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Much of what passes for southern criminology looks strikingly like what in earlier times was called transnational or comparative criminology: the same criminology, done elsewhere. Added to this problem, it remains far from clear how some of southern criminology’s grander objectives – such as providing ‘cognitive justice’ – are to be delivered. How do we move from the old to new? How might we, to use Thomas Kuhn’s language, effect a paradigm shift in which the rules of the game change and new ways of knowing appear? In this presentation I suggest that translating southern criminology from a project about intellectual intentions to a form of doing – a form, that is, of practice in research, engagement and more – demands a new vision of ethical conduct in criminology. In this presentation I stage an encounter between the work of a mid-20th century European hermeneutic philosopher – Hans Georg Gadamer – and South Asian scholars, including Gopal Guru, Sundar Sarukkai, Prathama Banerjee, Aditya Nigam and Rakesh Pandey, who have drawn on or developed his ideas in the context of their own places, times and concerns. Through this dialogue across histories, cultures and knowledge practices I try to develop for northern or north-oriented criminologists what I term a norm of ethical engagement—that is, a set of prescriptions about what ethical engagement across place, culture and history demands—and an epistemology of dialogue, describing the conditions under which knowledge may emerge and a method through which north and south may meet and speak as equals. Time allowing, I will attempt to illustrate the application of this approach using the case of penal reform in the south and some of my own experiences therein.
The open-access paper can be found here.
Mark Brown teaches in the School of Law at The University of Sheffield. He is also an Honorary Senior Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His work spans topics in punishment and penal theory, criminal justice and law, with a particular emphasis on historical and comparative studies. He has spent twenty years researching crime, law and justice in South Asia, publishing among other things Penal Power and Colonial Rule (Routledge, 2014), a study of the criminal tribes policy in colonial India; a study of its post-colonial continuities in an article ‘Postcolonial penality: Liberty and repression in the shadow of independence, India c. 1947’, in Theoretical Criminology; and most recently with colleagues from JNU Delhi and TISS Mumbai, ‘Imperial legacies and southern penal spaces: A study of hunting nomads in postcolonial India’, forthcoming in Punishment and Society.