George Pavlich

Canada Research Chair in Social Theory, Culture and Law

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
University of Alberta
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Using social theory, cultural analysis and archival research to understand concepts of crime and punishment that govern people.

Research relevance

This research will improve Canada’s criminal justice system by proposing inclusive ways to address many actions that are now defined and punished as criminal.

Beyond Crime and Punishment in Canada

After centuries in which criminal justice has directed punishment to individual criminals, is it possible to imagine a society that punishes fewer people but still responds appropriately to socially harmful acts?

That is the question Dr. George Pavlich, Canada Research Chair in Social Theory, Culture and Law, aims to answer. Since its inception, the Canadian justice system has promised to reduce criminal behaviour and rationalize punishment. Pavlich is seeking to reinvigorate these laudable but often unfulfilled promises by probing the theoretical foundations of crime and punishment approaches.

Pavlich is conducting social, cultural and political analyses of longstanding policies in Canada that identify, define, punish and rehabilitate criminals. He is focusing on the historical role that accusations have played in identifying criminals, while also describing how persons can be framed as criminals in law and become targets for punishment.

Pavlich is also reassessing Canada's enduring attachment to concepts of crime and punishment. While not denying the value of these concepts for some cases, Pavlich is examining the possibility that far fewer people need to be admitted to criminal justice institutions than is currently the case. He is also seeking socially inclusive ways to address collective harm without the use of crime and punishment systems.

Pavlich’s research could alter the terms of public debate, revise the focus of criminal justice, and nurture new forms of governance in Canadian society.