It’s been 1 year since I set up Blogging Criminologist and wrote my first post and what a year it has been. I’ve decided to write this annual review post to consider why blogging in this way has been so beneficial and what I hope to achieve in the coming year. I have already reflected on my academic year in this top ten post so check this out if you haven’t done so already.
Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to all who have followed, shared, liked and commented on my posts. I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to read about what I had to say so it’s been humbling to get such a fantastic response. Secondly, I want to thank the guest bloggers who have contributed to this blog, I am glad Blogging Criminologist has been able to offer a platform for you and I look forward to welcoming new guests over the coming year.
Being an anonymous academic had been empowering, offering me the opportunity to say what I want about crime and justice and my reality of academia without any personal backlash. I have been astounded by negative responses on other social media platforms when academics have literally attacked one another for their stance on criminality/justice/victimisation. Whilst I know people may take a different stance to myself and have different experiences, the anonymity generates a more relaxed discussion. It has also enabled me to focus on crime and justice issues that I deem important even if I’m not considered a leading expert in some parts. My views are not judged on my career profile or publication recognition, they are judged on the basis of my argument, not who I am, which is rare in academia.
I, and guest contributors, have spoken honestly about problems with the criminology discipline, the need for criminal justice reform, gender discrimination, relationships with the police and many more. In the past year I have written 14 blog posts, 5 top ten posts and have published 3 guest contributions. If ever the day comes that academic prestige is judged on academic blogging, I think I’d fair pretty well!
This blog has been enormously helpful on a professional and personal level. I have been able to reflect on my role as a lecturer and consider the challenges of working in academia today. This has enabled me to recognise the institutional and personal barriers and think about the ways to overcome these. Over the course of this last year I have become more content with my position and also proud that I have spoken out honestly about the difficulties of such a career choice. The blog has also enabled me to reignite my interests in crime and criminal justice and realise where my focus should be directed. Writing about the problems with policing, imprisonment and criminalisation has made me realise how much of my interests lies in challenging the politics of today and I have a desire to work hard to try and change attitudes, practice and policies towards offenders. The question for me has been to ‘where to start?’ and the answer lies in going right back to consider the causes of crime.
Many modern/late modern/post modern (whichever term you prefer) western societies focus on individual reasons for crime such as drugs, alcohol, poverty, greed, and yet all these things are a product of dysfunctional societies. I would argue that the UK today is dysfunctional, the basic notion of a cohesive society has become lost in an individualised, selfish, consumer driven economy. Societal pressure to compete (whether that be in terms of how you look, how much you earn, what job you do or your social status) has created a society that strives for the impossible. This competition leads to a breakdown in shared norms and values and, slowly, feelings of isolation and even de-culturalisation take place,whereby it becomes everyone for themselves. I believe we live in a stressful society, stress that turns people to outlets for relief (drugs, alcohol, aggression and, the worst case, suicide). If relief cannot be found then mental health illness can set in, sending people into a downward spiral. Human beings are animals, animals that when confronted with uncomfortable situations either fight or flight to survive. Survival can mean different things to different people, it may be paying bills on time, protecting your livelihood, looking after your family, upholding an image or reputation or protecting yourself from physical threats. All this comes down to is quality of life and quality of life comes from the type of society you live in; society causes crime, so to prevent it, society must change.
The challenges criminology faces are bigger than figuring out the most effective method of surveillance, the ‘hows’ of offending or creating an effective risk matrix. I believe we need to return to consider crime as only one aspect of a larger spiderweb of sociological problems. Crime cannot and (may I argue) should not be separated from broader social problems (poverty, discrimination, mental health, corrupt politics), each of which helps to explain the other. Unfortunately unless there is political reform that recognises the power imbalances and victimisation at the hands of the powerful, I fear that things will not improve. Criminology impact has to lie in challenging policy and practice, not having a journal article cited by other academics. We need to fight for evidence based policy and get the brilliant minds of the discipline heard in the most powerful institutions.
That, is what my blog has clarified for me, and that is what I am going to focus on. So I look forward to the next 12 months re-focussing my work and I hope others join this blog to speak openly about their frustrations, challenges and areas of criminological passion. For now I am taking some leave, going to enjoy some relaxation and re-charge my energy for the year ahead and I hope all my colleagues get the opportunity to do the same.