The Emerald Handbook of Narrative Criminology

Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Narrative Criminology

Synopsis

Table of contents

(25 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xiv
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Introduction

Pages 01-21
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Part I: Collecting Stories

Observations and Fieldwork

Abstract

Based on fieldwork among Muslim drug dealers in Norway, this chapter presents a narrative ethnographic framework for the study of storytelling. Whereas traditional narrative research considers stories mainly for their internal structure and meaning, narrative ethnography widens the focus to examine stories as they are being performed on specific social occasions. This widened focus requires sustained ethnographic attention to an array of situational factors, most notably the cultural context from which narratives emerge; the locations in which narratives are performed or not performed; the expressive means used during narrative performances; the sequence of actions that make up the scenario of performances; and the impact performances have on the narrators and their audiences. One of the advantages of narrative ethnography is that it allows for consideration of storytelling practices as they evolve and change across time and space. Another is that it facilitates embodied engagement and understandings of other people's situation. The chapter suggests that narrative criminologists may benefit from studying storytelling with all of their senses – not just hearing or reading words, but actively sensing narrative performances with their entire bodies. By mobilizing all senses, and attending to both verbal and nonverbal stimuli, the narrative researcher may develop an embodied ‘feel’ for the stories people are telling.

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Abstract

This chapter demonstrates the value of ethnographic research to the study of the relationship between legal narrative and professional identity. It focuses on the ethical and professional judgements embedded in American federal prosecutors' creation and critiques of opening and closing statements. Drawing on ethnographic research, I argue that these statements revolve around the concept of ‘justice’, which prosecutors articulate, affirm and contest through the narratives of honesty and impartiality. More broadly, these conceptions of justice inform how federal prosecutors understand their identities and roles as professional legal actors. Ethnography's unique value lies in furnishing data pertaining to how trial narratives are fashioned and refined through ‘workshopping’ before these narratives are shared with jurors. The chapter thus highlights processes of narrative reflexivity and story composition.

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Abstract

Drawing inspiration from C Wright Mills exhortation to sociologists to locate themselves and their experiences in the ‘trends of their epoch’, I consider how first-hand experience of imprisonment can help criminology account for the growing trend towards the use of imprisonment in many Western democracies. Using interviews with a small group of British criminologists who have experience of imprisonment, I explore the connections between personal stories and collective narratives. Drawing reflexively from my own imprisonment, my subsequent professional trajectory and experiences of prison research, I consider the difficulties and potential of crafting a collective criminological project from disparate and profoundly personal experiences of imprisonment. The chapter combines methodological reflections on the use of autoethnography, autobiography and vignettes as a means to an end: establishing collective narratives from personal stories. I argue that the task of connecting these narratives to the ‘trends of the epoch’ that manifest in expanding prison populations is difficult but developing some momentum in convict criminology.

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Interviews

Abstract

In their daily practice, criminal justice professionals tell stories about their ‘clientele’ and these narratives legitimise their roles and decision-making. My research underscores how narratives of crime inform the practice of youth justice. The research presented in this chapter is based on court case file analysis and interviews with youth justice practitioners, concentrating on how they ‘theorise’ the causes of crime of migrant youth and which interventions they deem appropriate.

The chapter raises a methodological discussion on whether narrative researchers can and should attempt to actively question research participants' accounts, which constitute (penal) harm, introducing an interviewing model that I call ‘light’ Socratic dialogues. The aim of this interviewing style is to gradually move the narrator from doxa (‘common’ knowledge and practice) to episteme and to actively question research participants' accounts. ‘Socrates light’ that I propose in this chapter draws on two bodies of methodological literature. On the one hand, I integrate some principles from ‘active’ interviewing styles, often used in ‘researching up’. On the other hand, I draw on feminist methodology, which offers important insights on how to counterbalance the confronting aspects of ‘active’ interviewing.

The chapter reflects on some of my research interactions and discusses the rationale and the implications of the proposed mode of interviewing. I make three points: first, extensively documenting the interview context and interactions helps us to reflect on the (shifting) narrative performance of those involved in research. Second, becoming ‘active’ as researchers during the interview can enhance the analysis. Third, narrative studies can potentially be transformative if we question the narratives.

