BASS Politics and Criminology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Criminology and Mass Violence

Course unit fact file
Unit code CRIM31051
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Criminology – the study of crime – has existed as a nameable discipline for around 150 years during which time humanity has witnessed innumerable instances of what we would now call ‘atrocity crime’: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Often occurring under the cover of conflict, these organised mass crimes indelibly mark individuals, whole societies and humanity’s collective consciousness. They have occurred on all continents, in all decades, to people of very diverse backgrounds; they are happening now as you read this sentence. Why is it then that virtually no criminological scholarship in this general area existed until the dawn of the twenty-first century? Why has most criminology focused on the street-based crimes of the powerless, and not the state-led crimes of the powerful? What, if anything, can criminology offer the study of mass violence? What can it learn? Drawing on ideas from across the social and psychological sciences and from original fieldwork, this unit aims to establish the potential for a reflexive, interdisciplinary and ethically responsible criminology of mass violence.


The unit aims to establish the potential for a reflexive, interdisciplinary and ethically responsible criminology of mass violence.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course, the engaged student will be able to -

  • Understand criminology's historic complicity & silence in genocide studies
  • Apply criminological theory to instances of mass violence
  • Draw on complementary ideas from psychology, sociology and penology
  • Critically assess the nature & worth of the criminological gaze.

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning across course units consists of: (1) preparatory work to be completed prior to teaching sessions, including readings, pre-recorded subject material and online activities; (2) a weekly whole-class lecture or workshop; (3) a tutorial; and (4) one-to-one support via subject specific office hours.

Assessment methods

100% coursework/portfolio (3500 words)

Recommended reading

  • Rafter, N. (2016) The Crime of All Crimes: Towards a Criminology of Genocide. New York: NYU Press.
  • Alvarez A (2010) Genocidal Crimes. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Jones A (2010) Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jon Shute Unit coordinator

Additional notes

This course is restricted to final year students only.

Available to students on BA Criminology, BASS and other programmes across the School of Social Science; others at the discretion of the Course Unit Director and subject to overall capacity.

Pre-requisites: no, though knowledge of theories of crime and deviance an advantage (knowledge is assumed).

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