Why ‘Activist Criminology’, Why Now?

Canning, Victoria; Martin, Greg and Tombs, Steve (2023). Why ‘Activist Criminology’, Why Now? In: Canning, Victoria; Martin, Greg and Tombs, Steve eds. The Emerald International Handbook of Activist Criminology. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 3–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80262-199-020231001


This chapter provides a context for The Emerald International Handbook of Activist Criminology. It offers an overview of the small, yet burgeoning literature dedicated to ‘criminology activism’, which includes engagement with public criminology and various brands of critical criminology, as well as zemiology or the study of social harm beyond narrow state-centric definitions of crime. Among other things, the chapter considers the role academics might play in addressing social and criminal injustice, and the new opportunities afforded to both academics and activists – including citizen journalists and media professionals – by digital technologies and social media when intervening in campaigns for justice and formal criminal legal processes. To answer the question, why now, the chapter argues we are currently in the midst of an unprecedented period of upheaval requiring action from activists and academics alike, including criminologists engaged in social scientific research operating beyond the delusions of objectivity and value-neutrality, that is, politically engaged research aiming to remedy not only the absence of meaningful state intervention in crime and harm but also expose the role of corporations and the state itself in prosecuting and perpetuating crime and harm.

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