 2003, 12). Thus, they should remain interested in criminology,
while also developing their own knowledges in this regard, so as to exert
at least some influence on criminology (Agozino 2003, 12).
Clearly, feminist and counter-colonial criminologists appear to have
been united in taking the epistemological assumptions of criminology as
124 Criminology and Queer Theory

an important target of critique, though they differed on how this might

best be undertaken. They have also both explored the related question of
whether they are best placed within the criminological mainstream (and
therefore ought to seek inclusion there), or on the margins of criminol-
ogy (in order to remain critical and transgressive). These questions remain
unresolved. As discussed in Chapter 3, the authors that have sought to
chart the possible future directions of queer criminological scholarship
have asked many similar questions, or made similar suggestions. Some seek
inclusion into criminology, and may not fundamentally challenge its epis-
temological assumptions, arguing that queer criminology ought to address
the oversights of criminology, or that the diversity of queer perspectives
needs to be represented more effectively within criminology. Others have
argued against being part of criminology, and suggested that the focus
ought to be on deconstructing criminology more thoroughly, and recog-
nising the problematic roles that criminology has played in producing the
injustices that queer communities experience. Given that both feminist
and counter-colonial criminologists have directed their critical energy to
challenging the epistemological assumptions of criminology, though, this
suggests that queer criminologists should at least hesitate before wholly
embracing a position that aims simply for inclusion into criminology.
While queer criminologists seeking to develop one or more of these
approaches can draw from what has gone before in order to articulate
their suggestions further and create space for their own perspectives on
how queer criminology ought to best proceed, the above discussion sug-
gests both that these questions are not new, and that there is little hope
that they can be resolved. If queer criminology is to develop along similar
lines to these critical criminologies, then, it raises the question of whether
it is new enough to warrant a brand name such as queer criminology.
Regardless, and despite the small hope of resolving these debates, queer
criminologists can still draw from these previous debates in articulating
their positions, and in shaping the future of this scholarship. The various
positions on these issues continue to be productive, and the utility of one
position or another depends primarily on the immediate political goals
and targets that one seeks to achieve. If queer criminology is to remain
a contested and open discursive space, and multiple meanings of queer
continue to be utilised within it, then this is unavoidable.
5 Criminology for Queers? 125

Queering theIntersections ofCritical

I have suggested above that queer criminologists can learn a lot from
the experiences of feminist and counter-colonial criminologists in forg-
ing their respective challenges to criminology, particularly as many of the
same questions that have confronted feminist and counter-colonial crim-
inologists are now being confronted by queer criminologists. In many
respects, these bodies of scholarship share common goals in challeng-
ing mainstream (and even critical) criminologies, in order to address a
range of injustices that are faced by some groups. There is much promise
in queer criminologies forging a more reciprocal relationship with these
criminologies, particularly as one way of further developing the intersec-
tions between queer scholarship and criminology and contributing to a
variety of related political tasks.
I now move to suggest two lines along which this more reciprocal
relationship might be developed. In the first example discussed, I will
explore a contribution that queer criminologies might make to feminist
criminologies. In the second example, I will discuss a contribution that
counter-colonial criminologies can make to queer criminologies, in effect
outlining what queer criminology might owe to the tasks of other crimi-
nologies. Of course, the suggestions here do not exhaust the possibilities
for such intersections between queer theories and criminology, and oth-
ers are certainly possible.

Queering Feminist Criminologies

As discussed above, feminist criminologies have, for some time, been

very conscious of who is excluded from, or overlooked within, feminist
scholarship and politics. This has certainly been the case since the devel-
opment of Third Wave feminism, and the more recent moves towards
recognising that there is no universal essence to the category of woman
and that oppression is intersectional (discussed above). This move has
clearly allowed for some queer voices and experiences to be considered,
particularly those of lesbians in the context of intimate partner violence,
for example (Renzetti 1992).
126 Criminology and Queer Theory

However, this has not meant that feminist criminologies necessarily

always offer a discursive space for some other members of queer com-
munities who might reasonably seek inclusion within them. This is of
particular concern for transgender and intersex people, as well as those
whose gender identity or presentation is non-binary, genderqueer, or
gender fluid. Of course, to be clear, I do not want to suggest that femi-
nist criminology has not helped hereafter all, feminist criminology has
been perhaps the criminological space most open to interrogating its own
exclusions and continually working to increase its inclusivity. And it has
been a space most welcoming to queer criminological thought. However,
aspects of some feminist criminological work may still limit the ability of
those approaches to respond effectively to queer concerns.
Consider, for example, the binary ways in which gender is often
discussed in such work. Renzetti, for example, points out that gender
is the socially constructed expectations or norms prescribing female and
male attitudes and behaviour that are usually organised dichotomously
as femininity and masculinity and that are reproduced and transmitted
through socialisation (Renzetti 2013, 7, original emphases). Both gender
and sex are discussed here in binary terms, and while Renzetti does leave
some space for other ways of considering gender, this binary construction
is somewhat reinforced by her later point that [o]ne can hardly deny
biological differences between females and males, or overlook the markers
of sexual difference in female and male bodies (Renzetti 2013, 7). The
apparently naturalised and binary construction of bodies and of gender
that underpins, and is reinforced by, statements such as this can make it
difficult for those positioned outside of such binaries, or whose bodies do
not align with these assumptions, to be included within feminism (Davis
2015, 3031). As Julia Oparah has argued, many feminist scholars have,
by and large, relied upon and further legitimated the rigid gender binary
that violates gender nonconforming individuals (Oparah 2012, 242).
Some feminist work also holds what might be described as cisgendered
assumptions about the supposed alignment between what is understood
as sex (ascribed at birth on the basis of genitalia) and gender. Again,
many feminists do recognise that multiple voices make up the category
of women, however, at times it seems to be assumed that many of these
5 Criminology for Queers? 127

voices are cisgender. For example, the terms women and the female sex
have been used sometimes interchangeably within feminist texts with-
out explanation as to their application (Carrington 2015, 32). To a large
extent this implies that the sex one has been assigned at birth aligns with
ones gender identity and/or expression. Some of this work also appears
to rely on the sex one was assigned at birth (again, based on ones geni-
tals) as a way of determining who is included in the category of woman.
This can, however, exclude transgender women,1 who within such work
may still be understood to be men, regardless of whether they have had
any kind of sex reassignment or affirmation surgeries (for an example of
a feminist argument that positions transgender women outside of femi-
nism, see Sweeney 2004). While it is possible to use bodily markers in
an inclusive wayso as to include transgender people who have had sex
reassignment or affirmation surgeriesthis has not necessarily been the
case in the past. Additionally, this can be problematic because it also
excludes many transgender, intersex, genderqueer, and genderfluid peo-
ple who may not fall into a gender binary, letalone seek toor be able to
afford toundergo the above-mentioned procedures (see Oparah 2012
for a more extensive critique). Thus, as queer and poststructural feminist
work suggests, the body is not a stable criterion for inclusion into the cat-
egory of woman.2 To be fair, these issues may be artefacts of an attempt
simply to vary the language that scholars use in their writing (a struggle
not unfamiliar to anyone writing on queer issues!). They could also be
produced by a desire to speak about groups of people at a general level.
Regardless, the effect can be felt as an exclusion of important groups, and
queer scholarship can help to reflect on these dynamics.

It is important to note that the use of the term transgender woman, instead of the term woman
in this instance, can be problematic, and, in fact, an example of these very dynamics. The use of the
term transgender in front of woman can be understood as somewhat of a qualifier, reinforcing the
exclusion of transgender people from the category of woman and reserving that term solely for
non-transgender people. In using the term here, I do not want to reinforce the notion that trans-
gender women are not women, but rather to reinforce the greater complexity of who is considered
a woman, and because language currently fails us in many respects in this context.
While this discussion is focused on feminist criminology, similar assumptions and critiques also
apply to criminological research on masculinities.
128 Criminology and Queer Theory

One context where these issues are increasingly coming to the attention
of criminologists, and feminist criminologists in particular, is research
on transgender prisoners. Prisons reinscribe gender binaries through
the housing of prisoners on the basis of the binary of male and female.
The experiences of transgender prisoners, and questions about the most
appropriate place in which to accommodate and ensure the safety of
transgender inmates, have illustrated quite starkly the limits of binary
conceptions of gender as well as how gender is defined (Oparah 2012;
Mogul etal. 2011; Stanley and Smith 2011; Buist and Lenning 2016).
As imprisonment constitutes a very visible and thoroughly institution-
alised criminal justice practice that instantiates gender binaries and in
many cases embeds restrictive and problematic ways of defining gender
(Oparah 2012; Mogul etal. 2011; Stanley and Smith 2011), the growing
body of scholarship on this topic can perhaps force a greater consider-
ation of these dynamics in feminist criminologies and, indeed, beyond.
These issues and critiques are contentious, and are sure to remain so.
Debates about the inclusion of non-cisgender and non-binary people
within some feminisms and some feminist spaces continue at a more
general level, so it may be some time before these discussions filter more
fully into feminist criminologies (Koyama 2006; Serano 2013; Bettcher
and Garry 2009). Given that transgender subjectivities call into ques-
tion the borders that differentiate male from female and make visible
the demanding work of policing those boundaries, these subjectivi-
ties threaten both the dominant social order, which is premised on a
rigid and hierarchical racial/gender categorisation system, and opposi-
tional social movements that have created collective identities based on
normative notions of coherently sexed, gendered and racialized bodies
(Oparah 2012, 269). Certainly, binarised constructs of gender remain
useful for a variety of reasons, and the extent to which these binaries
ought to be challenged depends, in many respects, on the specific ana-
lytical or political targets that feminist criminologists work against in any
particular context. However, of all criminologies, feminist criminologies
have perhaps demonstrated the most extensive commitment to interro-
gating their own categories and to questioning whether those who might
expect to be included in such scholarship and politics actually are. This is
a criminological task that queer scholarship can contribute to.
5 Criminology for Queers? 129

Decolonising Queer Criminologies

I will now consider one way in which queer criminologists can take
seriously the arguments of counter-colonial criminologists in the devel-
opment of queer criminology itself. More thoroughly engaging with the
critiques of counter-colonial peoples, scholars, and activists (whether
criminological or not), including such critiques of queer or other
LGBTIQ politics, must be central to the development of queer crimi-
nologies. In doing so, queer criminology can contribute to the task of
decolonising criminology, and reflect on its own participation in what
might be an ongoing colonial project. This does not mean that queer
criminology must always remain wedded to those criminologiesboth
queer and counter-colonial criminologies are large and resistant enough
to ensure that that remains very difficult. Nevertheless, it is impor-
tant for greater engagement between them. What follows is an initial
attempt to explore these issues, upon which more extensive work can
build in the future.
There are many reasons that one might suggest queer scholarship
and politics might connect to the struggles of indigenous peoplesand
particularly sexuality- and gender-diverse indigenous peopleswho
continue to suffer the injurious legacies of colonialism. As previously dis-
cussed, queer movements seek to remain an open space for the recogni-
tion, celebration, inclusion, and representation of diverse sexualities and
genders. Queer movements also make significant attempts to recognise
intersections of oppression. As such, it has been assumed that the inclu-
sivity and reflexivity of queer means that it offers a ready-made space
in which to respond to the needs of those who might be Third Gender,
Two-Spirit, Sistergirls, Brotherboys, or any number of other diverse and
non-binary sexualities and genders (Morgensen 2012, 172; Kerry 2014).
The fight against normative regulations of sexuality and gender within
queer politics appears to be allied with the struggles of those in settler-
colonial societies whose (culturally specific and approved) sexuality and
gender diversity has been regulated through the imposition of colonial
constructs of sexuality and gender (Morgensen 2012, 170; Buist and
Lenning 2016, 2629).
130 Criminology and Queer Theory

However, while acknowledging that there are possibilities afforded

by queer scholarship and politics here, there are some important cri-
tiques that have been made, and which need to be addressed in any
attempt to develop a queer criminology. After all, the utility of queer
scholarship and politics for those who are not white and/or not already
socio-economically advantaged is an ongoing point of contention. As
discussed in Chapter 2, for many, it does not seem politically viable to
reclaim the term queer, and to adopt the anti-normative politics that
align with it (Sullivan 2003, 48; see also Mendes 2015, 7576). This
may be particularly the case for those experiencing multiple intersect-
ing forms of marginalisation and disadvantage, and whose abjection is
produced or reinforced through discourses and practices that continu-
ally position them as abnormal. As I discussed in Chapter 2, the parodic
play and deconstruction involved in queer politics has been critiqued
as a privileged politics, and one that offers little to those who require
material injustices to be addressed (Giffney 2009, 3; Williams 2005, 3).
Additionally, for those who do not experience white privilege, the recla-
mation of a term such as queer may be questionable because it might do
little to change the frames of deviance that have played a role in defining
indigenous peoples in the colonial imagination (Sullivan 2003, 48; see
also Mendes 2015, 7576). Additionally, the terminology of queer may
in fact prevent other culturally specific and significant terms (and thus
subjectivities) from being used (Crichlow 2004). Reclaiming the term
queer, then, might not necessarily produce the desired critical and radi-
cal political effects, but in fact entrench and reinforce the very discourses
and power relations that marginalise indigenous lives.
Beyond the question of whether queer is inclusive and effective for
all who might otherwise find it politically productive is the larger issue
of how queer politics can be understood as connected to, and supportive
of, settler colonialism. Scott Lauria Morgensen (2012) offers a scathing
critique of queer politics and its complicities with settler colonialism,
arguing that settler colonialism is actually the primary condition of queer
politics in settler states (Morgensen 2012, 167). As Morgensen suggests,
in recent times, settler states have responded favourably to gender and
sexual diversity in order to further secure the states rule, with differences
being absorbed into the state and thus domesticated. Queer politics has
5 Criminology for Queers? 131

developed along similar lines, professing diversity and ultimately seeking

inclusion in the nation-state. But this makes it another project of settler
colonialismqueer settler colonialism. As Morgensen (2012, 172)
argues, queer settler colonialism forms by claiming a kind of kinship
with indigenous gender and sexual diversityincluding, its appearance of
opposition to settler normswhile adapting this kinship to secure non-
native inclusion in the civilisational future of a settler nation (Morgensen
2012, 172, emphasis removed). To the extent that queer politics ma[kes]
the settler state their horizon of freedom, the calls of colonised peoples
for a decolonisation of settler society will go unheeded (Morgensen 2012,
One of the clearest examples of these dynamics is the case of Israel,
which has been able to position itself as a champion of LGBTIQ rights,
at the same time as it continues to violate the basic rights of Palestinians
(Morgensen 2012, 175; Schulman 2012; Puar 2007; Ritchie 2014). The
celebration of these gains by some within queer communities illustrates a
measure of international queer support for the occupying force of Israel
and not the Palestinians, who continue to suffer under the occupation. It
also illustrates the convergence that exists between the desires of queers
and the state which does not necessarily give hope to efforts to achieve
decolonisation (Morgensen 2012, 175176).
Given that for many indigenous and colonised peoples, queer poli-
tics can be marked as their settler-colonialism (Morgensen 2012, 186
187), it is necessary for queer settlers to:

take responsibility for examining how their gendered and sexual existence
is conditioned by settler colonialism. Both their marginality and its redress
are structured by settler-colonial power, such that every articulation of
their existence on stolen land sustains that inherent interrelationship.
(Morgensen 2012, 185)

This means that queer politics needs to avoid the assumption that the
inclusion of colonised peoples in queer politics is necessarily going to be
accepted by those colonised peoples. As such, while it is possible to argue
that the reassertion by colonised people of diverse genders and sexualities is
a form of queer politics, importantly it must also be understood as a renewal
132 Criminology and Queer Theory

of indigenous traditions of personhood and governance connected to a

project of decolonisation (Morgensen 2012, 170). If queer politics continues
to claim that gender and sexuality issues supersede indigenous issues and can
be the bridge between important differencesa critique raised by Two-Spirit
activiststhen queer settler colonialism readily follows, and freedom for
queers becomes compatible with perpetuating settler colonialism (Morgensen
2012, 171). Thus, queer politics is not going to achieve the political goals of
indigenous and colonised peoples as long it is organised inthe interests of
settlers and does not contribute to decolonisation (Morgensen 2012, 185).
These critiques of both the inclusivity of the term queer and the
potential connections between queer politics and the maintenance of
the settler-colonial project need to be considered in the development of
queer criminological work and politics. It seems that these dynamics can
only be compounded in attempts to craft a queer criminology, given that
criminology is one of the central components of colonising projects. The
development of a queer criminology, then, must confront these dynam-
ics, and queer criminologists must reflect on how or even whether a queer
criminology can contribute anything useful to counter-colonial struggles,
not only in criminology and the criminal justice context but also beyond.
The discussion in this section only scratches the surface of the complex
dynamics that characterise the interactions between queer and counter-
colonial criminologies. While, as mentioned earlier, these perspectives
do not necessarily have to remain wedded to each other, they ought at
least to continue to engage in such exchanges in order to think through
these issues. As Morgensen suggests on this point, the more our theo-
ries and movements intersect, the better we will explain the power that
we oppose, and the more effectively we will stop that power from being
reproduced in our work (Morgensen 2012, 188).

This chapter has highlighted the multi-faceted relationships between
queer criminologies and both feminist and counter-colonial criminolo-
gies. While queer criminologists can learn lessons from the critiques
5 Criminology for Queers? 133

that have been mounted by these other critical criminologists in order

to push against criminology and establish a place within the field, there
are also points at which queer criminologies can contribute to the
work of these other criminologies. This chapter has suggested points
at which greater intersections between queer scholarship and criminol-
ogy can be fostered and help shape a variety of critical criminological
There remain many similarities and differences between these bodies
of scholarship that have not been explored further here in the interests
of space. However, the key similarities that have been discussedthe
push against the epistemological assumptions of criminology, and the
questions over whether it is better to be included within the criminologi-
cal mainstream or remain on the marginsare problems that face queer
criminologists at present. The fact that debate over these issues has been
unresolved elsewhere suggests that queer criminologists are unlikely ever
to settle them, and also raises the question of whether their explorations
are going to contribute anything new to these debates.
While I am not sure that the foregoing discussion entirely supports
Carlens argument that new criminologies have a tendency to reinvent
the criminological wheel (as I am not sure that mainstream criminol-
ogy would ever have developed feminist or counter-colonial scholarship
without those scholars having to engage in evangelism to some extent),
it is worth at least keeping this critique in mind and considering whether
queer criminologies have the potential to add anything that the critical
criminologies discussed here do not. What might, in fact, be unique about
queer criminology? It is, after all, not the first to push against criminology
in the interests of a particular community, some of the key questions it
faces have already been asked by others, and even some of the contribu-
tions it might make to other criminologies are already developing from
other quarters. Perhaps, then, it is not so much in fighting for a com-
munity that queer criminology can make its most original contribution
or distinguish itself most thoroughly. The next two chapters will consider
this by examining queer contributions beyond identity and consider
whether these help to articulate what queer criminology might be.
134 Criminology and Queer Theory

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Queer, Realist, andCultural: Grounding
Queer Criminology

Calls for a queer criminology are often simultaneously anchored in the
need to respond to the variety of injustices that queer communities face
in the context of criminal justice (such as their victimisation) and the
need for criminology to develop more accurate representations of queer
communities and lives. These tasks intersect and are seen as necessary
components of any attempts to craft a more just criminal justice system
and a criminology that does not misrepresent queer lives as inherently
These two tasks open up a space for left realist1 and cultural criminolo-
gies to potentially contribute to the development of queer criminological
scholarshipin fact, as previously discussed, some of the early reflections
on the directions that queer criminology could take have referenced, or

Roger Matthews has recently suggested using the term critical realist to describe these perspec-
tives (Matthews 2014, x), however the term left realist is still used in much of the related literature.
I have chosen to use left realist throughout this chapter. When, for the sake of variety or clarity, I
use the term realist in this chapter, I am referring to these left realist perspectives and not to what
has been termed right realist criminology (Matthews 2014, 15).

The Author(s) 2016 137

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_6
138 Criminology and Queer Theory

at least been informed by, these criminologies. For instance, the desire
to take queer victimisation seriously, account for material injustices, and
implement practical responses that would minimise the victimisation
experienced by queer communities align with the injunction of left real-
ist criminologists to take crime seriously and ensure that, to paraphrase
John Lea and Jock Young, something is done about law and order (Lea
and Young 1984). At the same time, the interest in correcting the prob-
lematic representations of queer lives within criminology (as inherently
deviant or criminal, for example) by exploring these lives (and the mean-
ings given to deviant behaviour) on their own terms, clearly align with
the interests of cultural criminologists to understand deviance and trans-
gression as creative responses to the constraining and marginalising effects
of social structures rather than signs of deficiency or pathology (Young
2011, 8990; Ferrell etal. 2008, 4). As such, it is worth exploring further
the role that these two critical bodies of criminological thought might
play in the development of queer criminology. Doing so will help us fur-
ther articulate the unique contributions that queer criminology can make.
In this chapter, I explore the roles of left realist criminology and cul-
tural criminology in the development and futures of queer criminological
scholarship. I consider these interactions in their diversitythe points at
which these bodies of work appear to have influenced the development
of queer criminology, the prospects that they offer to future queer crimi-
nological scholarship, and the potential limitations that they pose to the
task of queering criminology. In doing so, I expand the tasks begun in the
previous chapterto consider whether queer criminological scholarship
offers anything new to these individual criminologies; to consider ways
in which queer scholarship can contribute to these critical criminolo-
gies; and to illustrate the critical potential of queer scholarship to reflect
on these critical criminologies. I begin by providing brief overviews of
these criminologies, and how they featured in the development of queer
criminological scholarship. I then note why these criminologies might
prove attractive to queer criminologists, and highlight the key aspects
that could be utilised in developing queer criminology. Then, in line with
the task of producing a more disruptive and deconstructive queer crimi-
nology pursued in this book, I critically reflect on these criminologies
and, by discussing some key points of tension that may limit the uptake
of such approaches within queer criminological scholarship, highlight
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 139

how the development of queer criminology along the lines suggested by

these criminologies might not be possible without curtailing some of the
important disruptive aspects of queer scholarship. In particular, I will
focus on the realist critique of deconstruction and social constructionist
perspectives, as well as the applicability of notions from cultural crimi-
nology such as edgework and subculture when exploring queer offend-
ing and victimisation, in considering these issues.
Like Chapter 5, this is an ambitious chapter. A substantial body of liter-
ature has developed around these two criminologies, and no single chapter
could hope to exhaustively canvass just one of them. For this discussion, I
have focused on a few key authors from each of these criminologies. I have
also chosen to discuss these criminologies together for a number of rea-
sons. First, they are key perspectives in contemporary critical criminology,
developing out of the work of early critical criminologists like Jock Young
(see Young 2013), and thus invariably feature within the critical crimino-
logical scene in which queer criminology has inserted itself. Additionally,
while they remain somewhat distinct bodies of work, scholars from both
fields have recently made attempts to articulate their commonalities in the
guise of cultural realism (see Young 2013; Matthews 2014)something
that may be useful for future queer criminological work. And finally, in
slight contrast to the criminologies discussed in the last chapter, they are
less about adding the voice of a particular group of people into crimino-
logical debates (and dealing with the epistemological, theoretical, practical
implications of doing so), and are focused more on foregrounding meth-
odological, conceptual, and epistemological questions of criminology so
as to produce a more accurate picture of crime and one that is more
relevant to the experiences of victims and offenders. As this chapter is not
exhaustive, it can only highlight themes and issues that are worthy of fur-
ther exploration, and, in the tradition of cultural criminologists, offer an
invitation for others to develop these further.

Left Realist Criminology

Put simply, left realist criminology is an impassioned plea to take crime
seriously and an attempt to answer the question What is to be done
about law and order? (Lea and Young 1984). It developed in the 1980s
140 Criminology and Queer Theory

out of the work of critical criminologists who were dissatisfied with both
the direction of existing critical (and mainstream) criminology and the
increasing influence of conservative politicians (and criminologies) on
crime and justice issues. The critical criminologists of the time did not,
they felt, take the interpersonal crimes experienced by working-class
communities seriously enough, and were often too eager to dismiss the
legitimate fears of crime that those communities held (DeKeseredy and
Schwartz 2013, 275).
These critical criminologists held what realists termed left idealist
views, which saw crime largely (and somewhat romantically) as a form
of class rebellion against capitalism, and suggested that the most impor-
tant focus was on political and media exaggerations of crime problems,
the ways that criminal codes are racially biased in their implementation,
and the lack of focus on the much more serious offending of the ruling
classes. While these were important critiques to raise, they largely ignored
that much crime was, in fact, intraclass in disadvantaged communities,
and had serious impacts on those living in these communities (Lea 2015,
166; Young 1987, 354; DeKeseredy and Schwartz 2012, 106; Matthews
2014, 7, 1920).
These critiques of the idealistic criminological left were matched by
critiques of the conservatism of traditional criminological scholarship. A
key aspect of left realist scholarship has been the critique of traditional
criminology and the production of knowledge within it. Left realists seek
to move beyond what Elliott Currie termed so what? criminology, or
Jock Young has termed voodoo criminology. Whatever the term used
to describe these dynamics, these scholars are pushing against those
highly technical and dauntingly quantitative studies that focus on trivial
issues, are conceptually weak or present their findings in impenetrable
language (Matthews 2009, 342). The approaches that left realists criti-
cise generally seek to quantify social processes like motivations, values,
and attitudes, reducing them to the language of mathematics, suppos-
edly to produce conclusive suggestions about what ought to be done
(Matthews 2014, 6061). The key problem with such approaches is not
only that social processes are difficult to quantify, but that such quantita-
tive approaches tend to be acausal, astructural, and abstract (Matthews
2014, 61; DeKeseredy and Schwartz 2013, 277). They generally produce
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 141

individualising understandings of offending (such as a rational choice

model), rather than situating crime in a broader social context, and tend
to assume that social facts speak for themselves, instead of unpacking the
categories utilised in their analyses (Matthews 2014, 1314).
These tendencies within mainstream criminology are seen by left real-
ists as problematic because they dovetail too neatly with conservative law
and order crime control strategies, which generally seek to change the
individual and not implement more politically radical suggestions that
might call for problematic social conditions and structures to be addressed
(Lea 2015, 168; DeKeseredy 2015, 157; DeKeseredy and Schwartz 2013,
275; Matthews 2014, 7, 15). As Matthews suggests, then, the paradox

is that while administrative criminology is interested in policy formation,

its theoretical and methodological limitations render it unable to perform
this task effectively, while liberal criminology attempts to theorise crimino-
logical issues in an apparently radical manner but is conspicuously light on
policy formation. (Matthews 2014, 26)

The response to these dynamics by left realists has been to develop

a social democratic approach to crime and justice issues, and a radical
crime control approach that would enable these communities to respond
to the real (and unique) experiences of crime that they face (Lea 2015,
165, 166, 167, 171). While this desire to develop crime control policies
has seen left realists criticised by other critical criminologists for attempt-
ing to reinforce and expand existing crime control systems (DeKeseredy
and Schwartz 2012, 110), left realists contend that criminologists need to
make better contributions to crime and justice issues not only to reduce
the impact of punitive policies, but also to do something to prevent real
victimisation (Matthews 2009, 342; DeKeseredy and Schwartz 2012,
110). They advocate moving beyond the pessimism that paints these
dynamics as unchangeable, that suggests nothing works, or that views
intervention as only making things worse, towards more strategic exer-
cises of social control (Matthews 2014, 7, 26, 49).
In order to do this, realist criminologists attempt to develop reliable
knowledge about crime, and seek to ensure that theory, methodology,
and policy are drawn together more effectively (Matthews 2014, 29).
142 Criminology and Queer Theory

The development of effective crime policies, they contend, requires causal

understandings of crime and what works to prevent it (DeKeseredy and
Schwartz 2013, 279; Matthews 2014, 67). As such, realist criminologists
do not entirely dismiss quantitative methods in criminology. However,
these are positioned alongside other research methods, such as ethnogra-
phies, which can give a deeper understanding of the lives of those stud-
ied and can be useful, despite concerns about their descriptiveness and
generalisability (Matthews 2014, 6364). (Ethnographic methods will be
explored in further detail below.)
Left realist criminology has contributed substantially to critical crim-
inology. The left realist concept of the square of crime, for example,
has widened criminologys scope by arguing that a full understanding of
crime and the societal reaction to it is only possible by seeing crime as a
social interaction between four points (hence the square)the police,
offender, victim, and community (Lea 2015, 172173; Young 1987, 337
and 340, 2013, xxxixxxii). This is the starting point for the deconstruc-
tion of crime by left realists (discussed further below) (Lea 2015, 174).
Furthermore, left realist criminology has been central in the develop-
ment of victimisation surveys, driven by a desire to gain a more accu-
rate picture of the crime affecting communities than that produced by
official statistics, and which could serve as a more useful basis for crime
and justice policy. This has also contributed partly to the emergence of
victimology, and to affirming the rational fear of crime that women expe-
rience (Walklate 2015, 182; DeKeseredy 2015, 156). For these reasons,
queer criminologists have turned to left realist perspectives in arguing for
a queer criminology.

