Elizabeth Comack

University of Manitoba

Elizabeth Comack is a professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba. Over the past three decades she has written and conducted research on a variety of social justice topics. Her most recent work is Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Criminalization. Elizabeth’s current research projects stem from her involvement in the Manitoba Research Alliance’s SSHRC Partnership project, “Partnering for Change: Community-Based Solutions for Aboriginal and Inner-City Poverty.” Elizabeth leads the Justice, Safety, and Security stream of the project.

  • Criminalizing Women

    Gender and (In)Justice in Neoliberal Times, 2nd Edition

    Edited by Gillian Balfour and Elizabeth Comack     September 2014

    Criminalizing Women introduces readers to the key issues addressed by feminists engaged in criminology research over the past four decades. Chapters explore how narratives that construct women as errant females, prostitutes, street gang associates and symbols of moral corruption mask the connections between women’s restricted choices and the conditions of their lives.

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  • Locating Law, 3rd Edition

    “Race/Class/Gender/Sexuality Connections

    Edited by Elizabeth Comack     February 2014

    Praise for the second edition: “This book is the best available for teaching the role of law in society and making sense of how it operates within the (inter)connections of race, class and gender dynamics often perpetuating oppression. … Locating Law is essential for undergraduate students in justice, sociology and criminology.” – Margot Hurlbert, University of Regina

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  • Indians Wear Red

    Colonialism, Resistance, and Aboriginal Street Gangs

    By Elizabeth Comack, Lawrence Deane, Larry Morrissette and Jim Silver     August 2013

    “Indians Wear Red” locates Aboriginal street gangs in the context of the racialized poverty that has become entrenched in the colonized space of Winnipeg’s North End. Drawing upon extensive interviews with Aboriginal street gang members as well as with Aboriginal women and elders, the authors develop an understanding from “inside” the inner city and through the voices of Aboriginal people – especially street gang members themselves.

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  • Racialized Policing

    Aboriginal People’s Encounters with the Police

    By Elizabeth Comack     March 2012

    Policing is a controversial subject, generating considerable debate. One issue of concern has been “racial profiling” by police, that is, the alleged practice of targeting individuals and groups on the basis of “race.” Racialized Policing argues that the debate has been limited by its individualized frame. As well, the concen- tration on police relations with people of colour means that Aboriginal people’s encounters with police receive far less scrutiny. Going beyond the interpersonal level and broadening our gaze to explore how race and racism play out in institutional practices and systemic processes, this book exposes the ways in which policing is racialized.

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  • Out There/In Here

    Masculinity, Violence and Prisoning

    By Elizabeth Comack     April 2008

    Elizabeth Comack explores the complicated connections between masculinity and violence in the lives of men incarcerated at a provincial prison. Moving between the spaces of ‘out there’ and ‘in here,’ the discussion traces the men’s lives in terms of their efforts to ‘do’ masculinity and the place of violence in that undertaking. In drawing out these connections, similarities with the lives of other men become apparent. In the process, we also learn that prisons are not a solution to public concerns about crime and violence. Prison is a gendered space in which violence is a systemic feature and the pressures on men to ‘do’ masculinity are even more pronounced. Sending racialized and economically marginalized men to prison only encourages and reaffirms aggression, dominance and the exercise of brute power as legitimate social practices. “A uniquely vivid and readable account of how masculinities and violence are constructed both in the community ‘out there’ and in prison, ‘in here.’ Drawing on life-history interviews of incarcerated men, Elizabeth Comack offers a fascinating analysis of the varying and interconnecting masculine and violent pathways by these men and how their changing and often contradictory social practices are related to local and regional hegemonic masculinities. Out There/In Here is a timely, scholarly and captivating contribution to the literature in criminology, masculinities, and gender studies–I highly recommend it!”–James W. Messerschmidt, Professor of Sociology/Women and Gender Studies, University of Southern Maine

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  • Criminalizing Women

    Gender and (In)justice in Neoliberal Times

    Edited by Gillian Balfour and Elizabeth Comack     January 2006

    This book introduces readers to the key issues addressed by feminists in their engagement with criminology over the past four decades. It explores the narratives of women’s lives as “errant females,” sex trade workers, “gang” members and drug traffickers to map out the connections between the choices women make and the conditions of their lives. It shows how criminalized women and girls have been disciplined, managed, corrected and punished as prisoners, patients, mothers and victims through imprisonment, medicalization and secure care. And it considers the feminist strategies that have been used to address the conditions inside women’s prisons, to defend criminalized women’s human rights and to draw attention to the systemic abuses against poor and racialized women.

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  • The Power to Criminalize

    Violence, Inequality and Law

    By Gillian Balfour and Elizabeth Comack     January 2004

    Law’s power to criminalize–to turn a person into a criminal–is formidable. Traditional legal doctrine argues that law dispenses justice in an impartial and unbiased fashion. Critical legal theorists claim that law reproduces gender, race and class inequalities. The Power to Criminalize offers an analysis that acknowledges the tensions between these two views of law. Drawing from crown attorneys’ files on violent crime cases and interviews with defence lawyers, the authors reveal the complex ways in which discourses of masculinity, femininity, race, class and social space inform the strategies used to litigate these cases. This analysis raises questions about the prospects of challenging law to realize a more just society.

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  • Women in Trouble

    Connecting Women’s Law Violation to their Histories of Abuse

    By Elizabeth Comack     January 1996

    This book addresses one of the more alarming findings to emerge about women in prison: the fact that 80 percent report histories of physical and sexual abuse.

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