Seeing and seeing-as: building a politics of visibility in criminology

Armstrong, S. (2017) Seeing and seeing-as: building a politics of visibility in criminology. In: Brown, M. and Carrabine, E. (eds.) Routledge International Handbook of Visual Criminology. Series: Routledge international handbooks. Routledge: London, pp. 416-426. ISBN 9781138888630

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Like all 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 we work in a particularly fraught field because particular, and particularly domineering, imagery is so well established, analysed and embedded it colonises political and popular imaginations. This paper argues that one task of a visual criminology ought to be a project of stirring imagination, of freeing up our mind's eye in a way that allows new politics of crime and punishment to emerge. It follows Levitas's utopian method, in which the first step of getting somewhere new is to excavate where we already stand, digging into the premises that shape what we take for granted, such as prison as permanent, or crime as a phenomenon of the urban street. The paper focuses on the case of prison drawing on Science and Technology Studies (STS) concepts, specifically multiplicity, contradiction and absence, to explore how we might engage criminological topics in research and critique without reproducing and carrying forward certain colonising tropes of representation. This involves acts of seeing, of literally making visible aspects of punishment which are presently invisible, which might in turn gain political efficacy through acts of seeing as, of conceptualising prison's many guises and roles in terms of new imagery that can participate in making change. It aims tentatively to support new directions in visual criminology as well as demonstrate the potential of STS in criminology.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Visual criminology, STS, representation, imaginary, prison.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Armstrong, Professor Sarah
Authors: Armstrong, S.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
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