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Activist Criminology Methods

Joanne Belknap (University of Colorado-Boulder, USA)
Alejandra Portillos (University of Colorado-Boulder, USA)

The Emerald International Handbook of Activist Criminology

ISBN: 978-1-80262-200-3, eISBN: 978-1-80262-199-0

Publication date: 9 August 2023


This chapter defines and provides examples of activist criminology methods (ACM). Although many examples of ACM studies are provided, to date, no publications use this identification. The authors begin by questioning not only the feasibility but also the desirability of the ‘neutral scientist’. The authors then summarise the predecessors and contributors to ACM: ‘activist research’, participatory action research, and public criminology. The components of ACM are (1) including the public; (2) using reflexivity; and (3) ensuring the findings are relayed to the public and ideally, used to create change. Including the public has two subsections, the victims/survivors and the activists resisting the injustice studied. The authors discuss some of the challenges in conducting ACM, including academic marginalisation of this scholarship (and thus the difficulty of pursuing it, particularly if untenured), securing collaboration with activists and/or survivors, reflexivity on the power differences when collaborating with marginalised communities, and the near impossibility of achieving all the goals of ACM in one study. Although unnamed until now, ACM, as we describe them, has been conducted for hundreds of years around the world. The growing number of scholars historically kept out of academia due to race, gender, sexuality, class, and criminal history is no doubt related to the vastly increasing frequency of studies employing ACMs, as well as discussions and advancement of these methods.



Belknap, J. and Portillos, A. (2023), "Activist Criminology Methods", Canning, V., Martin, G. and Tombs, S. (Ed.) The Emerald International Handbook of Activist Criminology (Emerald Studies in Activist Criminology), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 21-35.



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Copyright © 2023 Joanne Belknap and Alejandra Portillos