Left Realism inQueer Criminology

Realist concerns have featured quite significantly (if sometimes only

implicitly) within calls for the development of queer criminology. As
I discussed in Chapter 3, queer criminologists generally seek to ensure
that criminology takes seriously the victimisation experienced by queer
communities. This is understood as necessary in order to craft criminal
justice practices and institutions that are more responsive to their needs, and
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 143

more effectively address the criminal injustices experienced by LGBTIQ

people. The development of victimisation surveys out of a dissatisfaction
with the exclusion of sexuality and gender identity from many large-scale
criminal justice datasets is partly driven by the recognition that the crimes
experienced by these communities need to be taken seriously. As previously
explored, many queer criminologists have more or less suggested that
queer criminology ought to align with the concerns of realism and address
material injustices in these contexts (Woods 2014b; Dalton 2016).2 I have
also already noted how Dalton seeks to ensure that queer criminology
remains tied to the real world, and focuses on those flesh and blood
subjects who bleed and suffer real trauma (Dalton 2016, 20). And Panfil
and Miller, for example, somewhat reflect realist positions when they enjoin
queer criminologists to ensure that their work contributes to justice policy
formation, as well as to the education of justice professionals (Panfil and
Miller 2014, 3, 5). However, the figure of realism in queer criminology
appears most clearly when queer criminologists discuss the role and place of
deconstruction in criminology.
In many respects, it is realist concerns that are appealed to when calls
are made to limit the extent to which queer criminologists engage in
deconstruction (see, for example, Panfil and Miller 2014, 6; Dalton
2016, 1920). As pointed out in Chapter 4, Woods argues that there
is a danger that extreme deconstruction may become inapplicable to
criminology, and too distanced from the real-world and criminologically
relevant experiences of LGBTIQ people on the ground (Woods 2014a,
16). He says that the cost of an exclusive focus on dismantling sexuality
and gender identities and the differences based in these identities would
be a loss of focus on the real struggles and experiences of LGBTIQ
people, particularly those struggles and experiences that are based on the
identity categories that queer work seeks to unpack (Woods 2014a, 16,
2014b, 30). These identities remain relevant, it is argued, because they
are utilised by many as a form of identity politics, and any deconstruction

Of course the generally positive role of left realism described here is not unqualified. As Woods
importantly points out, many early left realist scholars ignored LGBTIQ people, and thus left real-
ism has itself contributed to their invisibility in criminology. Woods suggests that this is likely to be
an artefact of the exclusion of LGBTIQ people from the instruments that left realists (and other
criminologists) used in order to measure crime rates (Woods 2014b, 29).
144 Criminology and Queer Theory

may therefore be harmful and limit future political gains (Panfil and
Miller 2014, 6; Buist and Lenning 2016, 13, 15). While the substance of
these concerns has been challenged earlier, one could argue that this is a
realist position to the extent that it seeks to limit deconstruction in favour
of ensuring that a response to material injustices is possible, and that
queer criminology remains attuned to the role that sexuality and gender
identities play in the lives of LGBTIQ people. Whatever ones position
on these matters, it is clear that there are alignments between left realist
criminology and queer criminologies.

Cultural Criminology
As its name suggests, cultural criminology is an attempt to understand
the cultural dynamics of crime and punishmentthat is, the meanings
attributed to what are considered deviant or transgressive behaviours
(particularly those deemed criminal) by both the actors or the subcul-
tural groups who undertake them, and the society that responds to them.
Jeff Ferrell etal. note that cultural forces interweave with the practice of
crime and crime control (Ferrell etal. 2008, 2). Crime and the agencies
of control are cultural products themselves. The processes of labelling
groups or behaviours as deviant, negotiating the meanings accorded to
these behaviours and identities, and developing solutions to various situ-
ations (whether in the guise of crime control or as a reaction to social
control) are all forms of cultural work. Cultural criminologists argue that
the contestation over this cultural work is not adequately captured by
mainstream criminology, but is nevertheless important to understand if
we are to gain a fuller picture of crime (Ferrell etal. 2008, 38; Young
2011, 103; Matthews 2014, 95; Muzzatti 2012, 139). Cultural crimi-
nologists also suggest that these cultural dynamics fundamentally shape
(and alter) the meaning of a particular activity. The individual and social
meaning attributed to an act of violence, for example, alters depending
on the historical time at which it occurred, the circumstances, and the
actors involved (Ferrell etal. 2008, 8).
Cultural criminology has roots in subcultural theory, labelling theory,
and the sociology of deviance, and expresses an interest in those on the
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 145

margins of societythose labelled deviant or otherwise excluded. In

particular, it explores subcultural groups labelled in this way, investigating
these groups as sites of meaning-making, resistance, and creative
expression, as opposed to as sites consisting of deficient, maladjusted,
or pathological people whose deviance is evidence of some inherent
trait (Ferrell 2013, 260; Ferrell etal. 2008, 2930, 46). Drawing on the
work of Jack Katz, cultural criminology recognises that crime is neither a
rational calculation that balances risk and reward, and nor is it necessarily
irrational behaviour, but is a creative response to a variety of pressures:
limited opportunities under capitalism; experiences of inequality; or
the pressures of late modernity (Matthews 2014, 95). Thus, cultural
criminologists seek to understand these creative responses, as well as the
processes by which they have come to be labelled as deviant (Young
2011, 8990; Ferrell etal. 2008, 4).
A key component of these cultural processes surrounding crime and
justice, and particularly the way that meanings are attributed to par-
ticular behaviours, is the representations of crime and deviance within
media and popular culture, and how these are taken up in public percep-
tions and more broadly (Ferrell et al. 2008, 133; Spencer 2011, 208).
Cultural criminologists recognise the ways in which media images do
not simply represent crime, but also reproduce and reflect themselves,
so that the street scripts the screen and the screen scripts the street, and
where there is no linear sequence so the line between the real and the
virtual is profoundly and irrevocably blurred (Young 2011, 103; see also
Matthews 2014, 95). Mediated images of crime loop and spiral, becom-
ing the content of further images, constituting a circulating cultural
fluidity that overwhelms any certain distinction between an event and
its representation, a mediated image and its effects, a criminal moment
and its ongoing construction within collective meaning (Ferrell et al.
2008, 130). For example, the presence of cameras in policing interac-
tions (whether worn on the body of police officers, mounted in their cars,
or carried by film crews for television shows such as COPS) influence the
behaviour of both police and suspects, filter into popular representations
of crime, and begin to inform the views of citizens and jurors on crime
and justice issues, continually producing and reproducing meaning
(Ferrell etal. 2008, 132).
146 Criminology and Queer Theory

Like left realist criminology (and, indeed, many other critical crimi-
nologies) cultural criminology has arisen out of a dissatisfaction with
mainstream criminology and its (largely quantitative) methodologies. Its
proponents contend that orthodox criminology is simply not up to the
task of accounting for or exploring these cultural dynamics. Describing
orthodox criminology as sanitised dross, Ferrell etal. argue that it cannot
adequately capture both the phenomenology of crime and the fascina-
tion of the spectator (Ferrell etal. 2008, 64; see also Ferrell 2013, 266;
Spencer 2011, 207208; Young 2011, 84). As they would suggest, ortho-
dox criminology focuses on the mundane (as in rational choice theories)
and measurable (as in positivistic approaches), at the expense of the mean-
ingful (Ferrell etal. 2008, 65, 6667; Young 2011, 105; Landry 2013, 5).
Cultural criminologists also contend that mainstream criminology is
not well enough attuned to the contradictory dynamics of everyday life
under late modernity to adequately understand how it shapes crime. The
late modern periodthe term used to characterise the contemporary
moment, at least in Western nationsconsists of less stability, constant
social disruption and upheaval, mobility, pluralism, and a greater stress
on expressivity, excitement, and identity. It has also produced an inten-
sification of the effects of global capital, such as increasing disparities of
wealth (Young 2011, 93). This social context produces a range of con-
tradictory features, including a world always in flux, awash with mar-
ginality and exclusion, but also in the ambiguous potential for creativity,
transcendence, transgression, and recuperation (Ferrell et al. 2008, 6).
Criminology, it is held, does not adequately appreciate these dynamics
and thus cannot provide a full account of crime (Ferrell etal. 2008, 63).
For cultural criminologists, then, it is important to consider the poli-
tics of criminological methods, as these are indistinguishable from the
politics of meaningand from the politics of crime and social justice
as well (Ferrell 2013, 266). Criminological methods need to change in
order to most effectively push against orthodox criminology and its sup-
port for existing social structures and relations (Ferrell 2013, 266; Ferrell
etal. 2008, 173). Thus, cultural criminologists advocate for trashy meth-
ods, methods ragged around the edges, methods not fully conceptualised
or completed [because these] suggest intellectual life and disciplinary
vitality (Ferrell etal. 2008, 160).
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 147

The key method employed is ethnography, through which cultural

criminologists seek to best understand the subjective aspects of a persons
actions and motivations, gain a fuller account of their lives, and respect
the subjects own understandings (Ferrell etal. 2008, 177178; Muzzatti
2012, 142). Ethnography involves a long-term, in-depth participation
with those under study (Ferrell et al. 2008, 177), and is supposed to
ensure that the researcher can develop greater sensitivity to the meanings,
values, and forms of cultural production of a group of people. Cultural
criminologists also encourage the use of instant and liquid ethnogra-
phiestools that best allow researchers to gain insight into immediacy
and the unexpected in crimeand also pay attention to the ways in which
people interact with mediated images of crime and deviance (Ferrell etal.
2008, 181183, 190191; Spencer 2011, 208). All of these approaches
are designed to ensure that cultural criminologists can capture the experi-
ence of crime: its adrenaline, its pleasure and panic, its excitement, and
its anger, rage and humiliation, its desperation and its edgework (Young
2011, 84; see also Ferrell etal. 2008, 65).
One central component of cultural criminological analyses is attention
to the notion of edgework. This concept, initially developed by Stephen
Lyng, refers to the voluntary illicit risk-taking behaviours (sometimes
undertaken collectively) that are engaged in for excitement and enter-
tainment (such as BASE jumping). In effect, these risks are taken so as to
push oneself to the edge for a range of reasons: to achieve an adrenaline
rush; authenticity; or for existential certainty (Ferrell et al. 2001, 178,
2008, 72; Matthews 2014, 95). Such risks need not be to ones life, but
can also apply to the excitement involved in violating rules themselves
(Ferrell etal. 2008, 72). As Lyng points out, the seductive character of
many criminal activities may derive from the particular sensations and
emotions generated by the high-risk character of these activities (Lyng
2004, 360).
Crucially, the notion of edgework allows for a recognition that iden-
tity and emotion can be key aspects to the meaning of rule breaking
(Ferrell etal. 2001, 178, 2008, 72; Lyng 2004, 360). It is also embodied,
given that an individual is instinctively responding to the immediacy and
rapidly changing nature of often life-and-death situations, and does not
have a chance to pre-emptively formulate a response to a situation that
148 Criminology and Queer Theory

may very well overwhelm them. Thus, in these circumstances, imagina-

tive rehearsal ceases, the voice of society is silenced and the me is
annihilated. What is left in place of these elements is a residual, acting
self that responds without reflective consciousness (Lyng 2004, 362). In
these cases, such edgework can be a form of stylistic resistance and an
escape (Lyng 2004, 371; Ferrell 2013, 260), and a dynamic tool to help
criminology better understand deviance and transgression.

Cultural Criminology inQueer Criminology

Very early in the development of both cultural and queer criminology,

Ferrell and Sanders suggested that queer criminology could clearly form
a part of cultural criminology, as cultural criminology helps us to under-
stand the criminal worlds of lesbians and gays, and especially the ongoing
criminalisation of gay and lesbian life (Ferrell and Sanders 1995, 318).
They suggested this because, as discussed in Chapter 3, while the elements
of personal style and the codes of conduct within lesbian and gay sub-
cultures can be understood as creative responses to criminalisation and
marginalisation, these styles and codes are also targeted by those very same
attempts to criminalise and marginalise lesbian and gay lives (Ferrell and
Sanders 1995, 318). As they note, it is the culture as much as the sexuality
of gay and lesbian life that constitutes the locus of criminalisation (Ferrell
and Sanders 1995, 319). Nic Groombridge also suggested a connection
between queer and cultural criminologies, but did not support developing
this connection too far (Groombridge 1999, 543).
There are good reasons to consider how cultural criminological insights
can be useful in developing queer criminology. Queer communities and
subcultures have developed many creative responses to being labelled as
deviant and to their marginalisation or exclusion from heteronormative
and homophobic societies, ranging from the stylistic to the political
(Geczy and Karaminas 2013). While cultural criminology is not unique
in this respectafter all, queer scholarship has long been interested in
exploring the depth of queer livescultural criminology can help us
to understand the deviance and transgression that develops in response
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 149

to heteronormativity. However, progress in developing such work

has been slow,3 with the one notable exception of Brian Jay Frederick,
whose recent work argues that deviant and transgressive behaviour
within queer communities can be understood not just as a response to
heteronormativity, but to homonormativity as well (Frederick 2014).
Fredericks focus is on forms of sex- and drug-related deviance among
gay men, particularly bug-chasing, conversion parties, increased party
drug usage, extreme porn websites, hidden sex webcams, [and] webcam
injection drug experiences (Frederick 2014, 146, emphases removed).
While it is possible to argue that these are responses to some of the
negative impacts of heteronormativity, given that there are increasing
moves to respond to homophobia and the social and legal inequalities
that LGBTIQ people have faced, Frederick suggests that it may be
necessary to expand the cultural criminological tools for understanding
queer deviance and transgression, and proposes that we consider the role
that homonormativity can play in shaping queer deviance (Frederick
2014, 141143). As he states:

to continue to cite Western heteronormative societies as the predominant

sources for gay stigma not only presupposes the belief that labeling and
stigma occur at levels commensurate with the past, it draws attention away
from the fact that the gay community, itself, can also be a source. (Frederick
2014, 143)

Deviance can be thought of as a response to homonormativityto

the attempts at normalisation produced by mainstream gay and lesbian
communities as part of contemporary movements to achieve mainstream
acceptability and legal rights (Frederick 2014, 145).
There are further reasons why one might consider that the work of
cultural criminologists aligns clearly with the goals of queer criminology.
For example, Ferrell et al. (2008, 190) have suggested the possibility

Ferrell etal. note this in the recently published second edition of their book. The second edition
was published just as this book was being completed, so it has not been possible to incorporate their
updated discussions here.
150 Criminology and Queer Theory

of developing a cultural victimology, which might explore how

victimisation and grief in response to crime are performed and enacted,
and produce meaning with regard to victimisation. By explor[ing] the
symbolic environments created by victims, their families, and their friends
as they come to terms with their experiences [and] trac[ing] the path of
personal pain as it moves through the mass media and the criminal justice
system (Ferrell etal. 2008, 190), it may be possible to enrich discussions
of LGBTIQ victimisation. Additionally, cultural and queer criminologists
are aligned in their interest in the norm and those deemed to be outside
of this norm. While this statement could be made of much criminology,
cultural criminologists, like queer scholars, are particularly interested in
the process of pushing against societal and cultural norms as a sustained
and active form of political resistance (Ferrell et al. 2008, 4), and raise
questions about the norms of the social world into which people are being
included and against which they are normalised (Ferrell etal. 2008,31).
Furthermore, as I will discuss in the next chapter, cultural criminologists
also seek to engage with the conventional meanings accorded to crime
and reshape these meanings in a way not dissimilar to the discursive
resignification that forms part of queer politics, suggesting another possible
alignment with queer scholarship (Ferrell etal. 2008, 153).
While these suggestions about the intersections between cultural
criminology and queer criminology have encountered some critiques
(explored below), it is nevertheless clear that cultural criminology offers
some useful tools for queer criminological work. Like queer work,
cultural criminology describes itself as transgressive, with its proponents
undertaking acts of intellectual disruption (Ferrell etal. 2008, 79) and
trying to avoid the reproduction of problematic criminal justice approaches
and policies. It also offers a way of engaging with and accounting for the
lives of queer communities labelled deviant, and a way of understanding
the offending behaviour of some within these communities. Neither of
these fields reproduces the view that these lives are inherently deviant,
nor reduces the meanings, experiences, and emotions of those lives so as
to make them amenable to quantitative calculation. Cultural criminology
is therefore a serious contender for ensuring that queer lives are reflected
appropriately within criminology.
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 151

The Limits ofLeft Realist andCultural

Criminological Paths forQueer Criminology
As the above discussion has shown, there is some promise in queer crimi-
nological scholarship aligning with, and continuing to draw from, left
realist and cultural criminologies in its development. However, there
remain some key concerns that may limit the kinds of engagement with
the notion of queer that become possible here, and which ought to be
explored further. I now turn to these critiques in more depth. In the
context of left realist criminology, these critiques centre on the issues of
Modernism, materialism, and the place of deconstruction in left realist
analyses, while in the context of cultural criminology, these critiques cen-
tre on the value of concepts such as subcultures and edgework.
Before developing these critiques of each criminology, however, I should
note that there are similar aspects across these criminologies that may also
limit the uptake of queer. Two immediate points come to mind. First, as
previously discussed, while these approaches are critical criminologies, in
many respects they both claim to offer a better way of understanding and
explaining offending behaviour. In the case of realism, this is evidenced in
attempts to paint an accurate picture of crime and victimisation which
takes crime seriously, so as to best respond to it. In the case of cultural
criminology, this is evidenced through attempts to situate offending as
edgework, as a creative response to social constraints, as political resis-
tance, and as a meaningful experience to those who commit such acts.
Thus, both criminologies can be thought of somewhat as explanatory
approaches. As I have previously noted, such explanatory approaches may
temper how it is possible to deploy queer, particularly in disruptive ways.
Second, both perspectives may largely use queer as a shorthand term
for LGBTIQ people. For example, the suggestions that queer criminol-
ogy can draw from realism to the extent that it focuses on responding to
lived experiences of crime and justice for LGBTIQ people may tend in
this direction. Additionally, by focusing on deviance and transgression in
queer subcultures, work that draws from cultural criminology may also
reinforce such a view. Again, I have previously noted how this can act as a
potential limit to the ways in which queer can be put to work.
152 Criminology and Queer Theory

Left Realist Criminology, Modernism, andMaterialism

One aspect of left realist criminology which may curtail these more dis-
ruptive queer criminological engagements is its basis in Modernism. Left
realist criminology is Modernist in a number of respects, key among
which are the views that it holds about emancipation, and the possibil-
ity of social improvement through an increase of knowledge (I discussed
similar ideas in Chapter 4). Matthews suggests that realist work holds the
view that there is no point in social science if it does not at least offer the
possibility of some kind of social improvement (Matthews 2014, 49).
In this sense, and as explored above, realist criminology positions itself
as pragmatic rather than idealistic. For example, Matthews encourages us
not to focus on utopian goals such as prison abolition, but rather to rec-
ognise that prisons are unlikely to disappear anytime soon and that there-
fore we must debate their use with that in mind (Matthews 2014, 25).
This clearly contrasts with some of the more overtly abolitionist positions
of many queer scholars, criminologists, and activists (Stanley and Smith
2011; Spade 2011; Mogul etal. 2011). Of course, the Modernist position
that underpins this scholarship means that realist criminology is, from
the very beginning, set against the more poststructural queer scholarship.
In Chapter 4, I pointed out that assuming a kind of direct relationship
between the production of knowledge and a shift in power relations in
the interests of justice is not in line with Foucaults understanding of the
interrelationship between power and knowledge. According to Foucault,
political changes always institute new forms of power, and simultane-
ously rely on and produce new kinds of knowledge. It is not possible to
step outside of these dynamics as realists seem to suggest (Foucault 1980,
1998). Thus, left realists might suggest that in order to make realistic
social changes, the knowledge that we need to produce must have these
pragmatic goals in mind if that change is to be effective. In contrast,
queer analyses might suggest instead that we need to pull these regimes
and relations apart, and not be limited by such pragmatism. These queer
analyses might also note that the knowledge produced in service of these
pragmatic goals effectively reinscribes these institutions and reinforces
the status quo, as opposed to offering a fundamental critique of it and
allowing more radical political goals to be pursued. Queer scholars would
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 153

characterise the realist position here as somewhat acquiescent, and not

one that would be reached through a process of deconstruction.
One further difference between the Modernist assumptions of left real-
ist criminology and the poststructural assumptions that underpin queer
scholarship arises in relation to issues of materialism and deconstruction.
Realism is, after all, materialist in the last instant (Young 1987, 346)
even the term realism references the material as foundational to this
approach. Some of these concerns are illustrated when Matthews consid-
ers the role of social constructionist approaches within left realist criminol-
ogy. Social constructionist approaches are those that recognise that how
we come to understand our social reality is formed through culturally and
historically specific practices, relations, and interactions. Some take this
view to the extreme point and suggest that none of our social categories
or experiences have any ontological reality, and then try to grapple with
how best to respond to such a situation (Matthews 2014, 5; Burr 1995).
Deconstruction is the term often used to describe the process through
which these social constructions are unravelled. Matthews suggests that
there is some utility to soft or weak versions of social constructionism
within realist analyses, which might acknowledge these social construc-
tions, but ultimately hold that there is an independent reality out there
that is able to be understood and agreed upon. These kinds of positions
can help in recognising the important social processes through which our
notions of offending are defined, produced, and responded to. However,
Matthews suggests that there is a danger in the more extreme forms of
social constructionism, which adopt a relativist position and would argue
that crime is arbitrary, fictional, or has no ontological reality (Matthews
2009, 345; Matthews 2014, 29, 38).
The major concern that these scholars have with these kinds of social
constructionist approaches, and the deconstruction associated with them,
is the impact that they have on progressive politics. They often suggest
that such work reduces the possibility of revolutionary politics. Railing
against these kinds of approaches, Menzies asserts that poststructuralism

offers a powerful critique of the referential, repressive, and normalising

structures that pass off experience as truth, but its neo-Nietzschean method
disallows either revelation or programmatic practice on behalf of the
154 Criminology and Queer Theory

oppressed. In an epistemological anti-system where progress makes no

sense (literally), it allows no vision of a progressive political practice or an
alternative social order. (Menzies 1992, 140141, references removed)

The more extreme versions of social constructionist analyses, some real-

ist scholars have argued, descend into relativism and hold that these fic-
tional categories are discursively revisable, or that social processes and
institutions can be dissolved by collective wishful thinking (Matthews
2014, 37; see also Young 1987, 354355; Menzies 1992, 140). For real-
ists, this is problematic for a number of reasons. Matthews suggests that
the apparent descent into relativism produced by deconstruction leads to
a political anaesthesia, because it challenges the possibility of developing
a normative base from which constructive reforms could be developed
(Matthews 2014, 37). Additionally, left realists contend that within
social constructionist perspectives, concepts of oppression, exploitation
or abuse are incomprehensible because the damage involved is only seen
to exist in the mind of the beholder(s) (Matthews 2009, 346). In con-
trast, left realist criminologists hold that crime is realit has a material-
ity and an objectivity that is independent of the researcher and able to be
known. Given this, left realists thereby note that it is not possible simply
to construct the world any old way we choose (Cromby and Nightingale
in Matthews 2014, 37).
These critiques have been encountered by poststructuralist and queer
scholars before (as discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 above). Like some queer
criminologists, though, left realist criminologists still hold open a space for
weak deconstructionist approachesthose that do not lead to a relativist
position (Cromby and Nightingale in Matthews 2014, 37; Young 1987,
354355). For example, one can acknowledge the social construction of
social reality and yet still note that there is general consensus that those
behaviours defined as crimes ought to remain so defined (Young 1987,
354355).4 Menzies suggests that these kinds of analyses must be balanced
with other appreciations drawn from more resolutely historical and
materialist traditions (Menzies 1992, 140). In many cases, too, this weak
Taking this line may, however, pose a problem when we consider the fact that there has often been
general societal consensus for harsh and repressive criminal and legal regulations of queer lives.
How a critical queer realist criminology might respond to this is not clear.
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 155

approach seeks to press deconstruction into the service of reconstruction,

which may involve the production of a better and more realistic picture of
crime, the development of new crime and justice policies, and new inter-
ventions into power (Lea 2015, 174). Thus, where a left realist approach
might imply that social constructionist analyses fail to consider the real
impacts of crime or assume that injury is all in the minds of victims of
crime, a queer approach might try to grapple with the implications of
social constructionist analyses and avoid halting such analyses arbitrarily
or forgetting those social constructions when convenient.
What this suggests is that while it may be possible to more extensively
develop a realist queer criminology, this is unlikely to occur without
curtailing some of the possibilities of queerparticularly those
possibilities drawn from its poststructural underpinnings. Given
the above limitations, perhaps it makes more sense for a queer realist
criminology to simply limit its focus to drawing out the real crime and
justice experiences of LGBTIQ people and attending to their criminal
victimisation or their policing and criminal justice experiences. However,
this may still be problematic, as it is possible that, in its rush to guard
against the supposedly damaging deconstruction that queer work offers,
a queer realist approach might actually miss seeing the real injury that
things like identity categories pose in the lives of some queer people,
and the limits of Modernist assumptions in addressing these. One could
argue that realistsin the interests of realismshould consider the injuries
wrought by these categories, given that their existence and reinforcement
through a range of social sites directly impacts on justice and injustice in
the lives of many queer people.

