Introduction: Diverse Voices in the Fields of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies

Derek M.D. Silva
King's University College
Mathieu Deflem
University of South Carolina

This is a copy of the Introduction to Diversity in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, edited by D.M.D. Silva and M. Deflem. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing, 2022.

Please cite as: Silva, Derek M.D. and Mathieu Deflem. 2022. "Introduction: Diverse Voices in the Fields of Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies." In Diversity in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies, edited by D.M.D. Silva and M. Deflem. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

In recent years, perhaps no collection of social movements in North America, and to some extent elsewhere, have been more noteworthy or significant than those related to social and racial justice. As the ongoing wave of protest and civil unrest in North America continues to put pressure on powerful institutions (including the legal and criminal justice systems) to enact reformative and, in some cases, even revolutionary change, communities at the margins of society continue to face often untenable conditions brought about by various systems of exclusion and inequality. In response to such high-profile police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, amongst others, and facilitated by the international Black Lives Matter movement and the growing abolitionist movement (Davis, 2005), numerous protests broke out throughout North America from the summer of 2020 onwards demanding change within the criminal justice system. Specific calls for change included the eradication of police lethality, inequality, and systemic racism, and demands for increased accountability for all forms of law enforcement (Harris & Gagne, 2021). These reformative calls are explicitly and implicitly made within a framework of equity, inclusion, diversity, and decolonization, and aim to help in the elimination the various modalities of inequality and discrimination produced and maintained by what some have called racialized organizations (Ray, 2019), including those that make up the criminal justice system (Cuneen, 2006; Owusu-Bempah & Wortley, 2014; Maynard, 2017).

Pandemic conditions brought about by the emergence and proliferation of COVID-19 have further intensified and, in many ways, propelled both scholarly and popular discourse and praxis related to social and racial justice. As the pandemic continues to disproportionately ravage racialized communities and negatively impact those systematically positioned at margins of oppression (Kendall et al., 2020; Wrigley-Field, 2020; Garcia et al., 2021), the extant opportunity to reflect on how all institutions, and individuals therein, work to create a diverse and inclusive space within their work has been made even more important, timely, and necessary. Indeed, as scholars from W.E.B. Du Bois (1978) to Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) remind us, academic disciplines themselves may erect remarkably rigid structures of inequality and exclusion that condition academic work and scholarly voices therein. It is thus more important than ever for academics and non-academics alike to reflect on the ways in which their work, institution, and discipline construct, reinforce, and maintain structures of inclusion and exclusion that influences the diversity of the broader field in which they operate (Brunson & Stewart, 2021; Hudson, 2008). This volume aims to offer space for the discussion of issues of diversity and inclusion within the profession, teaching, and scholarship itself.

The pandemic has shed new light on how authoritative institutions – including scientific communities – have contributed to the production and maintenance of exclusionary policies and practices that intersect and disproportionately effect marginalized communities (Crenshaw, 1989). These communities most often include, but are certainly not limited to, racialized groups including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women and LGBTQI+ communities, disabled folks, those experiencing physical and mental health issues, lower income, the working poor, the home or food insecure, immigrant populations, the current and formerly incarcerated, and older folks. In diverse ways, the current volume seeks to approach the theme of diversity broadly to encapsulate various understandings of what diversity is and how we might approach inclusion and exclusion therein.

Approaching the diversity of scholarly voices in a broad sense means taking seriously the modes of inclusion and exclusion that continue to condition criminology as a discipline and criminological research across several axes of inequality. While scholars within criminology and criminal justice studies have indeed started to open up lines of inquiry into inclusion, equity, and diversity in the fields of disability studies (Thorneycroft & Asquith, 2021), gender and sexuality (Ball, 2016; Buist & Kenning, 2015; Walker et al., 2021), national identity (Aliverti, 2020), cultural identity (Spencer, 2011), and decolonization (Dimous, 2021). The chapters in this book aim to contribute to this body of work by illuminating some of the ways in which criminology and criminal justice as academic disciplines contribute, or challenge attempts, to increase diversity within the fields.

