Post by Jordan Konell, MSc student in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Oxford

As part of an effort to create space for further discussions about race and ethnicity in the Centre for Criminology, the Critical Race Theory and Criminology Reading Group was created during Hilary Term 2015 by current MSc students. The group’s origins are rooted in a desire for those who undertook the ‘Race and Gender’ course option to continue to critically engage with issues of race and gender and their roles in constructing crime and understanding criminal justice institutions.

Convened by Dr Alpa Parmar, the student-driven group explores the racialization of crime and the criminalization of race, with critical race theory as a theoretical foundation. Born out of a critical approach to American legal theory, critical race theory hones in on how race and racism are embedded within institutions of law and punishment, arguing that these structures uphold ethnic hierarchies and racial power structures. Legal and criminal systems are intentionally manipulated, oftentimes by political ideology and power, to maintain the subordination of certain racial and ethnic minority groups and the maintenance of white supremacy. Our group attempts to connect ethnoracial analyses about the structures of law to such topics as policing, courts, crime politics, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

Although our group is in its infancy, we’ve already began to delve into conversations about how racial formations connect with crime policy and how communities are differentially policed. We also have an interest in exploring how various bureaucracies and institutions categorize racial communities, and what implications processes of racial and ethnic differentiation have for identity politics. Our discussions will also explore intersectionality, which serves as an approach to understanding how the hybridity and multiplicity of identities—race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, age, and so forth—are (mis)understood by systems of criminal justice. We will attempt to continue the work of criminologists such as Dr Parmar and Hillary Potter who have aimed to connect intersectional theory with the discipline of criminology. Studying how gender shapes racial and ethnic experiences in and of the criminal justice system, and vice versa, is imperative.

Jordan Konell, Oscar Parra-Vera, Angelika Adensamer, Sahng-Ah Yoo, Jeanette Lee, Alpa Parmar

The diversity of the members of our group—who come from such countries as the United Kingdom, Austria, Greece, Singapore, Canada, Colombia, and the United States—has already helped us to foster rich conversations that compare race and ethnicity across the boundaries of nation states. This global outlook will also facilitate our engagement with critical refugee studies and southern criminology, which feature how narratives of migration and nonwestern ethnic minority experiences can expand and complicate understandings of racial identity.

The Critical Race Theory and Criminology Reading Group meets each Thursday at 2:00pm in the Centre for Criminology Meeting Room. Please email me if you have any questions or would like further information.