James Alan Buccellato, PhD

James Alan Buccellato Lecturer
Northern Arizona University
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Blg 65 Rm #359
Phone: 928-523-6789


  • Transnational organized crime
  • Street gangs
  • American outlaws


BA Political Science, Oakland University (1998)
MA, Political Theory, Wayne State University (2004)
PhD, Political Science, Wayne State University (2009)

Scholarly Interests:

As a political theorist, I am interested in studying the politics of criminality.  I use three criminal group typologies (American outlaws, street gangs, and the Sicilian Mafia) for my case studies. In terms of the American outlaw, I am theorizing the ways criminal acts represent unconventional forms of political agency. My current research positions the American outlaw as an example of such a nontraditional political actor.  Working with Slavoj Žižek’s notion of the Act, I search for political actions that not only transgress symbolic norms, but reconfigure our understandings of legitimate political behavior.  By linking acts of social criminality to Žižek’s concept, my work illustrates how the outlaw represents a sign of political resistance. Meanwhile, social scientists increasingly recognize the importance of non-state actors, yet few political theorists have examined American street gangs. My research addresses this deficit by describing gangs as the obscene remainders of the neoliberal bargain. To begin, I examine how neoliberal discourse registers the street gang as an imaginary signifier. By situating the gang outside the promise of market prosperity, the gang crisis narrative detaches the proliferation of gangs from the cultural, economic, and spatial conditions of global capitalism. I argue this is misguided considering increases in street gangs correlate to the specific contours of neoliberalism. Lastly, my book, Early Organized Crime in Detroit: Vice, Corruption and the Rise of the Mafia, explores Detroit’s struggle with gang violence, public corruption and the politics of vice during the tumultuous first half of the 20th century and includes rarely published images from the era. 

Recent Publications

  • (2015) Early Organized Crime in Detroit: Vice, Corruption and the Rise of the  Mafia. Charleston: The History Press 
  • (July, 2014) “Obscene Remainders: Neoliberalism and the Gang Crisis Narrative,” The Journal of Philosophical and Theoretical Criminology 6(2): 129-144
  • (2015) “Detroit is Experiencing an Epidemic of Gang Violence,” in Current Controversies: Gangs. Detroit: Greenhaven Press