Considering issues of diversity in the academic study of crime and criminal justice, the scholarly study of crime, criminal justice, and social control has typically devoted attention to diversity issues in its subject matter much more than in the profession and scholarship itself. By and large, the disparities in the criminal justice system are much better known than the inequities that exist within criminology and among scholars of criminal justice. While the academic world is often claimed to be open-minded and devoted to diverse perspectives, stubborn patterns of resistance and inequality are revealed in the actual constitution of the field, its practitioners, and its enduring professional structures. This volume therefore focuses on contemporary issues of diversity as they are manifested and of concern in the profession and scholarship of criminology and criminal justice studies. Diversity in this context is broadly defined to include considerations in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and different ability, amongst others. The book includes a variety of types of contributions, whether theoretical or empirical papers, reflective essays, personal narratives, or any other sound methodology, and highlights issues of diversity within the academic study of crime and criminal justice. Collectively, the chapters in this volume are intended to be as diverse as the ideal of diversity they reflect.

The chapters in this volume, in their own unique ways, seek to offer a useful contribution the budding fields of equity, inclusivity, diversity, and decolonization that intersects as they relate to the fields of sociology, law, criminology, and criminal justice today. The book is broken down in themes that include diversity, broadly defined, as authors have a diverse range in the following areas: race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, national origin, and disability. The interdisciplinary nature of scholarship on diversity and inclusion that lies at the nexus of crime, deviance, and social control is therefore reflected in the 11 chapters of this book. Indeed, this volume follows in the footsteps of several earlier volumes in the Sociology of Crime, Law, and Deviance series, especially those dealing with race, ethnicity and law (Deflem, 2017), the politics of policing (Deflem, 2016), terrorism and radicalization (Deflem 2015; Silva & Deflem, 2020), and punishment (Deflem, 2014).

The chapters of this volume are divided into three parts, each representing cutting-edge scholarship related to diversity and the academic study of criminology and criminal justice. Part I brings together four chapters that focus on diversity within and among aspects of the profession. Frances P. Bernat first examines the field of criminal justice to assess how diversity influences the field. More specifically, the chapter focus is put squarely on how diversity influences what is taught and how research is conducted in the field. Importantly, Bernat suggests that as the field becomes increasingly diverse with respect to faculty and practitioners, the more diverse and inclusive perspectives will be promoted and, in turn, recognized within the field. Next, Angela Dwyer takes perhaps the most reflexive approach in the volume to explore questions of positionality and standpoint as a self-professed ‘lurker’ in mainstream criminology (and policing studies more specifically). Drawing on work as a queer criminologist in a field dominated by men, Dwyer illuminates the significance of moments of discomfort and tension that have emerged in ‘lurking’ around and within policing studies as someone on margins of ‘mainstream’ criminology. In so doing, Dwyer also offers a series of strategies that have emerged out of these research and disciplinary contexts and suggests that folks get comfortable with positions of discomfort and potential failure rather than conforming to the mainstream. 

Tamari Kitossa and Gökbörü Sarp Tanyildiz then examine Carleton University Institute for Criminology and Criminal Justice (ICCJ)’s decision to end intern programs with local and federal law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities to illuminate how it is encoded with epistemic limits, normative expediencies, and obfuscation between policing, the university, and advanced capitalism. Drawing on the Black Radical Tradition, Neo-Marxism, and radical neo-Weberianism, the authors sketch research and praxis possibilities beyond so-called Critical Criminology’s steps towards abolition. In the final chapter of Part I, Kanika Samuels-Wortley uses the critical race method of counter-storytelling to show how race and racism may play a role in the collection and dissemination of research that explores racial bias in Canadian policing studies. Samuels-Wortley’s findings suggest that through various power structures and actors both within the policing and academic communities, a select and exclusive group of scholars have influence over Canadian policing research on racial bias and discrimination.

