Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

Committee Chair

Sara Toto

Second Committee Member

Bernadette Jungblut


One of the most important aspects of studying crime is identifying how and why certain crimes happen. There are several questions one should ask: Why did this event happen? What caused this to happen? How could it have been stopped? Criminologists use various theories to seek the answer to these questions regarding diverse types of crimes from petty crimes, such as stealing a pack of gum to major, violent crimes, such as cannibalism, the latter of which will be analyzed here. The goal is to prevent these crimes from happening in the future by identifying why they are happening now. In this paper, I hypothesize that the same theory, or theories, can explain the crimes of different cannibals. To test this, I use Jeffery Dahmer, Idi Amin, and Issei Sagawa, three men famous for their acts of cannibalism, as case studies. Various sources, from books to articles to movies, were analyzed to produce brief biographies of each man, discussing events from early childhood into adulthood that could have contributed to their crimes. Then, I use this biographical information and analyze it against three traditional theories: Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory (1969), Agnew’s General Strain Theory (1989), and Aker’s Social Learning Theory (1977). When looking at these three men, it becomes clear that though the number and demographic of their victims differ, the various theories explain all three men’s actions. Similar life events and personality traits contribute to an increased chance of criminogenic behavior, and their motives for murder and cannibalism prove to root in similar places.