The Crime of All Crimes

Toward a Criminology of Genocide

320 pages

18 b/w halftones and 4 figures

March, 2016

ISBN: 9781479859481



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Nicole Rafter was Professor Emeritus of Criminology at Northeastern University. Her publications include The Crime of All Crimes: Toward a Criminology of Genocide, The Criminal Brain: Understanding Biological Theories of Crime, and, with Michelle Brown, Criminology Goes to the Movies. In 2009, Rafter was awarded the Sutherland Award by the American Society of Criminology for outstanding contributions to the discipline.

All books by Nicole Rafter

Cambodia. Rwanda. Armenia. Nazi Germany. History remembers these places as the sites of unspeakable crimes against humanity, and indisputably, of genocide. Yet, throughout the twentieth century, the world has seen many instances of violence committed by states against certain groups within their borders—from the colonial ethnic cleansing the Germans committed against the Herero tribe in Africa, to the Katyn Forest Massacre, in which the Soviets shot over 20,000 Poles, to anti-communist mass murders in 1960s Indonesia. Are mass crimes against humanity like these still genocide? And how can an understanding of crime and criminals shed new light on how genocide—the “crime of all crimes”—transpires?           
In The Crime of All Crimes, criminologist Nicole Rafter takes an innovative approach to the study of genocide by comparing eight diverse genocides--large-scale and small; well-known and obscure—through the lens of criminal behavior. Rafter explores different models of genocidal activity, reflecting on the popular use of the Holocaust as a model for genocide and ways in which other genocides conform to different patterns. For instance, Rafter questions the assumption that only ethnic groups are targeted for genocidal  “cleansing," and she also urges that actions such as genocidal rape be considered alongside traditional instances of genocidal violence. Further, by examining the causes of genocide on different levels, Rafter is able to construct profiles of typical victims and perpetrators and discuss means of preventing genocide, in addition to delving into the social psychology of genocidal behavior and the ways in which genocides are brought to an end.  A sweeping and innovative investigation into the most tragic of events in the modern world, The Crime of All Crimes will fundamentally change how we think about genocide in the present day.


  • "Provides a fundamental point of departure for an immensely consequential project for the field of criminology going forward in the twenty-first century – contributing to the understanding of genocide, and ideally to our collective ability to prevent the occurrence of this dreadful form of crime."

    Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Book Reviews

  • The Crime of All Crimes is arguably the most comprehensive criminological treatment of genocide to date.”

    Holocaust and Genocide Studies

  • "Nicole Rafter’s newest and sadly her last book is an important contribution to the literature. It is also an urgent call to criminologists to no longer avert their gaze from the crime of crimes."

    American Journal of Sociology

  • "In The Crime of all Crimes, Nicole Rafter brings a criminologist’s eye to bear on the topic of genocide. She seeks to unsettle old ways of thinking about genocide even as, through a comparison of eight cases, she offers a new framework for analysis, one that links to the issue of prevention. Her criminological insights are sure to be of interest to those working in the field of genocide studies."

    —Alex Laban Hinton, author of Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide

  • “In this thoughtful book, Nicole Rafter challenges existing claims about the nature of genocide, weaving together a complex new understanding of crime, war, and violence. A landmark reframing in the criminology of genocide.”

    —John Braithwaite, author of Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation

  • "This book sets the long overdue foundation for a criminology of genocide by masterfully peeling back the many layers of a century long unfolding of eight historic genocides. Nicole Rafter makes it impossible to ignore the importance of the topic of genocide to a field that has too long averted its gaze."

    —John Hagan, co-author of Darfur and the Crime of Genocide