HIST2224 American Outlaws: Crime and Punishment in the United States

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the History; Criminology major sequences
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 2 elective
At the turn of the 21st century, the United States, esteemed as the “land of the free,” developed one of the most extensive prison systems in the history of the world. This unit draws on the tools of historical analysis, bolstered by criminological and sociological theories, to unpack this profound contradiction. Based on the dictum *nullem crimen sine lege* (there is no crime without law), it introduces students to key events in US history and key concepts in the historical sociology of crime, deviance, and rebellion, via foundational categories of identity and difference: race, class, gender, dis/ability, sexuality, citizenship, Indigeneity, and alienage. Drawing on topics ranging from witchcraft trials to indefinite detention in the War on Terror, from fugitive slaves to unfree Indigenous labor in Spanish missions, from lynch mobs to the death penalty, from police militarization to prisoners' rights movements, and from border policing to mass immigrant deportation, students will assess the ways in which notions of crime and deviance have evolved in historical contexts to produce a massive American carceral state, and the social movements that have emerged to challenge it.
Students are able to (1) assess the basic historiographical issues characteristic of US History through the lens of crime and punishment; (2) evaluate the historiographical problems posed by interrogating the histories and theories of crime and punishment in the United States; (3) demonstrate a detailed understanding of the US histories of punishment; (4) locate appropriate sources for research essays; and (5) present arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay; (2) peer-reviewed annotated bibliography; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Ethan Blue
Unit rules
Completion of 12 points
Contact hours
lecture/workshop: up to 3 hours per week for 12 weeks.
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.