Critical Criminology/ Representing Justice Talk

On May 4 and 5th, I am attending and presenting at Critical Criminology / Representing Justice – A Joint Conference of Critical Perspectives, which is sponsored by the organizers of the Criminology and Social Justice (Carleton University and University of Ottawa) and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Justice Studies (University of Winnipeg) series.

With my co-author, Dr. Rita Shah, I am presenting a paper on our shared interests in the intersections between feminist and visual criminologies. It is scheduled on the Theoretical Engagements panel from 1:00pm to 2:30pm on Friday, May 5th. The details of the paper on which the talk is based are as follows:

“Can there be a Feminist Visual Criminology? Representational Politics, Injury, and Victimhood”

This paper considers the prospect of a feminist visual criminology, drawing upon feminist, visual, and criminological studies. Beginning with early questions about the possibility of a feminist ethnography, which anthropologists Lila Abu-Lughod and Judith Stacey raised in the late 1980s, our analysis builds upon longstanding feminist concerns around power and representation. We consider their deliberations alongside an argument put forth by Alison Young over 20 years ago: that written, pictorial, and linguistic devices profoundly shape how we come to understand—or, to use her words, “imagine”—crime. Here, we aim to illuminate three interrelated issues: (1) how feminist ruminations about power and representation might benefit visual criminological analysis; 2) how visual methodological conversations about ethics and representation may inform feminist criminological analysis; and (3) possible irreconcilable differences between these projects. To illustrate them, we present some of the challenges of an ongoing case study of “invisible injuries” sustained by survivors of family violence. In this case, the most prominent invisible injury that advocates, legal representatives, medical experts, and survivors attempt to see is brain trauma. The case demonstrates how interpretations of visualizations serve as evidence of the injury, victimization, and longstanding effects on survivors’ health and well-being. Such efforts to pursue justice, we argue, exemplify challenges of doing feminist visual criminology—namely, tensions between expertise, context, agency, and voice in relation to representation. We conclude with a preliminary discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of these well-intended efforts and how they parallel dilemmas of pursuing a feminist visual criminology.