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Seeing and Seeing-as: Building a politics of visibility in criminology

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Duration: 1:09:49 | Added: 06 Feb 2018
All Souls Seminar: 1st February 2018.

This paper is about problems of representation in criminology, and builds on a recent chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology (2017). It begins with the recognition that like other researchers, criminologists are engaged in a process of making things visible. That is, we try to get others to see something for the first time, or to see it in a new light, or to see it the 'right' way, countering fallacies and misrepresentations with good evidence. But criminology is a particularly fraught field because particular, and particularly domineering, imagery is so well established, analysed and embedded that it colonises political and popular imaginations. How can one represent injustice without reinforcing it, given that even critical representations tend to encourage particular associations? The paper focuses mainly on the case of prison, first to deconstruct the problematics of representation and, second, to suggest how these might be challenged and overcome, for example, by making visible aspects of punishment which are presently invisible. The paper draws on Science and Technology Studies (STS) to suggest alternative practices of representation, particularly relying on STS concepts of multiplicity, contradiction and absence. Finally, I connect the project of developing new representational practices to a progressive politics of criminology, hoping to stimulate debate in the seminar about the (appropriate) relationship of the descriptive and the normative in social science research.

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