chapter  4
15 Pages

Unchaining research: processes of dis/empowerment and the social study of criminal law and investigation

WithBARBARA PRAINSACK

Through their analyses of legal practices and processes of knowledge production within them, science and technology studies (STS) scholars have made considerable contributions to critical scholarship on law, science, and society in recent decades. One of the most significant achievements of STS scholarship has been its interrogation of the ways in which scientific and technological knowledge and artefacts are embedded in legal systems. Nevertheless, there are other aspects in the domain of law – and in particular also in criminal justice – which have not yet seen the same level of critical scrutiny. In these areas, the scope and direction of STS research specifically has been restrained by the tacit acceptance – the black-boxing – of some of the categories that other professional experts operate with. In the context of an area such as STS, whose emergence and whose identity is closely linked to the challenging of assumptions and casting light on ‘hidden’ matters, this is surprising. In this chapter, after discussing in more detail two such underexplored issues within STS and socio-legal scholarship, I will reflect on the conditions and processes within and by which many scholars operate that account for this phenomenon. I will conclude by highlighting two strategies to address these issues.