Victimology in South Africa

Type Book
Title Victimology in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Publisher Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria)
The book 'Victimology in South Africa' by Robert Peacock (ed) is a revised and updated version of the text by the same name, first published in 2005. The book provides a useful overview of important and relevant topics in the fast developing field of victimology and victim assistance. It is clear that, where necessary, much effort has gone into rewriting content to keep the material relevant. In addition, all the chapters have been updated in line with a significant global and national focus on protecting the rights of victims through the development of policy and legislation.

Prof Ferdinand Kirchhof,1 highly respected among world scholars and commentators on victimology and victims' issues, begins by explaining the relevance of the question, 'What is victimology?', even though a post-modern analysis might indicate that an 'all encompassing answer to this question is not possible' (page vii). He goes on to locate the historical development of victimology in the social sciences, and further emphasises the relevance and importance of historical insights, for instance in South Africa, where 'dark sides of the past' would refer to the history of colonisation and apartheid. He concludes by focusing on the need for 'a victimology that looks at local conditions and produces a victimology for the people - a 'victim's victimology'. While this sentiment is laudable, given the fact that a victim's socio-political and economic context is closely intertwined with the South African context, the text is silent in most parts about the preference for the term victim as opposed to survivor; and the reasons for this preference.

While in the past the subject of victimology and victims' issues appeared as an after-thought; often only appearing in a concluding chapter of a criminology text, in recent years an 'avalanche' of publications in this field has become evident.2 An astute reader will also notice that in this new and updated version, the word 'criminology' has been dropped from the list of key terms on the first page of chapter 1 - perhaps a sign that victimology has finally come of age and is no longer a step child of criminology.

The text is presented at several levels, with some chapters catering for undergraduate students and practitioners, and others requiring deeper critique and debate. The inclusion of authors' names on the contents page makes for easy reference. Each chapter highlights the core issues, key terms, definitions, and critical thinking questions in shaded text boxes, making it quite student and practitioner friendly. Furthermore, lecturers can utilise these case studies, questions, practical examples, reports and more to set assessment tasks and/or engage with students through tutorials, small group discussions and debates. As such the text is tailored to a teaching environment rather than intended for a specialist in the field of victimology.

The book is organised around four sections, an expansion on the previous version, which comprised three sections. Section 1: 'Victimology in Context' begins with the chapter Overview of concepts in victimology by Robert Peacock, which provides a comprehensive overview of victimology as a discipline. With the graphics of an African mask, poignantly depicting the shame that is associated with all forms of victimisation, on the cover, to the book's concluding paragraphs, the call for an African victimology is the golden thread that runs through the book.

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