Deviant Leisure: A Criminological perspective

Oliver Smith and Thomas Raymen

The broad area of deviant leisure has garnered increasing interest within criminology and the social sciences over the last several months. Robert Stebbins has very recently returned to issues of hedonism, incivility and the negative or ‘deviant’ side of leisure. Members of this research network, such as Steve Redhead, have begun to communicate deviant leisure perspectives to an increasingly global audience, whilst cultural criminology is beginning to expand its gaze beyond the limited constructs of crime and deviance to take interest in the relationship between consumer culture and normalised harm. Dedicated panels and streams at various international conferences serve to compound the suggestion that this is a perspective that is gaining traction within the social sciences.

Of course for us and to those who have been following this blog, such interest is entirely unsurprising. As evidenced by the wide array of topics covered here and beyond, deviant leisure is indeed a ‘broad church’ of exciting research areas. However in light of this spate of recent activity, we feel it is time for us to  bring greater clarity to the deviant leisure project by explicitly outlining our understanding of deviant leisure as a theoretical concept. What follows below is an abridged version of a forthcoming journal article in which we begin to present the fundamental theoretical principles of a deviant leisure perspective. Continue reading

Podcast: What is Deviant Leisure?

This week, Deviant Leisure has been the topic of discussion on the popular series of podcasts by Professor Tara Brabazon and Professor Steve Redhead of Flinders University, Australia. During the podcast Professor Redhead sketches out the core principles of deviant leisure and its expanded focused upon forms of normalised harm within culturally embedded forms of leisure, in addition to exploring its conceptual origins in ultra-realism and cultural criminology. Most importantly as interdisciplinary scholars, Professor Brabazon and Professor Redhead analyse deviant leisure’s capacity to cross disciplinary boundaries of critical criminology, leisure studies, geography, media studies, the sociology of sport and even the philosophy of harm itself; considering some of the potential trajectories for deviant leisure and a more critical and politicised academy.

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The legitimate bare-knuckle fist fight – what makes ice hockey so unique?

By Victoria Silverwood

There are many forms of leisure, organised sports and even occupations where there are clear lines between deviant behaviour and that which is law-abiding, but that line can be blurred substantially when there exists a physical contest that is sanctioned. When violence is legitimised or permitted in any circumstance such as policing, security, the military or in sports, it could be argued that it ceases to be a matter of concern for criminologists, or those who study deviancy. However, there are many useful reasons for considering legitimate forms of violence as being deviant, or locating the discussion within the discipline of criminology. Indeed, the concept of legitimisation and the issues of power, money and law that surround it are integral to an understanding of the discipline itself and the study of violence that is not affected by criminocentric definitions of violence can be fruitful, as highlighted by Jackman:

Once we step away from the legal and moral imperatives that have shaped research on violence, we are confronted with the diverse and sometimes complex motivations that shade the variegated practice of violence in social life.
(Jackman 2002:400) Continue reading

(Getting a) Malling: Youth, consumption and leisure in the ‘new Glasgow’

By Alistair Fraser, University of Glasgow

The following extract is excerpted from chapter six of the book ‘Urban Legends: Gang Identity in the Post-Industrial City’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The chapter, titled ‘Learning to Leisure’ (pp. 139-164) traces the leisure lives of a group of young men from Langview, a deindustrialised working-class community in Glasgow. The boys – aged 14-16 during the period of fieldwork – demonstrated a clear desire for traditional forms of work and leisure, but found opportunities for both thin on the ground. As a result, their leisure lives often resulted in friction with the ‘new Glasgow’, which privileges privatised, commercialised and delocalised leisure. Continue reading

Urban exploration as deviant leisure

By Theo Kindynis (University of Greenwich)

Under London, an urban explorer is dwarfed by the massive Lee Tunnel “super sewer” construction, the deepest and largest tunnel ever built under the city. Photo: Theo Kindynis.

Under London, an urban explorer is dwarfed by the massive Lee Tunnel “super sewer” construction, the deepest and largest tunnel ever built under the city. Photo: Theo Kindynis.

