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In exposing the failure of their representation, neither crime nor punishment retains their intractability but rather new configurations and alternative forms of justice become possible.

Trauma Theory

As Mieke Bal writes , p. Carrabine provides us with a useful way in which to break down the expansive future of approaches in visual criminology. The task of discerning all manifestations of our visual environment and experience, as daunting as it may be, leaves open the analytical capacity to renew our understanding of foundational knowledges and epistemologies in criminology and the social sciences.

It allows us to open up, bring into discussion, and interrupt naturalized ways of knowing and seeing crime and punishment. Criminology broadly lacks the foundations for the successful pursuit of a truly visual criminology and must turn for resources to documentary photography, visual anthropology and sociology, and visual research methods adapted from cultural and media studies. Fieldwork and much of qualitative social science research often involve documentary photography, video diaries, and a wealth of footage from phone, video, and digital cameras.

Key to all aspects of photo-ethnography and social documentary is the situating of the visual in relation to field observations, life histories, lived experiences, and theoretical explanations that assist in exploring the tensions of social structure, power and spectacle, and ethical aspects of aestheticization. The rise of narrative and discourse analysis allows researchers to give attention to some aspects of this by focusing upon the manner in which power, identity, regimes of truth, institutions, and technologies are produced.

Following Foucault, researchers can then pursue questions about how various arrangements of representations produce different kinds of truth claims—whether those that make up a website, justice campaign, online platform, or prime time crime drama. But essential to visual criminology is that these singular sites not be situated in ahistorical frames without context. Now its production, circulation, and scale of distribution are politicized functions and its presence appears less as an image and more as the locus of a complex interface among networks, humans, technologies, and global flows.

This requires a thorough articulation of the relationship of the image to the work it does and the larger mediascape from which it derives. Certain methodologies will be more attuned to this depth of work than others. For instance, content analyses, media effects research, and narrow quantitative and qualitative methodologies as conventionally organized overlook major shifts in the study of processes of production, selection, and circulation of images of crime and control.

Such work usefully expands our area of focus and directs us toward large bodies of media and visual work that examine political violence, social inequality, and spectacles of suffering—terrain that criminology has largely overlooked until recently. From Auschwitz to the Sudan, Abu Ghraib to post-Katrina New Orleans, the Arab Spring to the Movement for Black Lives, questions continue to arise as to the depiction of the vulnerable, the criminal, the state, and the planet and the role of criminology in its analysis of unprecedented media in these formations. Visual criminology is also important in that it pushes our attention beyond the visual.

It points to the importance of affective and sensory life, broadly, in doing justice to the material realities and lived experiences that criminology engages Young, It will benefit from avoiding visual essentialism the study of the visual in isolation or with a pure primacy, or, as Bal [ ] describes it, a privileging of the visual aspects of an object or even to the exclusion of all other senses as few visual events are without sound, touch, smell, and other sensory aspects.


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As one example, the study of the visual is relational in the sense that it necessarily overlaps with sonic materialities: the acoustics of an arrest, the noise pollution of solitary confinement. If one has visited a jail tank, prison tier, courtroom, or police station, then one knows that the ethnographic details of such spaces are never reducible to the visual—or any one sense alone.

There is emergent room for sensory engagements that give primacy to the haptic, sonic, spatial, temporal, visceral, and embodied—modes of phenomenological immersion and immediacy that grow over time into patterned forces, performances, practices, and institutions of crime and control.

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The turn to the visual is indicative of a larger turn to the sensory that brings back the material, physical, affective, and embodied experiences of harm, control, injustice, and resistance. Finally, visual criminology represents a remarkable forum for pedagogical pursuits. More significantly, it is foundational to community education, organizing and social justice efforts that rely upon a growing body of new and alternative media efforts that provide free print and digital resources via action and outreach materials, flyers, posters, curricula, toolkits, zines, legislative packets, newsletters, infographics, photos, and videos.

These materials then circulate quickly from direct action community events and social justice campaigns to social media email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites and alternative media outlets, having an unprecedented effect in enlarging their sphere of impact. Organizers argue this work is directed at providing alternative public forums for social justice discussions; building community-based education and histories of organizing among those directly impacted by the carceral state; providing tools to think about both criminalization and racism; and promoting abolitionist and alternative i.

It promises simultaneously a more expansive body of knowledge about control, one that offers new kinds of foundational insights.

Media Unit: Media Theories

What is most noteworthy about the comments and calls of visual criminologists is the manner in which they call for reinvention, for research, and creative interventions in understanding crime and control that can bring together theory, method, and image. In their estimation, to do criminology at all, we must pay close attention to the visual and the act of representation.

As a locus of the modern, visual criminology takes crisis as its occasion: insurrectionary images that trouble, transgress, coerce, constrain, fail—the endpoints of the modernist landscape. By centering the visual, this approach brings with it the potential transformation of criminology. In pursuing the work that images do, the field of visual criminology expresses unique possibilities in illuminating the social relations that are foundational to the production of harm: not just in the conventional sense of legal categories of crime, but of processes that produce criminalization and interpersonal, legal, state and structural violence.

The visual is a powerful means through which to map the production of control: prisons, policing, surveillance and their counterpoints; the production of transgression and resistance against old and new categories of criminalization; the historical resurgence of social movements, justice campaigns, insurgencies, and uprisings. It brings the possibility of new rigor and new life to the discipline, one that is committed to understanding the power of the image in the perpetually mediated worlds of harm, violence, control, and resistance in which we exist.

Additional key authors, particularly in relation to photo documentary, are W. Mitchell , A.

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Sekula , , J. Tagg , , and Ariela Azoulay Methodological resources include work by Sarah Pink and Gillian Rose Introductory treatments of visual criminology can be found in a variety of contexts. Economic and Social Research Council, stands as a key starting point where scholars sought to critically address the visual from within the discipline.

Biber, K. Captive images: Race, crime, photography. London: Routledge. Find this resource:. Brown, M. Visual criminology and carceral studies: Counter-images in the carceral age. Theoretical Criminology, 18 2 , — Carrabine, E. Just images: Aesthetics, ethics and visual criminology. British Journal of Criminology, 52 3 , — Visual criminology. Miller Eds.

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New York: Routledge. Ferrell, J. Cultural criminology: An invitation.

London: SAGE. Hayward, K. Framing crime: Cultural criminology and the image. Mirzoeff, N. The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality.

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Rafter, N. Introduction to special issue on visual culture and the iconography of crime and punishment. Theoretical Criminology , 18 2 , — Schept, J. Un seeing like a prison: Counter-visual ethnography of the carceral state. Stallabrass, J. Documentary Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art. Young, A. Imagining crime. Anderson, N.

Bibliography - Trauma and Literature

The hobo: The sociology of the homeless man. Originally published in Appadurai, A. Modernity al large: cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Armstrong, S. Seeing and seeing-as: Building a politics of visibility in criminology. Carrabine Eds. Azoulay, A. The Civil Contract. New York: Zone Books.