chapter  1
16 Pages

Opening the lens: Cultural criminology and the image


Five years ago now, in the edited collection Cultural Criminology Unleashed (Ferrell et al., 2004), we commented that the true meaning of crime and crime control was to be found not in the essential (and essentially false) factuality of crime rates, but in the contested processes of symbolic display, cultural interpretation, and representational negotiation. Images of crime, we claimed, were becoming ‘as “real” as crime and criminal justice itself ’, with mediated anticrime campaigns, visually constructed crime waves, and media fabrications of countercultural imagery all circulating in ‘an endless spiral of meaning, a Möbius strip of culture and everyday life’ (ibid: 3-4). At that time, our intention was to be controversial; the goal being to play with the parameters of the discipline and challenge the staid conventions of orthodox criminology. However, surveying the world five years on, such proclamations appear less irreverent flights of futurological fancy and more commonsense observation. While the everyday experience of life in contemporary Western society may or may not be suffused with crime, it is most certainly suffused with images and increasingly images of crime.