Cultural Criminology, Queer Subcultures,


The previous discussion suggests that there are clearly good reasons to
consider the further alignment of queer and cultural criminologies.
However, there remain a few key issues that might again limit the extent
to which queer scholarship can be engaged with here, or which might
take queer criminology in directions that curtail the use of queer.
156 Criminology and Queer Theory

Early in the development of queer criminology, Nic Groombridge

expressed a concern about the extent to which cultural criminology would
be a place for the development of queer criminology, given that issues of
homosexuality, heterosexuality, and transsexuality are more than cultural
representations or attempts to criminalise them (1999, 543). In effect,
his critique points to the diverse issues that impact on queer experiences
of offending and victimisation, and which cannot always be reduced to
subcultural styles and codes, or other issues that interest cultural crimi-
nologists. This forces us to consider the value of subculture as a tool in
queer criminological analysis.
Jordan Blair Woods has extended this kind of critique. His concern
is that a focus on queer subculture can perpetuate stereotypes about
LGBTIQ people as being part of subculturesand particularly subcul-
tures characterised by criminality and deviance (Woods 2014a, 15; see
also Frederick 2014, 146). While perhaps this would pose more of a dan-
ger if this line of thought were to be pursued within orthodox criminolo-
gies, concerns still remain when using the notion of subcultures to think
about queer lives. This is particularly the case if we view the proper objects
of queer to be sexuality and gender, as we risk reinforcing the view that
sexuality and gender non-normativity are deviant or subcultural.
Additionally, Woods notes that many LGBTIQ people do not belong
to any identifiable queer subculturesand even actively push against
themas these subcultures are not necessarily always inclusive nor do
they produce a sense of community for all (Woods 2014a, 1516). Terms
like lesbian, gay or queer subcultures also risk oversimplifying some of
these dynamics or may be used too expansively. In fact, as Woods puts it,
advancing rigid definitions or meanings attached to gay identity (e.g.
as belonging to a gay subculture) risks neglecting the criminologically
relevant experiences of a diversity of LGBTQ people (Woods 2014a,
16). Thus, while I have noted here that cultural criminological work on
subcultures does offer some important insights and a very useful set of
tools for advancing queer criminological scholarship, there is still some
work to be done in order to ensure that these critiques are addressed.
Beyond the key cultural criminological concept of subcultures, it is
important to critically explore the concept of edgework and its utility
for queer criminological scholarship. As discussed earlier, edgework
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 157

provides cultural criminologists with insights into the construction of

meaning and subjectivity in deviant or transgressive behaviour. The initial
formulation of edgework within such studies was critiqued because it
tended to focus on activities that were engaged in by white, middle-class
men, such as extreme sports (Landry 2013, 56; Ferrell etal. 2008,73).
Thus, the gender dynamics of such a concept, and its applicability to
other experiences of risk taking, including involuntary ones, was not
clear (Ferrell etal. 2008, 74). While this has since changed and studies
of this concept in other contexts have been produced (bringing with
them a greater understanding of the gendered dynamics that they carry),
more work is still needed to expand this concept (Landry 2013, 56;
Ferrell et al. 2008, 73). For example, we need to be careful that such
a conceptualisation does not overlook the everyday, involuntary risks
faced by women simply by virtue of being female in a patriarchal society
(Ferrell etal. 2008, 73, original emphasis).
While the proposed directions for queer criminological scholarship
that draw on cultural criminology do not make explicit reference to how
the concept of edgework might be used here, it is important to consider
its applicability to queer lives, and particularly transgender, gender non-
binary, or genderqueer lives. Outside of criminology, the notion of edge-
work has been useful in a number of analyses of queer communities and
practices (see Newmahr 2011; Jones 2010), however it may have limited
applicability within criminology for many of the same reasons suggested
in the critiques above. There is certainly a level of risk in the lives of trans-
gender and gender non-binary people, particularly when one is out. Of
course, being out may be understood as an embodiment of subversive
resistance, and the concept of edgework might be applicable in under-
standing a persons embrace and navigation of such risks. However, it may
also be quite problematic to use the notion of edgework in such instances.
The risks that transgender and gender non-binary people take in daily life
and the way these risks are negotiated ought not necessarily be equated
with the risk taking evident in extreme sports or the other cases where this
concept is used. While edgework in extreme sports, for example, can be
desirable given the role that they play in the construction and reconstruc-
tion of subjectivity, the risks taken by transgender and gender non-binary
people in day-to-day life are generally undesirable and quite unavoidable
158 Criminology and Queer Theory

(in the sense that they occur in a society that is still rigidly structured along
gender binaries and where gender is thoroughly policed) (Spade 2011).
Additionally, the risks present in these contexts can be quite different.
While some extreme forms of edgework can at times pose an immediate risk
to ones life, many others largely pose a risk of criminalisation. However, the
risks that daily life presents to transgender, gender non-binary, and other queer
people can lead to victimisation and marginalisation, as well as criminalisa-
tion. Additionally, these risks are much more often lethal. And, of course, the
impact of these risks is influenced by the structural constraints within which
transgender and gender non-binary people live, such as whether one can
afford (or even wants) the range of available surgeries or treatments, how well
one passes (or even wants to pass), the colour of ones skin, and the financial
and social capital that one has access to, to name a few (Spade 2011). For
these reasons, we need to exercise caution when deciding how and when the
concept of edgework ought to be applied.
Anticipating some of these arguments, Ferrell etal. suggest that edge-
work may, in fact, extend to a range of situations that seem removed
from Lyngs initial formulation of the concept. They state that while the
structures of oppression to which it responds are unique, the forms of
edgework across many groups may in fact be equivalent in terms of their
experiences and social psychological impact (Ferrell et al. 2008, 73).
Ultimately, it remains a task of queer criminological scholarship to inves-
tigate these differences and, indeed, the potential of this concept, further.
Clearly there are possibilities in developing the connections and inter-
sections of queer and cultural criminological work. However, as this sec-
tion has noted, there may be some limits to relying too much on the
notions of subculture and edgework in doing so. Of course I am not
suggesting that the discussions here exhaust the concepts utilised within
cultural criminologyas I have noted, there are many points at which
cultural criminology can contribute to queer criminology. It is impor-
tant, however, to explore their potential limitations further. We must
keep in mind that while cultural criminology may be useful in under-
standing some forms of offending, and its greatest value may lie in pro-
viding deeper, more effective understandings of offending than much
mainstream criminology, whether a queer cultural criminology may still
limit the ways that queer scholarship can be taken up remains to be seen.
6 Queer, Realist, andCultural 159

This chapter has canvassed left realist and cultural criminologies,
pointed to the roles that they have played in the development of queer
criminology, and suggested their key components which can con-
tinue to contribute to queer criminology. It has also discussed some of
the aspects of these criminologies that might limit their engagement
with queer scholarship and restrict the ways that the notion of queer
may be deployed. However, it has only scratched the surface of these
issues. There is still more work to be done to develop these perspec-
tives, and to more fully articulate the interconnections between these
As this discussion has shown, cultural criminology and left realist
criminology align in many respects with the touted aims of queer crim-
inology. They both seek to understand the experiences of people or
groups and to take these experiences and concerns seriously (whether
to understand the resistance they engage in, their experiences of crime,
or the subcultural styles underpinning their activities and lives). Both
value ethnographic methods in order to do this, and they are both
interested in developing a progressive criminology. These criminologies
could help to ensure that criminology more generally gains a better
picture of the lives of LGBTIQ people and subcultures, who are often
labelled deviant, who have only recently been taken seriously as vic-
tims, and whose offending queer criminologists are only now seeking
to understand.
However, for those seeking to deploy the notion of queer further
within these analyses, particularly in ways aligned with queer scholar-
ship, some questions remain. The adherence to Modernism and the limits
placed on deconstruction within left realist criminology may serve as a
potential barrier to the development of some queer analyses. Additionally,
the focus on subcultures and edgework within cultural criminology might
also be of limited use in understanding queer lives. And both criminolo-
gies largely return criminology to its explanatory tasks, or perpetuate the
assumed connection between LGBTIQ people and the notion of queer,
thereby potentially limiting the disruptive or deconstructive aspects of
queer scholarship engaged with.
160 Criminology and Queer Theory

These discussions help us to consider more clearly whether a queer

criminology developed along the lines of realist criminology or cultural
criminology would avoid reinventing the criminological wheel and make
original contributions to criminology. This is difficult to tell, perhaps
because these directions are still in their infancy. The analysis in this chap-
ter does, however, suggest some of the ways in which queer scholarship
can contribute to these criminologies and help reflect on their potential
impacts. And it makes clear that, despite the critiques raised, left realist
and cultural criminologies will continue to have a productive impact in
developing the diverse paths that queer criminology may take.

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Deconstruction andQueering

Queer theory often gets a bad rap. As discussed in previous chapters,
critics of queer theory have eagerly dismissed (or at least remained suspi-
cious of ) its more deconstructive efforts, with such dismissals increasing
when queer theorists step outside of disciplines like English literature and
film studies and turn their attention to traditional Anglophone social sci-
ences. Regardless of the kind of deconstruction that is undertaken, any
critical analysis that positions itself under that term is, for some at least,
immediately suspect. Whether it is the origins of deconstructive work in
French philosophy and poststructuralism, the impenetrability of some
deconstructive texts, the focus on discourse at the expense of the mate-
rial, or the reticence to lay out a progressive political agenda, deconstruc-
tive projects struggle to be thought of in some quartersparticularly in
criminologyas serious intellectual endeavours, letalone as carrying any
political weight.
While these criticisms are valid in some casesdeconstructive texts are
often difficult to read, do take discourse seriously, and often purposely avoid
mapping a clear direction for politicsthis is not because deconstruction

The Author(s) 2016 163

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_7
164 Criminology and Queer Theory

is apolitical, unmotivated by a concern for injustice, or elitist, as is often

suggested. Rather, this is because of some of the fundamental assumptions
of poststructural work, which underpin the activity of deconstruction and,
relatedly, the purpose of engaging in the practice of critique. Deconstruction
is, after all, a form of critique with political effects. However, the kind of
critical practice that it entails differs substantially from what many critical
scholars take to be the purpose of their own scholarship.
Despite this uneasiness and suspicion from some quarters surrounding
poststructuralism and deconstruction, I have argued throughout this book
for a more disruptive and deconstructive approach to queer work in crimi-
nology. I have suggested that within criminological scholarship, the term
queer can best be understood as a verb, and that, as a conceptual tool,
queer is actually most effective when it is aligned with the poststructural
tasks of deconstruction and disruption. These deconstructive approaches,
I have argued, can help to address the limitations of engaging with queer
via administrative criminological tasks that ultimately limit the kinds of
political engagements that queer scholarship can produce. These include
an alternative to emancipatory criminological analyses that promise lib-
eration from unjust criminal justice relations, or those that tend towards
the explanatory by producing theoretical explanations for crime that may
be positivist and, ultimately, Modernist (Young 2002, 260; Pavlich 1999,
37, 40). In order to more fully develop the intersections between queer
scholarship and criminology, and to chart how these might proceed, it is
necessary to more fully understand how deconstruction is utilised in crim-
inology, how it is utilised within queer scholarship, and what its greater
use within queer criminological scholarship might involve.
This chapter takes up these somewhat daunting tasks. Like the other
chapters within this part of the book, this discussion allows us to consider
whether (or how) queer criminological scholarship might offer original
directions for critical criminologies, to explore new ways in which queer
scholarship can contribute to these critical criminologies, and help to
illustrate the potential of queer scholarship to critically reflect on the uses
of deconstruction within criminology. The discussion here also sets the
scene for the remaining chapters in this book.
The chapter will begin by exploring deconstruction within criminol-
ogy, pointing out the considerable variety of such approaches (Cohen
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 165

1998; Lea 1998; Arrigo and Milovanovic 2010). It will then move on to
consider deconstruction more generally, drawing in particular from the
work of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, and noting how these have
informed queer deconstruction (Derrida 1976, 2001, 1990). In doing so,
it will show that, in many cases, the kinds of deconstruction within crimi-
nology depart significantly from, or seek to reformulate, the poststructural
assumptions underpinning queer deconstruction. In particular, decon-
struction in criminology is often halted arbitrarily, inconsistently applied
to the objects of research, or explicitly harnessed in the service of a particu-
lar political agenda (Lea 1998, 170; Ball 2013b). This analysis will help to
develop not only a critique of deconstruction within criminology using
queer scholarship, but also to articulate a kind of queer deconstruction
that may most clearly offer original paths for queer criminological research.
Central to the discussion in this chapter is the view that deconstruction
is, first and foremost, an act of critique, as opposed to criticism. Critique
in this sense is understood in a way that draws from the work of Foucault
(developed by Judith Butler and explored in criminology by George
Pavlich), and which sees critique as a project of opening up possibilities,
pushing against limits, and, put simply, as the art of not being governed
(Foucault 1978b). It differs from the notion of criticism, which underpins
much existing critical criminological scholarship, and which is an activity
that is premised on judgement, positioning the critic as legislator who
identifies problems, gaps, or oversights in a body of knowledge or a set
of relations, and prescribes solutions. This chapter will suggest that the
notion of criticism dominates most understandings of what critical schol-
arship ought to achieve, and thus limits the ways in which deconstruc-
tion is utilised. Thinking about critique as the art of not being governed
is key to understanding deconstruction, and also to gaining the greatest
value from the notion of queer within criminological scholarship.

Criminology andDeconstruction
Deconstructive efforts within criminology are not new. A number of criti-
cal criminologies have pushed for the interrogation of taken-for-granted
assumptions and foundational concepts that are often positioned as the
166 Criminology and Queer Theory

tasks of deconstruction (DeKeseredy 2011, 4749; Young 2002, 252;

Cohen 1998, 101; Lea 1998, 168; see also Chapter 5 above). Like the
term queer, the term deconstruction has produced a range of perspec-
tives on what it means to deconstruct within criminology, with many of
these approaches referring to work that offers a critical analysis, implying
the exposure of some kind of errora not unusual problem in other
disciplines as well (Namaste 1994, 221).
A sense of the variety of ways in which deconstruction has been used
in criminology can be gained by considering studies that claim that they
are engaging in deconstruction. These projects range from those that
offer a critical analysis of crime and the way we respond (Muncie 1998),
to those that seek to produce a fuller and more complex understanding
of a particular object such as violence by placing it in its cultural context
(Banks 2000), and even to those who want to understand and test the
relationships between concepts such as race and crime (Tatum 2000).
Deconstruction has also been used to refer to projects that might
otherwise be considered sociological analyses, such as those that reveal
the differing social and cultural constructions of a concept (Weiss 2010),
or that provide a critical analysis of the way in which media discourses
reflect and perpetuate gendered assumptions (Kilty 2010). Some have
even characterised abolitionist perspectives as deconstructive strategies,
given the way in which these challenge and pull apart the power of
punishment and retribution (Hirvonen 1989, 70).
A number of the critical criminologies that I have already considered
describe their key approaches as involving deconstruction as well. For exam-
ple, feminist criminologies have contained significant strains of poststruc-
tural work and deconstruction, disrupting the dominant relations of power
and knowledge, being open to Otherness, and unpacking the category
of woman (Gelsthorpe 2002; Smart 1990; Britton 2000; Naffine 1997).
Realist criminologies have described their analyses via the square of crime
as deconstructive (Lea 2015, 174), and cultural criminologists represent
their tasksparticularly challenging essentialism, allowing diverse voices to
be heard, demonstrating the social construction of social issues, and cri-
tiquing state intervention, positivism, and Modernism more generallyas
being aligned with deconstruction (Ferrell et al. 2008, 4344). Cultural
criminologists also align their interest in meaning, and the possibilities of
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 167

reshaping and producing new meanings, with deconstruction (Ferrell etal.

2008, 153). These all illustrate that critical criminologies and deconstruc-
tive tasks are broadly in alignment. While some differences are apparent,
as discussed below, all seem to tend in similar directions and differ largely
in terms of specifics about how deconstruction is undertaken, the extent
to which it is pursued, and the purpose of doing so.1 I turn now to discuss
deconstruction as it developed in poststructural work, in order to better
explore how deconstruction within criminology can align with poststruc-
tural and queer thought.

Queer Deconstruction
It would be a mistake to suggest that there is any stability in the way
deconstruction is understood within queer thought. Some distinguish
between rational deconstructiona challenge to societal assumptions
and actions, to understand how things are queer, and the consequences
of being queer in a normal societyand non-rational deconstruction
engaged in by more extreme theorists who advocate for the deconstruc-
tion of the institutional values of the normal society (Dilley 1999, 467,
emphasis added).2 Deconstruction is often considered to be commensu-
rate with poststructuralism, indicating a general theoretical perspective or
a shared analytical process engaged in by poststructural thinkers. Indeed,
deconstruction represents the poststructural tasks of moving beyond
many key assumptions in Western philosophy which privilege reason,
science, truth, rationality, progress, and binary opposition (Lynch etal.
1995, 200). Like queer, deconstruction is a slippery notion, particularly
because attempts to define it represent a form of classification that seeks
to utilise, rather than challenge, existing structures of thought (Lynch

However, this cannot be said of all deconstructive work within criminology. For example, decon-
struction has been used to label work that offers what amounts to an analysis of legislation (Meloy
etal. 2008), work that offers an historical description of change in criminal justice systems (Nash
2000), and it has even been used to label a quantitative test of the assumptions underpinning a
general theory of crime (Rebellon and Waldman 2003). The discussion in this chapter will focus
primarily on those uses of deconstruction that might be said to align more overtly with critical
criminologies and, indeed, with poststructuralism.
Notably, the terms rational and non-rational are themselves left undefined here.
168 Criminology and Queer Theory

etal. 1995, 200). In this sense, attempts at defining deconstruction go

against what it tries to achieve.
To this point, Foucaults work has been a large part of the driving
force underpinning the theoretical development of the arguments in
this book. As I have demonstrated, Foucaults presence certainly looms
large within queer scholarship. Indeed, his genealogies consist of what
one might consider to be an historical deconstruction of concepts such as
knowledge, power, and the subject, and these have been central to queer
thought. However, deconstruction is significantly indebted to the work
of Jacques Derrida, who explicitly articulated deconstruction as a process
for analysing texts, and used this to great effect in critiquing the central
assumptions of Western metaphysics. Derridas work has also played an
important role in the development of queer theory, underpinning notions
such as performativity, citation, and iteration, and analyses of the binaries
of homo/hetero and inside/out (ORourke 2005, 3, 13).
Derridas work begins from a similar point to other poststructural
thoughta rejection of Western philosophy, primarily because of its
logocentrism and its assumption that we might discover the Truth (Lynch
et al. 1995, 200201). This rejection is similarly based on the under-
standing that our access to the world is mediated and structured through
language and discoursesignifiers cannot directly represent the objects
that they signify, and thus multiple meanings and interpretations are pro-
duced (Turner 2000, 33; Lynch etal. 1995, 200202). In fact, Derrida
noted that [t]here is nothing outside of the text (Derrida cited in Lynch
etal. 1995, 202). As such, the targets of many of his deconstructive anal-
yses were these texts. He was interested in analysing who, why, and what
produced a text, and what is saidand unsaidthrough the language,
form, structure, and style of a text (a written work, a film, art) (Dilley
1999, 459). Importantly, what constitutes a text is more than just books
and other written documents. In queer work, for example, a text can
include any form(s) of communication utilised to convey an understand-
ing of ones world: it could be a book or a film a conversation, a life
story, a memory, sexual activity, history, a gathering place, or a social
trend (Dilley 1999, 459).
Derridean deconstruction consists of a number of key elements.
First, deconstruction is largely an analysis of the metaphysics of presence.
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 169

Here, Derrida enjoins us to consider the various hierarchical and bina-

rised oppositions that are embedded in language, as it is through these
that meaning is conveyed, our thought structured, and our interpreta-
tions conditioned (Arrigo 2003, 61; Namaste 1994, 223). These hier-
archies have significant effects, as the first or primary term of a binary
is understood as presence and is privileged (what Derrida refers to as
logocentrism), and the other term is dismissed or devalued by being
considered as supplementary, thus leading to its absence (Stoneman
2011, 25; Arrigo 2003, 61; Caplan 1991, 194). This logocentrism is
problematic because, while meaning is organised through these interac-
tions of presence and absence (Namaste 1994, 222), it produces limited
interpretations of phenomena, subtending (even marginalising) alterna-
tive readings of a text (Arrigo 2003, 62; see also Stoneman 2011, 25).
These kinds of analyses of binaries have long been central to queer work
(see Sedgwick 1990, 911).
Deconstruction does not stop at the identification of such binaries and
hierarchies, though. It also involves a reversal of these hierarchies. Doing
so not only draws attention to these hierarchiesand particularly to the
term that was previously subordinate (Stoneman 2011, 25)but also
destabilises the hierarchy by challenging the privilege previously accorded
to the dominant term, and allowing the interdependence of these terms
to be re-evaluated (Caplan 1991, 194; Arrigo 2003, 62). The concept
of differance, a neologism coined to recognise the difference and deferral
that attends to these binaries (Caplan 1991, 194), comes into play here.
Differance is a term that is used to recognise the mutual interdependence
of the two terms in a binary (Arrigo 2003, 63). It refers to the fact that
while the terms in these hierarchies are differentiated from each other,
each term simultaneously defers the other as well. Each term defers the
other by repressing or suspending it, but it also defers to the other by
relying on it in order to have meaning (Arrigo 2003, 63; Stoneman 2011,
25). As Balkin puts it,

Differance simultaneously indicates that (1) the terms of an oppositional

hierarchy are differentiated from each other (which is what determines
them); (2) each term in the hierarchy defers the other (in the sense of mak-
ing the other term wait for the first term); and (3) each term in the hierarchy
170 Criminology and Queer Theory

defers to the other (in the sense of being fundamentally dependent upon the
other. (cited in Arrigo 2003, 63, original emphases)

Derrida suggested that differance is anchored in the tracethe rec-

ognition that the two terms in a hierarchy contain remnants (traces) of
the other (Arrigo 2003, 63). As Milovanovic suggests, in deconstructive
strategies, one must start with the idea that any term (presence) always
implies a hidden one (absence); both are essential to any meaning of
each. The trace is that part that exists in each and maintains the relation
(in Arrigo 2003, 63).
Additionally, deconstruction is particularly attuned to identifying and
bringing to light arguments that undo themselves. This refers to the idea
that an argument that is mobilised to justify the dominant position of
the privileged term in a hierarchy, or a privileged value, can also act as
the basis for privileging the term or value that is repressed (Arrigo 2003,
64; Stoneman 2011, 25). This is to have a destabilising effect, as it means
that what we take to be a justification for the dominance of one term or
expression may be less certain and decided, especially when we examine
how this term or expression is really similar to the one over which it is
(falsely) privileged (Arrigo 2003, 64). This process is to drive home the
fact that the task ought not to be to reverse hierarchies, replacing one with
another, but to overturn the entire conceptual order that has produced
those hierarchiesthat is, to disrupt it.3
For Derrida, deconstruction is a tool for analysis, not synthesis (Balkin
cited in Arrigo 2003, 79). It is not content with the simple reversal
of a hierarchy, or the implementation of a new order. That is, it can-
not propose new hierarchies of thought or substitute new foundations
(Balkin cited in Arrigo 2003, 79), because these projects simply reinforce
logocentrism, and the purpose of deconstruction is ultimately to destabi-
lise them (Caplan 1991, 193194).

There are, of course, other Derridean concepts that form part of deconstructive approaches and
which have filled entire volumes. The aspects discussed here offer only an overview of the key tenets
of deconstruction and do not define deconstruction in its entirety (Arrigo 2003, 78).
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 171

Challenges toDeconstruction

A number of challenges to deconstructive positions have appeared

throughout the preceding chapters. Some critics see these analyses as
simply destructiveas failing to offer any productive political vision or
possible basis for intervening to change unjust relations. Many critical
scholars have sought to establish new conceptual orders, implying that
this is necessary for a progressive political visionI discussed this with
regard to realist critiques of the use of deconstruction in Chapter 6. Or,
seeing the value of deconstruction, some scholars will attempt to formu-
late their own version of deconstruction that allows them to propose a
new way of ordering relations and concepts. However, it is important to
remember that destabilisation is itself the key political intervention that
deconstruction makes. Thus, deconstruction is an ongoing process, seek-
ing to avoid settling with any rigid structure or taking for granted any
object: [t]here are no absolute essences to hide behind, no solace to be
found in Archimedean points of reference outside of history, no univer-
sal foundations against which to judge the present, and no final stage of
progress (perpetual peace) (Pavlich 2001a, 163; see also Hirvonen 1989,
67). This can, in fact, be quite confronting within critical scholarship, but
by engaging in constant disruption, deconstructive analysis embraces the
undecidable as a valuable domain of thinking, perhaps as the only domain
in which critical thinking can occur (Pavlich 2000, 143). As I will show,
these positions align with the notions of critique discussed below.

The Influence ofDeconstruction onQueer Thought

These deconstructive insightsin conjunction with Foucaults work out-

lined earlierhave been central to the development of queer scholar-
ship (see Royle 2009). Consider, for example, the hierarchical binaries
that are objects of much queer thought: male/female and heterosexual/
homosexual. These binaries play a central role in structuring Western
thought and social organisation, and examining these binariesand
the way in which one term gains meaning only through the otherhas
become a central task of queer scholars (Sedgwick 1990; Turner 2000,
172 Criminology and Queer Theory

33; Dilley 1999, 459). In addition to Foucaults analysis of the history

of these identity categories, this is also an important reason that queer
scholars avoid using identity categories within their analyses, as doing
so reinscribes those binaries and strengthens them. Instead, as discussed
earlier, they prefer to reflect on the construction and regulation of the
borders that shape sexual identities, communities, and politics (Namaste
1994, 226). Additionally, deconstructive analyses of the normative orders
based on the binaries present in Western thought help to identify those
who are rendered marginal in this process, and the abject identities pro-
duced. Derrida held that we always have a responsibility or obligation to
these remainders (ORourke 2005, 1112), and this responsibility
has driven a lot of queer scholarship seeking to ensure those lives that
have been rendered abject can become liveable (Butler 2004a, b). I now
return to the ways in which deconstruction has been taken up within
criminology, and identify the points at which much of this work diverges
from queer deconstruction.

The Limits ofCriminological Deconstruction

There are two key themes that underpin many criminological engage-
ments with deconstruction, and which cause it to both diverge from
queer deconstruction as discussed above and limit the possibilities of
bringing queer deconstruction further into criminology. These are the
desire for reconstruction, which involves the halting of deconstructive
analyses in order to posit a progressive politics or more accurate reading
of a phenomenon, and the view (already mentioned) that deconstruction
privileges the discursive at the expense of the material, by analysing only
texts, with little to say about material injustices. While some criminolo-
gists have proposed to reformulate deconstruction in order to take these
issues into account, many such proposals remain wedded to a notion of
criticism and have not moved towards a position of critique.
It appears that many criminological scholars who seek to engage in
deconstruction hold the view that deconstruction can only go so far,
and that it is in fact limited in its ability to chart a progressive political
agenda. I have pointed to this already in the context of realist criminol-
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 173

ogy. Thus, after deconstructing whatever their target of analysis happens

to be, they seek to engage in reconstruction, in the hopes that this will
give their analyses some political teeth. For example, Muncies vision of
deconstruction in criminology focuses on:

Breaking down the concept of the problem of crime into its various
constituent elements
Revealing the internal contradictions and inconsistencies of those
Undoing common-sense assumptions and resituating them as but
one element in hierarchies of explanation
Acknowledging the wide range of interpretations that can legitimately
lay claim to the crime debate [and]
Recognising that the problem of crime defies theoretical resolution
and is likely to remain a matter of continual dispute and contestation.
(Muncie 1996, 7)

While these might offer a critical analysis, they do not clearly align
with deconstruction as discussed earlier in this chapter. The purpose of
this process, Muncie suggests, is to reconstruct the parameters within
which a more reasoned and informed assessment of the crime problem
can be gained (Muncie 1996, 7), to produce an unfettered and unblink-
ered criminology (Muncie 1998, 5), and to offer a replacement discourse
where transgression might be understood without reference to crime,
harm reduced without recourse to criminalisation, and social justice
achieved without recourse to criminal law (Muncie 2000, 227). These
replacement discourses are intended to produce a better understanding of
these conceptsa task whose alignment with the aim of deconstruction
is not clear.
Other criminologists have suggested that it is necessary to build a criti-
cal deconstructive approach (which assumes that deconstruction is not
critical in the first place) because of the despair and alienation that
deconstruction supposedly leads to (Lynch etal. 1995, 203, 215). For
example, Lynch et al. suggest that deconstruction undertaken in line
with poststructuralism is inconsistent with other radical political views
because it is not humanistic or materialistic, is too abstract, and needs
174 Criminology and Queer Theory

placing in a material and historical context (Lynch et al. 1995, 224).

