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Dr Lynne Copson

Profile summary

Professional biography

I joined The Open University in April 2016 as Lecturer in Criminology and was made Senior Lecturer in 2021.  l am the current module presentation chair of the Level 3 undegraduate module DD311 Crime, harm and the state, having also chaired the production of this module.  I have previously been invovled in the production of the Level 2 undegraduate module DD212 Understanding Criminology and the postgradaute module DD804 Crime and Global Justice.  Since August 2021 I have been the Postgraduate Convenor for Social Policy and Criminology at The Open University.

Prior to my appointment at The Open University, I worked at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh from August 2011, first as Teaching Fellow in Criminology, and then as Early Career Development Fellow. In 2015, I was awarded the Edinburgh University Student's Association Award for Best Feedback. I also served as co-director of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Law and Society from July 2014 until my departure in April 2016.  In addition, I have previously taught on undergraduate courses in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol and in the Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, University of the West of England.



I completed both a PhD in Sociology (2011), and an MSc in Social Science Research Methods (Sociology) (2006) at the University of Bristol, funded as part of an ESRC 1+3 competition award. In addition, I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (2015) from the University of Edinburgh; an MSc in Social and Cultural Theory (2005) from the University of Bristol; and a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Philosophy (2004), also from the University of Bristol.


Professional Affiliations

European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control

Fellow of the HIgher Education Academy

Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC)

Research interests

My principal research interests lie in theories of crime, harm and justice; the relationship between conventional and critical criminology and the emerging perspective of zemiology (or a ‘social harm approach’); and utopianism. My current research focuses on unearthing the concepts of harm and justice underpinning the conventional criminal justice system in contrast to those implicit within critical criminological and zemiological theories, particularly in terms of their respective policy implications for realising justice and ‘the good society’. I am also interested in the concept of 'public criminology' or 'public sociology' and the sociology of contemporary knowledge production. 

PhD Supervision

I currently supervise a number of PhD students, working across various areas of research.  I particularly welcome applications from prospective PhD candidates interested in zemiology or the study of social harm; utopianism; public criminology/social research; and any area of criminological theory.

Teaching interests

I have previously taught across a wide-range of subject areas and disciplines, including political theory; social theory; sociology; criminological theory; criminal justice; and gender and crime. At the University of Edinburgh, I was course organiser for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses exploring gender, crime and criminal justice.

In addition to this, I am interested in developing transferable skills and research skills through teaching. During my appointment at the University of Edinburgh, I was an associate of the Institute for Academic Develpment, University of Edinburgh, having undertaken a short-term secondment therein 2012 to investigate the possibilities of developing credit-bearing pro bono work within the undergraduate degree programme in Law. I was also invovled in the development of a multidisciplinary undergraduate course.


Course Development and Teaching

I am currently the Module Chair for the following module in presentation:

DD311 Crime, harm and the state

I was previously involved in the production of:

DD311 Crime, harm and the state

DD212 Understanding criminology

DD804 Crime and global justice

Impact and engagement

Reflecting my interest in public sociology and the contemporary climate of knowledge production and consumption, I am interested in breaking down the barriers between 'academic knowledge' and 'the public', as reflected in some of my recent public engagement activity.

I have 'performed' my research on a number of occasions as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's 'Caberet of Dangerous Ideas', organised in conjunction with The Beltane Public Engagement Network, and was an invited panellist at ‘Mark Thomas: The Manifesto Roadtest’, Sunday Herald Verb Garden during the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I have also written about the experience of performing my research in The Beltane Public Engagement Network Magazine (The Beltane Networker).

In February 2016, I was also invited to deliver a TED talk as part of the TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh annual conference.

I have presented papers at a number of conferences internationally, and during my doctoral studies, held an ESRC-funded Visiting Research Fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


Queer utopias and queer criminology (2020-11-01)
Copson, Lynne and Boukli, Avi
Criminology & Criminal Justice, 20(5) (pp. 510-522)

Cultural Harm: ‘trans fraud’, ‘gender deception’ and zero-sum games (2019-12)
Boukli, Avi and Copson, Lynne
Justice, Power and Resistance, 3(2) (pp. 26-48)

[Book Review] Law and the Utopian Imagination (edited by Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas & Martha Merrill Umphrey), from The Amherst Series in Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought (2017)
Copson, Lynne
Social and Legal Studies, 26(5) (pp. 649-652)

Realistic Utopianism and Alternatives to Imprisonment:The ideology of crime and the utopia of harm (2016-09)
Copson, Lynne
Justice, Power and Resistance, 1, Article 5 (pp. 73-96)

[Book Review] Ian Loader and Richard Sparks, "Public Criminology?" London: Routledge, 2010. (2015-03)
Copson, Lynne
Social & Legal Studies, 24(1) (pp. 147-151)

Penal Populism and the Problem of Mass Incarceration: The Promise of Utopian Thinking (2014-04)
Copson, Lynne
The Good Society, 23, Article 6(1) (pp. 55-72)

Poor policy made durable: when digital transformation meets social harm (2023)
Perriam, Jessamy and Copson, Lynne
In: Perriam, Jessamy and Meldgaard Kjær, Katrine eds. Digitalization in Practice
Publisher : De Guyter (In Press)

Finding hope in hopeless times (2022-09-15)
Copson, Lynne
In: van Klink, Bart; Soniewicka, Marta and van den Broeke, Leon eds. Utopian Thinking in Law, Politics, Architecture and Technology: Hope in a Hopeless World (pp. 19-37)
ISBN : 978 1 80392 139 6 | Publisher : Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd | Published : Cheltenham, UK

Beyond Criminology: Taking Harm Seriously (2021)
Copson, Lynne
In: Gordon, Faith and Newman, Daniel eds. Leading Works in Law and Social Justice (pp. 169-190)
ISBN : 9780429287572 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Crime, Harm and Justice: The Utopia of Harm and Realising Justice in a ‘Good Society’ (2021)
Copson, Lynne
In: Leighton, Paul; Davies, Pamela and Wyatt, Tanya eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Social Harm (pp. 313-347)
Publisher : Palgrave

Beyond 'Criminology vs. Zemiology': Reconciling crime with social harm (2018-05-09)
Copson, Lynne
In: Boukli, Avi (Paraskevi) and Kotze, Justin eds. Zemiology: reconnecting crime and social harm (pp. 33-56)
ISBN : 978-3-319-76311-8 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

After Penal Populism: Punishment, Democracy and Utopian Method (2016-11-24)
Copson, Lynne
In: Dzur, Albert W.; Loader, Ian and Sparks, Richard eds. Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration (pp. 162-186)
ISBN : 9780190243098 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford; New York

Towards a Utopian Criminology (2013-05-30)
Copson, Lynne
In: Malloch, Margaret and Munro, Bill eds. Crime, Critique and Utopia (pp. 114-135)
ISBN : 978-1-137-00979-1 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke