Deviant Leisure Stream, American Society of Criminology, NOLA 2016

Members of the Deviant Leisure group are presenting this week at the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans.

Panel 1: Deviant leisure, resistance and harm

The non-work activities of human beings have long been a central issue within the social sciences. For the most part, studies gravitate to the leisure practices of the young and marginalized. Whether scrutinizing drug use, joyriding, graffiti, sex work, skateboarding or smoking, much research in this area focuses on the activities of young people, engaging in behaviours that, if not always illegal, appear close enough to the boundary between deviance and illegality to invoke discussion around police responses, policy initiatives and key criminological terminology such as antisocial behaviour and crime prevention. Deviant Leisure perspectives draw upon advances in both cultural criminology (see Hayward, 2015) and ultra-realist criminology (Hall and Winlow, 2015). This collection of papers brings together these theoretical approaches to present a conceptual framework for deviant leisure which illustrates how individual, social, economic and environmental harms are structurally embedded within many accepted and normalized forms of leisure.

Tom Raymen and Oliver Smith: Where’s the harm in deviance? Conceptualising Harm for Deviant Leisure

The concept of social deviance is generally applied throughout the social sciences to describe behaviours which contravene socially accepted norms, values and ethical standards. However, under the conditions of late-capitalist consumer culture we are witnessing a number of harmful behaviours which are becoming normalised, legitimised and celebrated forms of leisure, driven by consumer capitalism’s economic need for a liberal moral relativism. From a deviant leisure perspective, this paper questions the on-going utility of ‘social deviance’ as a criminological concept, and argues a need to invert the traditional interpretation of deviance and consider the extent to which transgression and the cultivation of ‘deviant’ identities is in fact a form of cultural conformity to the values of neoliberal capitalism.

Drawing on Bauman’s (1989) notion of the ‘duty to the other’, the paper presents a more ontologically-grounded conceptualisation of harm which can avoid a moral relativism in order to consider systemic social harms as well as incorporating eco-justice perspectives.


Oliver Smith: Gendered violence and vulnerability in the night time economy.

In the UK we are currently seeing small signs of progressive change around a number of areas of sexual assault, rape and harassment, exemplified by (among other examples) the recent release of the CPS and police action plan on rape (CPS, 2014), online harassment (protection of freedoms act, 2012), as well as an apparent increase in reporting of rape and sexual assault. However, few comparable advances or increases in protection appear to have been afforded women who are victimized within the night time economy. Here, sexual aggression is pervasive, and alcohol consumption within the NTE is linked to a high proportion of reported cases of rape and sexual assault. While the underrepresentation of these cases in official statistics is well documented, there is a much larger dark figure surrounding the ubiquity of ‘lower level’ assaults and sexual aggression, that for most women is viewed as a ‘regrettable but unavoidable’ part of a night out, or as an occupational hazard of working in the NTE. This paper contends that these incidents, common to the point of banality, as well as the more serious accounts of rape, domestic abuse and sexual violence are rooted in the structural organization of the marketised night time economy characterized by the bars, clubs, late night takeaway and taxi ranks familiar to any urban setting in the British context and, increasingly, beyond. This position moves beyond that of the responsibilisation thesis favoured by successive British governments, and is oppositional to the academic and mainstream framing of urban night spaces (as well as consumer markets more generally) as creative and liberating playscapes. Rather, the violence exhibited within the NTE is written into the cultural code of these circuits of consumption, and although most clearly visible when taking the form of the subjective, clearly identifiable forms of interpersonal violence, is woven into the fabric of a night out, imperceptibly embedded as what Žižek would refer to as systemic and symbolic violence.


Corina Medley: 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 2014), 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.

Discussant: Keith Hayward

Chair: Victoria Silverwood



Panel 2: Deviant leisure and consumer culture

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 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, 2015), these papers begin to outline a typology of harm for a deviant leisure perspective. The papers presented here cover topics ranging from the allure and consumption of interpersonal violence within sport; the myriad social and financial harms of gambling’s attachment to wider leisure identities; and the collective fetishistic disavowal of the social, economic, and environmental harms associated with the ostensibly eco-friendly adventure, volunteer and gap-year tourism industries. In doing so this panel brings leisure and consumer culture out of the shadows and into the spotlight of a more critical and culturally-nuanced theoretical criminology.


Victoria Silverwood: The seduction of the fist fight: Deviant Leisure, Conflict sports and the lure of organised violence

Physical violence in a sport or leisure environment has always elicited strong polarised reactions from an audience.   Traditionally, criminology has viewed the organised violence of sport within the limits of legal boundaries such as implied consent between willing combatants (see Groombridge, 2016). However, by drawing on broader sociological and philiosophical traditions we can seek to understand violence (and in particular, the pugilism of the fist fight) as a multi-faceted form of action.

This paper looks at the relationship between violence and desire in contemporary conflict sports. Drawing upon cutting-edge theoretical concepts such as the pseudo-pacification process (Hall, 2007), and the passion for the real (Zizek, 2005); in conjunction with more established criminological concepts such as the seduction (Katz, 1990) and carnival (Presdee, 2000) of crime, a preliminary understanding of violence in consumer society emerges. By focusing on the contradictions of violence and the consumption of violence within a broader social and cultural context of late-capitalism, consumer culture, and social insulation; a more nuanced theorisation of violence and desire that considers both the foreground crunch of the punch within the background structures from which it emerges.


James Treadwell: Uncaged: Mixed Martial Arts, Ultra-realist criminology, violence and the ethnographic lens.

Criminology has recently experienced something of a sporting turn, positioning sport as a setting and a field which might usefully supplement and enhance Criminological theorizing (e.g. Groombridge, 2016). Occasionally, criminology has turned to sports and pugilist permits and considered the role and place of the legality of consensual violence. For the most part, criminologists position the sporting arena as one in which performances of legitimate forms of activity, deviance (and sometimes outright lawbreaking) can tell us something more of the social order, of ‘resistance’, of embodied excitement, of viscerally, embodied habitus (Waquant, 2004) and of the genesis of risk taking and rule breaking. This paper takes a different approach. Using insider ethnography as total participant, it seeks to use MMA to look deeper than the existing criminological surface readings and arrive at all more nuanced consideration of late-modern violence and its consumption. In using the case of MMA, it seeks to use an ultra-realist lens (Hall and Winlow, 2015) to consider how this form of entertainment can tell us something of the peculiar relationship contemporary Western, neoliberal, consumer society has with commoditized violence and offer more in depth and holistic consideration of this form of deviant leisure.


Tom Raymen: Ladbrokes Life: Gambling identities and deviant leisure

While once subject to wide-ranging state control, gambling has successfully culturally embedded itself within the normalised and legitimised forms of leisure such as the night-time economy, sports fandom, and online forums of socialisation. This is reflected in numerous sports-betting company commercials which visually situate gambling within a wider masculine weekend leisure experience of football, a flutter, and beer at the pub or at home with friends. Based upon our on-going ethnographic research, the experience of casual-yet-consistent betting is an integral aspect to leisure identities and new masculinities. Gambling within broader circuits of leisure and consumption is imbued with more than the simple outcome of winning or losing. Rather, the act of betting becomes irretrievably entangled with identity, with betting ‘styles’ or approaches having the potential to act as a reflective mirror of who they are.

This paper, while drawing upon on-going ethnographic research, takes the popular ‘Ladbrokes Life’ commercials as its starting point and is analysed through a deviant leisure perspective. It explores the multitude of harms associated with the attachment of gambling to identity within the wider social and economic contexts of late-capitalism, consumer culture, cool individualism, and a culture of indebtedness. It argues that an identity-based culture of sports betting that attaches fragile and facile social and cultural capital to the allure of the gambling win encourages the chasing of losses and impulsive betting. Underscored by readily available credit through an array of high-interest payday loans, the overt-yet-surreptitious entrenchment of gambling within new leisure masculinities has the potential to cast these young people into a new and difficult reality of indebtedness.  The peaks and troughs of winning and losing, against the background of the ‘objectless’ anxiety of late-capitalism (Hall and Winlow, 2015), perpetuates a leisure culture which, while culturally normalised, is characterised by the harms of stress, financial uncertainty, domestic instability, emotional volatility, depression and anxiety.


Jo Large: A Journey of a Lifetime: The Relationship between Leisure, Pleasure and Harm in ‘Extra-Ordinary’ Tourist Spaces.

This paper will develop the concept of ‘deviant leisure’ in relation to the rapidly growing volunteer/eco/adventure tourism industry. Often marketed around such notions as ‘experiencing nature’, ’saving animals’ and ‘having an adventure’ in ‘extra-ordinary’ spaces, the paper specifically unpacks the relationships these experiences have with leisure and harm. On the one hand, they can be characterised as identity-forming leisure activities with elements of social good. On the other hand, these seemingly positive tourist experiences can engender a range of social, economic and environmental harms.

Drawing on original primary qualitative research exploring tourist motivations and behaviour, and contextualised within a range of interdisciplinary literature, this paper seeks to contribute to the growing knowledge base that critically examines the nature of leisure experiences in relation to harm. A final aim of this paper is to theorise these “niche” experiences in the broader context of neo-liberal capitalism and its attendant culture of conspicuous consumption.

Chair: Oliver Smith

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