The ultimate difference: Interpreting and using ‘culture’ in comparisons of crime and justice

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This article examines culture, an ambiguous yet prevalent concept in comparisons of crime and justice. It reveals the extent to which culture’s application and meaning across research reflects Westerncentric bias in criminological knowledge-production despite it being a concept meant to advance understanding on different groups and places beyond the ‘Western’ worldview. The article extends the discussion on Westerncentric bias but also on culture in criminology by tracing the use of this concept on East Asian populations and by identifying patterns of application and meaning in international and comparative research through a scoping review of 230 journal publications. The findings address patterns of culture’s appearance in criminology journals in the past two decades and its meaning. Similar to previous scholarship on Westerncentrism in criminology, the article finds that this bias does, too, exists in uses of culture but also shows how culture’s conceptual ambiguity is conducive to this bias, in that some groups and places are given one meaning of culture while others receive another.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Annals of Criminology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Feb 2024


  • culture
  • international comparisons
  • Westerncentric bias
  • Individualism-Collectivism
  • East Asia


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