Book Review: Reconceptualizing critical victimology: Interventions and possibilities

Date01 December 2017
Published date01 December 2017
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Spencer, D. C., & Walklate, S. (Eds.). (2016).
Reconceptualizing critical victimology: Interventions and possibilities. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 262 pp. $90.00,
ISBN 978-1-4985-1026-4 (hardcover).
Reviewed by: Jess Bonnan-White, Stockton University, Galloway, NJ, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016816684197
The critical approach to victimology invites professionals, scholars, and students to expand their
perspectives on criminal justice practice and theory. Selected universities and colleges have
acknowledged this as an emergent issue, writing victimology courses into criminal justice curricu-
lum and, in some instances, developing major and minor programs of study. Editors Dale C. Spencer
and Sandra Walklate include a variety of theoretical discussions and global case studies to illustrate
critical victimology’s value to the study and practice of criminal justice, corrections, victims’
services, international law, and a number of interrelated fields. Spencer is an assistant professor
of law and legal studies at Carl eton University (Ottawa, Ca nada) and Walklate is the Elea nor
Rathbone Chair of Sociology at the University Liverpool and a professor of criminology at Monash
University (Australia). Together, they gathered the work of 16 au thors to address key areas of
development and critique in the field of victimology from the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden,
Australia, and the United States.
Spencer and Walklate explain in their introduction, ‘‘criticalvictimologists utilize the concepts of
the ideal victim and intersectionality to challenge the tendency of victim blaming’’ (pp. xvii).
Borrowing from Star and Grisesemer’s (1989) concept of a ‘‘boundary object’’ (described in
Chapter 7), the field of victimology spans both communities of practice and communities of interest.
These intersecting and overlapping communities include the victims/survivors themselves as well as
law enforcement practitioners, social workers and psychologists providing support and advocacy,
scholars examining victims’ p erspectives, legal practitio ners (from lawyers to judges), a nd the
at-large community grappling with legacies of victimization at both individual and group levels.
The contributors to the volume examine a number of contexts in which individuals and societies
are victimized,including contexts of genderbias, discrimination, and hegemony(Chapters 2, 3, and 9);
volatile family relationships and networks of advocacy (Chapters 4 and 11); models of addressing
hate crimes (Chapter 5); and impact of prolonged violence, institutional violence, and genocide
(Chapters 8, 10, and 11). These chapters examine procedures of documenting, investigating, and
prosecuting crime writ large as well as the various forms of community feedback in the wake of
criminal justice procedures. Chapters focusing on crimes committed in the name of social, political,
or economic prejudice challenge prevailing notions of what institutions and victims require during
justice proceedings (Chapters 1, 5, and 8) and which voices are to be heard. In the case of genocide,
for example, the interests of victims often, as these authors note, stand in contrast to measures
international or domestic legal bodies dictate is necessary to restore human rights and trust to an
injured legal system. Along a similar vein, other authors emphasize pressures victims feel to adhere
to a dominant cultural standard of practice or attitude, often resulting in the stifling victims’
Criminal Justice Review
2017, Vol. 42(4) 411-423
ª2016 Georgia State University
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