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Biko Agozino. Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason.

Biko Agozino. Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason. Foreword by Stephen Pfohl. London: Pluto P, 2003. 295 pp. $75.00.

Now too many people are being killed in the world, especially in Iraq and the Middle East. Who is responsible for all this killing? Has any person been condemned guilty of the crime? No. Any state or nation, then? No. There have been no rules for accusing nations of the crime. Why not? Many people died or were victimized by the attacks of rulers such as colonialists and slaveholders. But many of the rulers have been overlooked without punishment in ruler-biased social and political systems. Biko Agozino, author of Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason, examines the judiciary, specifically criminological, history of the world, and ultimately blames criminologists' silence for dealing an unfair human history. Agozino observes that not only have colonial imperialists utilized the judiciary system to rule the colonized but that criminologists were silent about the imperial criminals so that criminologists indirectly helped the judiciary of the colonizers to rule the colonized.

To make the process understood, Agozino surveys the history of criminological knowledge and practices. Indeed, Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of Prison (1977) gives an important insight to Agozino's survey. Observing the history of criminological methodology concerned with the Enlightenment, labeling perspective, radical criminology, feminist perspective, and critical criminology, Agozino criticizes Foucault for his undue concentration on individual punishment. Agozino insists on the importance of "theorizing and attempting to punish the state directly."

The reason that criminologists were silent and incapable of punishing state crimes, as Agozino observes, lies in their complete faith in "scientific" objectivity. This faith is (in) the core of Eurocentric knowledge, and modern social theories have derived from that knowledge. But, using the theory of Jean Baudrillard, Agozino questions the scientific objectivity on which criminologists have relied. If objectivity means not a commitment, as Agozino rightly puts it, it can be "irresponsible for the apolitical social scientist to try to understand the world oppression without a commitment to change it." So the point is that criminologists should be committed in their research to understanding the world marginalized by Eurocentric culture.

Another way to understand world oppression, Agozino suggests, is to read postcolonial literature. Criminologists who regard scientific objectivity as important pay little attention to literary works. Agozino thinks highly of fictions, those texts that mirror social reality more directly than criminologists think. He takes up radical African literature, such as wa Thiongo's Devil on the Cross, Fatunde's Oga Na Tief Man, and Iyayi's The Contract, to "illustrate the potential for the decolonization of criminology." Since modern literary theories like post-colonialism have also developed useful perspectives, criminology has learned a great deal from literature and literary theory.

For criminology to cultivate a decolonial perspective, it must change its research methodology. Agozino tests out the committed research methods from a marginalized race-class-gender perspective, and hopes those methods will be applied to sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, geography, and other fields of inquiry. The methods to solve colonial imperialist problems help to work out solutions to all social problems in the modern world. Agozino writes:
 Parents and guardians abuse children because of the imperialist
 power that they wield over them. Juveniles bully others and commit
 offences because of the will to colonize others and exercise power
 unjustly. Rapists are the dominant characterization of imperialists.
 A man rapes a woman just as Europa rapes Africana. One rapes an
 individual and the other rapes masses of people. What they have in
 common is not rape but imperialism. Pickpockets and insider dealers,
 kidnappers and war criminals, murderers and genocidists, drunk
 drivers and human rights violators, terrorists and armies of
 occupation, fraudsters and military coup plotters, environmental
 polluters and pornographers, drug dealers and hate criminals are all
 united in the spiral of imperialism.

Counter-Colonial Criminology is not just a book about criminology. Agozino cites in the book such names as J. Baldwin; H. K. Bhabha, S. Carmichael, J. Derrida, W. E. B. Du Bois, T. Eagleton, F. Fanon, J. Habermas, S. Hall, K. Marx, T. Morrison, F. Nietzsche, E. Said, G. C. Spivak, and A. Walker, as well as J. Baudrillard, T. Fatunde, M. Foucault, F. Iyayi, and N. wa Thiongo. These writers and philosophers make Counter-Colonial Criminology a map of modern cultural theory. This book also reminds one of Wright's Native Son, Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and other well-known American fictions that include trial scenes: Counter-Colonial Criminology can illuminate new readings of these texts. In this way, Counter-Colonial Criminology is a book scholars in the field must not ignore.

We live now in a world where peace is challenged. As Stephen Pfohl says in the foreword, we need this kind of theory, one that "invite[s] a comparative transdisciplinary study of crime and crime control that is simultaneously committed to anti-imperialist scholarship, situated objectivity, activist legal reform, and radical reconstruction of everyday social institutions, to secure democracy, peace, and social justice."

Though Agozino says, "As you can see, I am no good at writing and I am still learning the craft. Maybe I have learned a little but I hope to keep learning so that some day I will write my big opus," Counter-Colonial Criminology is well written and easy to read. I wish I could write as well as Agozino writes. I also wish that this review reaches dubious readers because Counter-Colonial Criminology is an important and vital book.

Yoshinobu Nakajima

Shiraume Gakuin College, Japan
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Author:Nakajima, Yoshinobu
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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