We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

Illicit economies : customary illegality, moral economies and circulation.

Gregson, N. and Crang, M. (2017) 'Illicit economies : customary illegality, moral economies and circulation.', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers., 42 (2). pp. 206-219.


This paper is concerned with how to think the illicit and illegal as part of economies. Economic geography has only recently begun to address this challenge but in limited ways. The paper shows the difficulties with those approaches, chief among which is a reassertion of the legal/illegal binary of products and actors that is contested by the more open term illicit economies. We draw on work in cultural economy to move economic geography beyond this impasse by seeing economy as practice. The paper develops a conceptual account of illicit economies connecting moral economy and the opacities produced by logistically complex global trade to highlight the importance of customary illegality in doing business. Customary illegality is the tolerance or practice of illicit activities by largely legal economic actors rather than just a focus on illegal goods or criminal actors. Illicitness is thus shown to be neither a property of goods nor of particular economic actors, but rather a transient quality often linked to circulation. The argument is illustrated empirically through three examples drawn from the food sector. The conclusion makes suggestions for future research that are empirical, methodological and conceptual.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is the accepted version of the following article: Gregson, N. and Crang, M. (2017), Illicit economies: customary illegality, moral economies and circulation. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 42(20: 206-219, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:28 September 2016
Date deposited:05 October 2016
Date of first online publication:28 November 2016
Date first made open access:28 November 2018

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar