Paul's Criminal Justice Page

Paul's Justice Blog

 !! INTERNET EXPLORER USERS - IE is blocking a script for a scrolling navigation menu. Allowing the script improves website functionality !!

Speed Kills by Jeff Ferrell

Drug Wars, Crimes of the Automobile & A Cultural Criminology of Roadside Shrines

Share this page: Enter e-mail address

I've visited dozens of shrines around the western United States, recording and photographing their tragic beauty, trying to understand the communities of life and death they commemorate. And I've discovered that it's here, at these small sacred spots amidst the expanse of weeds and roadside debris, that I'm best able to think through some answers. Sometimes, lost within the process of framing and focusing a photograph, I find myself back-pedaling to the very edge of the highway just as a big SUV or eighteen - wheeler thunders past, the concussion of its air displacement knocking me off balance, the danger of its passing speed sending me scurrying back off the shoulder. 

Other times, overwhelmed by a shrine of especially heartbreaking tragedy - with the photo of kids posing in front of a headstone, or the shrine along a lonely stretch of New Mexico's Highway 6, where the children have put up crosses for "Mom" and "Dad" and written "we love you forever" on the blades of a little pinwheel - I think about the old notion of "hegemony," of domination so thoroughgoing as to become taken for granted. I wonder if maybe the culture of the car is so interwoven with contemporary life in the United States - so tightly intertwined with patterns of housing, work, pleasure, consumption - that critiques have been rendered unimaginable and alternatives unthinkable, even for those of us accustomed to critique, even in the face of 40,000 fluttering pinwheels a year.


Jeff Ferrell. Culture, Crime, and Cultural Criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 3(2) (1995)

Jeff Ferrell. 9-11 and the Public Construction of Commemoration. Teaching & Understanding Sept 11. 

Ferrell and Sanders. Cultural Criminology (1995)

Ferrell and Hamm. Ethnography at the Edge

Jeff Ferrell, Tearing Down the Streets: Adventures in Urban Anarchy. Jeff's "Boredom, Crime and Criminology" (free full text .pdf) is based on his field research for this book.

Intro ] 1 ] 2 ] 3 ] 4 ] 5 ] [ End ]

This text is excerpted from an article of the same title in Critical Criminology: An International Journal, v 11 #3 (2002). The full article (.pdf) is freely available from the 'key papers' section of Cultural Readers can also access full text via SpringerLink. 

Critical Criminology is the official journal of the American Society of Criminology's Division on Critical Criminology. The official homepage of the Critical Criminology journal is at Springer.

On one side sales of the gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing, downright dangerous behemoths continue to soar. And apparently, the more fuel-inefficient the better: Dealers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the Hummer H2, GM's new $50,000 barely domesticated spinoff of the Gulf War darling, which struggles to cover 10 miles for every gallon of gas it burns. The symbolism of these impractical machines' military roots is too delicious to ignore. We go to war to protect our supply of cheap oil in vehicles that would be prohibitively expensive to operate without it.

There seems to be no shortage of Americans who think that consuming 25 percent of the world's oil just isn't enough. Maybe the next model, the H3, will need to be connected to an intravenous gas-pump hose all the time. And there would still be people eager to buy it.

These are the same folks who don't give a whit (this being a family newspaper) that at an OPEC meeting last month, the oily group's secretary general announced that one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy world was the U.S.'s seemingly unslakable thirst for its product. How nice it must feel for SUV owners, knowing that their swaggering imprudence is helping the world's anti-democratic oil sheiks sleep just a little better at night. Call this camp the Bigger Is Better crowd. Their motto: "Burn, baby, burn ... 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than passenger cars." How about this for a bumper sticker: "Honk if you hate the ozone layer!"

The coming SUV wars by By Arianna Huffington (

Search Web Search Search

Support this site

Amazon Hostway

Copyright 2000 - 2010 Paul Leighton. Permission is freely given to link to these pages or use them for non-commercial purposes, including distribution of printed copies at or below cost. For other uses, please contact the owner