International conference at Osgoode builds on work done on Criminalization Project

An international conference that explores the topic of domestic and international criminalization will run for three days at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Taking place April 1 to 3, “The “The Legitimate Ambit of Domestic and International Criminalization” is a conference co-sponsored by Nathanson Centre and Robina Institute

poster criminalizationThe aim of this conference is to continue to build on the work done in the context of the Criminalization Project to advance understanding of these issues and other related ones.

From 2008 to 2012, a number of leading criminal law theorists (Duff, Farmer, Marshall, Renzo, and Tadros) engaged in an ambitious project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom. The task they set for themselves was to try and answer the questions of what should be criminalized, according to what goals and principles, what forms this criminalization should take, and how it should be applied. The group organized a series of meetings and workshops on different aspects of this inquiry, involving a large number of criminal law scholars from across the globe. The project led to a number of notable publications, including four edited volumes: The Boundaries of Criminal Law (OUP 2010), The Structures of Criminal Law (OUP 2011), The Constitution of Criminal Law (OUP 2013), and Criminalization: The Political Morality of the Criminal Law (OUP 2014).

The introduction to the last volume sets out key areas of research that the conveners of the project felt they were unable to tackle satisfactorily, given the inherent complexity of the issues at stake and the time-bounded character of their work.

The most salient ones are:

  • Processes of criminalization – who apart from legislatures has/should have the power/authority to determine what is substantively criminalized? What about prosecutors and police? How different is the process at the international level?
  • The need to ground a normative account of criminalization – whether it focuses on substantive or procedural conditions for legitimate criminalization – in a political theory (which is clearly connected to (1)), and to understand criminal law as part of the political structure of the state. Connected to this is the question whether similar or different theories should be applied at the domestic and international levels.
  • The attractions/drawbacks of looking for a grand unitary theory of criminalization based on some single principle or value (harm; Rechtsgut; dignity; sovereignty; civil order, etc.).
  • The relationship/division of labor between criminal law and other modes of regulation/other ways of responding to wrongs – including e.g. administrative regulatory regimes, tort law, restorative justice processes, etc.

The conference brings together a group of dynamic and original early and mid-career criminal law theorists, many of whom did not have a chance to participate in the Criminalization Project. It is the hope that their fresh perspectives will allow us to make further progress in unraveling the complexity of the issues outlined, and contribute to unveiling new vistas and questions from which to better understand the legitimate ambit of criminalization, domestically and/or internationally.

The conference takes place in Room 1014, Ignat Kaneff Building. For more, email