The critical deconstruction that is then proposed suggests the possibility
of liberation, and an optimistic theory of society and human relations
which acts as a means of overcoming despair and alienation (Lynch etal.
1995, 210). Similarly, Stoneman, while cautious about reconstructive dis-
courses and their implied substitution of new truths for old (Stoneman
2011, 27), nevertheless sees reconstruction as possible through the use of
provisional and relational truths, and as a way of countering the nihilism
of deconstructive analyses (Stoneman 2011, 30).
These kinds of reconstruction are problematic, however, because they
involve arbitrarily halting an analysis, and trying to build on what decon-
struction identifies as shaky foundations. They do not represent a desire
to keep the process of deconstruction open, but tend towards legislating
what ought to happen. In many cases, the point at which deconstruction
is halted is when a hierarchy of terms has been subverted. Instead of mov-
ing on to pull apart how these hierarchies structure meaning and identify
how they are interrelated so as to move beyond them along the lines
of poststructural deconstruction, many of these criminological analyses
tend to privilege the subordinated term. That is, they want to hold the
term (such as homosexual, gay, or woman) and employ it for their
analyses (Duncan 1994, 11).
The other major theme of criminological engagements with decon-
struction which highlight their distance from queer deconstruction is the
preference for the material, and a concern about the effects of privileging
the discursive. These views mirror the concerns of realist criminologists,
and as such, they will not be expanded on here (see further Lynch etal.
1995, 217). Nevertheless, it is worth adding that such an argument relies
on a binary construction that distinguishes the material from the discur-
sive. This binary is undermined by the arguments of Foucault and Butler,
who note that the mutual interdependency of these notions challenges
the binary itself (Butler 1993; Foucault 1980, 141, 1998).
These discussions are not intended to imply that all uses of deconstruc-
tion within criminology share these views on the value of deconstruction.
For example, the field of constitutive criminology engages with deconstruc-
tion to a large extent and, like much critical criminology, exposes the socially
constructed nature of social reality and its underpinning assumptions
(Ahmed 2014, 358). However, as it draws from a range of competing and
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 175

contradictory bodies of work, including [p]henomenology, ethnomethod-

ology, social interactionism, social constructionism, structuration theory,
post-structural theory, discourse analysis, and Marxist theory (Ahmed
2014, 358359), there is no guarantee that poststructural assumptions will
always inform the way in which deconstruction is utilised in such analyses.
Additionally, aspects of cultural criminology align in many respects with
deconstruction. Ferrell etal. point to the influence of the Situationists on
their thought, who sought to challenge conventional meanings and reshape
signs to produce new meanings. As Marcus (cited in Ferrell etal. 2008,
153) points out, the Situationists felt that [i]f they could somehow seize
the familiar and turn it into the other, if they could turn the words of
[their] enemies back on themselves they might be able to effect historic
change. This conversion of signs or words into something else informs
queer readings of cultural texts, though these processes can sometimes tend
towards the reconstructive, depending, of course, on how far these alterna-
tive readings are pursued.
While this discussion has not exhaustively analysed the varying
approaches to deconstruction within criminology, it has provided an
overview of many of the dominant trends in such work and the ways
in which some limit their engagement with deconstruction and others
align themselves more closely to it. I suggest that these differences in the
uptake of deconstruction are underpinned by different views of the task
of critical analysis, with many preferring to engage in criticism as opposed
to critique. In the next section, I expand on this point and suggest that
deconstruction within queer criminological scholarship, if it is to be dis-
ruptive, could more usefully align with critique.

Deconstruction andCritique
As I noted earlier in this chapter, there are two distinct activities that
fall under the critical umbrella: criticism and critique.4 According to
Butler, criticism is focused on finding faults and making judgements,
and it is this which tends to dominate within critical scholarship. Queer
criminological scholars can be said to be engaging in criticism in a num-

Parts of this section have been developed from previous work (see Ball 2014a).
176 Criminology and Queer Theory

ber of ways: when they argue that LGBTIQ people experience injustice
in the criminal justice system because of the heteronormative, cisgen-
dered, and binarised assumptions underpinning its operation; when they
argue against the lack of LGBTIQ perspectives in criminology; and even
when they propose reforms to address these problems. Additionally, those
who deconstruct within criminology in order to reconstruct may also be
engaging in an activity of criticism rather than critique. Certainly, these
forms of criticism are important and unavoidable. They underpin a lot
of critical criminology, and are necessary for suggesting future analytical
and political directions, and identifying targets for the same. However,
it is worth thinking about when this criticism begins to restrict the kinds
of analyses that critical thinkers undertake, or when it risks closure. As
Butler states, judgments operate as ways to subsume a particular
under an already constituted category leaving limited room for change
(Butler 2004c, 4; see also Pavlich 1999, 2001a, 150).
Pavlich (2001a, 151; see also Pavlich 2001b) further notes that univer-
sally founded judgement is central to this kind of criticism. This judge-
ment involves the critic ultimately measuring the world against criteria
that are privileged and supposedly universal (despite their historical,
political, and cultural contingency). Invariably, the critic finds the world
wanting according to such standards and can then lapse into the dog-
matic. This kind of criticism is held to by those who wish to drive change
in the world and, in the process, the critic is positioned as an expert
legislating on how things ought to be (Pavlich 2001a, 151, 159, 2001b,
141, 144145; see also Foucault 1998, 6). Thus, while it is necessary to
engage in critical scholarship, it is important to do so in a way that is not
connected to such judgement, and is not universalising and totalising.
Moving away from criticism, Butler suggests that we need a new
vocabulary that might be used by those that do not wish to assume the
right to judge. This alternative is the notion of critique, which asks after
the occlusive constitution of the field of categories themselves (Butler
2004c, 4) and the ways that they are ordered. This task involves sig-
nificant effort. It requires a suspension of judgement, particularly because
the question of whether or not a position is right, coherent, or interest-
ing [which critical scholars often ask] is, in this case, less informative
than why it is we come to occupy and defend the territory that we do,
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 177

what it promises us, from what it promises to protect us (Butler 1995,

Critique, then, is a way of challenging the foreclosure of reality as
produced through various forms of power. It identifies these foreclosures
as illegitimate and utilises them as opportunities to open up discursive
systems on the basis of that which cannot be thought (Butler cited in
Willig 2012, 142). As Butler suggests, [t]he categories by which social
life are ordered produce a certain incoherence or entire realms of unspeak-
ability (Butler 2004c, 10). As such, critique is initiated as a result of
reaching a kind of limit in our ways of knowing and in our experiences,
exposing that which, according to our current ways of thinking, appears
to be unspeakable or incoherent (Butler 2004c, 10). Butler has seen
the particular value of this kind of approach within queer work because it
helps to identify those lives and subjectivities which are rendered possible
within such frameworks, and those that are not made possible (Butler
2004a, b, 8, 2009; Willig 2012, 140141).
The vision of critique that is articulated here builds on Foucaults own
approach to critique. Foucault suggests that critique is historically bound
up with the question of how not to be governed (Foucault 1978b, 28).
More precisely, Foucault states that this refers to how not to be governed
like that, by that, in the name of those principles, with such and such an
objective in mind and by means of such procedures, not like that, not
for that, not by them (Foucault 1978b, 28, original emphasis). Here he
is drawing on his own broad definition of government and its concern
for the interactions between power and discourse through which subjects
are formed, ways of knowing produced, and the conduct of conduct
achieved (see Foucault 1982; Dean 2010). The movement against being
governed that he refers to can be understood as a call for us to push
against the ways in which a variety of discourses create our objects of
knowledge, shape for us the world as we perceive it, offer us norms to
which we ought to aspire or against which we are judged, and tell us
who we are. In short, it is one that calls for us to move beyond the limits
of our lives and the ways in which we have been governed as subjects.
Thus, such an approach to critique involves a multiplication of the points
at which governmental limits are identified as contingent, subjects are
178 Criminology and Queer Theory

uncoupled from their subjectivities, and possible paths of transgression

are opened up (Pavlich 2001b, 154).
The view that critique means avoiding foreclosure and offering new
possibilities also draws from other aspects of Foucaults attitude, includ-
ing his hyperand pessimistic activism, which recognises that politi-
cal action is ongoing and always potentially problematic, not because
everything is bad, but [because] everything is dangerous, which is not
exactly the same as bad, and means that we always have something to
do (Foucault 1983, 256). And it draws on Mitchell Deans notion of the
restive problematisation of the giventhat is, a practice that has the
effect of the disturbance of narratives of both progress and reconciliation,
finding questions where others had located answers and which recog-
nises that the trajectory of the historical forms of truth and knowledge
[is] without origin or end (Dean 1994, 4). For these reasons, critique is
distinguished from criticism, as it seeks to avoid legislating what ought
to happen in favour of a more open-ended struggle against governmental
limitsan open-endedness that is in line with deconstruction.
This approach to critique requires a self-transformation, and, in par-
ticular, the formation of a particular kind of subjectivity as a critic. Here,
critique can be seen as a virtue or an attitude (consider the previous dis-
cussions about queer also referring to an attitude) (Foucault 1978b).
Being confronted with ones limits and being prompted by an openness
to, and engagement with, a knowledge that is not ones own is invari-
ably a transformative process (Butler 2004c, 13). To most effectively
bring this transformation about and form oneself as a critical subject, it
is necessary to cultivate the characteristics of voluntary insubordination
or reflected intractability (Foucault 1978b, 32; see also Pavlich 2001a,
152). In this way, Foucault suggests critique can become the movement
by which the subject gives himself [sic] the right to question truth on its
effects of power and question power on its discourses on truth, produc-
ing the desubjugation of the subject in the context of what we would
call, in a word, the politics of truth (Foucault 1978b, 32).
Like deconstruction, this process is never ending. There is no point
at which one can settle and believe that a progressive agenda can be
implemented or that progress has been made. Nor is it possible to rest
at one point and believe that the key problems one is responding to can
be resolved. Instead, as Pavlich points out, critique relies on a relentless
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 179

iconoclasm that seeks to destabilise settled realities (Pavlich 2001a, 162).

As discussed above, it is this view that underpins the argument that decon-
struction has limited utility for critical politics, as well as the related drive
to engage in reconstruction.
Given the radical openness of such critique, its continual process of
deconstruction, the ongoing self-transformation that it requires, and its
explicit connection to resistance, fostering such critique within queer
criminological scholarship could perhaps best put into effect the approach
to queer as an attitude discussed in Chapter 2 and followed through this
book. However, I am not the first within criminology to draw attention
to these approaches to critique. George Pavlich, whose work aligns par-
ticularly with Derridean deconstruction, has pointed out the importance
of shifting towards this approach to critique (Pavlich 2001a, 162; see also
Pavlich 2001b). By doing so, he suggests that we can harness oppositional
experiences that challenge the claimed necessities of specific realities,
challenge regimes of power and truth, and render contingent given images
of social being so as to open up new possibilities that presently seem
impossible (Pavlich 2001a, 162; see also Pavlich 2000, 141143).
But if Pavlich has already developed within criminology the approach
suggested here (though admittedly this work has not been taken up
extensively), this raises the question of what, in particular, queer work
brings to the table? Does a queer critique along these lines proceed any
differently? Can it only add a focus on sexuality and gender to these
discussions, and if so, does this once again mean that queer scholarship
cannot jettison sexuality and gender as its objects? Where, then, does
this mean queer criminological scholarship stands as an original body of
work? In the final part of this chapter, I want to chart what such a queer
criminology might look like, not necessarily to answer such questions
definitively, but to open up a space in which they might be considered.

A Queer Deconstructive Criminology

In this last section I sketch what a queer deconstructive criminology
might look like, so as to more fully develop this in the final section of
the book. As argued earlier, engaging in deconstruction that aligns with
critique is one way of putting into practice within criminology the view
180 Criminology and Queer Theory

that queer constitutes an attitude. Clearly, interrogating foundational

concepts and pushing against what is taken for granted or what are con-
sidered to be norms involves an engagement with the limits of thought,
and, in Foucaults words, an attempt to avoid being governed by those
limits. This has a number of impacts on what queer criminological schol-
arship would involve.
To begin, and as I have already discussed, queer criminological scholar-
ship developed along these lines might avoid simply recounting the expe-
riences of particular groups, adding them to criminological knowledges,
building theories around them, or producing explanations of particular
crimes from a queer perspective. And it might avoid becoming solely a
pragmatic project focused on the material injustices and criminological
issues of concern to LGBTIQ people. While these are important and
productive, and have been the tasks of other critical criminologies, they
again potentially limit the uses of queer that become possible, and are
not necessarily aligned with the approaches taken here.
These kinds of projects differ because they may in fact require the
adoption of particular objects of knowledge, or particular assump-
tions about certain phenomena (such as their harmfulness)objects
that must remain the target of critiquein order to proceed (Bessant
2002, 220; Carlen 1998, 71). For example, exploring intimate partner
violence as experienced within LGBTIQ communities is an impor-
tant task in a queer criminology that seeks to increase criminological
knowledge and address injustice for those communities (Ristock 2011;
Erbaugh 2007). However, doing so may require adopting particular
understandings of the object intimate partner violence, or subjectivi-
ties that attach to terms such as offender and victim that can restrict
the kinds of deconstruction undertaken in the area (see Lea 1998, 167
for a similar example). A queer critique could make a space for the
interrogation of these objects and subjectivitiesan interrogation that
goes further than simply opening them up to include LGBTIQ peo-
ple and their experiences. While pushing against such limits may be
uncomfortableparticularly given that such analyses occur as part of
otherwise progressive thought that already holds to a number of truths
about these objects and subjectivitiessuch critique is necessary in
order to not only break down those concepts that are taken for granted,
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 181

but to challenge the foreclosure of other possibilities and the prescrip-

tion of normative orders. In short, such an approach seeks to avoid
being governed by these understandings, or, at the very least, hopes
to prevent them from standing without interrogation, and ensure that
these new spaces for thought are not closed down too hastily. While
these current understandings are practically useful and certainly try to
serve victims and offenders as well as possible, they can also become
normative and limit the space in which alternative understandings,
experiences, and readings might be possiblealternatives that may be
more sustaining for queer lives. I will consider this further in Chapter9
when discussing alternative conceptualisations of shame.
As such, this kind of queer criminological approach is quite distinct
from one that seeks the straightforward inclusion of LGBTIQ people into
criminology. The direction suggested here would seek to open a space in
which criminologists can engage with a range of lives that may have been
rendered unliveable and a range of subjectivities and experiences that
have been foreclosed upon (something I will return to in the concluding
chapter). This differs from a straightforward inclusion project in at least
three ways. First, an inclusion project can, in some instances, rely heavily
on criticism, and particularly the notion of judgement. After all, argu-
ing for greater inclusion of LGBTIQ people in criminology or for better
treatment of queers in the justice system relies on a judgement of the
justice system or criminological knowledge against a particular standard
that the critic has set (such as what might constitute an appropriate level
for the representation of LGBTIQ people in criminology). Second, an
inclusion project might set a high cost to that inclusion. It may require
groups of people to be constituted under the sign of an identity category
(which can be good and bad), but which ought also to constitute the
target of ongoing deconstruction (see Ball 2013b; Bessant 2002, 231).
A third (and related) point is that such an approach may seek recogni-
tion within existing conditions and already constituted parameters, as
opposed to questioning the terms of that recognition and the costs under
which it occurs (see Willig 2012). In these instances, queer criminologi-
cal scholarship might be best placed to continually question the terms
of recognition, and push against the already-set parameters of criminal
justice institutions.
182 Criminology and Queer Theory

Thus, the particular approach to queer criminological work that is sug-

gested here would seek to open spaces and shift relations so as to mul-
tiply the subjectivities that can be recognised, achieving this by pushing
against the limits of institutions and forms of government that might
foreclose on these. It might help people to detach themselves from the
way their lives have been inscribed (or not) in particular discourses, and
in the truths, orderings, and ethical precepts that are installed in forms
of government. And it might avoid simply extending the power of the
critic to legislate in a particular domain (Pavlich 1999, 40, 2001a, 152,
2001b, 152153; Butler 2004c, 26). All such activities are, in one way
or another, attempts to avoid being governed.
Adopting such a notion of critique within future queer criminological
scholarship might also produce a productive scepticism towards reforms to
criminal justice policies that are presented as progressive (see Cohen 1998,
110, 117). Drawing from Foucaults suggestion that everything is potentially
dangerous (Foucault 1983, 256), and that one is always caught within power
relations, forms of government, and normative regimes, a queer criminologi-
cal scholarship developed along these lines might seek to avoid being governed
by progressive assumptions, programmes, or positions in the wide context of
crime and justiceeven those suggested by queer criminologists. As Mitchell
Dean argues, any claims that a particular reform or programme makes to being
progressive, or to achieving social justice, ought not to be considered simply a
description of that programme, but rather to form a part of their rationalisa-
tion, operating to enrol others in the task of putting them into practice and
instituting their own normative orders in the process (Dean 2010, 4546).
This particular vision of queer criminological scholarship need not be
seen as unproductive or nihilistic. Pushing against power relations (and not
just the usual suspects of mainstream criminology, but also those that might
be thought of as progressive) is always a productive endeavour, allowing us
to engage with those regimes more effectively, work with them in order to
reformulate them, and seek to discover the degrees of freedom that they
permit (Foucault 1982, 341). We can then recognise that even in seeking to
move away from problematic relations of power, new forms of government
are being shaped and implemented that must also constitute the target for
critique. Here we might be reminded of Foucaults hyperand pessimis-
tic activism, and Deans restive problematisation of the given, which both
point to the impossibility of a queer critique ever coming to rest.
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 183

The above discussion has shown that deconstruction appears in many dif-
ferent forms within criminology. Many of these instances do not appear
to align clearly with deconstruction as it appears within poststructural
thought and queer scholarship. They often remain connected to criti-
cal approaches that prefer criticismwhich is based on judgement and
leads to analytical and political closureover critiquewhich is an open
interrogation of limits and forms of closure and more apparent within
queer deconstruction. In this chapter, I have suggested that it is impor-
tant to foster approaches to queer deconstruction within criminology
that align with the view of critique as the art of not being governed. This
can develop the view that queer denotes an attitude and best put into
effect its disruptive potential.
It is relatively easy to see how queer deconstructive approaches to crim-
inology can differ from many other forms of criminological deconstruc-
tion. Queer approaches interrogate the limits of these approaches and the
normative orders that they produce. Perhaps, in order to determine how
much overlap exists between the queer deconstructive criminological
work proposed here and existing deconstructive approaches within crim-
inology, we could consider the extent to which these other deconstruc-
tive approaches seek to avoid being governed themselvesby objects of
knowledge, unspoken assumptions, the necessity to suggest reforms. And
we could also note whether they maintain an open intellectual stance
or foreclose upon particular avenues of thought and action and seek to
institute new forms of government.
It is harder to see the distinctions between many aspects of the queer
critique discussed here and the approaches to deconstruction within
criminology that align with the notion of critique as outlined by Pavlich.
However, it might be premature to suggest that queer criminological work
along these lines does little more than repeat or recycle those approaches
that do exist. This approach has not been taken up extensively within
criminology (whether by queer or other critical criminologists) for many
of the reasons outlined above. As such, it is difficult at this stage to tell
what such approaches might look like, and how they might differ. We
need to consider whether queer deconstruction is queer because it starts
184 Criminology and Queer Theory

with the experiences of queers or perhaps a queer object of analysis and

explores the non-normative. And we need to consider whether this differs
from other criminological work that puts into effect the notion of critique
and which might start by considering a more traditional criminologi-
cal object of analysis. If it does differ in this way, we must then explore
whether this means that queer scholarship again cannot rid itself of sexu-
ality and gender as its proper objects. The view of queer as an attitude
aligned with critique begins a movement away from these objects, open-
ing a space for us to look for further conceptual tools that would allow
us to make the most of queer in this sense. However, it might actually
become quite difficult to distinguish queer deconstruction from other
forms of criminological deconstruction adopting the notion of critique.
This kind of scholarship needs to continue in order to distinguish these
kinds of deconstructionqueer and not queerand again determine the
contribution that queer work makes to criminology.
In the meantime, developing the kinds of queer deconstruction sug-
gested here will certainly provide an original direction for queer crimino-
logical scholarship. This kind of approach to queer criminological work
can allow our ways of thinking to be more fundamentally altered than
they might be if we were solely pointing to the absence of sexuality and
gender diversity from our knowledges or institutions, or if we were to
only focus on identifying the heteronormative, cisgendered and binarised
assumptions that exist within them. Such an approach has in its sights a
more fundamental reformulation of the epistemological and ontological
grounds upon which we stand, as opposed to simply addressing an over-
sight in a body of knowledge. Further, this kind of project does not nec-
essarily consist of deconstruction or critique for the sake of ita charge
that critics of these projects make. These kinds of deconstruction and
critique are inherently political and may, in the long term, go further
towards addressing the injustices to which queer criminological scholar-
ship has responded. This kind of queer work in criminology would do
whatever possible to ensure that the notion of queer is never put to rest,
its critical potential never limited, and its productive power never fore-
closed. The final part of this book takes up the approaches outlined here
in order to illustrate how aspects of criminological scholarship may be
queered along these lines.
7 Deconstruction andQueering inCriminology 185

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Part III
Beyond Criminology
No Future? Utopia, Criminology,
andtheQueer Value ofHope

Having established some of the broader theoretical and conceptual issues
that must be considered alongside any calls to queer criminology, and
having critically reflected on how queer criminology could be positioned
within critical criminology and the original contributions it might make,
in this final part of the book I begin to chart new ways of developing the
intersections between queer scholarship and criminology. These chapters
move beyond what might be considered some of the more conventional
topics of criminology and criminal justiceoffending behaviour, forms
of victimisation, and the operation of criminal justice institutionsto
offer queer reflections and critiques of issues that, while not always com-
mon features of criminological conversations, underpin aspects of the
field nonetheless. In these chapters I explore the utopian visions that
drive much of criminology and I consider the concept of shame as it is
embedded and experienced in criminal justice practices.
These topics of shame and utopia offer clear opportunities to explore
the possible intersections between queer scholarship and criminology. As
less conventional topics of criminology, they are not only immediately

The Author(s) 2016 191

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_8
192 Criminology and Queer Theory

attractive for a queer analysis, but also point to original directions in

queer criminological scholarship and highlight the potential breadth
of such work (see Mogul et al. 2011; Panfil and Peterson 2014; Buist
and Lenning 2016). In the chapters that follow, I simultaneously chart
two directions for queer criminological work on each topic: a corrective
direction and a more thoroughly queer direction. While it will come as
no surprise that I argue that the more thoroughly queer directions offer
important points to grapple with, there is a strong case to be made for the
corrective directions to be followed as well.
In this chapter, I turn to the issue of criminological utopias and crimi-
nological investments in the future. Despite some more pessimistic cri-
tiques that suggest that nothing works or that criminal justice reforms
only widen the net of social control, criminologists and criminal justice
practitioners remain nothing if not optimistic. Crime prevention pro-
grammes, rehabilitative measures, ongoing refinements to explanatory
theories of crimeall hold out hope that they will, at some point in
the future (and often despite continual evidence to the contrary), work.
Critical criminological thought is also somewhat motivated by visions of
what a more just society or criminal justice system might look like, and
the hope that these visions are achievable.
In each of these contexts, criminology and criminal justice are con-
cerned withnot to mention invested inthe future. The future is con-
stantly being brought into play within these disciplinary debates, and
conceptualised in different ways. It might be conceived as something
potentially dangerous or risky that is to be avoided, such as in justifica-
tions for the indefinite detention of sex offenders, or in interventions into
the lives of young people who are understood as at risk of offending. It
might be seen as something to be secured, serving as the justification for
measures that pre-empt possible terrorist threats. Or the future might
be seen as a time in which an ideal state of affairs will be brought about,
such as within critical and other criminological utopias. Criminology
and criminal justice, then, seem to hold some hope for a positive future,
working on the assumption that if only more is done, if only more is
known, then the future will turn out better. A concern for the future,
and the presence of various utopian visions, it seems, are unavoidable in
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 193

Certainly, an investment in the future and the presence of utopian

visions of that future are not unique to criminology. Scholarship and
activism undertaken in the interests of LGBTIQ communities have also
proffered their own visions and critiques in this regard. The many forms
of LGBTIQ politics, in one way or another, have sought to produce a
state of affairs in which queers may live without discrimination, violence,
and marginalisation. These have ranged from reformative projects that
seek the inclusion of queers in existing institutions, to deconstructive
projects that seek the removal of imposed norms and discursive frames
that make queer lives difficult or impossible. For many, queer theory has
always been connected to hope, and queerness long understood as an
ideality (ORourke 2011, 107; Muoz 2009, 1).
Of course, it should come as no surprise that not all queer scholars
and activists have celebrated the utopian visions of LGBTIQ politics,
or adopted the same investments in the future as others. Inspired by the
anti-normativity of much queer scholarship, these scholars have sought
to question the investment that is often made in futurity. They argue that
political visions of the future invariably figure the queer as a threat to that
very future, and thereby rarely provide space for queers. Instead of align-
ing with a life-affirming, future-oriented queer politics, these scholars
prefer to embrace the very death drive that these normative political
visions suggest queers represent, arguing that the ethical value of queer-
ness can be found in such an embrace (Edelman 2004). As one might
expect, these contrasting views about the value of investing in utopia and
futurity have produced rigorous and ongoing debates within queer schol-
arship, not to mention unique insights into the political utility of utopia
and futurity for different communities.
Queer criminology sits in an interesting position at the intersec-
tion of these diverse bodies of scholarship and their debates. It is
clear that the development of queer criminological scholarship to date
has been driven by a utopian impulse of some form. Much queer
criminological scholarship engages either explicitly or implicitly with
notions of utopia and the future, drawing particularly from many of
the utopian aspects of critical criminologyfrom work on improving
queer community relations with police right through to the signifi-
cant body of queer abolitionist work. However, for the most part, queer
194 Criminology and Queer Theory

criminological scholarship has been the primary place in which queer

communities have figured in criminological futures (if we discount
here previous criminal justice utopias whose goal was the punishment
or correction of the deviance that queer communities represented).
Explicit mentions of queer communities in broader criminological
utopian visions are rare. Put simply, it seems that the queer crimi-
nological future is the only criminological future that mentions and
engages with queers.
Because of this, there is a strong argument that queer criminological
work ought to be corrective, and contribute to the oversights what may
have been overlooked within criminological utopias. However, an impor-
tant problem still faces us, if this task were to direct queer criminologists.
While criminological utopias and futures generally do not seem to be for
queers at present, as mentioned above, it is not yet at all clear from queer
scholarship more generally whether utopia itself is even for queers. Queer
criminological engagements with utopia and the future, then, need to
contend with the diverging tasks of addressing the heteronormativity of
general criminological utopian thought, and the contestations within
queer thought itself over utopia and the future.
In this chapter, I explore these questions. By discussing the place of
utopian thought and the investments made in the future within queer
criminological work, this chapter offers an opportunity to draw queer
scholarship and criminology together in an original way and contribute to
the development of such intersections. I begin by investigating the spaces
within criminology wherein criminological utopias can be queered. Then,
after engaging with queer theoretical discussions about utopia and futurity,
I move on to discuss the limitations of such a corrective queer criminolog-
ical vision. Then, I consider other ways of approaching this move towards
utopia and the future, drawn from queer scholarship, which might be
useful for queer criminological work. In doing so, I am fully aware that
considering which direction ought to be taken when engaging in utopian
thought can itself be understood as an investment in the futurea tension
that is perhaps unavoidable. Ultimately, this chapter considers whether
criminology (and particularly queer criminology) ought to remain hope-
ful, and if so, how criminologys hope might be queered.
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 195

