Race Matters

A New Dialogue Between Criminology and Sociology

Dr Alpa Parmar
University of Oxford
SMALL GROUP PROJECT: SEPTEMBER 2019 – AUGUST 2020

Abstract

The Race Matters network will bring together scholars working on race and crime by hosting a one-day symposium in order to create an effective space and opportunity for academic exchange. A website will be developed and launched and will provide a virtual home for scholars working on race and crime. The network will focus on showcasing the work of minority ethnic scholars in a bid to ensure representation and networks of support for minority ethnic academics in universities across the world. A series of interviews with minority ethnic scholars researching race and crime will be conducted and disseminated in the form of journal articles, blog pieces and presentations, to acknowledge and document the intellectual personal and emotional experiences of conducting research on race and crime for scholars of colour. The network will engender opportunities for collaborative research, comparative proposals and for scholars from the global south to be able to meaningfully engage with those from the global north.

The Research Idea

The aim of the research is to foster greater attention to the dynamics of race and racism in criminological projects and practice, while at the same time offering support and solidarity to Black and minority ethnic scholars in criminology. This would be achieved through establishing a Race Matters Network – which would act as a virtual home for scholars working on the intersections between race and crime. The idea is to push the current criminological agenda on race by including scholars from the global south in a symposium which thinks critically about how scholarship on the role of race in criminology can grow, generate cross-national and cross-disciplinary alliances and how a productive and global anti-racist agenda that addresses race, crime and criminal justice could be implemented. The objectives of the Race Matters Network would ensure the presence of race issues at annual 2019 sociology and criminology conferences by organising panels or conference streams that focus on race and racism. The network would share theorization, research and scholarship about race and racism in criminal justice and other areas of criminological activity within the network and would engage with local communities, practitioners and policy makers to inform them around questions of race and racism. The network would also support the academic development of Black and minority ethnic scholars in criminology and foster wider recognition of the contribution of Black and minority ethnic scholars to criminology, historically, nationally and internationally.

Background

The over-representation of minority ethnic, religious and cultural groups in coercive police encounters, subject to criminal supervision, and incarcerated in various kinds of prison is a criminological common-place. Race and criminology have a long, tangled and troubled history. However central it has been to the development of criminology, the presence of scholarship on race and racism in criminology appears to be confined to its margins as either a special interest or epiphenomenal feature of the discipline. The Race Matters Network would challenge this status quo and connect the theoretical, historical and empirical analysis of race to contemporary criminological concerns. It is a reaction to a broader political context in which post-raciality is frequently asserted in public and criminological discourse, even while the social and cultural trends that nourish racism, such as hostile nationalist rhetoric, increasingly virulent xenophobia, economic exploitation and simplistic populist policy solutions thrive and prosper.

The Focus

The focus is to create and foster a dialogue between scholars working on race and crime in criminology and sociology. This will be achieved through generating a Race Matters network which will act as a rendez-vous point for scholars. A website will be launched at a network symposium which will bring together scholars from across the world working on race and crime, including Africa, Australia, the UK, US and Europe. A related research project will interview minority ethnic scholars who are working on race and crime, to acknowledge, document and showcase their experiences of being personally and emotionally invested in their topic of study, alongside their intellectual investment. Overall, the focus is to create a community for scholars working on race and crime and to generate a supportive network where collaborative research ideas, connections and ideas for anti-racism initiatives that harness knowledge from race and crime scholarship to be devised and implemented.

Theoretical Novelty

The idea for the Race Matters network, symposium and associated research is novel because it brings together two disciplines in a novel way. Sociological theorisations of race and ethnicity are advanced and nuanced, yet criminology has not fully incorporated such ideas into its thinking fully. Criminology on the other hand, has detailed scholarship on the causes of crime and a wealth of research on people’s involvement and experience of crime. Sociology however has tended to eschew such work in favour of applying a critical lens to the social construction of crime. Thus, a gap has developed between criminology and sociology and this research will generate dialogue between the disciplines and across international scholarly communities. This is a fresh chance to develop an enduring legacy and virtual ‘home’ for work on race and crime and given that the idea falls between two disciplines, it is innovative and requires funding that is willing create a space for a new initiative of this kind. The project brings together networking with the advancement of minority ethnic group academics, which is all the more urgent given that matters of representation in the academy require attention and action in order to redressing the balance.

Methodology

The Race Matters network will be established by inviting scholars from Africa, Australia, the US and Europe to meet at a one-day symposium to discuss their current research and to discuss ideas about how to forge comparative and cross-national research ideas that further debates around race and crime. A website will be created and launched at the symposium and which will list profiles and research areas of all scholars belonging to the network and will provide a repository space for working papers on race and crime as well as short blog posts. One on one interviews will be conducted by the PI and CO-PI’s of minority ethnic scholars who conduct research on race and crime and these interviews will be recorded and transcribed and coded to enable dissemination via academic papers, short magazine and blog pieces and conference presentations.

Work Plan

March 2019: PI and CI’s to meet and develop list of participants for symposium, decide venue, send out invitations and gather abstracts

April & May 2019: Discuss idea with website designer and canvass invitees for thoughts on what the website should include and how to make it interactive

August 2019: Finalise symposium plans

September 2019: Hold symposium, launch website, conduct interviews with participants

October 2019: Transcribe and code interviews

November and December 2019: Draft 3 papers and short pieces for website based on the research interviews, disseminate at conferences e.g. American Society of Criminology

January 2020: Submit manuscripts for publication in sociology and criminology journals.

February 2020 onwards: maintain website, publication of articles and ongoing network events, applications for further funding for sustaining the network

Outcome

A newly established Race Matters network will be created, officially launched and established with an online presence through its own website, twitter page and blog postings. A symposium will be held, bringing together scholars from Africa, the UK, US and Europe, ensuring that representation is balanced according to race and gender. Three academic papers will be written and published based on the findings of the interviews with minority ethnic scholars working on race and crime. Opportunities for scholars to collaborate and network will endure through the funds provided via the website which will be maintained by the PI beyond the funding period.