Spectacular Law and Order: Photography, Social Harm, and the Production of Ignorance

Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)


This chapter brings into conversation the study of ignorance and visual criminology. Visual criminologists have tended to argue that visual evidence of harms, particularly those perpetuated by the state, might expand the criminological imagination and has the potential to produce counter-discourses to official understandings of crime. Surveying the classic theory of photography and spectatorship, I contest this claim on two counts. Firstly, I argue that photography may be more ambivalent than this. Rather than awakening consciousness, photographs of harm and suffering often merely reproduce official and state perspectives, or else are so unbearable to witness as to provoke a desire to unsee. Secondly, I suggest it is not the photograph itself that has the power to emancipate, but spectators themselves, as active producers of meaning.


Visual criminology Agnotology Photography Spectacle Social harm Praxis 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawRoyal Holloway, University of LondonEgham, SurreyUK

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