Political Activist Ethnography: Considerations for Public Criminology and Sociology

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Samantha MCALEESE, Carleton University, Canada
The literature on public criminology (and public sociology) brings about discussion around what does or does not count as public academia. Some authors see the role of the public criminologist as newsmaker (Barak 2007) while others envision having more of a direct influence on public policy (Currie 2007). In reading these discussions and debates, I notice a preoccupation with using public criminology as a way to maintain the relevance of the discipline rather than with creating criminological (and sociological) knowledge with and for communities that can be used to mobilize and support activism and advocacy work.

This paper will consolidate literature on political activist ethnography (see Smith 2006) with literature on anti-oppressive research practices to resolve some of the debates in the public criminology literature and to consider a way of doing criminology that is not only public, but that is also more engaged, active, and innovative. Incorporating this methodological literature into discussions of public criminology is important for those of us who are involved in social movements, who work frontline in the community, or who are involved in other forms of activism or advocacy.

Ultimately, this paper endeavours to answer the following questions:

  • How can political activist ethnography and other anti-oppressive research practices serve to strengthen the practice of public criminology?
  • Can these methodological considerations help strengthen the relationship between academia and the community? Research and practice? Knowledge and social justice/social movements?
  • How do criminologists and sociologists produce meaningful/rigorous academic research while also being involved in social justice movements, frontline work, advocacy and/or activism?