To begin, it is necessary to explore the notion of utopia and utopian
thought and method generally. This will serve as a basis for exploring
and critiquing the utopian in criminological and queer thought. Derived
from the Greek ou (meaning no/non), and topos (meaning place),
the word utopia means non-place. It is also etymologically related to
eu-topos, meaning good place (Leszkowicz and Kitlinski 2013, 196;
Malloch and Munro 2013, 1; Bammer cited in Noss 2012, 135). Most
uses of the term play on this diverse pedigree, as utopias are often thought
to be good places that do not (yet) exist. Taking many different forms
from the poetic and imaginary to the programmatic (such as in the
form of manifestos)utopias generally outline an ideal state of affairs,
non-existent at present, but sought after (Malloch and Munro 2013, 1;
Copson 2013, 115). They are future-oriented, bringing a future tempo-
rality into play in the present in order to disrupt that present (Shahani
2012, 106; Young 1992, 427).
Utopian thinking has a range of functions. Most often, utopias pro-
mote some sort of ideal social order, offering a set of criteria against
which existing social conditions might be evaluated, and providing a
basis for political action and contestation (Munro 2013, 45; Malloch
and Munro 2013, 23; Leszkowicz and Kitlinski 2013, 196). On this
point, Ruth Levitas suggests that utopia is about how we would live and
what kind of a world we could live in if we could do just that (in Pattee
2008, 157). However, not all utopias involve a representation of an ideal
state of affairs. They can be more modest and embedded in the exist-
ing world that they seek to change, acting as heuristic devices through
which it becomes possible to think differently about existing political and
social institutions, ultimately with the hope of changing these conditions
(Munro 2013, 59; Young 1992, 428429). As Peter Young puts it, they
have an activating presence (Young 1992, 428). In this sense, utopia and
political critique are intricately connected.
Utopian theorists have articulated in more detail these varying func-
tions of utopia. For example, Hudson identified four: the cognitive
(offering a mode of operation for constructive reason); the educative
196 Criminology and Queer Theory

(encouraging people to desire more and better); the anticipatory (offer-

ing a range of possibilities that might be implemented); and the causal
(acting as an agent of change) (Leszkowicz and Kitlinski 2013, 194).
Levitas added a fifth function here, the expressive, providing a space for
the articulation of dissatisfaction (Leszkowicz and Kitlinski 2013, 194).
In addition, Levitas has suggested three modes of utopian thought: the
archaeological (scrutinising and critiquing the current political land-
scape); the architectural (outlining the aspirational society as well as the
means of bringing it about); and the ontological (constituting ourselves
in order to inhabit the desired utopian society) (Armstrong 2013, 142;
Copson 2013, 126128). Each of these dimensions of utopian thought
features within criminological work, as will be discussed further below.
Importantly, utopian thought is not always restricted to a vision of
a future society. For many, particularly Levitas, utopia is best seen as a
method. Utopian thinking is a practiceit is a way of getting to the future
point that is desirable, and is not the future vision itself. This view of
utopia as method seeks to avoid utopian designs becoming singular goals
onto which all attention is focused and into which all political energy
is poured, thus limiting the possibilities that other futures could be
achieved. Conceiving of utopia as a method enables the recognition that
the present, as well as all possible futures, are contingent, and that imagi-
nation is at the heart of political action (Armstrong 2013, 141).
While imagination, optimism, and hope for a better world are cen-
tral to utopian thought, utopias are often dismissed as nave, idealistic,
and unachievablethe term utopian has even been used in a dismissive
way to deride certain visions or politics. Some, particularly realist critics
(as discussed in Chapter 6), question the value of utopian thought, dis-
missing its idealism over more short-term, pragmatic reforms and goals.
However, as scholars engaging with utopia contend, this idealismthe
imaginative creations that proper utopias must bemust remain a vital
aspect of radical or transformative politics (Young 1992, 430). While
utopias are generally rooted in a sense of reality and existing conditions
that ought to change, there must still be some dissonance between that
reality and the moral claims that inform the utopian vision (Young 1992,
430). Appeals to realism or short-term political action that is immedi-
ately realisable may defeat the purpose of utopian thought, as it allows
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 197

present-day politics [to] set the agenda for this exercise of imagination
(Young 1992, 430). In fact, for Eagleton, nothing could be more idly
utopian than a pragmatic realism that assumes the future to be very much
the same as the present and which does not account for change (Malloch
and Munro 2013, 9). Without utopia, we may, in fact, simply preserve
existing structures of power (Armstrong 2013, 156). For utopian schol-
ars, then, the hope that the future may be different from the present is
not simply idealistic, for hope itself does not only represent confidence,
but rather an awareness that there are dangers on the road to achieving
utopian visions (Malloch and Munro 2013, 6).
Utopian thought is not as straightforward as one might initially believe.
Utopias respond to specific historical and political contexts, which means
that utopian visions articulated in the past may not have the same pur-
chase or relevance today. Nor is there any guarantee that they will over-
turn all existing oppressive structures. Additionally, utopian thought is
articulated through existing discursive constructs, which, as suggested
earlier, can limit the field of politics. In this sense, utopian visions can be
bound to present power structures and inequalities, and may reproduce
them (Noss 2012, 136; Malloch 2013, 2427; Pearson 2003, 8687)it
is worth noting on this point that Thomas Mores fictional Utopia, pub-
lished in 1516, still contained slaves (Malloch and Munro 2013, 9). In
addition, some utopian visions may be holistic visions, leading to their
violent imposition (Copson 2013, 120), or they can develop co-optive
tendencies, becoming so embedded in our social and political conditions
that it becomes almost impossible to move away from them and imag-
ine other possibilitiesconsider utopian ideals of individual rights or
the rule of law in this regard (Armstrong 2013, 141). These critiques
notwithstanding, utopian thought permeates numerous fields, including
criminology, and it is to this engagement that I now turn.

Utopia andCriminology
Societies without crime, or without the need for certain aspects of crime
control, are common utopian visions of interest to criminologists. And
it is not surprising that utopian thought features in these contexts,
198 Criminology and Queer Theory

given the central role of criminal justice institutions in social organisa-

tion, not to mention the investment that criminology has in the future
(Malloch and Munro 2013, 8; Ruggiero 2013). In a 1992 article titled
The Importance of Utopias in Criminological Thinking, Peter Young
suggested that despite criminologys appearance as a practical and applied
discipline uninterested in the idealism and potential impracticality of
utopian visions, utopias have played an important role in the discipline
as (borrowing a phrase from Bauman) activating presences that estab-
lish research agendas, and institute particular types of critique (Young
1992, 423424). He points to radical criminologies, abolitionism, and
anarchist schools of thought as clear manifestations of utopian impulses
(Young 1992, 423). Notably, each of these engages in one way or another
with the various functions and modes of utopian thought outlined above.
Given that criminology has historically been committed to removing
crime and improving society, a vision of what would constitute a good
society is central to it (Copson 2013, 114). As social scientists, Young
argues that criminologists have long been influenced at a general level
by the conceptual vocabulary of a range of master utopias such as lib-
eralism, socialism, and scientism/positivism (Young 1992, 431). These
have provided a conceptual vocabulary through which criminology has
defined its objects of analysis, its methods, and even its ethics (Young
1992, 435). But despite their presence and influence, there remains con-
siderable debate over the value of utopian thought within criminology.
The left realist critique of left idealists has made its mark, and there is
often a preference for more immediate goals, such as developing and eval-
uating piecemeal reforms and improvements to the justice system over
grander visions, particularly with the persistence and normality of high
crime rates and the failures of penal modernism (Copson 2013, 114;
Malloch 2013, 21; Matthews 2014; Young 1992, 424).
While utopian criminological work has continued largely in the form
of abolitionist, peacemaking, anarchist, and restorative perspectives, there
have been recent attempts to revive utopian thought within criminology
more generally. Margaret Malloch and Bill Munros 2013 book Crime,
Critique, and Utopia is one example calling for such a transformative
agenda in criminology (Malloch and Munro 2013, 13; see especially
Copson 2013; Malloch 2013). Copson suggests that criminology has an
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 199

essential, utopian impulse (Copson 2013, 131), and that by fostering this,
it is possible for it to become (in Ian Loader and Richard Sparks [2010]
terms) a democratic under-labourer rather than simply an adjunct of the
criminal justice system (Copson 2013, 122). As Malloch states, this is
necessary because [o]ur critiques of criminal justice should lead us to pro-
pose alternatives that go far beyond current limited responses to crime,
focusing instead on the eradication of social systems based on inequality
and sustained by practices of criminalisation (Malloch 2013, 40).
Interestingly, so far little has been said by queer criminologists about the
place of utopia in queer criminological thought. It is certainly possible to
articulate some of the utopian visions that inform queer criminology, and to
identify certain investments by queer criminologists in the future. As I dis-
cussed in Chapter 3, the development of queer criminology is primarily tied
to the task of achieving greater criminal and social justice for LGBTIQ peo-
ple. A number of the functions of utopia inform such visions: they provide a
space in which queer dissatisfaction with the current state of criminology and
criminal justice can be aired; they provide an avenue for queer communities
to develop hope in the possibilities that these injustices might be reformed;
and through them a number of alternatives to current practices are proposed.
Additionally, queer criminological investments in criminology and the insti-
tutions of criminal justice are, in many ways, investments in the future.
However, with some exceptions (discussed below), queer criminologists
generally do not articulate their goals in the language of utopian thought.
As such, there is arguably greater scope for queer criminologists to engage
directly in utopian thought as part of the development of queer criminol-
ogy. Furthermore, by and large, beyond the analyses and critiques under-
taken by queer criminologists, criminological utopias mention LGBTIQ
people only sporadically. Thus, there is scope for queer criminologists
to respond to such exclusion and chart a corrective queer criminological
engagement with utopia. I now turn to consider some of these directions
within criminological utopian thoughtparticularly peacemaking, abo-
litionist, and anarchist criminologiesand consider the possibilities they
hold for developing a queer utopian vision in criminology.1

Notably, restorative justice processes can also be considered somewhat utopian visions within
criminology. Reintegrative shaming, which is a key practice of restorative justice, will be discussed
in further detail in the next chapter.
200 Criminology and Queer Theory

Peacemaking Criminology

As far as utopian visions in criminology go, peacemaking perspectives are

certainly idealistic. Put simply, peacemaking criminologists seek the elim-
ination of violence and harmful acts that are based on inequitable power
relations from all aspects of our lives, and imagine a world without crime
because they imagine a world that would not produce crime (Sullivan and
Tifft 1998, 6; Quinney 2000, 21). This perspective offers a critique of the
selective processes through which crime is defined, enforced, and pun-
ished, as well as a stance against the harmful effects of the war mentality
that underpins crime control and the expansion of the prison industry
(Fuller and Wozniak 2006, 251). Holding the view that the existence of
crime actually reflects something larger and deeper (Quinney 2000, 21)
acting at the broader societal level, peacemaking criminologists are thor-
oughly concerned with dismantling power relations (Fuller and Wozniak
2006, 269).
In order to achieve the fundamental societal change that they seek,
peacemaking criminologists suggest a variety of approaches drawing
from a range of conceptual, philosophical, and ethical groundsinclud-
ing humanism, existentialism, Buddhism, pacifism, and socialism, not
to mention feminism and other critical perspectives (Quinney 2000,
21; Fuller and Wozniak 2006, 253). Holding the views that [t]he more
responsive, mindful, and connected the individual, the less likely a crime
and victimisation will be committed, and [t]he greater the extent of
dignity and right understanding for the individual, the less likely a crime
and victimisation will be committed (Fuller and Wozniak 2006, 270),
peacemaking criminologists seek to foster notions such as community, con-
nection, and responsibility for others, and related forms of self (see Shantz
and Williams 2013, 97). For instance, Quinney suggests that [t]he basis
of peacemaking criminology is compassion and love. A love that not only
allows us to identify ourselves with others, but allows us to know that
we are one with another, that we are one. Such love makes a different
world, a world without crime (Quinney 2000, 25). Thus, the inner peace
of the individual and the outer peace of the world are seen as intercon-
nected (Quinney 2000, 21). Structures of violence, power, privilege, and
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 201

prestige do not foster equal well-being, and thus cannot bring about this
state of affairs or produce justice (Sullivan and Tifft 1998, 8). It follows,
then, that the way to address offending is not through harsher and more
violent means.
Though peacemaking criminology has been criticised as offering noth-
ing new to criminology, for being too vague, for not offering a blueprint of
policy changes, and having little empirical support to suggest that it would
work (Fuller and Wozniak 2006, 252, 264), there are some reasons to con-
sider its utopian visions of interest to queer criminologists. For example,
queer criminologists have generally not embraced punitive, repressive, and
violent responses to crime (Mogul etal. 2011). The desire to reduce the
presence of violence in our lives is certainly apt for those who have long
been at the receiving end of social and institutional violence. And peace-
making criminologists have, in fact, held up same-sex couples as exem-
plars of the kinds of communal and interpersonal relationships that are
possible and would lead to the development of this utopian vision. They
suggest that such relationships illustrate the possibility of deep friendships
and collaborative relationships in family units that move beyond tradi-
tional views of separateness and parallel lives that (they suggest) often exist
in heterosexual relationships (Sullivan and Tifft 1998, 24).
However, there are some questions about the extent to which peace-
making criminology can further queer criminology and allow for greater
uses of queer scholarship here. For instance, while holding up same-sex
couples as an exemplar may seem positiveafter all, rarely have queers
been held as positive exemplars within criminologythis can also be seen
as a thoroughly normative and idealised vision of queer relationships. Some
of the assumptions about the ideal subject within peacemaking criminol-
ogy, too, may not articulate with queer critiques of subjectivity discussed
earlier. As Sullivan and Tifft (1998, 19) suggest, the act of punishing and
the control that it involves requires burying ones true identity, meaning
that only through life-affirming participation can a persons inner being
be kept alivea view that implies a measure of essentialism. And further,
a number of problematic assumptions about power are present within
peacemaking criminology, also limiting the possibility of queer critiques
in this context.
202 Criminology and Queer Theory

Effectively, peacemaking criminologists seek to exit power relations. As

Sullivan and Tifft state, the greatest task for anyone who desires to create
peaceful social arrangements is to find a way out of the power complex,
and also to reject the use of violence and power to achieve their ends
(Sullivan and Tifft 1998, 22). Not only does this assume that power rela-
tions are proprietary and negative, but it also says little about the violence
of discourses and norms which have been key to the injustices experi-
enced by queer communities. Relatedly, peacemaking criminologists seek
to foster social capital and community networks of support and infor-
mal social control so as to reduce or prevent crime (Shantz and Williams
2013, 95). However, not only does this fail to remove them from power
relations (in fact embedding such relations more thoroughly), a turn
towards community does not guarantee that queers will be considered as
part of that community.
Finally, while the pacifism of peacemaking criminologists is certainly
positive, some queer thought has not ruled out the role that violence (or
at least the threat of violence) may play in some contexts. Elements of
early queer activismparticularly in the criminal justice contextcon-
sisted of night patrols of queer neighbourhoods, with members of these
patrols seeking to defuse homophobic or transphobic attacks, respond-
ing with violence if necessary (Dodge 1993). While the use of violence
in these contexts was ethically fraught, it was also considered a legiti-
mate tactic in extreme circumstances, and particularly in the context of
a criminal justice system that did little to protect victims (and, in fact,
often contributed to such violence). These points suggest that perhaps
there are places where a queer peacemaking criminology might be cau-
tiously embraced, but that in some other respects, there are also limits to
queer hope.

Abolitionist Work inCriminology

Another key body of utopian thought within criminology is that which

seeks to abolish central components of the criminal justice system, most
notably the prison. Abolitionist work draws, to varying extents, from some
deconstructionist perspectives, particularly in the sense that it considers
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 203

the definition of crime and questions the legitimacy and relevance of

suchdefinitions (Cohen 1991, 729732).
Abolitionist perspectives begin from the notion that, as crime has no
ontological reality, there is a political process involved in defining only
certain acts and interactions (with little in common between their moti-
vation and their consequences) as criminal. We respond to these events
in very limited ways and have long lacked a general commitment to find-
ing more positive ways of dealing with crime and justice (Cohen 1991,
732733; Hulsman 1991, 682683; Mathiesen 2006, 146). The crimi-
nal justice system thus tends to give an unrealistic construction of what
happened, tends therefore also to give an unrealistic answer and therefore
tends to exclude the formal organisations such as the police and courts
from dealing in a creative way with those events and learning from them
(Hulsman 1991, 694). These responses also generally produce more
harmto individuals and communitiesthan good, and even fail on
their own terms (on the prison, see for example, Mathiesen 2006, 141).
It is on these bases that abolitionists abandon current notions such
as crime in their analyses, and build alternative responses to harmful
behaviour in order to address the injustice and ineffectiveness of criminal
justice. As Hulsman suggests, [i]f we want to make progress in the field
of alternatives we have to abandon the cultural and social organisation
of criminal justice (1991, 708). Additionally, as Scott (2013, 107) puts
it, we need to develop new languages and ways of conceptualising prob-
lems so as to rid ourselves of punitive rationales. Thus abolitionists seek
to build real alternatives to justice systemsnot to develop alternative
sanctions or practices within these systems as they exist, but to dismantle
them, and, in true utopian style, propose alternatives in the criminal jus-
tice process that seem impossible under current normative assumptions
(Hulsman 1991, 694, 696; Scott 2013; Mathiesen 2006, 170).
Again, there is much within abolitionist criminology that aligns with
the goals of queer criminology. Certainly the very goal of abolitionist
workto challenge and abolish rather than to reform existing institu-
tions and practicesis thoroughly queer. In fact, much queer activism
in criminal justice contexts has been abolitionist work challenging the
prison in particular. Drawing on intersectional analyses that point to the
over-representation of socio-economically disadvantaged queer people
204 Criminology and Queer Theory

of colour (and specifically transgender people of colour) in prisons, and

concerns that queer investments in the criminal justice system are homo-
normative, such work has to this point offered a key component of queer
activist challenges to these institutions (Stanley and Smith 2011; Mogul
etal. 2011, 150157). Work of this kind ought to be extended. However,
some important questions remain. For example, many general abolition-
ist works do not consider gender or sexuality specifically (Scott 2013,
98101). Additionally, while certainly the critique of criminal justice
institutions is necessary in order to help reduce the over-representation
of some LGBTIQ people within the justice system, and to consider new
responses to crime and justice, such work also needs to consider whether
the abolition of the criminal justice system is a good thing, given that, for
better or worse, it has slowly come to help some LGBTIQ people and, in
places, positive relations between queer communities and the police have
been built (Dwyer and Tomsen 2016).

Anarchist Criminology

The final utopian currents within criminology discussed here are those
aligned with anarchist criminological work. Anarchist perspectives
involve critiques of state law and legality based on the position that state
authority and administration destroys community, increases criminal-
ity, and harms the vulnerable and socially disadvantaged (Ferrell 1998,
67; Chomsky 2005). Anarchists hold that human relations and diversity
are more important than the authority of law and the state, and thus
we ought to foster fluid and decentralised communities in order to best
respond to such diversity (Ferrell 1998, 911). The harmful impacts of
any exercise or extension of state power need to be avoided, and thus
alternatives that are drawn from and are relevant to a range of different
communities need to be developed, some of which may appear unreason-
able or impossible (Ferrell 1998, 34).
Notions about human unity and community are important to these
kinds of anarchist criminological thought. Anarchists generally hold that
forms of hierarchy, power, and appropriation restrict the possibilities for
drawing out and expressing community. In the context of criminal justice,
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 205

existing institutions seek primarily to punish and are associated with ven-
geance (Shantz and Williams 2013, 88), preventing us from dealing with
harm and social conflict in ways that would not only be more holistic,
but would also be more effective at maintaining social cohesion (Tifft
1979, 393, 397). Anarchists also hold that existing power structures fos-
ter harmful behaviour (Ferrell 1998, 4).
Like the other utopian directions in criminology, anarchist thought
certainly offers many possibilities for developing queer criminological
work. For example, anarchists suggest that we move away from institu-
tional conflict resolution and build forms of justice that foster face-to-
face engagement, eschew languages and offices of authority, and express
the desires of people engaging in voluntary and reciprocal relationships
(Tifft 1979, 398; Shantz and Williams 2013, 76). On this basis, Ruth-
Heffelbower states that principles of anarchist work in criminology
suggest that social harms produce needs and responsibilities (for both
those harmed and those responsible) that communities should assess and
respond to in ways that foster community and are respected by commu-
nities, such as through discouraging harm, encouraging behaviour that
is pro-social, and responding to those unwilling to avoid harming others
(Ruth-Heffelbower 2014, 7). Instead of simply applying palliatives to a
system that only produces inequality and further harm, these approaches
ultimately seek to destroy the very source of such inequality (Shantz and
Williams 2013, 83). In this sense they push against existing institutions
and offer a potentially useful way of responding to key forms of victimisa-
tion experienced by queer communities. Furthermore, as Ferrell suggests,
given that it acknowledges no set boundaries, [and] claims no pedigreed
intellectual heritage or exclusive scholarly turf, anarchist criminology may
ultimately constitute no more than a defiant sensibility, an outlaw orien-
tation and analysis, which floats around and against criminology (Ferrell
1998, 10)offering a further alignment with the disruptive attitude that
queer can signify. Perhaps not surprisingly, though, anarchist work has
been critiqued, as queer work has, for its idealism and for its preference
for deferring the development of concrete policies and reforms until after
fundamental social change has occurred (Shantz and Williams 2013, 71).
Additionally, anarchists have said little in the criminological space that is
specifically relevant for queer communities, with the assumption perhaps
206 Criminology and Queer Theory

that their interests would be reflected in any fundamental social changes.

And finally, as with the critiques raised above, there remains a concern
about the ongoing struggle for queer people to be included in the ideal
visions of community underpinning anarchist work, and the extent to
which such communities might actually abolish power relations.
Though the value of utopian thought still seems to divide criminolo-
gists somewhat, it is clear that such thought continues to haunt criminol-
ogy. At stake, it seems, is not only the efficacy of various criminological
politics, but the degree of social change sought, and the extent to which
criminologists are invested in the future. This discussion of criminologi-
cal utopias, while managing only to scratch the surface of the diversity
of such thought, has pointed to the relative absence of queer communi-
ties from these discussions. It suggests that there is certainly some scope
for what might be a corrective direction for queer criminology, which
develops more explicit utopian strands within queer criminological work
in order to articulate these same investments in the future, and the paths
through which change may be achieved. However, as mentioned at the
beginning of this chapter, there remain some questions as to whether
the notion of utopia has value within queer scholarship. What is to be
gainedand, importantly, what is to be lostin queer criminological
investments in the future? I now turn away from considering the value of
corrective directions for queer criminological reflections on utopia to a
more thoroughly disruptive queer direction for such work.

Utopia inQueer Theory

The above discussion has highlighted that while there is significant scope
for queer criminologists to engage with utopian thought within crimi-
nology, more work needs to be done to articulate more precisely how
these utopias might be reformulated in order to better accommodate
queers. While there are certainly compelling reasons to engage in such a
task, it is important to consider the range of debates over the notions of
utopia, hope, and investments in the future within queer thought more
generallydebates which question whether utopian thought is desirable
within queer scholarship and politics. I expand on these debates below,
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 207

asking whether utopia really is for queers, so as to reflect on how queer

engagements might offer new possibilities for drawing queer scholarship
and criminology together.

