Penality at the Periphery: Deficits, Absences, and Negation

AuthorLouise Brangan
Published date01 February 2023
Date01 February 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2023, Vol. 39(1) 94 –113
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221138681
Penality at the Periphery:
Deficits, Absences, and
Louise Brangan1
What might mean to reorientate the field of punishment and society so that we
might be able to say it is democratizing, diversifying, and increasingly inclusive? If we
wish to expand our knowledge of penal politics in particular, but also develop a more
inclusive field of punishment and society, then we need to also examine the impact
this ethnocentricity can have on shaping scholarship and debate within the periphery.
The article contrasts two alternative readings of Irish penal politics to show how
sometimes the concepts from the U.K. and U.S. penality can come to inflect studies of
penal politics outside the mainstream. If we are to make an attempt at democratizing
our knowledge, then it is as de Sousa Santos wrote, that the first struggle is often
against ourselves. The article concludes with a brief critical discussion about who can
speak for Southern and peripheralized places; where is even a southernized place; and
if we are to democratize and diversify the study of penal politics, what role is there
for our existing canon? I conclude that is not where we study, but how we study it.
punishment and society, southernizing criminology, Ireland, comparative penology,
penal politics
This article explores what it might mean to reorientate the field of punishment and
society so that we might be able to say it is democratizing, diversifying, and increas-
ingly inclusive. I chose this image to orientate this discussion as it nicely sets the tone
and captures something important about borders and representation. This piece of
public art is from the Bay Area in California. On the left side of the grass, there is a
1University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
Corresponding Author:
Louise Brangan, Chancellor’s Fellow in Criminology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow G4 0LT, UK.
1138681CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221138681Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeBrangan
Brangan 95
lean and imposing “HERE,” which is facing a correspondingly bold “THERE.” These
statements are intended to mark the boundary between Berkeley and Oakland.
Berkeley, the sophisticated elite university town is designated as here, and as a conse-
quence the less affluent Oakland is always doomed to be represented—or misrepre-
sented—as forever over there, essentially as other to Berkeley.1
This installation is a physical reminder that our geography, and how we think of
places, has an embedded hierarchy. And it raises a challenge: How might we as
researchers best cross borders and traverse global boundaries, compare differences,
research our own forms of punishment, and pursue conceptual generalizability without
creating a “here” and a “there” in this same way? Put simply, how might we begin to
decolonize the criminological imagination?
There is broad general agreement that to achieve this “epistemological justice”
(Santos, 2014) we need to address the magnetic pull of the Anglo-Saxon nations and the
West within the social sciences. We must expose the limits of mainstream theories and
ideas, marginalize and provincialize them. We need to also temper this Western domi-
nance by making space for theorists and research from outside the metropole. As such,
we must democratize knowledge by elevating unsung and overlooked research from the
Global South and the East (Carrington et al., 2016; Liu, 2009). This seems to be the only
Photo source: Daniel Olsen.

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