Identity Deception: A Critical History

Project Details


This research project asks when, if ever, it is appropriate to punish a person who engages in identity deception (pretending to be someone they are not). Focussing on two areas of identity deception in particular - identity 'theft' and intimate deceptions the project examines how the criminal law is increasingly being used, and is increasingly being expected to be used, to penalise this kind of conduct.

Although distinct in many ways, these two developments represent an expansion of the criminal law's scope and a redrawing of the lines between law and morality, and between deceptions that will be tolerated and those that will not. They also suggest a growing concern with protecting 'identity' via the criminal law and an elision of legal categories.

By tracing how law has responded to identity deception across the modern period (i.e. the 18th century to the present), and identifying the factors that have shaped these responses, the project aims to understand how and why these changes have occurred and to identify what is at stake in the transformation. By asking questions about how we have got to where we are, and what alternative normative resources and ethical frameworks we might have abandoned (or failed to explore) along the way, the project aims to transform and enrichen debates about how to conceptualise identity deception and how and when law ought to sanction this kind of conduct. These deliberations have important practical consequences for how law pursues justice, so the project will also aim to help shape how, and against whom, the law is applied in practice.
Effective start/end date1/01/2031/12/21


  • AHRC: £242,951.00


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