No Future andReproductive Futurism

The debates within queer scholarship over queer investments in the

future were instigated largely by the publication of Lee Edelmans searing
polemic No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Edelman 2004).
In this book, Edelman takes aim at the notion of reproductive futurism,
which refers to the logic within which the political is generally thought,
wherein significant value is placed on the future. The future is generally
represented in politics by the figure of the Child, and it is in the name of
this Child that the future is fought over. Edelman is particularly critical
of the way in which this figural Child is positioned by reproductive futur-
ism as innocent and in the unassailable position of acting as a representa-
tive of the future that is to be secured and protected (Edelman 2004).
For Edelman, reproductive futurism is an important target of queer
critique for a number of reasons. It is fundamentally about the will to pre-
serve an identity. By making the Child represent the future, that future is
effectively being identified with the present (Edelman 2004; Floyd 2010,
5). This limits the scope of politics (and particularly queer politics) in
problematic ways. For instance, it makes it very difficult for arguments
advocating fundamental social change to be taken seriously. The figural
Child comes to be positioned as the perpetual horizon of politics, making
it very difficult to push a political position that is not on the side of the
childrenone that does not seek to secure a future for that Child. It sets
boundaries on the terms of debate, maintaining the privileged position
accorded to heteronormativity, and rendering resistance to thissuch as
queer resistanceunthinkable, untenable, and even narcissistic (Edelman
2004, 23). And what Edelman describes as the lengthening shadow of
this figural Child eclipses, to some extent, the actual freedoms accorded
to particular subjects (Edelman 2004, 21). The figural Child embodies
the citizen as an ideal, entitled to claim full rights to its future share in the
nations good, he argues, though always at the cost of limiting the rights
208 Criminology and Queer Theory

real citizens are allowed (Edelman 2004, 11). Reproductive futurism

thus seeks to protect a notional freedom for this figural Child over and
above actual freedoms for many alive today, particularly if those freedoms
can be dismissed as sterile, narcissistic enjoymentsfor example, same-
sex sexual relationsthat prevent the realisation of a futureafter all, if
there is no Child, then there is no future (Pugh 2008, 228).
Edelman is not just concerned with overt political campaigns that seek
to protect children from harm or ensure that they are cradle[d] in the
warmth of sexual normativity (Floyd 2010, 5). As he is talking about the
figural Child, he is investigating the way that these dynamics operate at
a symbolic level. According to Edelman, what might otherwise appear
tobe radical politics may actually be conservative insofar as they buy
into this logic and seek to reproduce their own vision of a particular
social order into the future in the form of [their] inner Child (Edelman
2004, 3).
The political response that Edelman suggests is one that short circuits
these dynamicssomething that he suggests queers are well placed to
achieve (Shahani 2012, 8788). Historically, queer subjects have been
homophobically figured as connected to negativity and destruction.
Their pleasures have been seen as narcissistic, sterile, and unproductive.
Edelman suggests that, instead of fighting this characterisation, queers
ought to embrace it (Halberstam 2006, 823, 2008, 141; Dean 2006,
827; ORourke 2011, 107). For Edelman, queerness is ethically valuable
to the extent that it takes up the position of the bar to every realisation of
futurity (Edelman 2004, 3, 4). Therefore queers should always be those
who, when given a choice among a range of political possibilities, choose
none of the above (Edelman 2004, 5). As queers figure non-productivity,
they threaten the continuation of social order and disrupt the way that
society sustains itself on the promise of a resolution to come (Edelman
2006, 822). Embracing negativity can avoid the forward-looking and
heteronormative politics of hope (Halberstam 2006, 823).
Importantly, Edelman was not the first to point to the queer possibili-
ties of negativity, as a number of (particularly gay male) scholars within
early queer work have taken similar approaches. For example, Leo Bersani
had earlier suggested that gay male sexuality was an anti-communal mode
of unbelonging (Shahani 2013, 546). That is, homosexuality contains an
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 209

opposition to community and threatens the social because queers do not

reproduce the family in recognisable forms and thus do not reproduce
the social (Dean 2006, 826). For Bersani, homo-sex was not a life-force
connecting pleasure, survival, and futurity, but instead a death drive
undoing the self (Halberstam 2006, 823, 2008, 140). Bersani therefore
questioned whether homosexuality was compatible with civic service
and whether gay men should be good citizens (Caserio 2006, 819). He
thought that, instead, queers more generally needed to find a way of
exploiting this negativity in a politically strategic way (Dean 2006, 826).
Edelmans work draws from this basis and extends this position, garner-
ing more critical discussion as a result.
Summing up his arguments in the most searing of terms, Edelman

[q]ueers must respond to the violent force of such constant provocations

not only by insisting on our equal rights to the social orders prerogatives,
not only by avowing our capacity to promote that orders coherence and
integrity, but also by saying explicitly Fuck the social order and the
Child in whose name were collectively terrorised; fuck Annie; fuck the
waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor innocent kid on the Net; fuck Laws both
with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of symbolic rela-
tions and the future that serves as its prop. (Edelman 2004, 29)

Embracing negativity entails the more general queer task of pulling

apart the identities through which we experience ourselves as subjects.
But it is also about avoiding, and in fact short-circuiting, investments
in the future and the hope of producing a better social order. The future
(and related hope) is, after all, the domain of the Child. It is implicated in
heteronormativity and reproductive-normativity, not to mention being
thoroughly anti-queer (Edelman 2004, 4; Shahani 2013, 546; ORourke
2011, 107, 108). An embrace of negativity is therefore posited as a way
of undoing the reproduction of existing social orders and allowing for
other possibilities that are otherwise foreclosed by reproductive futurity
(Edelman 2004, 2425). Negativity would disrupt the reproduction
of the same, avoiding the perpetuation of the violent ordering of the
210 Criminology and Queer Theory

Thus negativity involves any resistance to, or undoing of, the frame-
works that seek to stabilise and impose coherence on thoughtit involves
the psychic and social incoherences and divisions, conscious and uncon-
scious alike, that trouble any totality or fixity of identity, and which
challenge the sovereignty of the subject and force an encounter with rela-
tionality (Berlant and Edelman 2014, viiviii, xii). As an impediment to
normativitys will to social closure and coherence (Berlant and Edelman
2014, xiv), negativity is about rejecting attempts to repair social rela-
tions. While it appears to be fundamentally nihilistic and destructive,
negativity enacts dissent. It is thus central to anti-normative politics and
the struggles of subordinated people, intent on changing the political
conditions of the present (Berlant and Edelman 2014, xii). Politics devel-
ops from a negativity that is indifferent to the future, as this negativity
involves relentless resistance (Berlant and Edelman 2014, 122).
It is possible to see some of the dynamics that Edelman critiques within
criminological thought generally, and queer criminology more specifi-
cally, and to think about how his critiques might inform queer criminol-
ogy. Edelmans arguments about what visions of the future reproduce,
and what they limit as a result, are important. They force us to think
about who we are fighting fornot necessarily specifically in the sense
of which groups, but what figural representations of the queer are we
deploying in our work? Does that representation allow for the reproduc-
tion and extension of more of the same institutions, knowledges, and
politics? Do we deploy a figure of the Child in our politicsperhaps a
Queer Child, but a Child nonetheless? And ought we to be using queer
in pursuit of a criminological future, given that (in line with the discus-
sions of critique in the previous chapter) it might not actually be the
place of queer to chart such a future but rather to constantly pull such
visions apart? These discussions will be returned to further below.

Against Negativity, forOptimism

While Edelmans call to embrace negativity has been influential in pro-

ducing what many have dubbed the anti-social turn in queer studies,
not all queer scholars have been willing to jettison futurity and hope
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 211

completely. Some still wish to hold onto or reclaim optimism and uto-
pian thought for queer politics, exploring how it might be possible to
articulate a critique of reproductive futurism without giving up on hope
and affirmative politics altogether (Shahani 2012, 88). It is to the work
of those scholars that this discussion now turns.
The most prominent response to Edelmans arguments appears in Jos
Esteban Muozs book Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer
Futurity (Muoz 2009). In it, Muoz seeks to reclaim hope and utopian
thinking for queer theory because he suggests that the future and utopia
are central to queer thought: [q]ueerness is utopian, and there is some-
thing queer about the utopian (Muoz 2009, 26), adding that [q]ueer-
nesss form is utopian (Muoz 2009, 30). Queerness effectively involves
rejecting the here and now, which is harmful to queers, and insisting
that another world is possible (Muoz 2009, 1, 30). As such, queerness
involves idealism: Queerness is not yet here. Queerness is an ideality.
Put another way, we are not yet queer We have never been queer, yet
queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past
and used to imagine a future. The future is queernesss domain (Muoz
2009, 1).
Muoz holds that, as a result, utopian visions are essential within
queer politics. In order to help to develop and articulate such visions, he
argues that we need to re-temporalisewe need to move from the here
and now to the then and there (ORourke 2011, 110). He suggests that
through queerness, we can see and feel beyond the present, and to think
and feel a then and there (Muoz 2009, 1, original emphasis). Hope thus
becomes central to this approachboth as an affect and as a methodol-
ogy (Muoz 2009, 4). Through hope as well as queerness, we can dream
of and produce new ways of being in the world. Thus queerness here
is a temporal arrangementthe past offers a range of possibilities from
which we can draw in the present in order to craft what we want from
the future (Muoz 2009, 16). Muoz explores these possibilities in a
range of queer aesthetic examples, utilising the work of Ernst Bloch in
order to help understand how what has been can shape what is hoped
for (Muoz 2009, 12, 2006, 825). Importantly, the utopian approaches
produced are not to be prescriptive, but are rather to act in such a way as
to push us forward. They are to be a moment when the here and the now
212 Criminology and Queer Theory

is transcended by a then and a there that could be and should be (Muoz

2009, 97).
There are two other interrelated reasons that Muoz suggests we hold
onto futurity and utopia as essential aspects of queerness. First, if we
turn away from the future entirely, then we run the risk of leaving a
range of social groups behind in our politics. In line with some of the cri-
tiques of queer politics that we considered in Chapter 2, Muoz describes
Edelmans anti-social position as the gay white mans last stand, critiqu-
ing its disconnection from race and gender dynamics as well as the way
in which it overlooks the value of utopian thought for those marginalised
for a range of reasons beyond sexuality (Muoz 2006, 825). Utopian
thought and hopethe very idea that things could be betterare of
central importance to those farthest from the position of white, hetero-
sexual, socio-economically advantaged, adult, cisgender males (Muoz
2009, 10, 18; Noss 2012, 134, 136). Turning away from utopia and
towards anti-relationality does not help all peoplethere is still value in
the notion of community (Muoz 2009, 10). Thus, if we do not factor in
the relational relevance of race and class, for example, then we reinforce
the crypto-universal white gay subject (Muoz 2009, 94). Moreover,
holding on to futurity and utopia helps us to avoid a narrow political
focus on pragmatic issues such as gay marriage and military service, and
allows us to imagine change that is more fundamental (Muoz 2009,
18). We can move from the present and our current concerns because, as
Muoz suggests, [t]he present is not enough. It is impoverished and toxic
for queers and other people who do not feel the privilege of majoritarian
belonging, normative tastes, and rational expectations (Muoz 2009,
27). Utopian projects allow us to explore otherwise unthought of possi-
bilities to forge alternative paths than those that might otherwise involve
pragmatism and normality: [u]topian and wilfully idealistic practices of
thought are in order if we are to resist the perils of heteronormative prag-
matism and Anglo-normative pessimism (Muoz 2009, 96).
Muoz is certainly not the only queer scholar to have disagreed with
Edelmans thesis on futurity and negativity. Others maintain various kinds
of queer investments in futurity, holding onto the affirmative and revolu-
tionary potential of queer, identifying existing queer utopian possibilities
to be fostered, critiquing the anti-relational assumptions underpinning
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 213

the work of Edelman (and Bersani), and even pointing out how appar-
ently anti-relational practices (like sex between men) can institute new
forms of sociality (Shahani 2013, 546; ORourke 2011, 108; Dean
2006, 827; Dioli 2009; Jennex 2013; Rivera-Servera 2004; Pattee 2008;
Willis 2007; Shahani 2012; Leszkowicz and Kitlinski 2013). Thus, while
Edelmans work produced an anti-social turn in queer studies, debates
about the value of utopian thought and futurism certainly continue.
There are many who continue to see the queer value of utopia.
This critique is particularly important for queer criminological schol-
arship. After all, queer criminologists must consider the utility of uto-
pian visions given the space that they provide for queer communities to
express dissatisfaction with criminal justice and criminology; the way in
which such views can foster hope that these injustices might change; and
the alternatives to current practices that such thought can produce. In
particular, Muozs critique of the politics embedded within Edelmans
argumentthat these are most relevant for gay white men and not all
queershas resonance for queer criminological critiques of issues like the
over-representation of more disadvantaged queers within prison (Stanley
and Smith 2011; Mogul etal. 2011; Buist and Lenning 2016). Perhaps it
remains important for those experiencing the harshest injustices of mass
incarceration, over-policing, and social marginalisation, that queer crimi-
nologists continue to chart utopian visions. Producing utopian visions
might also be important if queer criminological scholarship is to produce
more reparative readings, as discussed in Chapter 4 (Sedgwick 2003).
Ultimately, it seems, these questions about the value of utopian thought
and investments in the future within queer criminology turn largely on
how queer is understood in such scholarship, and how well attuned such
work is to its own exclusions.

Queering Criminological Utopias

In offering a discussion of how queer scholarship and criminology can be
usefully pulled together in the context of utopia and futurity, this chap-
ter has identified the complexities of such intersections, and the possible
directions for queer criminologycorrective and queerin the process.
214 Criminology and Queer Theory

Given the diversity of views about these issues within queer scholarship,
how should queer criminologists engage with notions of utopia and with
utopian thinking in criminology? How can these debates over the value of
utopia and futurity help queer criminology? What queer critiques can be
made of the directions of utopian thought in criminology? Where should
this kind of work head in the future? And how does queer criminological
utopian work contribute to developing the intersections of queer theory
and criminology?
As there is no single answer as to whether or not queers generally
ought to engage with utopia and invest in futurity, it remains to be seen
whether queer criminologists ought to as well. Utopian paths may be
useful in some cases, and less helpful or potentially problematic in oth-
ers. Edelmans work might be valuable in challenging what is overlooked
when posing utopian visions, but at the same time Muozs work can
help us to identify when and where utopian thought is necessary. It is
possible to suggest that Edelmans approach, which follows a line of radi-
cal refusal, disruption, and negativity, aligns more closely with those same
values within queer scholarship. But this does not discount the impor-
tance of other queer engagements with utopia and the future.
There is no doubt that queer criminologists could benefit from consid-
ering which perspective of the future underpins their work. Is it actually a
notion of the future that simply reinstates the same, or is it one that offers
more fundamental change? But there is also scope for queer criminology to
make a somewhat corrective contribution to existing criminological utopias,
which can be challenged on the basis of their heteronormativity and their
oversight of queer communities. Each path contains its own limitations,
and as Heather Love suggests in her work on queer affects, maybe we need

an alternative form of political feeling, a non-utopian expectancy: a kind of

hope without reason, without expectation of success. Such a form of politi-
cal affect may be the kind of feeling we need to learn how to use in contem-
porary politics, when hope in its old idealising and utopian formof
optimismseems to have lost its hold on many of us. (Love 2007, 143)

Perhaps again at this early stage in the development of queer criminol-

ogy, it is less useful to assert with any certainty which direction should
8 No Future? Utopia, Criminology, andtheQueer Value ofHope 215

be taken. And it is entirely possible that these positions cannot be rec-

onciled. This chapter, then, can only open up a problem space in which
the value of these issues to the development of queer criminology can
be debated. Ultimately, there may be some value to queer criminology
remaining hopeful. At the same time, though, criminologys hope must
be queered.

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Queer Shame andCriminology

In Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History, Heather Love
notes the continual presence of what are termed backward feelings
within queer culture, and considers their ongoing value for queer politics.
Backward feelings are those affects that, in the name of social and politi-
cal progress, not to mention individual flourishing, we are encouraged to
leave behindaffects such as shame, disgust, melancholy, victimhood,
failure, or anger (Love 2007). LGBTIQ people have long been encour-
aged to recognise that shame is self-destructive and ought to be replaced
by pride, and that anger at societal heteronormativity and homophobia is
counter-productive as a form of queer politics. Challenging these ortho-
doxies, Love investigates the productivity of these backward feelings for
queer politics. Love notes that [g]iven the scene of destruction at our
backs, queers feel compelled to keep moving on toward a brighter future,
despite the fact that, somewhat along the lines of Lee Edelmans critique
of queer investments in futurity, [t]he history of queer experience has
made this resolute orientation toward the future difficult to sustain (Love
2007, 162). Instead of constantly trying to replace negative feelings with

The Author(s) 2016 219

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_9
220 Criminology and Queer Theory

positive ones, we must consider the place of negative feelings within our
politics, and imagine how to make a future backward enough that even
the most reluctant among us might want to live there (Love 2007, 163).
Love is only one among many queer and other scholars to consider
the counter-intuitive productivity of these backward feelings (Sedgwick
2003; Munt 2007; Probyn 2005). One particular feeling that has been
the focus of much of this kind of analysis is shame. Interestingly, shame
offers a clear opportunity to draw queer scholarship and criminology
together. After all, systems of criminal justice and punishment have long
featured elements of shame (McAlinden 2005; Karp 1998). Punishment
is often understood as having a role in expressing moral condemnation
for an act, and shame has contributed to such expression by explicitly
aiding in stigmatising and penalising offenders. Such processes continue
today, most notably in the guise of naming and shaming punishments.
In recent years, an alternative approach to shame has come into favour
among criminologists, and has been taken up broadly within criminal jus-
tice processes. This alternative, developed initially in John Braithwaites
Crime, Shame, and Reintegration (1989) and put into practice most effec-
tively through Braithwaites notion of reintegrative shaming, recognises
that shame can be a productive tool of social control and a positive and
reintegrative response to offending.
Since its initial formulation and subsequent embrace by numerous
criminal justice agencies, this approach to shame has spawned count-
less commentaries, critiques, and evaluations. While the success or oth-
erwise of such a use of shame continues to be debated, these moves have
been hailed as important shifts in criminal justice responses, and are
welcomed as potentially positive uses of shame. They align with broader
trends towards restorative justice practices, which seek to ensure that the
response to crime does not produce further harm, and that community
relationships are repaired.
The queer engagements with shame have particularly focused on the
ways in which shame is experienced by, and understood within, queer
communities. These explorations of queer shame include early discussions
within sexuality studies and queer politics about the negative impacts of
shame directed towards queer communities on the basis of their non-
normative genders and sexualities, as well as more recent discussions of
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 221

the ways that engaging with and embracing shame might offer some pro-
ductive potential for queer politics, along the lines of Loves points above
(Sedgwick 2003; Halperin and Traub 2009; Munt 2007; Stockton 2006;
Love 2007). Notwithstanding some important differences, the queer
work on shame reflects, in a very broad sense, the movement that crimi-
nological engagements with shame have takenfrom a largely negative
understanding and engagement with shame, towards a consideration of
how shame might be understood and approached in more productive
ways. Within both disciplines, there appears to have been some kind of a
turn towards understanding the productive possibilities inherent within
shame. However, to date, these queer and criminological insights into
shame have not been brought together and set in conversation.
In this chapter, I suggest that the concept of shame within criminol-
ogy and criminal justice can be a productive area for further engagements
between criminology and queer theory, and thus a fruitful direction
for queer criminological work. In it, I bring together the work from
within these two bodies of scholarship on shame. The chapter begins
from the view that there has been a double absence of queer shame from
criminologyneither shames potentially injurious effects on queers, nor
its productive queer potential beyond crime control, have been consid-
ered. As such, and as in the previous chapter, I therefore suggest two pos-
sible directions for queer criminological work. First, I suggest a corrective
direction, in which I argue that the criminological research on shame is
largely heteronormative, and fails to consider the unique experiences of
queers undergoing shaming processes. Given the (often injurious) role of
shame in the formation of queer subjectivities, it is possible that sham-
ing processes in the criminal justice systemeven if reintegrativemay
actually be problematic and reinforce the wounding that is often con-
stitutive of queer subjectivity (Eribon 2004). As research in this area is
lacking, I suggest that queer criminological work could seek to further
explore these dynamics, and consider the impacts of utilising shaming
processes in order to address the heteronormativity of this criminological
Second, I outline a more disruptive and queer direction for such
research. Here, I will use queer perspectives on shame to interro-
gate criminological assumptions about the productivity of shame. It
222 Criminology and Queer Theory

seems that the success of reintegrative shaming approaches hinges on

the existence of strict parameters guiding the deployment of shame.
In Braithwaites original formulation, shaming processes are to be pre-
cisely calibrated so that an offender only experiences shame directed
towards their acts, rather than towards them as a person, in order to
allow for their reintegration into the community (Braithwaite 1989).
Thus, no matter how well shaming processes are designed, the view
remains within criminology and criminal justice practice that shame is
potentially volatile, and that a tight rein must be kept over any use of
shame in the justice system that seeks reintegration. In this chapter, I
will argue that such a view of shame, while understandable (given that
reintegrative shaming is intimately bound up with attempts at social
control and concerns that the wrong use of shaming may alienate an
individual), is potentially limiting. Queer scholarship on the productive
use of shame, which has developed outside of a context that is explicitly
concerned with attempts at social control, not only offers new ways of
thinking about shame as productive, but also brings to light new pos-
sibilities for engaging with, and disrupting, criminal justice practices. It
can help us explore whether there is any queer political potential in the
use of shame within criminology and criminal justice. And it can help
us to craft a queer criminological future and a reform of criminal justice
practices that may be more accommodating to the complex presence
and value of these backward feelings for queers.

Criminology, forShame
A positive and productive engagement with shame and shaming practices
has found some favour among criminologists and criminal justice prac-
titioners as a possible method for responding to and governing crime.
It is widely held that traditional methods and tools for responding to
crime fail in a number of key waysthey do not reduce reoffending, and
they do not serve as an effective deterrent to crime. In fact, they often
perpetuate various forms of injusticethey contribute to, or exacerbate,
marginalisation, and fail to address the various needs of both victims and
offenders throughout the criminal justice process (Levad 2012; Mogul
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 223

etal. 2011). Over the last two decades, however, a range of alternatives
to traditional justice processesfalling under the broad ambit of restor-
ative justicehave gained prominence as possible answers to these cri-
tiques. In various ways, these alternatives respond to offending behaviour
through interventions that aim to restore the offenders connection to the
community, and repair the harm that their offending has caused (Levad
2012). These restorative engagements with shame form the focus of my
discussion in this chapter.1
Central to these restorative approaches is the process of reintegra-
tive shaming. Reintegrative shaming is built on a range of intellectual
tools, including criminological theories and broader insights into the way
that shame is used by communitarian societies in order to communicate
messages and the desirability or undesirability of particular behaviour
(Braithwaite 1989). In these approaches, it is recognised that shame can
be used productively as a tool of informal social control. Reintegrative
shaming processes bring together the parties impacted by an offence,
and have these parties use shame in order to help the offender recog-
nise that their behaviour was wrong. These processes are very careful to
direct shame towards the offending behaviour, and not the offender them-
selves. It is this central concern that distinguishes these engagements with
shame from what are considered negative or disintegrative approaches to
shame, such as naming and shaming punishments. Such disintegrative
approaches do not explicitly make a distinction between an offenders
acts and their selves, and thus shame ends up being directed towards the
offender as a person (Braithwaite 1989, 55). These approaches are disinte-
grative in the sense that they do not help to maintain an offenders connec-
tion to their communitythrough this kind of shaming, the community
sends the clear message that the offender is a bad person, thereby rein-
forcing the offenders exclusion from that community. In contrast, by

There are a number of other ways in which criminological researchers have explored shame, which
future queer criminological scholarship could consider further. For example, a body of work inves-
tigates, and critiques, the use of disintegrative approaches to shaming (Edwards 2008; Karp 2000;
Pratt 2003), while another considers the ways in which ones experience of shame (for being a vic-
tim of intimate partner violence, or for being unable to meet ones personal expectations or respon-
sibilities as a result of unemployment, for example) influences ones encounters with the criminal
justice system, or ones involvement in criminal behaviour (by reducing their likelihood of seeking
help, or by manifesting in violence, respectively) (Ray etal. 2004; Mills 2008).
224 Criminology and Queer Theory

distinguishing between the acts and identities of offenders, reintegra-

tive shaming processes open up the possibility, at least in theory, that
shame may be directed only towards what an individual has done, and
not towards them as a person. This makes it more possible for them to
be reintegrated into the community. Shaming undertaken by members
of a community that the offender respects, and which is followed by a
ceremony that de-certifies the offender as a deviant, is understood to be
far more effective at reintegrating offenders and avoiding future offend-
ing than traditional forms of punishment and other practices that include
disintegrative forms of shaming (Braithwaite 1989; Edwards 2008).
Since Braithwaites original formulation of reintegrative shaming,
and its subsequent uptake within criminal justice practices across many
Western nations, a significant body of criminological work has developed
exploring the implementation, and effects, of such approaches. There are
two consistent themes across much of this literature: those works that
contribute to the theoretical development of this field by articulating
and developing the rationales for the implementation or critique of such
approaches; and those works that empirically investigate the effectiveness
of these uses of shame. Much of this literature could be considered to be
heteronormative as well, opening up a space for a corrective queer crimi-
nological approach.
The criminological work that offers theoretical development of this
field not only expands on the key aspects of reintegrative processes (as out-
lined above), and further refines Braithwaites original work (Braithwaite
1989; McAlinden 2005; Johnstone 1999), but also critiques these central
concepts. For example, some authors question whether it is possible to
effectively separate the shaming of a persons acts from the shaming of
the person themselves, and are critical of whether this distinction is clear
to those experiencing the shaming process (Karp 1998, 283, 2000, 307;
Harris and Maruna 2005). Some authors, drawing from the psychological
literature, also critically analyse whether shame is in fact the most appro-
priate and effective moral emotion for criminal justice processes to utilise,
and argue instead that guilt or remorse are more appropriate (Botchkovar
and Tittle 2008, 705; Taylor 2002; Loeffler et al. 2010; van Stokkom
2002; Harris and Maruna 2005). Others seek to critically interrogate
some of the assumptions about shame that underpin these processes,
arguing that there is an implied universality to the experience of shame,
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 225

and this does not reflect the various ways in which gender, race, class,
and sexuality shape the experience of shame (Blagg 1997; Karp 1998).
The research that empirically investigates whether these uses of shame are
effective have done so through large-scale studies in contexts as diverse as
white-collar offending, drink driving, and youth justice (van Erp 2011;
Botchkovar and Tittle 2008; Ahmed etal. 2001). As part of such research,
the effectiveness of reintegrative shaming with particular groups of people
has also been evaluated and critiqued. Such studies, conducted interna-
tionally, have produced mixed results, but with most finding that shaming
processes can be successful if there is a broad consensus that the behaviour
being shamed is harmful, and if the offender respects the community that
is shaming them or has (and seeks to maintain) strong bonds to that com-
munity (van Erp 2011, 334; Botchkovar and Tittle 2008, 705; Leibrich
1996; Svensson etal. 2013; Murphy and Harris 2007; Ahmed etal. 2001).
The research discussed here can be interrogated for its general het-
eronormativity, and the opportunities it affords queer criminologists to
correct some of its oversights and unanswered questions. For example, as
mentioned, existing research suggests that shaming processes have dif-
ferent impacts on different groups of people, whether they are young
people or indigenous people, for example. This is particularly the case
for those who have experienced considerable shaming in other contexts
in their lives and who might therefore experience shaming processes in
criminal justice as more injuriousor at the very least differently from
the predominantly Anglo, middle-class conceptualisations of shame that
permeate criminological accounts (Blagg 1997; Karp 1998). On this
point, Elspeth Probyn notes, with particular reference to the experience
of such shaming for indigenous people,

if you and your people have been the object of governmental practices that
seek to devalue any sense of self and culture, why would you care if those
authorities, or the wider society they represent, do not have regard for you?
And if shaming does work within the close-bonded network of friends and
family, its a different matter altogether when shame is wielded by unknown
bodies of white authority. (Probyn 2005, 92)

Much seems to hinge in these processes on the individuals respect for

the community that is undertaking the shaming. While the community
226 Criminology and Queer Theory

that is shaming an offender is supposed to be one that is respected by

them, which usually means that shaming processes involving young
indigenous people will involve community elders, it is nevertheless the
case that much of this shaming still occurs in the context of a non-
indigenous criminal justice system, and with the participation of agents
of that system, both of which may be considered to be the embodiments
of the colonisation and dispossession that sit at the root of indigenous
disadvantage. If the individual being shamed feels little connection to
that community or the broader social institutions within which these
processes are embedded, then reintegrative shaming is less likely to be
successful (Braithwaite 1989). After all, reintegrative shaming is based
on the view that there is consensus about the values held by that com-
munity, and thus its use remains fundamentally normative (Probyn
2005, 91, 94).
For queers, whose subjectivities, as I will discuss below, have been thor-
oughly defined through a relationship to shame, and whose experiences
of shame have been largely negative, it is not a stretch to suggest that
criminal justice shaming processes may be uniquely injurious (Probyn
2005, 92). In some contexts, strained relationships may exist between
queers and the community, particularly if that community has been a
source of injury and shame at other times. While I would not suggest
that the shame experienced by queer people and indigenous people as
discussed above are analogous, there are certainly similarities in the sense
that both are excluded from mainstream communities in various ways,
and there are reasons that both may be less likely to respect the communi-
ties undertaking that shaming.
Finally, as mentioned above, there are questions about whether these
shaming processes can adequately prevent the shame directed towards an
individuals acts from targeting the individual themselves (Karp 1998,
283, 2000, 307; Harris and Maruna 2005). Such a distinction, even if it
were straightforward to implement, may be lost on some queer people,
particularly given that a considerable amount of shame directed towards
queers socially is directed not just towards their identities, but also
towards their acts. The symbolism that attaches to shame generally must
be considered because, regardless of how many attempts are made to
ensure that shaming is reintegrative and framed positively, it may still be
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 227

experienced as injurious and as a punishment (Probyn 2005, 94). Thus, it

is clear that there is more work to be done to explore queer engagements
with shaming processes in order to address these oversights. Such work,
which could be considered a corrective path for queer criminology, might
indicate significant limits to the ability of shaming processes to work
effectively for queer people. This would also need to examine the inter-
sections between ones sexuality and/or gender and other characteristics
such as race, and how these impact on the experience of shame.
Putting these corrective possibilities for queer criminological schol-
arship to one side, it can be argued that, by and large, criminology is
quite positive in its embrace of shame in seeking to effectively govern and
respond to crime. This is apparent in the practical concern for evaluating
the ways in which shame operates in criminal justice processes, as well as
the largely moral concern for articulating precisely the most appropriate
and ethical basis upon which the use of shame in criminal justice might
rest. Reintegrative engagements with shame are thus largely governmental.
However, these governmental ambitions also shed light on the intense
caution that surrounds the use of shame, and the significant efforts to
ensure that reintegrative shaming is carried out appropriately, focusing
on what does and does not work. Thus, while criminologists have been
enthusiastic about the possibilities for engaging with shame as part of
their efforts at crime control, they exhibit caution regarding its use, due
to its injurious and volatile potential (Karp 1998, 283, 2000, 307; Harris
and Maruna 2005). The efforts to distinguish between an offenders acts
and the offender themselves, so that the shamed identity does not become
a master status for the offender, is a clear sign that the way shame is
engaged with, utilised, and experienced, is a governmental concern for
criminologists. Any engagement with the productive potential of shame,
it seems, is therefore momentary, as indicated by the move within these
processes away from shame towards reintegration in order to avoid the
potentially dangerous aspects of shame. The move towards a productive
understanding and engagement with shame is thereby always limited by
these governmental tasks, as well as concerns about what are understood
as the negative and injurious effects of shame.
These limitations have restricted the possible conceptualisations of
shame within criminology. While criminologists and criminal justice
228 Criminology and Queer Theory

practitioners might have disengaged shame from the individual and

directed their shaming towards the individuals acts, they have not taken
the opportunity to reconceptualise shame itself, or allowed for a fuller
exploration of the productive potential of shame. This allows for the
investigation of other ways of thinking about shame as productive, and
the impacts of such conceptualisations on criminal justice. It is in this
vein that it is important to turn again to queer thought, and the concep-
tualisation of shame developed there, so as to explore the possibilities for
developing the intersections between queer scholarship and criminology.

