Wild life: representations and constructions of Yardies

Murji, Karim (1999). Wild life: representations and constructions of Yardies. In: Ferrell, Jeff and Websdale, Neil eds. Making Trouble: Cultural Representations of Crime, Deviance and Control. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, pp. 179–201.


This chapter is concerned with representations and constructions of "black criminality" and specifically "yardies" in Britain. It draws on ideas about racialization that begin with a view of "race" as a socially and culturally constructed category. From this perspective, racist discourses are seen as generating, and seeking to fix or essentialize, "race differences" as the principal marker of boundaries between groups of people. In recent years "cultural difference" has become one of these boundaries. A "new racism" based on cultural rather than biological differences emerged in the 1970s (Barker 1981). Conventional notions of genetic superiority and inferiority were supplanted by beliefs about the incompatibility of different cultures. Cultural differences became a code for race and depictions of the "culture" of ethnic or racial minorities became a means for simultaneoulsy denying, while implicitly reasserting, racial hierarchies through which racism is veiled or "smuggled" back in. A "differential" or "culturalized" racism emerged in the writings of conservative commentators and politicians, where accounts of "black crime", often linked to "cultural pathology", were employed to demarcate cultural difference as a hard and fast boundary that separates "us" from "them".

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