Teaching Criminology: Socio-Anthropology of Crime

Teaching Criminology: Socio-Anthropology of Crime

Jean-Michel Bessette
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-872-7.ch002
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The field of study (and the teaching) of the criminal sociology presents multiple aspects and shows itself at various levels, the methods to implement for the exploration of the numerous research leads that it conceals are multiple and varied as well. This case, as a rough guide, proposes some modalities of approach in this domain.
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Any constituted human group generates a set of values, norms, rules, and rites – whether in the form of customs or laws. Broadly speaking, this set is bound together thus contributing to the maintenance of its structure. This normative set acts on the social body as a regulation system. Of course, values, norms and rules are contingent on space and time, imprinting their particular marks on the forms of collective life which is hence diversified depending on societies.

Therefore, this is an entire field of the social which is ruled by collective norms and regulations, and which transgression, threatening the more or less precarious balance constituent of the social structure, can lead a group – through the actors/agents (1) qualified to do it – to this reaction that we name punishment. Thus, the triple articulation rules impositions – transgression – social reaction constitutes the focal point of the field of criminal sociology. This is a state of this research field, that the mediatical topicality of our societies makes central in collective preoccupations (the issues which are agitated regarding delinquency, criminality and terrorism facts have indeed become major practical, political and ideological stakes), that we propose to present here.

Sociologists are interested in the study of the criminal phenomenon in many respects. Any act of transgression is an open window on society. Because it challenges society and breaks away from collective values, crime offers the one who observes it a particular point of view and its study opens the way to a fertile approach for sociologists. In times of crisis, crime is tell-tale sign – and a punctual crisis in itself – bringing out the cogs of society. Indicating – by exceeding them – the limits imposed to its members, not only does crime enable us to see the roots on which the life of a community is based, but through the social reactions that it elicits, it also shows how a society is reinforced or preserved, while maintaining a perspective on the issue of social change. It is a significant element allowing to grasp the degree of cohesion of collective values and solidarities, and to follow their evolution. Furthermore, through the study of the diverse actors/agents that it stages – Code authors, Code breakers, victims, or the diverse institutional actors/agents and other entrepreneurs of morality who stigmatize the authors of transgressions and contribute to attribute the qualification of criminals to them – it is the opposition inside and between the various groups and the social formations that the analysis of the criminal phenomenon emphasizes. Finally, through the study of the processes facilitating the “acting out”, it is the formation and the development of the personal identities – and more particularly the ways social life imprints its mark on the individual – that it is given to observe.

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