BRIT. J. CRIMINOL. (2013) 53, 568–587
Advance Access publication 11 April 2013
Academic Criminology and Human Rights
Thérèse Murphy and Noel Whitty*
Keywords: criminology, history, human rights, law
Contemporary Anglo-American academic criminology seems increasingly aware of, and interested in, human rights.1 Dotted through recent high-profile scholarship, human rights are being linked to different forms of criminological method and expertise, to stances on the scholarly/activist divide, and to strongly defined positions on legalism—and all these various elements slot into wider arguments about criminology’s core identity, its position in the academic field and its policy roles (e.g. Hagan and Rymond-Richmond 2009b; Loader and Sparks 2010; Savelsberg 2010). The growth elsewhere in the social sciences and humanities of new approaches to studying rights discourses, institutions and practices (e.g. Golder 2011; Hoffmann 2011; Hynes et al.
2012; Jefferson and Jensen 2009; Kelly 2012; Simmons 2009) also provides opportunities for evaluating criminological positions on human rights—as well as offering a range of resources for appropriation.
In this article, we reflect on these trends. We argue that, if academic criminology’s engagement with the field of human rights is now building in significant ways, reflection on the history of that relationship is needed. By uncovering the range of associations with, and repudiations of, rights discourse in the past (in both legal and non-legal forms), detail and space can be created for a better understanding of current and future criminological agendas concerning human rights. Our argument develops as follows.
* School of Law, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK; firstname.lastname@example.org; noel.whitty@ nottingham.ac.uk. 1
The article draws primarily on trends in UK academic criminology, but there is also reference to pertinent
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