Queer Scholarship, (Also) forShame

In sharp contrast to criminological engagements with shame, which
tend to proceed with some caution and are mindful of the potentially
negative impacts of shame, many queer engagements with shame actu-
ally involve what might be considered a wider embrace of shame, albeit
undertaken for different ends. For a long time, queer communities have
had to wrestle with the injurious effects of shame, and as a result have
developed particular ways of knowing about and responding to shame
that are worth considering. These perspectives are particularly important
to explore because of some of the success these communities have had in
uncoupling shame from the negative assumptions that often attach to it.
A growing number of queer activists and scholars have sought to
explore the ways in which shame can be politically productive and play a
positive role in the formation of subjectivity, articulating an approach to
shame that is not essentialised and negative (Sedgwick 2003; Munt 2007;
Halperin and Traub 2009; Stockton 2006; Probyn 2005). In contrast
to criminal justice engagements with (reintegrative) shame, which seek
to very precisely govern an offenders engagement with shame and limit
their capacity to access a shamed persona, these queer views on shame
do not share the same reticence about embracing a shamed persona, and
instead see a shamed persona as potentially empowering.
Queer work of this kind has developed as part of what has been termed
the affective turn (in queer studies and other disciplines) (Cvetkovich
2003; Berlant 2011), which has encouraged scholars to pay heed to the
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 229

affective dimensions of social experiences. In queer contexts, this turn

has produced a call for scholars to consider not just positive affect, but
also negative affect and trauma, which are often central to queer lives
(Cvetkovich 2003; Love 2007). Ann Cvetkovich developed this per-
spective in An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public
Cultures (2003), which investigated the connections between politics and
emotion, and particularly the ways that lesbians responded creatively
(and in ways outside of therapeutic and medicalising models) to trauma
in their everyday lives (Cvetkovich 2003, 4). Similar concerns animated
Heather Loves work in Feeling Backward (2007), as mentioned above.
Both authors seek to draw attention to these feelings because they are
often overlooked in much gay and lesbian scholarship and activism. They
are assumed to be counter-productive and negative, isolating individu-
als and connecting to a damaged rather than an empowered subjectivity
(Love 2007, 147). However, these affects have long played an important
role in gay and lesbian politics, such as in the formation of ACT UP
in response to the AIDS crisis. In the case of ACT UP, an entire public
culture formed around the traumatic experiences of death, mourning,
and the social rejection and shame produced by the limited govern-
mental response. The creation of these spaces required acknowledging
such trauma (Rand 2012, 75; Love 2007, 156; Cvetkovich 2003, 5).
On this basis, Cvetkovich and Love explore the productive and creative
role that such bad feelings may play in radical activism (Love 2007, 158;
Cvetkovich 2003, 48). As Cvetkovich suggests, [a] queer healing prac-
tice would turn negative affect or trauma on its head, but by embracing
rather than refusing it (Cvetkovich 2003, 89).2
Shame is considered an important negative affect in this regard and
has long been a central object of queer analyses and politics. Queer lives
are often marked by a connection to shame because their sexuality and/
or gender performativity is non-normative. Thus, shame has a central
position in the formation of queer subjectivity and these scholars chart
the ways in which shame operates in the formation of queer subjectivities
In these dynamics, one might notice similar strains as those discussed in Chapter 8, in a turn to
negativity and refusal. These engagements with backwardness are attempts to shape some sort of
queer future, and to do so away from the heteronormative imperative to reproduce and the opti-
mism of futurity (Love 2007, 147).
230 Criminology and Queer Theory

(Sedgwick 2003; Munt 2007; Warner 1999, 8; Bersani and Phillips 2008,
32; Stockton 2006; Probyn 2005).
In many cases, it is argued that such shame is internalised, and some
queer research, focusing on the troubling and problematic or injurious
effects of shame, has suggested that it leads to high rates of suicide, self-
harm, substance abuse, and depression within queer communities. This
research has also sought to understand how this occurs (Johnson 2012,
431; Cover 2012). In other cases, while the effects of shame might not
be as injurious to queer lives, the connection and interaction with shame
in the formation of queer subjectivity has produced particular kinds of
politicsnamely pride politicsand proud identities, which may be
equally central to queer lives, and connect queer lives to shame in a dif-
ferent way. Much political activism and community solidarity for queer
communities has thus been based around pride, with the kinds of shame
mentioned above disavowed through it (Bersani and Phillips 2008, 35;
Johnson 2012, 416, 435; Rand 2012).
However, there are many queer scholars (as well as performance artists
and activists) who are critical of pride politics and wary of its potential
to become normative through the crafting of appropriate and adjusted
or healthy models of sexual subjectivity. Their criticisms of pride poli-
tics are quite important to consider in order to understand how these
new approaches embracing shame have developed. First, pride is often
unquestioned as the affect around which queers should rally and which
they ought to push (Rand 2012, 75). A pride subjectivity is one that is
positioned as normative for queers to fashion, with pride in ones sexual-
ity or gender being held out as desirable. Additionally, pride politics have
been critiqued because of their pragmatism and the way in which they
encourage individualised, private declarations of pride as transformative
(Cover 2012, 116; Love 2007, 147). This individualising approach is
seen as connecting closely to neoliberal politics of responsibilisation, and
respectability, as well as producing an assimilation and commodification
of gay and lesbian identity (Love 2007, 153; Rand 2012, 76). Further,
pride discourses do not often consider the ways in which sexual shame
and the figure of the closet continue to haunt pride, operating powerfully
in ones life and also producing new kinds of shame and new kinds of
contestations against normativity (Cover 2012, 116; Love 2007, 147).
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 231

As Georgis points out, shame always haunts queer identity, because the
discursive logic of queer pride is the sustained defeat of shame (2013,
240). Pride does not offer room for shame because queer investments
in pride as liberating and positive are so strong, and because embracing
shame seems regressive. It is for precisely these reasons that queer scholars
have been interested in seeing what shame is capable of.
This turn to an embrace of shame has occurred among activist and
academic spheres, reinforcing the often close connections and overlaps
between queer activism and scholarship. This is perhaps most notable
through the emergence of the activist group Gay Shame San Francisco,
which formed as a queer-radical, anti-assimilationist, anticorporate,
anti-globalisation, pro-sex movement committed to exposing the hypoc-
risies of the mainstream gay and lesbian movement and to creating a
radical outsider queer culture (Moon cited in Rand 2012, 77; see also
Gay Shame San Francisco n.d.). This group engages and utilises shame
in two ways: first, it recognises that those who feel shamed by both het-
ero- and homonormative discourses can resist normativity through their
shared experience of shaming; and, second, it wields shame, and directs
it towards other people who it feels ought to be shamed, such as, in
this case, those who support gay pride, consumerism, gentrification, and
mainstreaming (Love 2007, 153; Rand 2012, 7778; Gay Shame San
Francisco n.d.; see also Ball 2016). This very example demonstrates the
productivity of shame: a resistant collectivity that has been produced
through the shame that the mainstream community (whether gay or
straight) has exercised (Rand 2012, 78). The embrace of shame has also
occurred in queer academic circles. In 2003, the University of Michigan
hosted a Gay Shame conference, which sought to explore the aspects of
gay culture and history suppressed by pride, particularly shame. In this
regard, the conference sought to look at shames transformative potential,
and explore the positive and productive uses that can be made of shame
(Halperin and Traub 2009; Love 2007, 154). While Gay Shame activists
were critical of this conference (Sycamore 2008, 284286; Love 2007,
154), both of these examples demonstrate the polyvalent ways in which
queer communities have sought to explore the potential of shame.
As mentioned above, these scholars do not necessarily hold the view
that the formation of a healthy queer subjectivity requires that one
232 Criminology and Queer Theory

move away from shame and towards pride. Rather, they are interested
in whether there are other ways of relating to shame, and in exploring
the possibilities inherent within an embrace of shame. To them, shame
is not necessarily injurious and, in fact, its embrace may prove produc-
tive for queer politics, though it is a productivity that differs starkly from
the ways that shame has become productive within criminology (Munt
2007, 3; Halperin and Traub 2009; Sedgwick 2003; Warner 1999, 34,
7, 2528; Love 2007, 147; Probyn 2005; Stockton 2006).

The Queer Productivity ofShame

So, what does it mean to say that shame is productive, or has productive
potential, and what has led queer scholars and activists to think along
these lines? To explore these issues, this discussion will primarily consider
the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Elspeth Probyn, both of whom
have engaged with shame from a position that is attuned to queer com-
munities and experiences.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was one of the first within queer studies to
really point to shames potential productivity. Sedgwick is interested in
the ways in which shame produces knowledge and connects to forms of
subjectivity. Shame offers us the potential to know ourselves and establish
or think about our connections. Sedgwick suggests that queer identities
are shame-delineated, in that queer people are possibly those whose sense
of identity is for some reason tuned most durably to the note of shame
(Sedgwick 2003, 63). Drawing on the work on affect by Silvan Tomkins,
Sedgwick suggests (with co-author Adam Frank) that it is shame that
enables or disenables the ability to be interested in the world (Sedgwick
2003, 97). We experience shame when the interest that we express in
someone, or the connection that we seek to make with another, is denied
or not returned (Sedgwick 2003, 39). As Tomkins elaborates, shame is
produced when

one is suddenly looked at by one who is strange, or one wishes to look

at or commune with another person but suddenly cannot because he [sic]
is strange, or one expected him [sic] to be familiar but he [sic] suddenly
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 233

appears unfamiliar, or one started to smile but found one was smiling at a
stranger. (in Sedgwick 2003, 35)

When this circuit of mirroring expressions is broken, and the face

of the other refuses to continue that mutual gaze, then we experience
shame, most frequently embodied as a lowering of the eyes and a turn-
ing away of the head (Sedgwick 2003, 36). In this sense, according to
Probyn, [s]hame illuminates our intense attachment to the world, our
desire to be connected with others, and the knowledge that, as merely
human, we will sometimes fail in our attempts to maintain those con-
nections (2005, 14). Probyn points out that through these dynamics,
we can recognise why shaming punishments are supposedly productive.
When featured within punishment or as an acknowledgement of hav-
ing transgressed, shame fundamentally plays on the interest that one has
in others, and the desire to remain connected (Probyn 2005, 31). The
fear that our deviance may lead to a loss of respect or status among our
communitythat is, may break the circuit of mirroring expressionsis
what underpins this approach (Probyn 2005, 88).
Such shame demonstrates a fear of social isolation and institutes a
desire for relief from this through rebuilding interpersonal connections
(Sedgwick 2003, 36). And it is this moment that illustrates the connec-
tions between shame and the production of identity. The continuation of
this mutual gaze is identity constitutingour very selves are produced
through the recognition of the other and our relations to them hold
us (Butler 2009, 37). Re-establishing such a connection is an attempt
to ensure the continuation of such recognition and the continuation
of that identity (Sedgwick 2003, 36). If we do not have an interest in
that which is shaming us, then shame will not actually have an effect
(Probyn 2005, x). Without interest, there is no shame.3
Experiencing shame allows for self-reflection, and helps us to recognise
the ways we invest in our attachments to particular communities (Probyn
2005, 35). The loss of the connection is experienced as a kind of attack on
the self, opening oneself up to judgement from others as well as oneself,
Additionally, the response to being shamed is not necessarily to renounce the object in which one
is interested. This means that it is always possible for that mutual gaze to be refused again, and
further shame experienced (Sedgwick 2003, 117).
234 Criminology and Queer Theory

initiating self-assessment, which can be both positive and negative (Probyn

2005, xii). Shame can allow us to recognise the investments and interests
that we have and of which we were not previously conscious, helping us to
understand who we are and recognising the conditions of our subjectiv-
ity (Probyn 2005, 14). We can use that knowledge about ourselves to then
change ourselves and some of our social relations.
Shame also works in ways beyond these dynamics around subjectivity.
It is both peculiarly contagious and peculiarly individuating (Sedgwick
2003, 36). When someone else is shamed in front of me, the embarrass-
ment that they experience can also impact on me, so as to delineate my
precise, individual outlines in the most isolating way imaginable. Thus
shame makes a double movement toward painful individuation, toward
uncontrollable relationality (Sedgwick 2003, 37). Communities can be
formed through not just a shared experience of shame, but also a shared
engagement in shaming itself.
These perspectives on shame ought to make us think differently about
how we approach shame and what we do with it. For example, Probyn
suggests that it makes little sense to think of pride and shame as mutually
exclusive and opposed, which is the assumption that underpins the reti-
cence towards embracing shame by those invested strongly in pride dis-
courses. Rather, shame simply is, and we can only pay attention to what
it produces (Probyn 2005, viii). Gay pride, based largely on an attempt
to remove shame, might in fact be impossible and problematic (Probyn
2005, 2). Sedgwick suggests that while both political and therapeutic
strategies that seek to remove shame may work and produce some pow-
erful effects, they do not work in the way they say they will. As shame
is central to subjectivity, it can always be transformed, refigured, and
deformed, but not excised (Sedgwick 2003, 6263). And, importantly,
shame is unpredictable because it is relational, culturally produced, and
experienced differently by each individual (Cover 2012, 98). For these
reasons, shame cannot be understood as something to be overcome, or
directly and effectively governed, which seems to be an assumption that
appears within mainstream gay and lesbian activism as well as crimino-
logical work, as we have seen.
Thinking about shame along these lines can also lead us to consider
the productive potential of shame in new ways. As Sally Munt suggests,
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 235

shame has a peculiar, latent potential, which lends itself toward cre-
ative and critical exploration and can [act] as a solvent or catalyst for
transformation (in Rand 2012, 77). That which has been repudiated and
debased can be reclaimed and reformulated creatively (Sedgwick 2003).
Importantly for queer politics, this does not necessarily involve a desire to
reconnect and return to the normative fold in some way (Probyn 2005, 3).
Returning to that normative fold hardly seems a queer strategy. Thus
Probyn encourages us to explore the political uses and effects of shame
(Probyn 2005, 79). So, what other queer possibilities can shame allow
One way in which we can think about the productive aspects of shame
is to recognise that while a lack of shame may suggest a lack of attach-
ment, revelling in queer shame or seeking to find something productive
within it might actually signify a lack of interest in attachmentor at least
the particular kinds of attachments that are offered. This is an interest-
ing starting point to understand the subjectivity of those embracing gay
shame, beyond the notion that such an embrace constitutes an injury.
In Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where Black Meets Queer,
Kathryn Bond Stockton suggests that instead of thinking about shame
through the lens of disgrace, humiliation, abjection, or debasement, we
ought to study valuable, generative, beautiful shame (Stockton 2006,
22). Many activist groupsin Stocktons example, black and queer
groupshave had to risk some sort of self-denigration with a contami-
nated and problematic sign that has worked as an insult, in order to
politically renegotiate its terms and alter its power (Stockton 2006,
31). This self-wounding is often done in order to bring to light the vio-
lence exercised by mainstream ideas and norms (Stockton 2006, 31).
However, there are still potentially life-sustaining productions and ele-
ments in embracing shame (Stockton 2006, 9899). Stockton is thus
interested in what is produced in these embracesdo they foster par-
ticular connections, are they aesthetic practices, do they offer creative
ways of knowing? (Stockton 2006, 24). In this regard, we might ask
what life-sustaining dynamics exist or are produced through a repudia-
tion of the reintegration offered by reintegrative shaming, and whether
such reintegration could be thought of as closing down the possibilities
of some lives?
236 Criminology and Queer Theory

While many have embraced this particular view of shame and sought
to expand queer knowledges of shame, other scholars, particularly queer
scholars cognisant of the intersections between sexuality, gender, and
race, have not been so quick to do so. In a similar way to other critiques
of queer politics, these scholars have positioned the embrace of shame as
another form of politics that is only realistic for privileged white gay men
who have not had the same experiences of shame as those from other
disadvantaged groups. Those more eager to embrace shame, these crit-
ics argue, are those who are unlikely to have experienced shame on the
basis of the colour of their skin, and who do not necessarily appreciate
the ways in which an embrace of shame might have a particular inflec-
tion because of this (Halberstam 2005b; Perez 2005; La Fountain-Stokes
2011; Johnson 2012, 435). As Garca notes, [s]hame has been maneu-
vered by an all-too-familiar exclusion of race and social class that ends in
an all-too-familiar triumph of all that is white, gay, and male (2011, 81).
For example, while Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes agrees with the cri-
tique that an embrace of gay pride is problematic for a range of reasons,
including because of its being co-opted by normative politics, he is not
certain that gay shame is the best response to this issue, particularly for
queer Puerto Ricans who seek to gain space in the national ethnic imagi-
nary (La Fountain-Stokes 2011, 61, 72). Instead, he counterposes the
white embrace of gay shame with the Latina and Latino notion of sin-
vergencera or shamelessness, which opposes shame but does not equate
with pride (La Fountain-Stokes 2011, 56, 71). He also suggests that it
might still be possible and appealing to push gay pride to its limits, espe-
cially for people of colour (La Fountain-Stokes 2011, 62). As such, the
value of a queer embrace of shame for those who are not privileged white
gay men is not entirely clear.
As the foregoing discussion has highlighted, queer scholarship is
quite significantly for shame, albeit in quite a different way to crimi-
nology. It does not seek directly to determine an individual or com-
munitys engagements with shame, it does not seek overtly to govern
through shame, and nor does it seek to move beyond shame. Shame is
not something to be engaged with briefly and then moved away from
as soon as possible. Rather, the queer scholarship in this area seeks
to mine the depths of shame and seriously consider and explore the
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 237

possibilities that shame might afford. It does not solely or even primar-
ily see shame as a negative, uncomfortable, or debasing affect. In line
with broader queer theorising that seeks to challenge the normative and
foster opportunities for the non-normativeand thus in contrast to
criminological work that is largely tied to governmental concerns in its
engagement with shamethis queer scholarship attempts to use shame
as an opening through which to further explore the non-normative, the
unusual, and the queer, and through which to develop new theoretical
and political possibilities and directions. It is to the question of whether
and how these approaches might inform criminology and criminal jus-
tice practice that this chapter now turns.

Queering Shame inCriminology

In light of the above discussions, what might be a desirable direction
for queer criminological work in relation to shame and how can these
discussions on shame within queer scholarship inform criminology? To
date, the insights on shame from these two fields have not been brought
together in any sustained way. This section will therefore consider some
of these issues, outlining potential paths that this queer criminological
work might follow.
To begin, it is important to establish how such work would con-
nect to or articulate with existing criminological debates. An approach
that engages with the debates from within queer scholarship outlined
above would not simply step into existing criminological debates on
shame. Thus, it would not participate in the governmental and explana-
tory debates on shamewhich see shame as a resource to be used by
the justice system to achieve the governmental ends of responding to
crime, reducing offending, and addressing victimisationwithout a cer-
tain level of discomfort. These commonly held assumptions, debates, and
questions asked of shame should instead be a target of such an approach,
and thus would need to be reframed as a result.
This is not to say that there is no value in such evaluative and govern-
mental works at all. Indeed, as discussed earlier, there is considerable scope
for a queer criminology to act as a corrective and consider the unique
238 Criminology and Queer Theory

impacts of shaming approaches on queer communities, which are gener-

ally unknown despite enough evidence from other areas to suggest this
may be worthy of investigation. If queer subjectivities are formed through
a relationship with shame that has been injurious or traumatic, sham-
ing punishments might be counter-productive or cause greater harm. The
value of work in this vein would be in minimising or preventing the use
of such shaming approaches in ways that further harm queers. However,
despite the potential of such research to improve justice for queer people,
this ought to be approached with caution. If, indeed, it were found that
shaming punishments produce unique and negative impacts for members
of queer communities, and that these impacts could be attributed in some
way to the complex role of shame and injury in the formation of queer
subjectivity, then it seems difficult to see how queer criminological work
concerned with improving justice could comfortably assist in fine-tuning
these forms of government, so that they may operate more effectively.
Perhaps the path with the greatest potential for queer insights to inform
criminological and criminal justice work, which may also serve as a site
for the greatest possible queer political disruption, is one which seeks to
investigate whether and how a reconceptualisation of shame as produc-
tive can impact on criminal justice knowledges and practices. As explored
above, criminological debates on shame characterise shame as something
to be engaged with only briefly. Because of the connections between
criminologys engagement with shame and its governmental tasks, crimi-
nological debates do not seem attentive to the possibilities that shame
might open up for transgression or resistance to powercharacterising
these as dangers to community integration and crime control. If, as the
work discussed above suggests, there are other ways of engaging with
shame, it is worthwhile exploring what these might look like, considering
whether they can be part of criminological conversations on shame, and
what might happen if they were to inform criminal justice responses that
utilise shame. Such a path would be productive for queer criminology,
not trying to improve the use of shame in this context, but rather disrupt
it. It would ask whether there are productive queer political possibilities
in the use of shame in criminal justice contexts which are not subordi-
nated to the task of crime control, and which could become a site of
queer political action. This kind of work can provide the groundwork for
9 Queer Shame andCriminology 239

queer political disruption within criminology and criminal justicedis-

rupting, subverting, repurposing, or blocking various engagements with
shame and potentially fostering and encouraging others.
While there are significant opportunities for developing queer politics
here, the conceptual contribution of such work ought not to be underes-
timated. Work that explores the productive potential of shame involves a
fundamental rethinking of the way in which shame itself is conceptualised
in the justice system. Doing so subsequently raises ethical questions about
the appropriate use of shame in criminal justice, and other engagements
with shame beyond the strict social control aspects mentioned heresuch
as responding to the apparent shame of victimisation that stops some
people from reporting violence (Weiss 2010; Mills 2008). Thus, queer
criminological work on shame can help criminology look outside of itself
and beyond the questions that it continues to ask about shame.

This chapter has outlined some useful and original directions for queer
criminological work. It has suggested that queer criminological work
could draw from the diverse insights on shame articulated within queer
scholarship in order to provide an original critique and rethinking of
shame as it appears and is utilised within criminology and criminal justice
practices. It has discussed two of the major directions that are possible as a
result of such an intersectiona corrective direction, seeking to investigate
the experience of shaming punishments on queer communities in order to
address the heteronormativity of current criminological work on shame,
and a more disruptive and queer direction, seeking to understand new
ways of engaging with shame in order to challenge, disrupt, subvert, and
perhaps reformulate criminal justice practices utilising shame. Of course,
other directions are possible, and this has not been an exhaustive discus-
sion of shame or criminological engagements with it. Though I have sug-
gested here that the disruptive queer direction perhaps aligns more closely
with queer scholarship generally, both directions hold significant potential
as part of broader moves to draw queer theory and criminology together,
at the same time as addressing various injustices for queer communities.
240 Criminology and Queer Theory

While here I have specifically focused on the notion of shame and

on considering how queer work might help to reshape the way shame is
thought about in criminology, it opens the door for broader opportunities
to rethink aspects of criminological thought. As explored here, there is
almost an unspoken assumption within criminology and criminal justice
practice that shame is negative and injuriousor at the very least volatile.
Such a view is taken for granted and expressed through the way in which
criminal justice practices utilise shame. However, by seeking out alterna-
tive ways of thinking about concepts that we intuitively know, it is pos-
sible to open the door for original and otherwise unexamined possibilities
afforded by these concepts. Thus, what this kind of queer criminological
work could do for the notion of shame could also be done for other taken-
for-granted concepts that relate to the injury, trauma, or harm of offend-
ing behaviour, or even other positive alternatives to traditional institutions
of criminal justice that are held up as desirable and as holding the key to
improving justice, such as reintegrative shaming. Examining their effects
and possibilities in a new light after engaging with queer scholarship rep-
resents perhaps the best contribution that such scholarship can make. It
is, I would suggest, important to engage with these negative feelings and
affects in a greater range of criminological contexts, as these are key issues
that feature heavily in criminal justice experiences. As Love suggests, it
seems clear that movements that attempt to ignore such feelings or wish
them away will have to deal with them sooner or later. The history of
political depression is long; furthermore, it is a feeling that thrives in exile
(Love 2007, 160). Queer criminological work thus ought to engage with
such backward feelings now, in this early stage of its development.

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Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer
life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Weiss, K.G. (2010). Too ashamed to report: Deconstructing the shame of sex-
ual victimisation. Feminist Criminology, 5(3), 286310.

