Asst. Professor Vanessa Barker Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Study Globalization, Immigration & Penal Order.

June 4, 2010

Filed Under: Awards, Faculty, Research

The Law and Social Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation has awarded Dr. Vanessa Baker an 18 month grant to study how immigrants have been caught up in conflicts over national identity and global integration in Europe.  It examines how immigrants are integrated differently through labor, politics, and social life in Sweden, France, and the UK and how these differences are manifest in each country’s criminal justice system.

The project asks three asks interrelated research questions:

  1. Why has incarceration increased in nearly every European country since 1990?
  2. Why are immigrants and other ethnic minorities overrepresented in European prisons?
  3. How can we explain cross-national variation in European penal sanctioning?

Dr. Barker seeks to explain and understand how immigrants have been caught up in European ambivalence about global integration and neo-nationalism, tensions that are managed differently through nation specific legal and political institutions. How societies adapt to changing conditions by integrating new members is critical to their social, economic, and political stability. European nations that fail to do so could face a grim future built on the social exclusion of perceived outsiders.

The study uses comparative and historical methodology and three case studies, Sweden, the United Kingdom and France, to analyze and explain cross national penal regime variation and its relationship to immigrant integration. By developing a thick description of historical context and systematic analysis of a small number of cases, the researcher is able to expose why (not just how) societies use criminal law differently and what it means to the people involved.

This project intends to contribute new knowledge about how criminal justice works differently across societies even in the face of shared social problems. The project will advance knowledge about how the criminal law is used to settle broader questions about national belonging and political power. It also intends to contribute new knowledge about the key role the democratic process and social trust play in both immigrant integration and penal order. It will contribute an original, empirically grounded and comparative study to a highly charged public debate about immigration, crime and punishment.