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The Hate Crime Canon and Beyond: A Critical Assessment


Although it remains an empirical question whether the U.S. is experiencing greater levels of hate-motivated-conduct than in the past, it is beyond dispute that the concept of ‘hate crime’ has been institutionalized in social, political, and legal discourse in the U.S. From the introduction and politicization of the term hate crime in the late 1970s to the continued enforcement of hate crime law at the beginning of the twenty-first century, social movements have constructed the problem of bias-motivated violence in particular ways, while politicians at both the federal and state level have made legislation that defines the parameters of hate crime. Accordingly, this article identifies and examines the parameters of a hate crime canon in the U.S., which can first and foremost be described as a body of law that 1) provides anew state policy action, by either creating anew criminal category, altering an existing law, or enhancing penalties for select extant crimes when they are committed for bias reasons; 2) contains an intent standard, which refers to the subjective intention of the perpetrator rather than relying solely on the basis of objective behavior; and 3) specifies a list of protected social statuses, such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, disabilities, etc. Arguing that these features constitute the core parameters of the hate crime canon and attendant discourse in the U.S., this article offers a critical assessment of the emergence, institutionalization, and arguable consequences of ‘hate crime’ as a recently developed social fact - in the Durkheimian sense of the word - that is consequential for the politics of victimization in the modern era and the social control of violence against minorities more particularly.

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Jenness, V. The Hate Crime Canon and Beyond: A Critical Assessment. Law and Critique 12, 279–308 (2001).

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  • hate crime
  • history
  • politics
  • social movements
  • USA
  • victimisation
  • violence