Aboriginal Criminology and the Postmodern Condition: From Anomie to Anomaly

William Tyler

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


    The high rates of Aboriginal overrepresentation in the criminal justice systems of the white "settler" societies are conventionally explained in terms of pervasive effects of cultural dispossession as well as social and economic disadvantage and dislocation. These effects have been recently cited to account for the wide regional variations in offending patterns in countries such as Canada and Australia; however, these approaches are more attuned to the pathologies of the transition into modernity rather than the current environment of postmodernity, which is characterized by unstable identity, indeterminate social and cultural processes, and a global rather than a national positioning of the Aboriginal people. This paper explores the possibility of reconciling classical and postmodern perspectives through some of the insights of Baudrillard (1988, 1993), whose thinking derives from a distinctive Durkheimian tradition of social pathology (Gane, 1995), together with some of the neo-Durkheimian theories of Mary Douglas (1970, 1978) on the cultural processes of identity and social order. This reconstruction rests on the argument that anomaly has replaced anomie as the generative cultural dynamic of Aboriginal people's encounter with the mainstream criminal justice system. The objective of this exercise is to produce a model that positions this postmodernist dynamic of the interactions between offending patterns, spatial processes, and representations of Aboriginal identity and culture against the founding assumptions of the more immediate post-assimilationist era, represented most clearly in the socio-political formation of "welfare colonialism." As such, this article addresses the theoretical implications of the sociological arguments for developing new directions in Aboriginal criminology under the emerging tensions and anomalies of postmodernization.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-221
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


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