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Title: Reimagining criminology's public role :an inquiry into the relationship between criminological expertise and the democratic public sphere
Authors: Turner, Elizabeth
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis contributes to recent discussions about criminology’s public role through an empirical case study analysis of the dominant discourse of ‘public confidence in the criminal justice system’ in England and Wales. The thesis begins by arguing that the recent literature reflecting on criminology’s public role has failed to adequately deal with the tensions created by the plural, value-dependent and contested character of criminological knowledge. Then, drawing on primary data from newspaper archives, parliamentary debates, research reports, academic books and papers, policy documents and focus group and interview transcripts, the thesis provides a multi-faceted analysis of the public confidence agenda. It argues that the dominant discourse of public confidence takes up a politically prominent ‘lay concept’ and, without clarifying what it means, discursively constructs it as a ‘real’ object which is both measurable and caused. This understanding of confidence reflects contingent historical conditions (including the ‘modernist’ criminological outlook), and is premised on an (unacknowledged) value-based decision about how to do research on how the public think and feel about the criminal justice system. The public confidence agenda in research and policy is a governmental project encompassing a double-epistemic aspiration: (i) to be epistemic (by providing scientific knowledge which shapes policy); and (ii) to promote a particular conception of criminological expertise (as episteme - objective, context-independent, scientific knowledge). As such it provides an excellent case study for reflecting on recent discussions of criminology’s public role. The thesis concludes that the starting point for any discussion of criminology’s public role in a democratic society should be an explicit acknowledgment of the value-based decisions which are implicit in every criminological project. Such acknowledgment provides a route to a more fruitful method for negotiating the inherent pluralism of the field, and thus to re-evaluating its public role.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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