Brescia professor earns award for Mennonite research

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By Communications Staff
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Brescia University College professor Steve Kleinknecht has been recognized by the Canadian Society of Criminology (CSC) for excellence in scholarship for a paper on deviance, social control, and justice among Old Order Mennonites.
 
Kleinknecht’s paper, Managing Their Own: Deviance, Social Control, and Justice among the Old Order Mennonites, was one of about 80 academic papers presented at the national CSC conference in Ottawa last October. Kleinknecht recently learned that his presentation earned the Richard V. Ericson Award, which is presented to the best overall paper at the conference, as judged by an expert panel of academics, and honours the outstanding contribution of the late Ericson to the development of criminology in Canada and internationally.
 
“I am honoured to win this award and be mentioned alongside Professor Ericson. I think that what the award committee found exceptional about my piece was that I was examining perspectives on deviance and justice from the point of view of a population that’s typically not considered by criminologists,” Kleinknecht says.
 
Kleinknecht prefers qualitative to quantitative data in his research. “The key thing I attempt to get across in this, and all my presentations and research, are the experiences of the people I’m studying. How do they see and make meaning out of the world? My goal as a sociologist is to capture people’s social reality and attempt to make sense out of it,” Kleinknecht explains. 
 
His presentation brought the perspective of Old Order Mennonites to life.
 
“I argued that, in terms of managing social change and keeping separate from outside society, they strive to handle threats to continuity, such as deviance, internally. In doing this, though, they have to maintain the legitimacy of their social control mechanisms and the church leaders who are formally in charge of managing change and control.”
 
“Deviance, which is largely interpreted by the Old Order in strict Biblical terms, has the potential to threaten the continuity of their lifestyle. The group has mechanisms such as the threat of excommunication to keep brethren in line, or bring them back in line as the case may be. Excommunication is a very big deal to an Old Order Mennonite. It means having to leave a life of familiarity for the relatively unknown world of modern society. The paper highlights an alternative form of justice that, despite some internal and external disagreement, works for the Old Order.” 
 
Kleinknecht is a faculty member in Brescia’s Division of Sociology and Family Studies. His research and scholarly interests include subcultures, deviance, everyday life, sociology of the Internet, qualitative research, and symbolic interactionism. His recent work has revolved around examining characteristics of the hacker subculture and social change and continuity among the Old Order Mennonites.

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