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Abstract

Narrative criminology has made stories respectable again, despite criminology's long-professed ties to a model of positive science. Given the field's continued scepticism about the ‘truthfulness’ of stories, narrative scholars have grappled carefully with the place and utility of lies for understanding the social worlds and individual identities of crime-involved populations. In this chapter, we draw from a study of women's pathways to incarceration in Sri Lanka, analysing the case of one study participant who shared with us many ‘tall tales’ about their life. In comparing Daya's account with those of other participants, we explore the complex relations among ‘truth,’ ‘fiction’ and ‘lies,’ and their implications for narrative criminology. We offer specific cautions about the place of verisimilitude and plausibility in narrative criminologists' efforts to make sense of offender narratives.

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Texts

Abstract

As more and more people decide to commit their lives to print, autobiographies constitute a significant resource to explore stories of harm, violence and crime. Published autobiography, however, presents a unique form of storytelling, unavoidably entailing the accumulation and (re)telling of a mass of stories; about oneself, others, contexts and cultures. Relatedly, paratexts – or the elements that surround the central text, such as covers, introductions and prologues – demonstrate how these texts are both individually and collectively shaped. Taking the co-constructed nature of all narratives, including self-narratives, as its starting point, this chapter seeks to demonstrate how terrorists who have authored autobiographies understand the world and their actions within it. In doing so, this chapter provides a practical demonstration of how insight derived from literary criticism can profitably be brought to bear in systematically breaking down and analysing an autobiography – that of a notable American jihadist, Omar Hammami – including its paratextual elements. In particular, I argue that considerations of genre, the inclusion of different types of events and stories collected from others all provide valuable strategies for the ‘doing’ of narrative criminology using autobiographies.

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Abstract

This chapter draws on previous work calling for a narrative criminology sensitive to fictional stories about how we have instigated or sustained harmful action with respect to the environment. It begins by offering some defining features of narrative criminology, before turning to two examples of narrative criminological work focused on environmental crime and/or harm. One analyzes a corporate (offender's) website; the other examines attorneys' stories of environmental wrongdoing. Together, they depict a cultural narrative in the US of the causes, consequences, punishments (or lack thereof) and corporate representations of environmental harm. Next, this chapter turns to a discussion of examples of depictions or representations of environmental harm and protection in the literature. Here, the focus is on fictional works that are explicitly environmental – where the subject, plot and message centre on one or more environmental issues, such as a particular harm, its cause or causes and possible responses thereto. Finally, this chapter considers ‘allegories of environmental harm,’ examining literature that is less overtly environmental. As an illustration, it suggests an interpretation of the American children's story, Muncus Agruncus: A Bad Little Mouse (Watson, 1976), as a cautionary tale of Western hubris in the face of environmental catastrophe – with the goal of demonstrating how green criminologists have attempted to identify environmental lessons and messages in works with ostensibly other or broader messages. Overall, the intent is to acknowledge both that cultural narratives (and our interpretation of them) change and to demonstrate (the importance of) human agency to transform those narratives (and our interpretation thereof).

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Beyond ‘Texts’: Images and Objects

Abstract

Our aim is to highlight the value in using photographs and visuals for narrative criminology. We do this by showing how people draw from and create visual symbols to communicate personal narratives and by showing how we as researchers can use these images in interviews to elicit richer responses. Specifically, we illustrate the value of images for narrative criminology by telling the story of Chico, a 50-year-old, Hispanic man who has used meth for nearly three decades. In response to his marginalisation, Chico presents himself in two primary ways: as a rebellious, antiauthority menace to outsiders and as a caring, generous friend to insiders. He displays these identities through visual symbols (on his home, property and body) and through his stories and actions. Additionally, we use photographs taken of him and his home during interviews to elicit his personal narratives (i.e. photo-elicitation interviews). We argue that scholars have much to gain by examining the use of images to stimulate interviews and open necessary interdiscursivity of qualitative criminology.

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Abstract

Giambattista Piranesi's disturbing images of fantasy prisons set out in his Carceri d'Invenzione have had a profound impact on cultural sensibilities. The chapter explores Piranesi's distinctive visual language and situates it in an eighteenth-century penchant for ruins and what they might signify. The macabre fantasy structures bear little relation to actually existing prison buildings, but they do herald a new aesthetic combining both terror and beauty to sublime effect. The chapter examines the relationships between narrative and visual methods by considering that scholarship in art history which has sought to address the relationships between ‘word’ and ‘image’.

Much of it belongs to what was once the ‘new art history’ in the 1970s, and which had become critical of how conventional approaches in the discipline had tended to see art as the visualisation of narrative. For example, Norman Bryson's (1981) study of French painting in the Ancien Régime explored the relationships between ‘word’ and ‘image’ by examining the kind of stories pictures tell, drawing a distinction between the ‘discursive’ aspects of an image (posing questions on visual art's language-like qualities and relationships to written text) and those ‘figural’ features that place the image as primarily a visual experience – it's ‘being-as-image’ – that is entirely independent of language.

The focus on language is symptomatic of the ‘linguistic turn’ that has had such a profound influence on intellectual thought since the 1960s, and this chapter will concentrate on one strand in it. In particular, it will introduce the approach Jacques Derrida developed and defined as ‘deconstruction’, which in some important respects revealed the limitations of language, and seeks to create the effects of ‘decentring’ by highlighting how signification is a complex, often duplicitous, process. The chapter then situates Piranesi's images in an account of landscape, not least since he was a leading exponent of the veduta (a faithful representation of an actual urban or rural view) that had achieved the status of a distinctive and popular genre by the eighteenth century.

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Abstract

This chapter explores the intersections between narrative criminology and material culture studies using a single object – my wife's old Nazi rifle – as an example. It describes the various connections between the stories we tell and the things that surround us, including the stories objects represent, the stories they may prompt us to tell, the stories we tell using objects as props and the stories our material objects tell us about their owners or users. An object will always tell stories about past, present and future use. This is true of all objects, not just old Nazi rifles, but some things will carry more narrative potential than others. Finally, I ask whether some narratively loaded objects may anticipate or perhaps even precipitate certain actions. Is it true that some objects sometimes ask us to put them to use?

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Part II: Analysing Stories

Studying the Victim

Abstract

The potential for a ‘narrative turn’ in victimology carries with it all kinds of possibilities and problems in adding nuanced understandings smoothed out and sometimes erased from the vision of victimhood provided by criminal victimisation data. In this chapter, we explore the methodological and theoretical questions posed by such a narrative turn by presenting the case of June: a mother bereaved by gun violence that unfolded in Manchester two decades ago. Excavated using in-depth biographical interviewing, June told the story of the loss of her son, the role of faith in dealing with the aftermath of violence and eventually, how this story became a source for change for the community in which it was read and heard. June's story provided an impetus for establishing a grassroots antiviolence organisation and continued to be the driver for that same group long after the issue it was formed to address had become less problematic. As a story it served different purposes for the individual concerned, for the group they were a part of and for the wider community in which the group emerged. However, this particular story also raises questions for victimology in its understanding of the role of voice in policy and concerning the nature of evidence for both policy and the discipline itself. This chapter considers what lessons narrative victimology might learn from narrative criminology, the overlaps that the stories of victims and offenders might share and what the implications these might have for understanding what it means to be harmed.

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Abstract

By considering the stories of crime victims, this chapter demonstrates the fluid and contextual nature of narrative. It draws upon research that investigates narratives of individuals who have lost loved ones to homicide (co-victims) by pairing intensive interviews with concurrent participant observation in a wide array of settings in which co-victims share their stories, such as fundraisers, memorials, self-help group meetings, advocacy events and celebratory gatherings. It highlights the benefit of two related methodological strategies for a narrative approach to victimology specifically and narrative criminology more generally: persistent observation of stories and prolonged engagement with storytellers. In doing so, it emphasises three key features of narrative that are especially useful in uncovering the nature, power and potential of crime victims' stories: speaker, audience and timing.

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Abstract

This chapter is based on an ethnographic study of an English medium-security prison housing men convicted of sex offences. It argues that victims haunted (Gordon, 2008) both the prison and the narratives of the men it held: they were ever-present in discourse, but depersonalised and lacking in agency. How prisoners described their victims said a great deal about how they sought to portray themselves, and the chapter makes this point by outlining three basic ‘types’ of story. In the first, the prisoner knew the victim well and deliberately sought to remember their suffering; at the same time, they themselves hoped not to be defined by their status as an offender. In the second, the victim was largely missing from the narrative, either because the prisoners barely remembered them or because the prisoners did not really consider them to be a victim. In the third type of story, the prisoners considered themselves to be the real victim, and considered the official victim as well as the criminal justice system to be responsible for their suffering. The chapter concludes by arguing victims were ghosts because the prison only allowed them to appear in certain ways. It suggests that narrative criminologists consider the relationship between narratives and justice, and that one way of doing this is to think about what stories don't communicate as well as what they do.

