1. What are the consequences of globalisation for the discipline of criminology?
The most obvious development in criminology as a result of globalisation has been the emergence of global criminology as a distinct area of criminological study. A more recent development has been the call for—and increasing attention given to—what has been termed ‘Southern criminology’, challenging the Northern bias in the production of academic knowledge.
2. What are the differences between the comparative and transnational strands of global criminology?
Comparative criminology is concerned with commonalities and differences between countries’ experiences of and approaches to issues of crime and justice. Transnational criminology, on the other hand, is concerned with serious organised crime, state crime, and corporate crime, which cross borders, as well as cross-border initiatives to deal with such serious crimes.
3. What are the differences between the positivist and interpretivist approaches to comparative criminology?
Positivist comparative research seeks to describe and understand global and regional patterns of crime and justice. A hallmark of positivist comparative criminology is its tendency to identify areas of criminal justice policy or practice in different countries or regions that are ‘out of line’ and should change. Interpretivist comparative research, on the other hand, seeks to explain why there are differences between countries’ experiences and approaches, and warns researchers and policy makers to be sure they fully understand a country or region's social and political cultures before they promote imported criminal justice reforms that may not work in practice.
4. To what extent do established criminological theories explain urban violence in the Global South?
Criminological theories, such as strain theory and social disorganisation theory, are useful in explaining crime patterns in urban spaces. In the context of comparative criminological research, however, we need to ask whether theories that were developed in one part of the world have the same explanatory value for other parts of the world facing similar problems. We need to be mindful that North America and Europe do not share the same socio-economic conditions as the Global South. Urban cities in South America, Africa and Asia have their own particular characteristics (in terms of population size, timeframe of development, levels of relative poverty) that set them apart from urban cities in the Global North. Therefore, when applying criminological theories we need to be reflexive and critical, taking into account the different realities of different places.
5. To what extent is penal punitivism a worldwide criminal justice norm?
To answer the question, we first need to identify a few of the measures or indicators of penal punitivism, and establish whether they are on the rise or in decline. Prison population numbers, pre-trial detention numbers, and prison overcrowding are indicators of penal punitivism. Whilst imprisonment is not on the rise everywhere across the globe, pre-trial detention and overcrowding are generally on the rise, with half of the world’s prison systems being overcrowded, based on Prison Reform International (2018).
6. When studying a particular country, why do criminologists usually conduct positivist as well as interpretivist comparative research?
Before you attempt this question, it may be useful to revisit the answer to question 3 above.
Convergences and divergences often appear in the same context. Using both approaches helps us to untangle, categorise, and explain both apparent convergences and divergences in crime and justice, assessing them in relation to, and separating them from, global and regional norms and averages. Using both approaches also helps to counteract the potential issues associated with these approaches (in their more extreme forms); in other words, of either over-estimating or denying differences or similarities.
7. What do you understand by the terms ‘Orientalism’ and ‘Occidentalism’?
Orientalism and Occidentalism can be seen as interpretive lenses through which we may view other countries’ institutions and practices. Orientalism refers to the practice of romanticising the foreign other, while Occidentalism seeks to avoid or explain away differences (Cain, 2000). Exploring these ‘lenses’ can be helpful in reminding us of the dangers of romanticising other cultures or assuming that other cultures are like ours. For example, a criminal justice measure that is successfully implemented in one country might not be implemented successfully in another country. On the other hand, we wouldn’t want to deny similarities to the extent that we lose the benefit of learning from the experiences of other places.
8. Why are Norwegian prisons on the whole more humane than prisons in other parts of Europe?
To answer this question, we need to have some knowledge of the country’s history, socio-economic development, and politics, which can all influence its approach to the punishment of offenders.
Compared with other European prison systems, Norwegian prisons have a reputation of being more humane, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and good conditions of detention (Cavadino and Dignan, 2006; Lacey, 2008). Although there has been an increase in prisoner population and in sentence lengths, coupled with a reduction in rehabilitation services in recent years due to public cuts, Norwegian prisons are still treated by European scholars as exceptional. Some of the reasons given for this ‘Nordic exceptionalism’ (Pratt, 2008) are the country’s economic prosperity and its stability, its sparse population, its historical emphasis on social welfare protection for its citizens, and its non-exposure to (large-wave) immigration.
9. Why are the Brazilian police so violent?
As with question 8, we need to give consideration to factors such as the country’s history, politics, and socio-economic situation. Brazil experienced dictatorship in the past, which has informed views of who the offender can be and how justice can be done. This has seen the militarisation of justice in Brazil where the military enjoys a close working relationship with the police, being involved in training and subsequently influencing their practices. The violent tactics and impunity of the Brazilian police are influenced by this close relationship. A public and political discourse of ‘internal’ as opposed to ‘external’ enemies, represented in the poor black man, bolsters support for the militarised style of Brazilian policing. In addition, the leadership of the Brazilian police (see the role of the legally trained police delegate) condones the use of violence and acts as a protective shield for police officers involved in violence.
We discuss other reasons behind police violence in Brazil in the section titled ‘Divergence 2: Latin American and Brazilian justice’.