SOCI 4221: The Social Construction of Crime and Deviance

This course offers an advanced examination of the processes involved in the social construction of crime and deviance from the perspectives of critical theory, structural conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. It looks at the role of citizens, legislators, police, courts, welfare agencies, schools, and others in the creation of deviance and deviants. Delivered from an integrated theoretical point of view, the course is not concerned with the causes of crime or recommendations for reducing crime or deviance. It is grounded in sociological perspectives of crime, deviance, and the justice system and encourages students to apply the conceptual and theoretical materials to their own lives and work experiences.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Discuss the relationship between sociological theory, research, and the criminal justice system.
  • Discuss the contributions of sociological theories to our understanding of crime, deviance, and justice.
  • Distinguish between 'positivist' and 'critical' criminology.
  • Differentiate between administrative/correctional and academic criminology.
  • Describe the ways in which a sociological approach complements conventional criminological perspectives.
  • Discuss the ways in which media coverage contributes to the cultural construction of crime.
  • Identify factors that make the youth population more vulnerable to crime.
  • Explain the ways in which feminist sociology and criminology contribute to our understanding of crime and deviance.
  • Explain how the law has been viewed by feminists as an instrument of patriarchy.
  • Discuss how systems of control have changed over the past two centuries, with specific reference to modern penitentiary.
  • Discuss the consequences of incarceration for individual identity.
  • Explain how ideology is used to support state policies on criminal justice.
  • Identify key actors and sectors in which the 'pluralization' of the governance of crime has emerged.
  • Explain the difference between psychological and sociological approaches to understanding deviant behaviour.
  • Explain how crime and deviance can be seen as social constructions.

Course topics

The course is organized into four instructional units and contains twelve major topics. Each unit is based on corresponding chapters in two textbooks, Exploring Deviance in Canada: A Reader, by Ed Ksenych and Criminology: Critical Canadian Perspectives edited by Kirsten Kramar.

The units provide specific learning outcomes that guide your learning; notes that highlight, discuss, and illustrate important points in the textbook and the reader, as well as practice and review exercises. The outline is as follows:

Unit 1: Sociological Perspectives on Crime and Deviance

  • Topic 1: Reflecting on Sociological Perspectives
  • Topic 2: Constructing Deviance - Classical Sociological Approaches
  • Topic 3: Critical Approaches to Crime and Deviance

Unit II: Media and Crime; Youth and Justice

  • Topic 4: Media and the Social Construction of Crime
  • Topic 5: Culture, Deviance, and Youth
  • Topic 6: Crime and Youth: Towards Justice

Unit III: Feminist and Postcolonial Approaches to Crime and Deviance

  • Topic 7: Feminist Approaches to Deviance and Crime
  • Topic 8: Gender, Sex, Deviance, and Crime
  • Topic 9: Postcolonial Approaches and Race

Unit IV: The State and Social Control

  • Topic 10: Crime and Punishment
  • Topic 11: Emerging Arenas of Crime and Deviance
  • Topic 12: New Directions for the State and the Justice System

Required text and materials

Students will receive all course materials, including the textbook, in their course package.

  1. Ksenych, E. Exploring deviance in Canada: A Reader. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2011.
    Type: Textbook, ISBN: 978-0-19-543990-8
  1. Kramar, K. Criminology: Critical Canadian Perspectives. Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Canada, 2011.
    Type: Textbook, ISBN: 978-0-13-175529-1

Additional requirements



In order to successfully complete this course, you must obtain at least 50% on the final mandatory examination and 50% overall. It is strongly recommended that students complete all assignments in order to achieve the learning objectives of the course.

Your final grade for the course is determined on the following basis:

Assignment 1 15%
Assignment 2 15%
Assignment 3 15%
Assignment 4 15%
Exam 40%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of your course.

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