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The Oxford Handbook of Criminology

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (7th edn)

Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna, and Lesley McAra
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date: 13 April 2024

p. 50123. Social harm and zemiologylocked

p. 50123. Social harm and zemiologylocked

  • Victoria Canning,
  • Paddy Hillyard
  •  and Steve Tombs


Over the past two decades, Zemiology—the study of social harm—has proliferated internationally. Many scholars and activists alike have come to recognize the limitations of state-centric definitions of crime and shed light instead on many forms of harm which often go unseen and undocumented, and yet can be more far reaching and devastating in impact. This chapter therefore introduces the foundations of the epistemological shift to social harm studies, and the development of Zemiology. It goes on to outline typologies and dimensions of harm and highlights the avoidable and preventable nature of many such harms. Finally, the chapter concludes by considering the centrality of action-oriented research and activism in addressing, mitigating and ultimately preventing the endemic nature of such harms going forward.

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