Recreational trespass, or as it has become known in recent years, “urban exploration” (often abbreviated as UrbEx or UE) is the practice of illicitly gaining access to forbidden, forgotten or otherwise off-limits places, ‘simply for the joy of doing so’ and / or in order to document them photographically (Garrett, 2013: 21). Such places typically include: derelict industrial sites, closed hospitals or asylums, abandoned military installations, construction sites and cranes, sewer and storm drain networks, subterranean utility tunnels and rapid transit (metro) systems – the list goes on. In the past two decades, and particularly since the mid-2000s, an emergent global subculture has coalesced around this activity, facilitated by the Internet and online discussion forums such as 28 Days Later (taking its name from the 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror film). A small but growing research literature has accompanied the practice’s proliferation (see, for example, Bennett, 2011; Garrett, 2013; Mott and Roberts, 2014). During the past three years, I have conducted autoethnographic research into urban exploration, participating in over a hundred trespass events, and illicitly accessing sites including, but not limited to: many of London’s most notable highrise construction developments; under-construction Crossrail tunnels and stations; the under-construction Lee Tunnel “super sewer”; the under-redevelopment Battersea Power Station; the London Olympic Stadium, and other locations perhaps best not mentioned here. I’ll leave discussions of the ethics of illegal research for another blog post, but suffice to say that Jeff Ferrell and Craig Ancrum have both tackled the subject eloquently. Continue reading

Deviant Leisure at the European Society for Criminology Conference

Oliver Smith and Tom Raymen recently presented a paper on Deviant Leisure at the European Society for Criminology in Porto. We used this opportunity to try and build on some of the ideas that have been raised within this blog and elsewhere. Within the paper, entitled ‘Deviant Leisure, Rethinking Leisure and Harm’ we called for a more critically engaged exploration of leisure activities, which place direct and indirect harms at the centre of defining deviant leisure. Somewhat fortuitously from our perspective, we followed a presentation by Stuart Taylor (LJMU), which provided analysis of some of the preliminary qualitative findings from an evaluation of a sexual offense prevention campaign. The paper contained data that encapsulated the embedded and to some extent culturally tolerated forms of sexual violence that occur within the night time economy, and hinted at a rather bleak social landscape which highlighted the futility of poster campaigns at the site of consumption (in clubs, bars and pubs). These poster campaigns, however well intentioned are destined to wilt in the powerful glare of the massed energy and seemingly limitless influence of the branding and marketing associated with the alcohol and broader leisure industries.

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Black Friday: Shopping, Deviant Leisure and Hyperconformity

By Oliver Smith (Plymouth University) and Thomas Raymen (Durham University)

This blog post first appeared in Discover Society 

The widespread importation of the US shopping phenomenon known as Black Friday onto the UK highstreet in November 2014 represents an intriguing conundrum for the social scientist. Retailers and superstores across the country opened either at midnight or provided extended opening hours, offering ‘doorbuster’ deals and alluring discounts on a range of consumer goods.  The chaotic scenes of pushing, shoving, trampling and fighting which have become a familiar, even defining characteristic of Black Friday in the United States emerged during the Black Friday sales across several cities in the UK. Police were called to stores in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Dundee and Glasgow among others to try to control proceedings. Continue reading

‘Muscle Profiling’: Anti-doping policy and deviant leisure

By Kyle J.D. Mulrooney & Katinka van de Ven

Doping in sport has become progressively viewed as a social problem and a number of actors have been successively identified as the ‘carriers of this social harm’ (Ellis, 1987; in DeKeseredy & Dragiewicz, 2012). As a result the list of ‘folk devils’ (Cohen, 1985) has grown and so too have the control mechanisms employed to combat them. Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIED) are deemed morally reprehensible by the general population, and considered a practice that should be banned and criminalized (Coomber, 2013; Coakley, 2014). However, there seems to be a tendency amongst policy makers to frame steroid or PIED use outside of elite sport as an issue within sport, and to call for the same types of policies that are being used in anti-doping (Kimergård, 2014). This paper will briefly explore the PIED policies of three countries, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, highlighting the ways in which anti-doping in elite sport is informing national drug policy and encouraging a zero tolerance approach to PIEDs as a social health issue.

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If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em? Parkour as Situational Crime Prevention.

By Thomas Raymen, Durham University

Cultural and critical criminology have long been interested in the back and forth tussle over cultural meaning; manifested in the subversive methods of détournement, symbol co-option, and the hijacking of forms of subversive behaviour for the purposes of dominant culture and leisure industries. The Situationists were among the first to see the possibilities for cultural subversion through mediated meanings, searching for ways in which they could “‘seize the familiar and turn it into the other’, [and] if they could ‘turn the words of [their] enemies back on themselves’” (Marcus, 1989: 178-179 cited in Ferrell et al, 2008: 152). As evidenced by the range of topics covered by the contributors to this research network, the landscape of crime and deviance is one of swirling and inconsistent meaning across time, space, and cultures.

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