Dissertation Abstracts

Crime, Ethnicity and Inequalities: A Comparative Analysis between Foreign Groups from Eastern Europe and African Portuguese-Speaking Countries and National Roma Groups

Author: Gomes, Sílvia , silvia.mf23@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Minho, Portugal
Supervisor: Manuel Carlos Silva; Helena Machado
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: crime and criminaliz , ethnicity and gender , social inequalities , intersectionality
Areas of Research: Deviance and Social Control , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Migration


This thesis aims to understand the problem of crime when associated with foreigners and ethnic groups in Portugal, particularly foreigners from former African colonies and Eastern Europe as well as Roma individuals. For that purpose, an analysis with an emphasis on three points was prepared: the collection of social representations around the criminal practices of these social groups built and designed both by the press in Portugal and by actors of the criminal justice system, including prison guards and elements of the direction of prisons; the analysis of the existing prison statistics; and, finally, the particular attention given to the criminal trajectories of men and women of these social groups who were serving a sentence of imprisonment.
The social relevance of the subject is inseparable from its social and scientific construction. The subject of prejudice and stereotype, in everyday discourse, the media, and by the criminal justice system, and neglected by scholars in Portugal, this is a subject that requires systematic and in depth study. This study acknowledges the complexity of the phenomenon of crime when interconnected with immigrants / foreigners and ethnic groups, tries to fill a gap in national scientific studies, and adopts a critical stance regarding the logics that essentialize the culture and the personal options as explanations for the criminal participation. The study emphasizes the importance of analyzing men and women, foreigners and gypsies, as subjects conditioned by its multiple social exclusions and social inequalities.
In a multi-targeted and holistic way, we investigate (i) the social representations constructed about these individuals when directly related to practices considered criminal, (ii) the existence of statistical direct association between these individuals and certain types of crime, and (iii) the mechanisms that allow us to understand and explain the overrepresentation of these individuals in Portuguese prisons.
Following these assumptions, we study crime as a social fact with different layers of analysis that can be analyzed through different social actors – media, professionals of the criminal justice system, and prisoners. Since social exclusions and social inequalities are produced and reproduced by social action of various types of social actors, and this, in turn, is structured by the (pre)existing conditions of inequality, the study required an analysis that was sensitive to the effect of an intersection of various types of inequalities – class, gender, ethnicity/nationality – on the individuals’ objective living conditions, and used a hierarchy of levels of analysis – the socio-structural, organizational and interactional – to be aware of the various levels of "structural causality". Specifically, with regard to the life paths of male and female prisoners, we consider the importance of focusing on the intersection of three main theoretical approaches: theories of structured action, the perspectives of intersectionality, and symbolic interactionism.