ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Community studies using ethnographic techniques: still relevant to criminology?

Judy Putt

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 3 - Law Building, Room 104
Date: 2012-07-12 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-12


During the sixties and seventies there was a robust and vibrant research tradition in the social sciences, that involved documenting small communities and sub-cultural groups within societies. Since then this tradition has sporadically re-surfaced within Australian criminology, primarily through anthropologically oriented research that focuses on Indigenous people and their communities, and through ‘street’ participant-observation with young people and/or drug users. The impetus to undertake research of this kind has faltered and virtually ceased in the past two decades – for a range of reasons, loosely summarized under the headings of political, ethical, practical and empirical concerns, and these are discussed within the context of personal experience of over four years participant-observation in a remote mining community and desert region. The paper briefly describes the history of this research tradition within criminology, the factors that led to its demise, and concludes by mounting an argument for its renaissance.