Deviant Leisure at the British Society of Criminology Conference 2016

Thursday, July 7th, Nottingham (LT4: Level 1)

This panel focuses on the emergence of the Deviant Leisure perspective, engaging critical perspectives on the role of commodified leisure in crime and various forms of harm

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Broadly speaking, leisure and recreation have been viewed as fundamentally positive in their pursuit and ends, offering the subject the opportunity of freedom and liberation to create their own unique lifestyles and identities in the cultural fluidity of late modernity. Consequently, this has left little room for a consideration of how normalised harm and deviance can feature in the realms of leisure. This collection of papers provides a corrective to this trend, re-considering the myriad harms associated with familiar, culturally embedded and celebrated forms of leisure through a critical interrogation of the socially corrosive nature consumer culture and late-capitalism. Reflecting upon the wider theoretical concept of ‘Deviant Leisure’ (Smith and Raymen, 2016), these papers begin to outline a typology of harm for a deviant leisure perspective. The papers presented here cover a range of topics. The first will address the broader importance and necessary theoretical shifts for a critical criminological approach to leisure and harm in contemporary consumer capitalism. The second paper discusses the allure and consumption of interpersonal violence within sport; and the final paper considers the politically-corrosive marketization of allegedly ‘progressive’ forms of ‘feminist pornography’. In doing so this panel brings addresses the fetishistic disavowal of the social, economic, interpersonal and environmental harms of commodified leisure to bring leisure and consumer culture out of the shadows and into the spotlight of a more critical and culturally-nuanced theoretical criminology.


Thomas Raymen, Plymouth University

Reclaiming Deviant Leisure: A criminological perspective

This paper explains why an understanding of ‘deviant leisure’ is significant for 21st century criminology. Through reorienting our understanding of ‘deviance’ from a contravention of norms and values to encompassing that which transgresses a moral ‘duty to the other’, the new ‘deviant leisure’ perspective describes activities which have the potential to result in harm through their adherence to the values of consumer capitalism. This paper outlines the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of a deviant leisure perspective which draws upon ultra-realist and cultural criminological theory. Using the ideological primacy of consumer capitalism as a point of departure, this paper explores the potential for harm that lies beneath the surface of even the most embedded and culturally accepted forms of leisure. Such an explanation requires a reading that brings into focus the subjective, socially corrosive, environmental and embedded harms that arise as a result of the commodification of leisure. A deviant leisure perspective is vital if criminological theory is to correct its ongoing inability to keep up with the proliferating and mutating forms of normalised harm that are an emergent feature of contemporary commodified leisure.


Theo Kindynis, University of Greenwich

Urban Exploration: From Subterranea to Spectacle

Recreational trespass or “urban exploration” is the practice of researching, gaining access to, and documenting forbidden, forgotten or otherwise off-limits places, including abandoned buildings, high-rise construction sites and infrastructure systems. Over the past two decades a global subculture has coalesced around this activity. More recently, however, the practice has begun to transform along divergent lines. As numerous corporations have sought to cash in on what they see as the latest edgy urban branding opportunity in an attempt to market their products to young urban consumers, new and increasingly image-centric, spectacular and conformist variants of the practice have emerged. Based on ongoing (auto)ethnographic research and in-depth interviews with urban explorers, this chapter considers how processes of commodification and corporate sponsorship, in conjunction with the emergence of new social media platforms, have drastically altered both the firsthand experience of the practice and the dynamic of the subculture more generally. The chapter suggests that urban exploration has been thoroughly assimilated into a dominant neoliberal culture of spectacular consumption, exhibiting the kinds of individualistic, competitive and risk-taking behaviours valued within the current social conjuncture, and asks: to what extent, if any, can urban explorers recuperate the practice’s transgressive potential?

 Dr. Victoria Silverwood, Birmingham City University

‘Don’t hate the player; hate the game’: Shifting the focus of a criminological understanding of violence in professional ice hockey.

Violence in professional ice hockey has received a great deal of attention in the light of our improved understanding of concussion and brain injuries. Traditionally, an understanding of violence or intentional injurious behaviour in other sports has focussed on the legality of the violent act (Groombridge, 2016) or on the motives of individual players (Silverwood, 2014). This paper reverses that gaze by focussing on the broader political, economic and cultural structures which impact and shape the prevalence and consumption of violence within leisure and organised sport.

By focusing on the contradictions surrounding the normalisation and consumption of hockey violence within the broader social and cultural context of late-capitalist consumer culture, a more nuanced theorisation of violence emerges that can theorise the seemingly senseless and culturally specific act of violence within the broadest structural circumstances. Integral to our understanding of this subject are considerations of an ‘insulated society’ and the notion of culturally-embedded harm, a broad typology of harmful leisure from the Deviant Leisure theoretical perspective (Smith & Raymen 2016). By approaching ice hockey violence through this deviant leisure perspective, this paper contends that a critical criminological understanding of leisure and normalised harm is essential to understanding the actions of individual players.

Corina Medley, Northeastern University, USA

Political Fantasies: Feminist Pornography, Creative Resistance, and Consumer Culture

Pornography has become increasingly more accessible and visible in/as popular culture (Tibbals 2013). Consequently, in academe, it has gone from being a marginal subject, to a field in its own right (Atwood and Smith 2014). Although pornography has received more scholarly attention in recent years, a preponderance of the theoretical and empirical work from the left on the topic has remained polarized between camps that emerged decades ago during the academic ‘sex wars’ or the ‘feminist sex debates’. Broadly conceived, one side claims that pornographic culture exacerbates inequalities, while the other maintains that it ameliorates disparities. This paper works outside of those paradigms in order to examine the propagation of ‘feminist pornography’ as a pornographic niche market that emerged from, and exists within, neoliberal-capitalism. Based on critical cultural criminology (Hayward 2014), and the critical stance of ultra-realism (Hall and Winlow 2015), this paper asserts that the commodification of feminist pornography can be seen as inseparable from consumer markets, representing another type of culture in which the new, the political, or, in this case, pastiche novelties that are a hybrid of both, can be turned into capital. Accordingly, it is improbable that the tack of commodifying feminist ideology will disrupt material reality. While it could be said that feminist pornographic culture entails the creation of political sexual fantasies, as a form of creative resistance, feminist pornography is merely political fantasy.

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