‘Such is life’ is widely believed to be the final words uttered by the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly as he was led to the gallows in 1880.
An Irish born immigrant, Kelly and his associates committed at least two armed bank robberies in Victoria, Australia. Despite his crimes, Kelly has become fervently eulogised in national mythscapes, virtually deified as a symbol of a uniquely Australian anti-authoritarian spirit. Almost 150 years later, driving down the dusty highways that criss-cross the Lucky Country, the utes and trucks roll past with the redolent ‘such is life’ avowal emblazoned on stylised stickers above the dashboard.
It is a curious statement, capturing a folkloric Australian identity characterized by courageous, independent, noble, but potentially reckless behaviour, and a degree of resignation and fatalism - the criminal expression of which is the concern of this paper.
Drawing together interviews with 42 convicted armed robbers, ethnographic prison data, and national mythscapes, insight into the sociocultural dynamics, performativity, and affect of contemporary armed robbery in Australia is provided.
Arguing that much criminological theory has deracinated subjects from the specific environments within which they think, move and act, a case for acknowledging the importance of social structure, cultural specificities, and their interplay with the visceral and emotional aspects of criminal behaviour, is made.