No, I didn’t know either. At least I knew nothing of it until I looked it up.
Zemiology is the study of social harms, from the Greek zemia, or harm. It’s a relatively new academic discipline, which grew out of critical criminology and it seeks to generate real world action in pursuit of justice.
That’s where I come in, as justice is the theme of Oracle. I found out more when I had a chat with Sharon Hartles, of the Open University’s Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC). She is also a member of the British Society of Criminology (BSC) and a researcher and postgraduate with the University of Strathclyde. A published critical criminologist, Sharon is currently conducting research on Primodos.
As I understand it, too often the crimes of the powerful are difficult to address under our current law and legal system, referred to as ‘black letter law’. Actions which have a harmful impact on others in society, like ignoring safety regulations ( or watering them down ) in pursuit of profit, or despoiling the planet, are not ‘crimes’ in law ( though they may breach certain regulations ). As an example, even after the appalling events at Grenfell Tower there are still no prosecutions and, indeed, it is becoming difficult to find a ‘crime’ with which to prosecute anyone, individually or as representing an institution or corporation. Yet facts were known, the wishes of the residents were ignored and the likelihood of fire foreseen.
Thus, events like Grenfell become referred to as a ‘tragedy’ or a ‘tragic accident’, yet they were foreseeable and avoidable and these events and others like them will continue to occur until the law adapts to make punishment of those who enable such events both possible and direct. Zemiology presupposes that isn’t likely to happen, as the powerful have co-opted the law and the legal system to protect their power and interests. An idea not unfamiliar to readers of Plague.
Sharon was a mine of information about this new discipline. I think it’s going to have to feature somewhere in Oracle, probably among the young idealists protesting against environmental damage who Cassie encounters at Delphi. Perhaps the charismatic protest leader is a zemiologist? We shall see.
I await the return of the final edit of Oracle, which has to be fully revised and returned to Claret Press by 31st January, complete with drawn image. I sketched the Palace of Westminster for the pages showing the start of each ‘daily’ section in Plague and I have undertaken to do something similar for Oracle, as that too is organised over a small number of days. Something I’ll be thinking about over the Christmas period.
Good news from elsewhere, however, as I learn that the recording of the audiobook of Plague has begun. I will write separately about this as it nears completion, suffice to say for now that Essential Audiobooks of New York are producing the audio book which is being read by actress, voice coach and associate of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Alison Bomber. Alison has just moved to the Czech Republic, but is already working on the recording. More on this later.
For now, may I wish everyone reading this a happy and peaceful Christmastide, where ever and with whomever, you are managing to keep it. Here’s hoping for a much better 2021.