IN MEMORIAM: Vincenzo Ruggiero

Nigel South

Nigel South

Essex University




Vincenzo Ruggiero passed away in his adopted ‘home’ city of London on Saturday 2nd°February 2024 with his partner and his daughter at his side. Vincenzo was the Renaissance Man of international criminology – a critical polymath and scholar of politics, economics, sociology, history, literature, languages and art – all of which, in unique style, he brought to his original and stimulating essays, books, lectures and wonderful conversations over food and wine.

Born to Neapolitan parents in Ferrara, Italy, in 1950, his family, like so many southerners, migrated to the north of the country for work but remained deeply rooted in their Neapolitan heritage. He lived for many years in Torino where he studied and taught and, in the 1970s, was a dedicated political activist along with many of his friends during the period of social conflicts and unrest that came to be known as “The Years of Lead”.

In this decade he moved between London, where he worked as a porter at University College hospital, and parts of Italy, where he was involved in penal reform campaigns. In 1976 he founded a bi-annual paper on prison issues, coordinating a network involving prisoners, their families and reform activists and in
1977 established a new publisher – ‘Senza Galere’ (‘Without Prisons’) – later renamed ‘Ruggiero Edizioni’. The press mainly published fiction and poetry and all authors were either prisoners serving a sentence or ex-prisoners. As Vincenzo suggested, this was surely an early example of ‘Convict Criminology’. In the following years, between 1979-1983, he published his first academic books, on prison issues and drugs debates, writing about communities he saw as marginalised but engaged in resistance and it was important to him that he had undertaken this research and advocacy from outside the formal bounds of the university system.

Between 1986-1990 he studied for his Doctorate in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Bologna but in the early 1990s settled in London, feeling an affinity to bohemian Fitzrovia and Soho. He took up posts as, initially, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and then a Research Fellow at Middlesex University, subsequently – and swiftly – becoming a Reader and then Professor (1996) at Middlesex, contributing to its rich tradition of being a centre for critical criminology. In 1998 he undertook a secondment to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna leading pathbreaking research on Transnational Organised Crime and contributing to the study of human trafficking at a point when its significance was still only emerging. In Vienna he also founded a journal, Forum on Crime and Society and was among the organisers of the 2000 UN ‘Congress on Crime and the Treatment of Offenders’ (writing most of the official papers for conference deliberations), as well as contributing to the formulation of the UN Convention against Organised Crime, launched in Palermo in 2000. He was a long-standing member of many professional associations and took on committee roles for the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control (1986-1993), and the American Society of Criminology Divisions on International Criminology (2016-2017) and Critical Criminology (2017-2018). He also served as Director of the Centre for Social and Criminological Research at Middlesex University.

Vincenzo was not only one of the leading theorists within our field but also an innovator in the use of multi-methods approaches to data-gathering – very often in contexts that are among the most hard to research – the worlds of organised criminals, corrupt politicians, traffickers, and political activists. He could be the classic lone scholar – disciplined in sitting at his desk, working his way through his piles of books and papers, then launching into a new writing project but he also led various funded research collaborations and initiatives and was a great co-author and co-worker, sociable and inspirational. Vincenzo loved to write, to set down ideas and engage with his peers and students and in doing so he was astonishingly productive. He spoke and published in Italian, French and English and his work was also translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Lithuanian, Turkish and Mandarin Chinese.

His many publications include numerous academic articles and pieces of journalism as well as books such as: Western European Penal Systems (1995), Eurodrugs (1995), Organised
and Corporate Crime in Europe (1996),The New European Criminology (1998), Crime and Markets (2000), Movements in the City (2001 Winner of the ‘Premio Nazionale G. Arena –
CittaĚ€ di Acri’),°Economic and Financial Crime in Europe°(2002),°Crime in Literature°(2003), Crimes of the Economy (2013), Punishment in Europe (2013), Power and Crime (2015), Dirty Money: On Financial Delinquency (2017 Outstanding Book Award, American Society of Criminology, Division on White Collar and Corporate Crime), Organised Crime and Terrorist Networks (2020), Visions of Political Violence (2020), Critical Criminology Today: Counter- Hegemonic Essays (2021). In 2016 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Society of Criminology, Division on Critical Criminology and Social Justice.

He completed his latest book just two months before his death and was able to choose a cover design while in hospital. Appropriately the book is a survey – in inimitable style – of°Keywords in Criminology: A cultural dictionary°(Routledge, 2024).

Vincenzo leaves behind a daughter, Lucia, and his partner Cynthia, with whom he formed a civil partnership after 33 years together – as well as an international family of friends, students and admirers who will all remember Vincenzo as embodying°gioia di vivere°– he will be missed so much.

Please raise a glass....