The possible intersections between queer scholarship and criminology

charted in the preceding chapters not only demonstrate the productive
ways in which queer scholarship may be used to inform criminology, but
also highlight the importance of queer scholarship as a tool for engaging
in critique. Queer scholarship and criminology are, after all, dangerous
bedfellows, and, as I hope to have shown, queer thought can perhaps
best be put to work within criminology as a disruptive tool, challenging,
subverting, and redirecting its major tasks and assumptions. My sugges-
tions in the previous chapters about how this may occur are but tastes of
the possibilities here, sketched quite broadly so as to serve as prompts for
further conversations.
Along these lines, each of the parts of this book has taken a slightly
different approach to engaging queer thought in conversation with crim-
inology. Part I examined some of the theoretical and conceptual hur-
dles that must initially be confronted in the desire to develop a queer
criminology. It highlighted how poststructural insights about power and
knowledge, and related queer insights about the way in which queer
is used within criminology, help us reflect on these moves to develop a
queer criminology, and to consider their effects. It also suggested that

The Author(s) 2016 245

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328-0_10
246 Criminology and Queer Theory

Pat Carlens critique of evangelism in academic criminology might serve

as both encouragement for those of us developing queer criminology to
consider the unique contribution that this new field can make, and an
opportunity to develop queer criminology along the more disruptive,
anti-normative, and deconstructive lines present within queer scholarship
so as to offer an original contribution. This first part ended by engaging
with queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwicks notion of reparative read-
ings, a critical approach taken up within queer scholarship that can help
address the critiques outlined in these chapters. This approach allows for
queer criminologists to perhaps respond most effectively to the simulta-
neously useful and injurious attempts to bring together queer scholarship
and criminology. To varying extents, this (cautiously) reparative position
underpinned much of the rest of the book.
Part II of this book explored the intersections between queer scholar-
ship and critical criminologies in order to consider how queer criminol-
ogy might draw from these critical criminologies and contribute to their
tasks. It also helped to delineate the specific contribution that might be
made by drawing queer scholarship and criminology further together in
these contexts. In particular, the chapters in Part II looked at the pos-
sibilities for a disruptive and deconstructive queer criminology. Critical
criminologies have long dealt with many similar tasks to those that con-
front queer criminology, and have featured explicitly and implicitly in
the suggestions made about how it ought to develop. Queer scholarship
also allows for a critique of these criminologies, and a consideration of
whether they offer a productive home for queer criminological thought.
The discussions in this section, while somewhat sweeping and perhaps a
little ambitious, also allow for a consideration of the boundaries of queer
criminology. This section ended with a discussion of the importance of
critique in putting into effect the tendencies of queer work to trouble,
disrupt, put out of order, and push against normativity. It pointed out
how this currently features within criminology, and how developing work
along these lines would help to produce a greater space for intersections
between queer scholarship and criminology.
The final part of this book has developed these kinds of intersections
between queer scholarship and criminology in two key contexts that have
not, to this point, been the concern of queer criminological analysis. The
10 Conclusion 247

chapter on utopia and the future did this by highlighting the need to
constantly question the ways in which queer criminology may invest in
a better future. It discussed queer critiques of utopian visions and invest-
ments in the future so as to highlight that queer work ought constantly
to trouble the vision of the future that queer criminologists are work-
ing towards achieving, and to avoid having one single utopian vision
underpinning their work. And the chapter on shame did this by pointing
out the potential queer value of embracing something like shame, which
appears to be backward or harmful, so as to queer the notion that such
affects are unproductive, and to see what new criminal justice politics and
practices might be produced as a result. Both of these queer explorations
help to illustrate further the ways that queer scholarship and criminology
are, and indeed must remain, dangerous bedfellows.
In this concluding chapter, I want to consider how these more disrup-
tive and deconstructive approaches to queer criminology can be directly
relevant to what is taken to be the key concern of queer criminologists:
addressing and responding to the real injustices encountered by queers.
This takes us right back to the disparate events that opened the book
Mayang Prasetyos death and the Prison of Love party. While critics of
deconstructive approaches often deride the applicability of deconstruc-
tion to real issues of injustice, I want to suggest briefly how such work can
be directly relevant to such concerns. After all, a key aspect of deconstruc-
tion is how to best respond to those made abject and excluded through
the operations of binary constructions and forms of normativity within
criminology (or, in Derridean terms, the remainder), which queers often
are. As responding to these injustices is invariably going to be a feature
of future queer criminological work, it is worth thinking about how this
task might be pursued in a way that aligns with the preceding discussions
within this book.
First, though, it is important to somewhat expand the subjects we are
concerned about. It would come as no surprise that when I talk about
such a conceptualisation of queer criminology, I am not talking directly
about how queer criminology can represent LGBTIQ people. Instead,
I would suggest that the constituency that queer criminology ought to
speak for is anyone who might find some value in the notion of queer.
While of course this is a contentious notion, it does not erase LGBTIQ
248 Criminology and Queer Theory

people from its ambit. What it does is allow others who might find some
productivity in the disruptive and anti-normative positions of queer
criminology to be accommodated here too. And, it allows for LGBTIQ
people who do not gain anything from queer the ability to opt out of
the ambit of such work. Already there are some questions about how far
the conceptualisation of queer will extend (McDonald 2016; Franklin
2015)questions that must continue to help us refine these boundaries.
In order to follow this kind of direction, I suggest that queer crimi-
nology be considered an ethical task, consisting of an attempt to carve
out within criminology and criminal justice the discursive, cultural,
institutional, and political spaces within which queer lives may be
made liveable.1 After all, the questions that have been raised about
which direction queer criminological work ought to take are ultimately
ethical questions, because whatever answers are given and whichever
directions are chosen will ultimately impact on those queer lives that
are made liveable and taken to matter in criminal justice contexts
(Butler 2004a, b, 2009).
I have alluded to this notion of liveable lives throughout the preced-
ing chapters and particularly Chapter 7. This concept is drawn from the
work of Judith Butler, who has long explored lives that matterthat is,
those lives that are thought of as liveableand those that do not mat-
terthose lives that seem unliveable (Butler 2004a, 2004b, 8, 2009).
Such unliveable lives include those of many transgender people, those
who experience HIV/AIDS, and victims of the War on Terror (Butler
2004a, 2004b, 2009)people whose very existence is threatened by the
limits of the discourses through which we recognise particular lives as
lives. This unliveability means that it is less likely that people will be
considered within, or accommodated by, a range of social institutions,
and can even lead to their being positioned as abnormal, or outside the
sphere of moral concern. Butlers concern for these lives, and for chal-
lenging the ways in which they are rendered unliveable, aligns with the
notion of critique adopted in this book. Thus, as Butler states, [t]he
categories by which social life are ordered produce a certain incoherence
or entire realms of unspeakability (Butler 2004c, 10), and it is only

Some of these arguments have been developed further elsewhere (see Ball 2014a, in press).
10 Conclusion 249

through identifying the limits of these scenes of recognition, and having

them confront that which is unspeakable or incoherent within them,
that we can open up spaces within these frameworks and expand what
lives count as liveable (Butler 2004c, 10; Willig 2012, 142). In this
sense, Butler examines the occlusive constitution of the field of catego-
ries themselves (Butler 2004c, 4), and seeks to create spaces in which
we are not governed by such categoriesor at least that the government
exercised by these categories is loosened up somewhat and more move-
ment and play is possible within them. Clearly, the reshaping of these
scenes of recognition is an ethical task, necessary for the survival of those
whose lives are not recognised as lives, or whose lives are made more
difficult as a result of these dynamics (Willig 2012, 140141). It is this
understanding of what constitutes an ethical tasktrying to expand the
possibilities of what might be considered a liveable lifethat I suggest
can be of use to queer criminology (see also Ball in press).
This goal of ensuring that we produce the conditions and spaces under
which a variety of queer lives, previously unliveable, are rendered live-
able can be achieved through an assortment of different tasks. It can range
from perhaps the more traditional, such as trying to ensure that crimi-
nology and criminal justice institutions and policies recognise that queer
communities are victims of intimate partner violence, to the more decon-
structive attempts to challenge the categories through which our lives are
lived and defined. In many respects, this is somewhat straightforward and
perhaps underpins, even implicitly, queer criminological work at pres-
ent. For example, ensuring queer lives are rendered as lives that matter,
such as by recognising them as victims of a variety of interpersonal crimes,
may prevent the tragedies of violence against women, transgender people,
people of colour, and sex workers, which all intersect in the murder of
Mayang Prasetyo, discussed in the introduction. If these conditions were
different then Prasetyos life might have been considered more valuable as
a life, and while this might not necessarily have prevented her murder in
particular, it might have prevented the sensationalised reporting of it, and
reduced the kinds of violence that intersect in her life and death.
In some contexts, however, this way of thinking about queer criminol-
ogy may make our political work and goals somewhat more difficult.
For example, consider the Prison of Love party also discussed in the
250 Criminology and Queer Theory

introduction. Which perspective is more likely to ensure queer lives are

liveable? Should we support the party as an important space for subver-
sive queer politics and resistance directed towards injurious institutions?
After all, doing so may help to ensure that queer lives are made more
liveable, given that these forms of politics have featured as key compo-
nents in queer cultural production and, in some respects, community sol-
idarity. Alternatively, should we align with the protests against the party
because of its apparent celebration of the very elements that feature in
the oppression of some members of the queer community? Such a protest
also seeks to create the conditions under which queer lives may become
liveable. Each of these positions has certain possibilities, productivities,
and limitations. Perhaps we ought to explore the competing claims made
to liveability in this regard, making sure that these positions do not
end up talking past each other. Despite these potential difficulties, queer
criminologists can be usefully guided by the view that they are engaged
in an ethical task, and that this task involves fostering the conditions for
queer lives to be made liveable. Doing so in fact relies on the constant,
unsettled, and unsettling critique so central to queer, as illustrated by
the need to continuously reflect on the ways in which queer criminologi-
cal work may, at times, limit the possibilities for queer lives to be liveable.
I want to conclude by pointing out, based on some of the discussions
throughout the book, an important next step for queer criminologists, if
they conceive of their work as representing an ethical task in this way. As I
have noted throughout the preceding discussions, queer politics has a trou-
bled and not yet fully developed relationship with (and productivity for)
many, particularly those who do not experience particular forms of privilege
(such as white privilege), indigenous people, and those outside of the Global
North. As discussed in the final section of the book, some forms of queer
politics, such as those pursued in the context of hope and shame, have dif-
ferent meanings for these groups, given that queer politics has arisen from
unique social and political contexts that are either of little benefit to these
groups or irrelevant to them. As such, it is important to ask whether queer
criminology offers anything to those who exist outside of these contexts. It is
especially important to remember that queer politics has its own colonising
dimensions, and thus a queer criminology that does not account for such
issues will only reproduce both the problems that queer and criminology
10 Conclusion 251

have produced for the groups mentioned above. It is these dynamics that
queer criminologists must urgently reflect on if queer criminological schol-
arship is to help create the spaces for queer lives to become liveable.
This response calls for more than an intersectional framework (though
this is also important) (Potter 2015; Meyer 2015). It requires not just
recognising that members of queer communities experience oppression
and marginalisation on the basis of more than their sexuality or gender,
but must go beyond this to recognise the epistemological concerns and
multiple, often competing, political contexts that shape these dynamics
as well. It is in this vein that I want to turn to Kerry Carrington etal.s
(2016) recent discussion of Southern Criminology, in line with counter-
colonial critiques and others that I have already canvassed, which may be
useful in developing some of the concerns here.
Carrington etal.s (2016) notion of Southern Criminology draws from
Raewyn Connells work on Southern Theory in sociology more gener-
ally. Connell highlights the ways that the periphery was initially pressed
into service as a data mine for metropolitan theory, with that theory
then being imported back to the periphery and applied to local social
problems, which effectively bolstered the hegemony of northern theory
while either ignoring or excluding ideas and theory rooted in the history
and experiences of societies of the South (Carrington et al. 2016, 2).
Carrington etal. (2016, 3) explore similar dynamics within criminology,
noting that much criminological research has been developed in the con-
text of societies of the Global North (specifically urban contexts), which
have generally been stable and not experienced the high levels of violence
that impact the Global South disproportionately, and have not been
subjected to colonial regimes. They suggest that these unique contexts
impact on the utility of criminology in these contexts, and that Southern
Criminology is a useful addition to help criminology grapple with the
challenges that it faces globally. Thus, Southern Criminology offers not
another form of opposition so much as a series of projects of retrieval,
whose purpose is not to denounce but to re-orient, not to oppose but to
modify, not to displace but to augment (Carrington etal. 2016, 3).
While queer thought is perhaps more in line with the counter-colonial
project of epistemological and ontological disobedience and insurrection
(Carrington et al. 2016, 2), as opposed to Southern Criminologys
252 Criminology and Queer Theory

corrective to existing criminology, an engagement with Southern

Criminology is nevertheless important if queer criminologists are to have
any relevance to those in the Global South and not remain limited by the
northern lens of much queer and criminological work. As Carrington
etal. (2016, 10) say of feminist criminology, as an example, its default
assumptions tend to mirror those of the discipline, by elevating and
reproducing certain forms of metropolitan thinking, and narrow the
feminist gaze to localised gendered power relations and structures, such
as patriarchy. A similar argument could possibly be made about queer
criminology. As such, engaging with both counter-colonial criminol-
ogy (a connection not elaborated upon by Carrington etal. [2016]) and
Southern Criminology at this early point in the development of queer
criminology can help to ensure that queer criminology has a clearer sense
of its own limitations in achieving this task of producing the conditions
for liveable lives, and highlight what it might need to do in order to
respond to these limitations. These issues remain an important next step
both in the development of queer criminology and certainly within the
general project of Southern Criminology.
While it has only had a short life to this point, a number of suggestions
have already been proffered about what queer criminology is and what
tasks it ought to set itself. Perhaps it is still too early to try to pin these
down with any certainty, if, indeed, that is ever something that we will be
able to do or even find desirable. The approach suggested above is but one
set of concerns that must be addressed in developing a queer criminology
and ensuring that it can be most effective in responding to the injustices
which feature in many articulations of its purpose. The chapters in this
book have provided other such paths. And there are still many others that
can be followed. While in this book I have only sketched some of the
possibilities of how queer theory and criminology might intersect, there
is clearly much room for these directions to be extended, and also for
them to be challenged. Each example of these intersections points to the
diverse possibilities that queer work affords, which is necessary given its
open nature, its expansive potential, and its inability to rest. What remains
important is that it constantly seek to disrupt. It would not be queer with-
out doing so, and queer scholarship and criminology would not remain
the dangerous bedfellows that they should be if this were not the case.
10 Conclusion 253

Ball, M. (2014a). Queer criminology, critique, and the art of not being gov-
erned. Critical Criminology: An International Journal, 22(1), 2134.
Ball, M. (in press). The ethics of queer/ing criminology: The case of the Prison
of Love. In B.Scherer (Ed.), Queering paradigms VI. Bern: Peter Lang.
Butler, J. (2004a). Precarious life: The powers of mourning and violence. London:
Butler, J. (2004b). Undoing gender. NewYork: Routledge.
Butler, J. (2004c). What is critique? An essay on Foucaults virtue. Retrieved April
10, 2013, from
Butler, J. (2009). Frames of war: When is life grievable? London: Verso.
Carrington, K., Hogg, R., & Sozzo, M. (2016). Southern criminology. British
Journal of Criminology, 56(1), 120.
Franklin, A. W. (2015, November 20). Minor attraction: A queer criminology
issue. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology 2015 Annual
Meeting, Washington, DC.
McDonald, D. (2016). Who is the subject of queer criminology? Unravelling
the category of the paedophile. In A.Dwyer, M.Ball, & T.Crofts (Eds.),
Queering criminology (pp.102120). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Meyer, D. (2015). Violence against queer people: Race, class, gender, and the persis-
tence of anti-LGBT discrimination. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Potter, H. (2015). Intersectionality and criminology: Disrupting and revolutionising
studies of crime. Oxon: Routledge.
Willig, R. (2012). Recognition and critique: An interview with Judith Butler.
Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 13(1), 139144.

A Berlant, Lauren, 97
abolitionist work Bersani, Leo, 2089
in criminology, 2024 black feminisms, 113
ACT UP, 229 Blagg, Harry, 120, 121
administrative criminology, 141 Braithwaite, John, 220, 2224, 226
Agozino, Biko, 115, 123 Brotherboys, 129
AIDS crisis, 24, 229, 248 Buist, Carrie L., 5, 56, 61, 64, 65, 69
Althusser, Louis, 28 Butler, Judith, 9, 14, 30, 33, 39, 46,
An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, 47, 165, 1757, 248, 249
Sexuality, and Lesbian Public
Cultures, 229
anarchist criminology, 2046 C
anti-social thesis See utopia Carlen, Pat, 13, 75, 78, 107, 123,
Anzalda, Gloria, 31 246
Carrington, Kerry, 2512
cautious reparation, 989, 246
B Chesney-Lind, Meda, 111
backward feelings, 219, 220, 222, chrononormativity, 38
240 colonialism, 43, 115, 129, 130,
Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame, 235 250, 251

The Author(s) 2016 255

M. Ball, Criminology and Queer Theory, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI10.1057/978-1-137-45328
256 Index

constitutive criminology, 1745 140, 143, 144, 146, 150,

counter-colonial criminologies, 8, 151, 157, 1647, 175, 176,
13, 109, 11517, 125, 179, 181, 183, 184, 191,
129, 132 194, 1979, 202, 205, 213,
and decolonizing queer 220, 2228, 237, 239, 245,
criminology, 12932 246
and empiricism, 119 and queer deconstruction,
and epistemic violence, 121 17982
and queer criminology, 12932 and shame, 2228, 2379
and racist epistemologies, 120 engagements with queer issues,
counter-colonial criminologists, 558
11525 utopia and, 197206
Counter-Colonial Criminology: criticism, 3, 36, 46, 113, 121, 123,
A Critique of Imperialist 163, 165, 1757, 181, 230
Reason, 115 critique, 8, 10, 13, 23, 24, 27,
Crime, Shame and Reintegration, 32, 37, 401, 44, 46,
220 48, 58, 70, 75, 82, 86,
criminal justice 96, 97, 108, 112, 117,
agents, 6, 65 129, 132, 165, 175,
datasets, 143 1779, 183, 246,
institutions, 3, 11, 181, 191, 198, 247, 250 See also
204, 249 deconstruction
process, 63, 203, 220, 222, 224, and not being governed, 177,
227 183
system, 48, 56, 60, 61, 76, 99, Crofts, Thomas, 5
137, 150, 176, 192, 199, cruel optimism, 97
202, 203, 221, 226 Cruising Utopia: The Then and There
criminological politics, 78, 79, 100, of Queer Futurity, 211
206 cultural criminologists, 138, 166
criminological research, 6, 7, 8, 68, cultural criminology, 65, 81, 14450
80, 165, 221, 251 and deconstruction, 175
criminologists, 7, 54, 55, 57, 61, 62, cultural criminologists, 144, 146
69, 78, 79, 81, 88 cultural victimology, 150
criminology, 3, 4, 5, 11, 1315, 24, ethnography, 147
25, 41, 48, 5360, 62, 63, limits of, 175
68, 779, 85, 87, 89, 90, cultural realism, 139
99, 107, 108, 111, 11419, Currie, Elliott, 140
122, 124, 125, 133, 138, Cvetkovich, Ann, 38, 2289
Index 257

Dalton, Derek, 58, 62, 65, 66, 69, faith, in queer criminology, 76, 77,
80, 143 8291
Daly, Kathleen, 111 counter-productive position, 91
de Saussure, Ferdinand, 28 deployment of queer, 8890
decolonisation, 115 in knowledge and exposure, 847
deconstruction, 10, 13, 14, 24, 34, in queer as category, 878
37, 39, 45, 47, 48, 58, 69, in regulation, 824
70, 107, 114, 119, 122, problems of, 82
130, 139, 142, 151, 1535, Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics
16385, 247 See also of Queer History, 219, 229
poststructuralism feminism, 42, 65
challenges to, 171 feminist, 42, 109
concept of differance, 16970 criminologies, 65, 71, 11015,
criticism and critique, 1759 118, 1258, 166, 252
in criminology, 1534, 1657, criminologists, 11113, 121, 128
1725 empiricism, 118, 119
influence on queer thought, exclusions of, 1258
1712 postmodernism, 119
key elements, 1689 poststructuralism, 114, 1223
limits in criminology, 1725 standpoint feminism, 119
queer deconstruction, 16772 Third Wave feminism, 113
Derrida, Jacques, 10, 16870, Third World countries, 123
179 Ferrell, Jeff, 64, 14450, 157, 158,
Duggan, Lisa, 38, 49 1667, 175, 2045
Dwyer, Angela, 5 figural Child
in reproductive futurism, 2078
forgetting, in queer criminology
E exclusion and injury, 824
Edelman, Lee, 39, 49, 193, 20714, history and power effects, 8891
219 power-knowledge nexus, 847
edgework, 139, 147, 148, problems of, 82
1568 See also cultural referential slipperiness of queer,
criminology 878
Epistemology of the Closet, 33 Foucault, Michel, 10, 14, 28, 76,
ethnography, 80, 147 152, 168, 1778, 182
evangelism, 13, 75 Frederick, Brian Jay, 64, 149
problem of, 7882, 246 Freeman, Elizabeth, 38
258 Index

G HIV activism, 26
gay HIV/AIDS, 248
and lesbian communities, 56, 64, homonormativity, 24, 38, 84, 94,
149 149, 204
liberation, 26, 27, 29, 67 homophobia, 34, 59, 70, 149, 219
Gay Shame, 231, 2356 homophobic hate crime, 7, 9, 54, 65
Gelsthorpe, Loraine, 111, 11314, homosexual deviancy thesis, 57, 61
123 homosexual panic defence, 58
gender, 26, 27, 29, 31, 339, 41, 42, homosexuality, 27, 29, 66, 67, 89, 156
53, 54, 56, 57, 60, 67, 72,
87, 111, 113, 114, 119,
126, 128, 129, 158 I
binarism, 324, 94, 126, 128, identity politics and categories, 26,
158 29, 31, 32, 143
genderfluid, 126, 1578 indigenous people, 71, 83, 11517,
genderqueer, 126, 1578 120, 129, 130
non-binary, 126, 128, 1578 shaming for, 2256
Gender Trouble: Feminism and the injustice, 3, 6, 76, 77, 164, 172,
Subversion of Identity, 33 176, 180, 199, 202, 203,
Gledhill, Cara, 71 213, 239, 247, 252
Global intersex people, 126
North, 71, 250 intimate partner violence, 1, 125,
South, 251, 252 180, 249
Groombridge, Nic, 56, 59, 60, 62, Israel, 131
646, 72, 156

H justice professionals, 65, 143
Halperin, David, 36
Handbook of LGBT Communities,
Crime and Justice, 5, 57 K
heteronormativity, 3, 7, 8, 31, 57, Katz, Jack, 145
64, 93, 945, 1489, 194, Kitossa, Tamari, 121
207, 209, 214, 219, 221,
225, 239
heterosexuality, 27, 30, 57, 66, 67, L
89, 156 La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence, 236
History of Sexuality, 28, 34 Lacan, Jacques, 28
Index 259

left realist criminology, 13944, 198 Muoz, Jos Esteban, 21114

limits of, 152155 murder, 1, 3, 249
modernism and materialism,
Lenning, Emily, 5, 56, 64, 65, 69 N
lesbian feminisms, 113 Naffine, Ngaire, 122
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Narrain, Arvind, 62
intersex, and queer negative affect, 21920, 240
(LGBTIQ), 25, 11, 235, negativity See utopia
40, 44, 54, 61, 64, 65, 67, No Future: Queer Theory and the
71, 84, 85, 88, 109, 125, Death Drive, 207
129, 143, 144, 151, 155, not being governed, 177, 183
156, 159, 180, 181, 2478 Seealso critique
people, 38, 11, 23, 38, 49, 54,
57, 605, 702, 84, 85, 87,
143, 144, 149, 151, 1556, O
159, 1801, 199, 204, 219, optimism, 21013
politics, 193
liveable lives, 24850, 252 P
logocentrism, 16870 Palestinians, 131
Love, Heather, 214, 219, 229, 240 Panfil, Vanessa R., 5, 57, 61, 65, 69,
Lyng, Stephen, 147, 158 143
paranoid reading, 77, 937, 100
Pavlich, George, 165, 176, 179
M peacemaking criminology, 2002
malestream criminology, 111 Peterson, Dana, 5, 57
Malloch, Margaret, 1989 positivism, 120, 121, 166, 198
marriage equality, 89 poststructuralism, 24, 279, 46,
material injustices, 10, 456, 130, 72,114, 153, 163, 1678
138, 143, 144, 152, 172, See also deconstruction
180 Prasetyo, Mayang, 1, 2, 4, 247, 249
Matthews, Roger, 137, 153, 154 pride, 230, 234, 236
McDonald, Dave, 11, 68, 72 Pride celebrations (2014), 3
Miller, Jody, 65, 69, 143 Prison of Love prison-themed dance
Modernism, 1515, 166 party, 34, 247, 24950
Morgensen, Scott Lauria, 1302 prisons, 128, 152
Munro, Bill, 198 Probyn, Elspeth, 2258, 230, 2325
260 Index

Q criminologists, 32, 109, 247, 251

queer decolonising, 12932
and affect, 21419, 2289 deconstruction, 143, 16770,
and deconstruction, 910, 349 17982
and gender and sexuality, 79, definition, 36
324 development, 558
and utopia, 21013 direction, 221, 239
as catch-all term, 7, 8, 31 ethics of, 2489
as disruptive, 346 evangelical tendencies, 107
critiques of, 407 feminist criminologies, 1258
definition, 36, 48 homosexual deviancy thesis, 57, 61
engagements with in criminology, identity categories, 58, 69
610 inclusion in criminology, 124
history, 2532 key limitations, 26
normativity, anti-normativity, left realism, 1424
345 LGBTIQ people, 6, 7
politics, 2532, 39, 445 meaning of queer in, 6871
without fixed referent, 369 politics, 26, 29, 3940, 425,
queer criminology, 57, 9, 10, 1215, 109, 12932, 150, 2201,
236, 32, 35, 38, 39, 41, 43, 232, 2356, 239, 250
45, 47, 54, 757, 80, 86, scholarship, 7, 9, 15, 25, 32, 38, 246
108, 110, 125, 129, 138, since late 1990s, 556
139, 152, 153, 164, 165, subjects of, 678, 2478
1934, 21314 tasks, 5863
activism, 26 theoretical work, 8
and counter-colonial criminology, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, 62
12932 Queer/ing Criminology: New
and critique see critique, Directions and Frameworks
deconstruction (special issue of Critical
and cultural criminology, Criminology), 5
148150 Queering Criminology, 5
and shame, 2379 queer settler colonialism, 1302
and Southern Criminology, queer shame, 21922
2512 in criminology, 2379
and utopias, 199, 2016, 21315 productivity of, 2327
see also utopia scholarship for, 22832
Index 261

R reintegrative shaming, 14, 199,

rape, 111, 119 220, 2227
realist criminologists, 65, 138, 141, shamelessness (sinvergencera), 236
142, 154, 174 Sistergirls, 129
reintegrative shaming, 14, 199, 220, Situationists, 175
2227 Smart, Carol, 112, 122
reparative readings, 77, 92, 93, 958, social constructionist analyses, 154, 155
100, 213, 246 Southern Criminology, 2512
reproductive futurism, 20710 See Stockton, Kathryn Bond, 235
also utopia Stone, Codie, 61
restorative justice, 14, 199, 220, 223 strategic essentialism, 31
subcultures, 1445, 156

Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay T
Hagiography, 36 Tauri, Juan, 116
same-sex marriage, 27 The Courier Mail, Australian local
Sanders, Clinton R., 64, 168 newspaper, 1, 2
scientism, 121, 122, 198 The Importance of Utopias in
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, 27, 33, Criminological Thinking, 198
77, 92, 94, 97, 100, Third Gender, 129
232, 246 Tomsen, Stephen, 55, 58, 62, 65, 72
settler colonialism, 1301 transgender people, 2, 65, 126, 127,
settler-colonial societies, 115 1578, 248
sex worker, 2 transgender prisoners, 128
sexologists, 56, 88 transphobia, 7, 9, 27, 54, 70
sexual deviance, 42, 56 Two-Spirit people, 129, 132
sexual normativity, 24, 208
sexuality, 3, 4, 8, 27, 33, 42, 54, 56,
62, 67, 114 U
shame, 220 utopia, 1923, 1957
and queer criminology, 2379 and criminology, 197206
critiques of queer engagements, anti-social thesis, 20710
236 critique of anti-social thesis,
disintegrative shaming, 223 21013
in criminology, 2228 importance of hope, 21013
in queer theory, 22837 in queer theory, 20613
productivity of, 22837 negativity, 20710
262 Index

utopia (cont.) W
queer criminological utopias, Western nations, 54, 116,
21315 146
reproductive futurism, 207210 Western philosophy, 167, 168,
Woods, Jordan Blair, 5, 56, 60,
V 64, 67, 69, 70, 72, 143,
victimisation, 6, 8, 56, 111, 138, 156
143, 156
victims of crime, 53, 54, 57, 155
violence, 2, 144, 166, 180, 193, 200, Y
201, 235, 239, 249 Young, Jock, 107, 13840
Volke, Marcus, 1 Young, Peter, 195, 198