Prison Odinism and Hate Crimes: Using Religion to Do Gender

Randy Blazak, Portland State University

This research addresses a phenomenon that has significant implications for the spread of hate crimes, domestic terrorism, racial divisiveness and the destabiliation of prison populations. This research explores the appeal of the religion of Odinism (a modified Norse paganism) among white supremacists in male correctional facilities and how the religion is used as a justification for violence. The theoretical model is based on criminologist James W. Messerschmidt's feminist theory of male crime as a way of "doing gender". In the emasculating world of the prison, male inmates develop strategies to reclaim their masculinity. As some black inmates have done with Islam, Odinism allows white inmates to utilize freedom of religion statutes to reject "feminine" and institutionally approved Christianity for a more oppositional faith. The heroic nature of Odinism allows inmates to celebrate masculine values while achieving the autonomy of religious privileges. Research on racism in prison is limited and prison Odinism is not only a significant phenomenon within correctional institutions, but has an impact on criminality in the general populations.

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Updated 05/20/2006