This course introduces students to the discipline of criminology. While criminology is a multi-disciplinary field, incorporating a range of disciplines from sociology to biology, psychology, politics, social work, health and law – our main emphasis in this course will largely be sociological.
A sociological approach to crime adopts the view that we must question our common sense understanding about crime and its control and look at the complexities of crime at many levels. At one level, there is the immediate behaviour, and we may ask “why does s/he do it?” Or we might ask, why do certain groups of people do it? This might point to various social forces that shape individuals’ and groups’ behaviour. Yet we can, at another level, ask why do we as a society define this behaviour as a “problem” for which we have decided, as a collective, to deem it a legal “problem” (i.e., a crime). Do we construct law based on “nature?” Or based on our moral values? But whose moral values are reflected in the law?
Does the legal definition – crime – necessarily mean that the behaviour is “really” beyond the boundaries of normalcy? That is, why are some behaviors considered “normal” at one time and place but defined as a “crime” in another? The consumption of opium was legal in Hong Kong and around the world at one point in time but later became a crime. What does this tell us about society and its values, politics and economy? Crime, then, must be understood, in its historical, cultural, and social contexts.
The first section of the course introduces students to ways of thinking about crime and control (the criminological imagination, what statistics and other forms of data do and don’t tell us, how the media use these data, and their impact on the public’s understanding about crime and criminals. The second section of the course is devoted to looking at types of crime in relation to some key criminological concepts. Criminology looks not only at the act (the crime), and the actor (the criminal), it also looks at the reaction, the social sanction of crime. We will conclude the course with a discussion of social justice and punishment in the local and global contexts.
Course learning outcomes
- Illustrate knowledge of how to think sociologically about the problem of crime and its control.
- Relate theories and concepts to daily experience.
- Apply knowledge to analysis of current events locally, regionally, and internationally.
- Produce original assessments of topics/issues in criminology.
- Develop presentation and collaboration skills through group-based work.
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Journal articles and book chapters are assigned for each week. Refer to the course syllabus for details.
Course co-ordinator and teachers
Karen A Joe LaidlerProfessor/Deputy HeadResearch interests: Race and crime, Gender, Gangs and delinquency, Drugs
In this course, there were many guest speakers from different backgrounds such as NGOs, social workers and even criminologists from other countries. The course is not only about criminology theories, but allows us to understand how these theories can be applied to practice, which provides many important insights.
– Tina Lau, 4th year Sociology Major undergraduate student