Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Jayne Mooney

Committee Members

Valerie West

David Green

Samuel G. Freedman

Aharon Barak

Subject Categories

American Politics | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Criminal Law | Criminology | Law and Race | Law and Society | Politics and Social Change | Sociology of Culture


Hate crime, Civil rights, Identity, Agency, Slavery, Late modernity


The term "hate crime" is new to legislative and public discourse, as well as legal and social science scholarship. A decade after the concept of a "hate crime" was introduced in Congress, the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), to punish criminal actors who target victims because of their characteristics (race, color ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender, gender identity, or disability). Using relevant archival sources, this project uses genealogical qualitative methods to examine the interplay of cultural elements manifested in this provocative term, which reflect dominance and subjugation among social groups (In- and Out-Groups) going back to the earliest settlements on American soil—and long before the term "hate crime" had emerged. The lens through which this historical progression is interpreted emphasizes "hate crime" as a signifier—a conceptual red flag—that alerts us to the way that seemingly disparate themes in American cultural development have coalesced in new conceptualizations of Others, Self, and the social process of Othering. The historical, cultural, and legislative antecedents that preceded the HCPA suggest a modern crisis in the way that certain cultural touchstones related to "identity" are conceptualized, experienced, and deployed. This project seeks to illuminate subtle changes in the meanings attributed to relevant historical events and certain social dynamics to explain their contemporary ramifications for individuals and society, using the concept of "hate crime" as an organizing principle. Broadly speaking, the project asks: What does the emergence of the concept of "hate crimes" tell us about larger cultural trends, and what does it suggest about future trends? The question to be answered is how the concept of "hate crime" emerged over time in order to explain the cultural significance of why it emerged at all. The main theses of this dissertation is that a hypermodern understanding of "agency" is necessary to reconcile the "inversions" of meaning in cultural knowledges, without which the concept of "hate crime" would not have emerged. Thus, this dissertation concludes that the concept of "hate crime" tracks with the changes in conceptualizations of "identity" over time. A close examination and analysis of the term reveal an archaeology of social constructions, false logic, flawed (but commercially convenient) assumptions, and compromises on humanity that go to the very core of the American identity.