Crime and Punishment Workshop

Graduate Student presentations

Tue, 05/01/2012
6:30 PM
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only

Please join us at our final workshop of the semester for a presentation of graduate student projects, including exciting work by: 

  • Friederike Funk, Psychology
  • Wendy Wright, Philosophy
  • Sarah Brayne, Sociology

RSVP requested:  Please write to Devah Pager at if you would like to attend.

Friederike Funk, Psychology
"Psychological reasons for cultural differences in punitiveness: Comparing the United States with Germany"

About 300 census representative participants from each country read concrete cases about different types of crimes and were asked to assign sentences.  For major and minor crimes, Americans assigned harsher sentences than Germans. However, Americans were less punitive than Germans for self-defense crimes that involve lethal force. The current project aims at identifying psychological variables (such as attitudes towards forgiveness, right-wing authoritarianism, utility of violence, and perceived threat to values) that influence punitiveness and that can help explain differences between the two countries.

Wendy Wright, Philosophy
"Grim Realities: Toward a Critical Theory of Punishment–Utility, efficiency, and persistent problems of functionality in contemporary American punishment"

In this talk, I will give an overview of the argument of my dissertation, and then briefly move into the specific argument of one of my chapters to show how I go about making my broader claims. Drawing from both traditional and critical political theories, I argue that the contemporary system of criminal punishment in the United States is only intelligible when it is viewed as a system that functions primarily to maintain and reproduce what I call a "colonial-style order."  One of the facets of this order is to create oppressive conditions, while simultaneously producing discourses that legitimate those conditions.  As an example, I discuss the concept of "utility" as a normative value and practical goal in contemporary and historical American penal practice, ultimately arguing that in the neoliberal context, appeals to utility take on a critique-resistant veneer while re-constituting extant political orders.

Sarah Brayne, Sociology
"Surveillance Beyond the Criminal Justice System"

In the course of everyday interactions--such as going to the bank, using the internet or obtaining medical care--individuals give out personal data.  In an era of pervasive monitoring, electronic record keeping and data sharing between public and private agencies, the possibilities for surveillance are extensive. Recent qualitative research suggests that the fear of surveillance leads those who have been involved in the criminal justice system to avoid important institutions such as hospitals, banks and schools, because the records such institutions keep could put individuals at risk for apprehension.  In this presentation, I briefly explain my quantitative work on this phenomenon of "system avoidance" and suggest future directions for research. Specifically, I outline potential research projects analyzing criminal justice surveillance in non-criminal justice institutions and fusion centers, each with a focus on inequality.

The Crime and Punishment workshop draws together an interdisciplinary group of scholars-- from sociology, political science, psychology, philosophy, economics and law-- to discuss a range of topics related to crime, delinquency, social control, and the philosophy and politics of punishment.  Participants meet approximately once a month, on Tuesdays for dinner and discussion. Meetings will alternate in format, including a mixture of internal faculty presentations, "mini-presentations" by graduate students and others working through preliminary research ideas, lectures by visiting faculty, and discussions of recent published research.