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Categorisations, Plots and Roles

Abstract

In our chapter we describe the analysis of categorisations as an important part of narrative criminology. Categorisations of people (as offenders, victims, witnesses, etc.) are a central component of the communicative construction and processing of crime. Categories are associated with assumptions about actions and personal characteristics. Therefore, categorisations play a prominent role in the question of whether and how someone should be dealt with or punished. Narratives essentially consist of categorisations as well as the representation of a temporal course of interactions and actions. Analysing categorisations can therefore provide decisive insights for narrative criminology. With the research method of ‘Membership Categorisation Analysis’, categorisations can be reconstructed in detail. We describe this potential by reconstructing how the defendant ‘Dave’ categorised himself in the context of his main trial and how he was categorised by others in order to justify a judgement against him. Our analysis shows that categorisations, which are socially impactful and often controversial, must be established by particular narrative manoeuvres.

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Abstract

Narrative criminology has continued to expand as an important theoretical and methodological contribution to the study of crime and justice. However, the vast majority of narrative work focuses on the narrative development of those identified as criminal offenders, and little research has explored the narratives of those employed within the criminal justice system. This chapter examines the importance of police storytelling and the unique narratives vital to the cultural life and institution of policing. Police stories are an important part of the ‘meaning-making structure’ in policing and often convey particular power well beyond the limitations of formal organizational or agency policy. Police stories frequently influence understandings of the nature of social problems; community change and decay; and even understandings of race, class, and gender. Police narratives and stories also offer some unique methodological challenges for narrative scholars. Analysis of police stories must focus on the underlying plot details while still analysing the themes or metaphors provided by the narrative. This may require specific attention to the role the story plays in police culture, training, and development of organizational cohesion. Furthermore, narrative researchers must explore the shared narratives distinctive to the profession, while still examining unique meanings that stories convey to different departments and even specialized units. Finally, access to police organizations and individual officers can represent unique challenge for narrative researchers. By examining police narratives, we gain unique insight into the production and maintenance of police authority and culture accomplished through the storytelling process.

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Abstract

With the objective of encouraging the use of standard processes for exploring offenders' narratives two complementary procedures are discussed. One is a development of McAdams explorations with highly effective individuals, describing their life as if it were a book. This is a structured interview protocol that has been specifically produced for use with offenders, in which they describe their life as a film (LAAF). A number of studies with male and female incarcerated individuals as well as those without convictions have revealed important differences between people in how they give a free account of their past and future lives. This allows the differentiation of LAAF narratives and reveals the existence of dominant narrative forms in offenders' responses. These relate to those initially elaborated by Frye (1957) for fiction, namely tragedy, comedy, adventure and romance. The second method is the Narrative Role Questionnaire (NRQ) which elicits the inherent role that offenders saw themselves as playing during specific crimes. Completion of the NRQ by various samples reveals important differences between offences in the narratives that provide the agency for their criminal actions. The roles central to these narratives have also been found to embody distinct emotional components that maintain offending. Taken together the NRQ and the LAAF provide a framework for examining offence narratives which enables the main narratives of relevance to criminality to be identified and their implications for theory and practice to be elaborated.

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Narrative Dialogue, The Unconscious and Absences

Abstract

Arthur W. Frank's dialogical narrative analysis (DNA) has been a recent addition to the plethora of methods in analysing stories. What makes this method unique from the rest is its concern for both the story's content and its effects. Stories are seen as selection/evaluation systems that do things for and on people. This chapter aims to provide the reader a heuristic guide in conducting DNA and emphasises learning through exemplars as the way of learning DNA. It provides an outline of DNA and reviews how researchers have applied it in different disciplines. Then, DNA will be applied in in the current ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines. The stories of the policy actors – for and against the drug war – will be analysed to explore how stories affect policy choices and actions, call actors to assume different identities, associate/dissociate these actors and show how they hold their own in telling their stories. Finally, the potential of using DNA in criminology and criminal justice will be discussed.

