Friday, July 15, 2016
By Biko Agozino
I have just received international affirmations of my work from respected colleagues and I can’t wait to share and to thank the colleagues before ordering copies for my library. First, I received a printout of a chapter on ‘Criminological Imagination’ by Stephen Pfohl of Boston College, an eminent theorist in Sociology and Criminology. He had written a powerful preface to my book, Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason published by Pluto Press in 2003. That book was partly inspired by his own indispensable book, Images of Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological History.
In his chapter, ’The Criminological Imagination in an Age of Global Cybernetic Power’ in C. Wright Mills and the Criminological Imagination: Prospects for Creative Enquiry, edited by Jon Frauley of the University of Ottawa, Canada, and published by Ashagate in 2015, Pfohl offered a subtle critique of Mills while retaining his implicit call for scholar-activism in the original formulation of the equation between public issues and private biographies as the essence of sociology. Although Mills was among the first sociologists to recognize that industrialized countries had become ‘overdeveloped’ and ‘postmodern’, Pfohl says that he prefers the term, ‘ultramodern’, to describe the still all-too-modernist societies in which simulation and the simulacra have replaced the reality principle as Jean Baudrillard theorized.
The joy for me is that Pfohl devoted more than one page in his chapter to the review of my contributions in Counter-Colonial Criminology as a good example of criminological imagination that transcended what he called the ‘blindness’ of C.W. Mills’ sociological imagination on race and gender oppression. According to Pfohl, conventional criminologists may sometimes find ‘unnerving’ my conclusion in Counter-Colonial Criminology that the discipline remains complicit in the colonial legacy of imperialist reason. I chuckled after reading that and said to myself, well if they are unnerved, then they must have had the nerve to try to impose what Stan Cohen once called the ‘made for export criminology’ on those who were enslaved and colonized by their countries for so long when such repressive technologies had failed in their own crisis-ridden countries.
The second affirmation in one week came in the form of a new book just published by the Policy Press of Bristol University’s New Horizons in Criminology Series. The book, Indigenous Criminology, by Chris Cunneen and Juan Tauri, both based in Australian universities, acknowledged my work and that of the legendary Aotearoa New Zealand legal scholar, Moana Jackson, for providing the ‘theoretical and methodological nourishment’ for decades that led to the new book. The first thing I noticed in the book is that I was quoted on the jacket, praising the monograph thus: ‘A welcome contribution to the decolonization paradigm in Criminology, a discipline that is complicit in the enslavement, colonization, genocidization, and criminalization of Others with repressive fetishes of western modernity’.
On reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find my work cited on almost every page of the opening two chapters as the theoretical framework for the emerging field of Indigenous Criminology. Moreover, my methodological innovation of ‘Committed Objectivity’ was hailed as the suitable methodology for scholar-activists hoping to make a contribution to the field of Indigenous Criminology. By some coincidence, Stephen Pfohl reached a similar conclusion in his chapter on criminological imagination by recognizing committed objectivity as a better approach to that of C.W. Mills who tended to portray the masses as powerless ‘inactivationary’ victims being manipulated by the all-powerful media.
Juan Tauri and Antje Deckert had earlier in 2014 guest edited a special issue of the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies (of which I remain the founding Editor-In-Chief since 2005) to honor the 10th anniversary of the publication of Counter-Colonial Criminology with a focus on how the book contributed to the development of Indigenous Criminology. Juan Tauri has also invited me to be a keynote speaker at a conference on the Decolonization of Criminology and Indigenous Studies in Australia in 2016.
I am pleased to note that Shuan Gabbidon, Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State University, also concluded the third edition of his Criminological Perspectives on Race and Crime published by Sage in 2015 with the following moving affirmation:
‘…Agozino’s work on counter-colonial criminology must become a standard in criminology and criminal justice texts and degree-granting institutions. Its importance is two-fold. First it has critically assessed the role of Western Criminology in imperialism around the globe (see Godfrey and Dunstall, 2013). This contention alone warrants additional inquiry by criminologists. Second, for those Third World Countries seeking to get into the criminology arena, Agozino’a thesis suggests they should take a close look at the "classics" of Western criminology and proceed with caution. Given the limited success of Western Criminology on issues pertaining to racial and ethnic minorities in the cities and countries around the world, his thesis puts them on notice to construct a liberating criminology – not imitate one that, he believes, has been a partner in imperialism. ‘
Many thanks to these and many more colleagues around the world for affirming my modest contributions to knowledge. Keep up the good work for I look forward to learning more from your own work. As Bob Marley said, ‘There’s work to be done, so let’s do it little by little.’