I recently attended, and presented at, the British Society of Criminology’s (BSC) annual conference in Nottingham, which was held from 6th – 8th July 2016. The theme of the conference was Inequalities in a Diverse World and I took this opportunity to speak to other delegates about the threat of interpersonal violence; a threat that particular groups who are disadvantaged and made vulnerable by various inequalities continue to face.
For the last two decades official data on crime namely police recorded crime and the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), have indicated a sustained decline in violent crimes; although this trend has recently halted with some increases in several types of violence, including ‘domestic’ violence and homicide. While the longer term trends are encouraging, these recent recorded rises require our attention and, in this vein, I have recently written critically in several publications about some of the conclusions that are being drawn from these longer term trends (see Ellis, 2015; 2016). Importantly, the fact that some of them seem to be glossing over somewhat the persistence of violence in some people’s lives, particularly those experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage.
This was the focus of my ethnographic research in the North of England with men involved in serious violence. This work was recently published as a monograph with Routledge (Ellis, 2016) and was nominated for the BSC’s Critical Criminology Network book prize (sponsored by Palgrave Macmillan) prior to the conference. I drew upon data and analytical insights from this research in my conference paper to suggest that evidence of a violence decline had not penetrated down to the everyday understandings and perceptions of the men that I spent time with. On the contrary, they believed themselves to be enlightened individuals who had seen the world for what it truly is: competitive and unforgiving. As I explained to delegates, they are cynical realists who felt pacifism or a refusal to engage in violence when threatened, were not viable options. Their firm commitment to using violence against others was driven by the omnipresent threat of humiliation and social insignificance, which they believed go hand-in-hand with passivity. They felt it was better to accept the inevitability of violence and prepare yourself physically and mentally to deal with it. Those who did not were considered foolish, naïve, unworldly and destined for a life of shame, self-loathing and regret for failing to stand up for or show any respect for themselves.
These men’s lives, their experiences and the general themes covered in the conference paper are discussed in much greater depth in my book, which I was delighted to find out during the conference had won the Critical Criminology Network prize. The award was formally announced at the conference dinner alongside the winners of several of this year’s other prizes.
Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology
Ellis, A (2016) Men, Masculinities and Violence: An Ethnographic Study. London: Routledge
Ellis, A (2015) ‘Hard Evidence: crime rates are down, but is the world a less harmful place?’ The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-crime-rates-are-down-but-is-the-world-a-less-harmful-place-46654