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Abstract

In recent years, two new approaches have bloomed in criminological thinking, narrative criminology and psychosocial criminology. Both have argued for a new consideration of offenders' narratives, which are investigated as a description of life events and choices, and of the decision to offend. An interview regarding the life and deviant career of an Italian football hooligan (‘ultras’) – a Bangladeshi–Italian boy trying to find his place in Italian society – will show how the two approaches can be combined in an analysis of the subject's often ambiguous narratives, in which both neutralisation techniques and defence mechanisms can be discerned. We will first describe the complex narrative strategies used. We will then try to explain how, through the use of complex defences and neutralisations, the subject can feel simultaneously integrated into both the deviant group and general society. In this case, despite antinomies and ambiguity, integration is achieved by keeping at bay the sense of guilt related to aggression towards parental figures.

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Abstract

Stories govern the criminal justice system and consequently the millions of individuals under its control. In the US the harms experienced by those individuals, their families and their communities are massive. A prominent system-sustaining story is that antisocial persons, who are essentially different from the rest of us, get that way through negligent parenting. The story's moral oppositions rest on textual absences concerning crime, work, care, humanity and the mind of the scholar. In this chapter, first, I discern what goes unsaid via close analysis of the story of antisociality constructed by Gottfredson and Hirschi in their 1990 book A General Theory of Crime. Second, I offer a method for cataloguing what goes unsaid in stories that effect control, by (1) evaluating figurative language and other means of ambiguation; (2) assessing patterns of elaboration and explanation and (3) asking what and whose knowledge is missing. Rigorously deployed with a reflexive stance on one's position as to what should be said, the method can help uncover subtext, understatement and silencing.

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Connecting Stories, Power and Social Inequalities

Abstract

Most offender narrative being studied has been in oral forms, produced in the reciprocal process of researcher-(ex) offender interviews. This chapter offers an introduction to a variation of offender narrative study within the prison and rehabilitation context: the narrative of written autobiography. Since the early 1940s, Chinese reform institutions have required written autobiographies from new admitters, provided with clear presubscripted guidelines of instructions as well as postcensorship. For this chapter, we trace back and analyse this model based on 28 prisoners' autobiographies in mainland China between 2007 and 2009, as well as archive documents in different historical periods. We have found that the mandatory offender autobiographies are highly functional writings with clear requirements that embody the existing power structure. We have also found considerable commonality with findings in Western contexts on the presence and problems of narrative compliance in rehabilitation. We argue that narrative criminology should further engage in understanding the practice of narrative censorship and co-authorship in criminal justice processes, as it takes on different forms in different historical–social contexts.

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Abstract

Following recent terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, Western Muslims have been criticised for not taking a firm stand against radical Islam and extremist organisations. Drawing on insights from narrative criminology, we challenge such assertions and reveal Muslims' narrative mobilisation against violent jihadism. Based on 90 qualitative interviews with young Muslims in Norway, we show how violent extremism is rejected in a multitude of ways. This narrative resistance includes criticising extremist jihadist organisations for false interpretations of Islam and using derogatory terms to describe them. It also includes less obvious forms of narrative resistance, such as humour and attempts to silence jihadist organisations by ignoring them. While narrative criminology has effectively analysed the stories that constitute harm, less attention has been paid to narratives that counter harm. We argue that stories that counter jihadi narratives are crucial to understand the narrative struggles of Muslim communities, whose outcomes can help determine why some individuals end up becoming religious extremists – while others do not. By distinguishing between factual, emotional and humorous counternarratives and describing silence as a form of resistance, we show resistance to extremism that is often concealed from the public and the state.

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Abstract

This chapter makes a case for a decolonial, intersectional approach to narrative criminology. It argues that in growing contexts of deepening inequalities, research approaches that humanise people on the margins and that explicitly centre questions of social justice are ever more urgent. This chapter explicates a decolonial, intersectional narrative analysis, working with the data generated in interviews with women sex workers on their experiences of violence outlining how a decolonial, intersectional, narrative analysis may be accomplished to analyse the intersections of power at material, representational and structural levels. The chapter illustrates the importance of an intersectional feminist lens for amplifying the complexity of women sex workers' experiences of gendered violence and for understanding the multiple forms of material, symbolic and institutionalised subordination they experience in increasingly unequal and oppressive contexts. It ends by considering the contributions decolonial, intersectional feminist work can offer narrative criminology, especially the emerging field of narrative victimology.

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Index

Pages 493-501
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Cover of The Emerald Handbook of Narrative Criminology
DOI
10.1108/9781787690059
Publication date
2019-10-07
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78769-006-6
eISBN
978-1-78769-005-9