Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dr David Maguire discusses his research on the culture of male incarceration

What can you tell us about your research?

I am interested in the classed, gendered and criminal journeys of (young) men from deindustrialised regions and impoverished neighbourhoods in the UK. More specifically my research explores how boys and young men construct masculinity across various sites of exclusion, such as deprived housing estates, under resourced and ‘failing’ schools, residential children’s or ‘care’ homes and prisons. A major concern of this research is to explore if and how constructing or ‘doing’ masculinity across these sites leads many to contribute to their own economic exclusion, imprisonment and continued disadvantage. The most important aspect of my work is to uncover how these sites of exclusion play an active role in reinforcing and recreating the same masculinities they exclude, abandon and incarcerate.

Why did you choose this research?
I came to academic research and teaching relatively late. Before this I spent almost two decades working in heavily deprived areas or housing estates, with marginalised groups and those described as ‘hard to reach’. During this time I worked in schools and exclusion centres, with homeless populations, those involved in gang or serious youth violence, with male prisoners in both young offender institutions (YOI) and adult prisons.

During this period I was constantly struck by how for many of the young men it was ‘doing masculinity’ across impoverished spaces that led incrementally to more extreme exclusion, with every shift culminating in costly and more marginalised masculine performances. I understood then the significance of class, gender and place and wanted to explore this more.      

What makes your research different?
Many criminologists agree gender is the best predictor of crime and that men are by a huge margin the sex responsible for violent, sexual and other serious offences. It follows that in most industrialised societies, prison populations remain relatively static at over 90% male. Data from a range of sources for England and Wales shows that 90% of the male prison population is predominantly made up of undereducated, underemployed, young men from the poorest neighborhoods. Despite men featuring so heavily in crime and prison statistics there is relatively little qualitative scholarship exploring the links between masculinity and crime and even less focusing on ‘doing masculinity’ in UK prisons. Most of the important research on prison and prisoners tends of focus on ‘lifer’ or long-term prisoners. With a focus on gender and the interplay between masculinity, education, and crime among short-term ‘revolving door’ prisoners, this research adds to addressing a deficit in knowledge. Importantly through this work I reveal some of the process behind the substantial overrepresentation of poor and undereducated men as prisoners

How do you feel about being part of the team developing the new criminology course here at Oxford Brookes and will your input be informed by your research and work experiences?

I am very excited to be in at the start of this new criminology course. As a subject area criminology is growing at an incredible rate and is increasingly being seen as a pathway to rewarding careers across criminal justice agencies and in other sectors. The enthusiasm for this course in the department, coupled with the openness to draw from existing modules and expert knowledge across the faculty, sets a solid foundation to develop what will be an intellectually engaging and highly regarded criminology pathway.

The most exciting feature for me in terms of the lecturing role is the encouragement and expectation that my teaching will be both research led and informed by my extensive practical experiences. My research interests (gender/masculinity, boys ‘underachievement’, resistance to and rejection from changing workplaces, crime and imprisonment) straddle key contemporary criminological issues. I am equally enthused by the opportunity to draw on and share the extensive academic and practical knowledge from departmental colleagues.   Our associated networks will play a significant role in relating real world issues to core criminological themes and perspectives, which will offer a great experience for our students.  

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