1st Edition

Forensic Science
A sociological introduction

ISBN 9781138794115
Published February 17, 2016 by Routledge
210 Pages

USD $69.95

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Book Description

This book addresses a significant gap in the literature and provides a comprehensive overview of the sociology of forensic science. Drawing on a wealth of international research and case studies, this book explores the intersection of science, technology, law and society and examines the production of forensic knowledge.

This book explores a range of key topics such as:

  • The integration of science into police work and criminal investigation,
  • The relationship between law and science,
  • Ethical and social issues raised by new forensic technology including DNA analysis,
  • Media portrayals of forensic science,
  • Forensic policy and the international agenda for forensic science.

This book is important and compelling reading for students taking a range of courses, including criminal investigation, policing, forensic science, and the sociology of science and technology.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Understanding forensic science through social research  2. Forensics in the Media: Representations and ‘realities’  3. Shaping Forensic Science as Discipline and Profession  4. Evaluating and Organizing Forensic Science and Practice  5. Reconstructing a Reconstructive Science: Probability and Performativity in Forensic Investigation  6. Law- Science interactions and new technology  7. Forensic Technology, Ethics and Society  8. Pathways of Forensic Innovation  9. The Possible Future Relations between Forensic Science and Social Research

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Christopher Lawless is a Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University.


"For forensic researchers and practitioners this book offers productive insights into how science and practice in their field relates to broader academic and societal debates. These include media representations and public understandings of forensic science, different notions of "truth" and "evidence", and implications of forensic science for social justice. Social scientists will obtain a fascinating and accessible insight into the rationales, technologies, and infrastructure underpinning a field that affects the lives of many people, although it is not normally in the limelight of social studies."

Professor Barbara Prainsack, Kings College London, UK

"Forensic Science: A Sociological Introduction is an impressive feat of scholarship. It is the first book of its kind to introduce to readers a growing field of inquiry in which the complex relationship between science, forensic technology and criminal justice is critically examined using theoretical and empirical work in sociology and in science and technology studies. Chris Lawless has provided a systematic and subtle account of the nature and significance of forensic science in contemporary society, an account which will quickly become required reading in advanced undergraduate and postgraduate courses in criminology, sociology, science studies and forensic science."

Professor Robin Williams, Northumbria University, UK

"This is the first textbook that adopts a sophisticated sociological approach to forensic science. It will be invaluable for those who want to understand forensic science as a social enterprise."

Professor Simon A. Cole, University of California, Irvine, USA, author of Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification.

"This book provides a comprehensive discussion of social, ethical, and legal aspects of forensic science. Drawing upon a decade of his own research on the uses of DNA profiling and other forms of forensic science in England and Wales, Christopher Lawless delves into problems and uncertainties that are often overlooked in media portrayals of high-tech methods of crime scene investigation. His discussion is well informed by a broad range of research on law and criminal justice, and the history and sociology of science."

Professor Michael E. Lynch, Cornell University, USA

"The author is evidently well informed and has employed a range of qualitative and quantitative methods in his extensive research. The results of insightful focus groups and interviews with key individuals are presented throughout. The sociological viewpoint is nicely balanced by the author’s background in science. In concluding, the author presents compelling directions for the future of forensic science in terms of globalisation, innovation and the relationship with social research. Overall I found the book a very engaging read, offering a topical new perspective on forensic science."

Emma Johnston MCSFS, The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, Interfaces Magazine

"Lawless provides a provocative, thought-provoking book that explores the intersection of science, technology, law, and society, and examines the production of forensic knowledge. The author ponders numerous questions in this volume, including how different factions of forensic science interact, talk, and make decisions with each other when they often speak different languages about the same topic and are looking for different outcomes. Recommended."

K. Evans, Indiana State University, Choice Magazine