chapter  11
‘Speaking truth to power’: critical analysis as resistance
Pages 23

This book opened with reflections on researching and campaigning with Irish Travellers in the mid 1970s. Witnessing their political and economic marginalisation and the brutal circumstances of eviction and exiling, I commented that Howard Becker’s portrayal of ‘outsider’ was literal. One of the mostquoted passages in criminology texts includes the assertion that ‘social groups create deviance bymaking the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders’ (Becker 1963: 9). It continues, ‘deviance is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘‘offender’’ . . . deviant behavior is behavior that people so label’. Note the quotation marks around ‘offender’. They depicted and conveyed Becker’s disdain for social science analyses that accepted ‘crime’ and ‘criminal’, ‘deviance’ and ‘deviant’, ‘delinquency’ and delinquent’ as unproblematic categories. The process of labelling, the ‘transaction’ between a determining group and another to whom the label had been successfully ascribed, created ‘outsiders’ as an externally inflicted yet broadly shared identity. Becker was not alone in identifying the definitions, negotiations and reactions to such categories and the implications for those labelled.