Rural Criminology, Myth, and Meth.

AuthorMcClanahan, Bill

HAS THERE EVER BEEN A RURAL CRIMINOLOGY? NOT A CRIMINOLOGY that applies the well-worn approaches to theory and method that characterize and constitute criminology writ large to rural issues, spaces, and people (see Donnermeyer & DeKeseredy 2013), but a criminology that takes rurality as more than a site of opportunistic analysis? Putting aside the more fundamental questions surrounding the utility or necessity of a rural criminology, prior to Travis Linnemann's Meth Wars: Police, Media, Power, I am inclined to say that there has not. I expect that some will disagree, pointing to the robust body of work produced by those raising the flag of rural criminology--a body of work that, despite the criticism that will follow, offers significant and necessary insight into the distinct problems and issues faced by rural populations in their collisions and interactions with the tangled phenomena of crime and criminal justice. What has nearly always been missing, though--and what Linnemann corrects--is that prior to Meth Wars, rurality has been treated primarily as a site of subjectivity, materiality, and being that is somehow divorced nearly entirely from the forces of culture. This miscalculation has laid the foundations for a rural criminology that has failed to define rurality using a multifactor framework, one that accounts for more than demographics, locations of primary production, and proximity to urban and suburban spaces. Though it may, perhaps, be controversial to assert that rural criminology has yet to offer a compelling analysis of the spaces it purports to privilege, I would guess it is far less controversial to assert something like the following: rurality is a thing, a space, and a feeling that we are only able to know and apprehend when we encounter it in our daily lives. Like Potter Stewart's obscenity, we know the rural when we see and feel the rural. It is more than demography, more than geography, and more than materiality. It is, then, in large part the sensory and affective that we have encountered when we say we have encountered the rural, and so it is culture that, in large part, configures rurality. If the cultural rural is a necessary rural, then the bulk of the extant rural criminology is simply criminological analysis of rural issues (which, it is worth noting, might not even be distinctly rural). What is needed, and what Meth Wars sometimes offers (particularly in chapters four and five), is a contemporary cultural...

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