Part II focuses on equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization within criminology and criminal justice studies. First, Vicki Chartrand traces Indigenous grassroots initiatives to show the numerous ways that justice can be broadly conceived and mobilized to address the long-term consequences of the ongoing murders and disappearances of Indigenous women, girls, and MMIWGS2+ peoples. Drawing on the Unearthing Justices Resource Collection of over 500 Indigenous grassroots initiatives, Chartrand finds that not only have Indigenous families and communities been calling for justice, but they have also been cultivating it through consolidating resources and support amongst and within their communities. In this important chapter, Chartrand furthers calls for justice for MMIWG2S+ folks resist the ongoing colonial dispossession and systemic, racialized, and gendered violence that MMIWGS2+ people have long endured. 

David Milward then looks at harrowing accounts of the Canadian residential school system to assess the significance of the uncovering of mass gravesites at residential schools to criminology. Milward finds that gaps in criminology with respect to analyzing and understanding crimes against humanity committed by the state have resulted in an underdeveloped area of criminological literature. As an explicit call on criminologists to shed light on colonial violence committed by the state, Milward maintains that there is a need to explore how multi-faceted resolutions could potentially provide both accountability for crimes against humanity and pursue enduring structures that prevent further human rights abuses. In the final chapter of Part II, Cassandra Mary Frances Gonzalez assesses the relationship between intersections of race and gender for vulnerability to human trafficking in the United States. Utilizing an historical intersectional criminological lens, Gonzalez importantly finds that racial ideologies and legacies within the United States have contributed to the vulnerabilities of race and gender for sex trafficking predation as well as the criminalization of Black and Native American girls and women.

In Part III, the focus shifts to axes of exclusion that continue to condition the academic study of crime, deviance, and criminal justice systems. In the first of these chapters, Jordan Fairbairn addresses the importance of intersectionality to feminist criminological work on intimate partner violence (IPV). Through engagement with feminist criminology, feminism, and intersectionality, Fairbairn finds that feminist criminology, as a reflexive, dynamic, and evolving field, must maintain a strong commitment to progressive social change and feminist praxis in order to address the inequality, exclusion, and oppression at the foundations of IPV. Next, Shanell Sanches, Kelly Szott, and Emma Ryan provide an overview of the importance of seeing personal troubles as public issues in the context of mass incarceration that has now become a core feature of the American criminal justice system. Through engagement with C. Wright Mills’ notion of the sociological imagination, the authors find that sociological theory can offer new insights and solutions to transformative change that alleviate injustices for communities of color in the criminal justice system. 

Next, Ryan Thorneycroft provides one of the first academic interventions that critically evaluate the relationship between prenatal testing, selective termination of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and criminological genocide scholarship. Thorneycroft’s exploratory chapter brings these phenomena into view and explores whether the increasing trend of termination of fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome fits within criminological definitions of genocide. Finally, Justin R. Ellis analyzes public discourse on the relationship between artificial intelligence tools and LBGTQ identities to show that principles of surveillance capitalism such as blurred consent and redistributed privacy are underpinned by geopolitical and technological forces that have undermined the legitimacy of government and big tech companies. As such, Ellis argues, LGBTQ communities have mobilized through digital media platforms to resist the ambiguities of surveillance capitalism and have illuminated the ways in which big tech companies have failed to secure basic protections for LGBTQ folks online.

The authors of this volume represent a broad range of scholarly disciplines interested in the dynamics of diversity in criminology and criminal justice research from different theoretical, conceptual, and methodological perspectives. The common thread amongst all chapters in this volume is their focus on situating equity, inclusion, diversity, and decolonization within and foundational to their research, teaching, service, and public work in advance of the discipline. Collectively and through their respective individual chapters, the contributors to this book make for a meaningful addition to diversity within criminology and criminal justice that should be of interest to scholars working on a multitude of issues of crime, law, deviance, and social control.


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See overview and contents of this book.