Jake Shields

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Committee Member

Peter Wood

Committee Member

Kristina Ajrouch

Committee Member

Brian Sellers


This literature review examines self-defense as a general concept and in the context of specific legal doctrines. It looks at general issues of self-defense, such as philosophical principles, morality, and social norms; general guidelines of proportionality and force; and how non-lethal technology does not change these principles and guidelines. From there, the paper exams three major legal doctrines—Duty to Retreat, Castle Doctrine, and Stand Your Ground— and discusses their definitions, histories, legal significance, applied usages and specific study results, and the arguments and controversies surrounding them. The paper then analyzes the concept of self-defense through the theoretical perspective of Donald Black and concludes with a summation of what these laws have meant for the United States.