The atrocities, oppression, and injustice associated with the colonization of terra nullius, such as Australia, Northern and Sothern Americas, and Africa, during the past five centuries are well-acknowledged in the professional and popular literature. Although nowadays, there is less evidence of direct pressure and acts of unfair treatment of the Indigenous population, the injustice towards this population persists in the indirect structural form (Goyes and South, 2021). Indeed, the’ colonizers’ paradigm dominates various public institutions such as parliament, courts, law enforcement agencies, and schools and universities. For this reason, a few authors have emphasized the necessity to ‘decolonize’ social sciences, including the mainstream criminology school of thought (Agozino, 2018). It implies that the researchers and practitioners should abandon the Western approach as a sole framework that guides people’s thoughts and actions and embrace broader views of Indigenous people. This is believed to make a criminal system more just and inclusive. In this regard, it is argued that mainstream criminology should change to integrate the Indigenous criminology frameworks and ensure greater participation of Indigenous people in the criminal system.
Embracing Indigenous Approaches to Criminology
As mentioned earlier, the theoretical thought in criminology has been dominated by the adepts of the Western European approach, meaning that the voices of the First People in colonized regions have been long unheard. This systematically excludes Indigenous individuals’ ontological, epistemological, and methodological perspectives on understanding and studying crime and criminal behavior (Porter, 2019; Martin, K. and Mirraboopa, 2003). Thus, Goyes and South (2021) argue that it is important to produce more researches that elaborate on this issue. Especially it is crucial that a significant body of these studies is conducted by Indigenous scholars who can possess first-hand experience.
In particular, from an ontological point of view, Indigenous understanding of life and the world are believed to differ from those of ‘calorizators significantly.’ For instance, Martin and Mirraboopa (2003) maintain that Quandamooka’s (an Indigenous minority in Australia) worldview can be best described as relational ontology, which considers all living things as interconnected and interdependent entities. This approach is in contrast with a traditional Western philosophic tradition that places human beings and their experiences in the center. Then, in practice, embracing the beliefs of Quandamooka and other Indigenous ethnic groups with similar approaches can offer a different framework, for example, in the sphere of green criminology.
Another change that mainstream criminology should have concerns epistemology and methodology. As such, it is mentioned that the European enlightenment tradition led to the sole dominance of rationality in academia, which is quite different from Indigenous’ ways.’ Goyes and South (2021) pinpoint that the latter consider emotions, worldly and spiritual experiences, and intuition equally important knowledge acquisition methods. Embracing this epistemology style can, for instance, help to develop methodologies that can adequately include subjective experiences to generate new knowledge.
Greater Inclusion of Indigenous People in the Criminal System
The next aspect of a change in mainstream criminology concerns the socio-cultural uniqueness of Indigenous societies that the criminal system can properly address through the greater inclusion of their members in the decision-making process. For example, Dwyer, Scott, and Staines (2021) conducted interviews with non-Indigenous police officers working in the discrete Indigenous communities in Australia. The respondents identified that they faced major difficulties fulfilling their duty, such as alienation and inability to reconcile their experiences due to differences in social and cultural norms. These findings suggest that the work of the police in Indigenous communities may not be just as actions that law enforcement officers consider normal may be unjust from local people’s point of view. Therefore, there is a necessity to hire more Indigenous people to both serve in these communities as well as training other personnel to improve their work.
In a similar vein, courts need to have more representatives from Indigenous communities. In this respect, Anthony and Longman (2017) discuss the importance of having more juries that share the cultural background of the Indigenous person convicted of committing a crime. Indeed, it is arguable that people who represent the dominant culture and have greater chances of being chosen as jurors can deliver a sentence that is not fair to an individual of another culture. Therefore, mainstream criminology should change to include Indigenous people in the system as it would result in increased justice.
Overall, the current essay argues that there are two major changes that mainstream criminology should undergo. Firstly, from a theoretical perspective, it should embrace the Indigenous criminology frameworks, which are significantly different as they are based on unique ontological, epistemological, and methodological approaches. Secondly, the criminal system should motivate and create opportunities for Indigenous people to be more involved with the criminal system. As such, it was shown that the lack of understanding of Indigenous culture by policemen or juries could lead to unfair treatment of this group’s members. Generally, the principles discussed above are not only limited to the sphere of Indigenous criminology but can also be used to address injustice in other criminology spheres, such as women’s criminalization and victimization.
Agozino, B. (2018). ‘The withering away of the law: An indigenous perspective on the decolonization of the criminal justice system and criminology’, Journal of Global Indigeneity, 3(1), pp. 2-23. Web.
Anthony, T. and Longman, C. (2017). ‘Blinded by the White: A comparative analysis of jury challenges on racial grounds’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 6(3), p.25-46.
Dwyer, A., Scott, J. and Staines, Z. (2021). ‘Strangers in a strange land: Police perceptions of working in discrete Indigenous communities in Queensland, Australia’, Police Practice and Research, 22(1), pp.208-224.
Goyes, D. R., & South, N. (2021). ‘Indigenous worlds and criminological exclusion: A call to reorientate the criminological compass’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(3), pp. 115-128.
Martin, K. and Mirraboopa, B. (2003). ‘Ways of knowing, being and doing: A theoretical framework and methods for indigenous and indigenist re-search’, Journal of Australian Studies, 27(76), pp.203-214.
Porter, A. (2019). ‘Aboriginal sovereignty,‘crime and criminology’, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 31(1), pp.122-142.