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Re-imagining Cultural Criminology: Memory, Museums and Narrative

Cultural criminology has—for some time now—argued that ‘the visual’ is an important aspect when addressing cultural dimensions of the crime complex (see, for example, Ferrell and Van de Voorde 2010 ; Hayward 2010; Hayward and Young 2007). Yet alongside the visual there has also been something of a narrative turn in criminological scholarship. This narrative turn argues that stories, whether they are told about crime, punishment, the police or the courts, are in and of themselves a form of ‘self-making’. Similarly, Young (2004) is critical of much administrative criminology, advocating instead interdisciplinary endeavours which seek to carve out new knowledge using innovative methods that can unpack and unravel the constructed self in all its complex glory. Later, in The Criminological Imagination (2011), Young both defends cultural criminology and offers new ways that we can each re-imagine cultural criminology for ourselves and our research purposes; the criminological imagination invites us to find new ways to approach the crime-culture relationship

This study has attempted to rise to such a challenge by analysing museums as sites in which place-positioned identities tell their own stories about punishment. As such, I hope that that this book can be seen as a contribution to these new and exciting developments within criminological scholarship. In line with the work of other dark tourism scholars this book has sought to prioritise the visual, but also combine the visual with ‘the experiential’—and indeed ‘the object’—by way of the museum context. Moreover, rather than just focusing on punishment museums as environments of narrativity, we have also demonstrated that considering the history museum as an expression of the wider cultural context is a worthwhile scholarly pursuit.

More specifically though, it is my hope that this book has illustrated that the cultural and historical specificities of individual states and their relationships with both punishment and self-identity need not become lost in totalising arguments about ‘Southern history’ or an ill-defined ‘Southern culture’. In many ways this book has been an attempt to move punishment theorising away from Southern culture and toward a state-specific understanding of cultural self-identities and their relationship to punishment stories. By taking a multi-disciplinary cultural approach we have been able to examine state-specific frameworks of meaning. Indeed, I would argue that while criminological scholarship which addresses contemporary cultural constructions of punishment is important, such scholarship needs to be undertaken with reference to the regional identities and cultural memories that surround those constructions of punishment. It is by narrowing our gaze and approaching punishment from a state-specific perspective that we better position ourselves to re-imagine cultural criminology from a punishment perspective.

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