Criminal Justice Research Centre
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Spectacular Suffering: Transgressive Performance in Penal Activism

B63, Law and Social Sciences, University Park
Wednesday 6th March 2019 (17:00-19:00)
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Criminal Justice Research Centre Seminar Series

Guest speaker: Dr Mary Corcoran, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Keele University
Respondent: Dr Aimie Purser, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Nottingham

Dr Mary Corcoran has published in numerous books and journals including the British Journal of Criminology, Critical Social Policy, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Theoretical Criminology and Current Issues in Criminal Justice. Her academic work spans a number of themes. The first is on prisons and punishment with a particular focus in women in the criminal justice system. A second theme critically focuses on the changing relationships among markets, states and civil society and the consequences for criminal justice. