The perils of ‘uncertainty’ for fear of crime research in the twenty-first century

Authored by: Will McGowan

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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The notion of ‘uncertainty’ has become a ubiquitous way of describing contemporary social and political life, while its disparate meanings are enmeshed in the variety of phenomena it attempts to account for. The fear of crime ‘subfield’ is one such area where its use has obfuscated, rather than brought clarity to, an array of tangible and observable trends which have contributed to more general feelings of anxiety and states of insecurity in recent decades. However, partly due to the fluidity of language, there are undoubtedly scenarios and phenomena associated with fear of crime which are perfectly well captured by ‘uncertainty’. While it is often deployed synonymously alongside words such as ‘anxiety’, ‘risk’ and ‘fear’, this chapter thinks through just some of the multiple layers of meaning associated with ‘uncertainty’ as a way of problematising its use in fear of crime research. More broadly, this is a particularly important task in light of recent political shifts across America and Europe, ongoing conflict in parts of Africa and the Middle East, and diplomatic tensions between the world nuclear powers, during which a range of academic, political and journalistic analyses have proclaimed us to be living in an ‘age of uncertainty’.

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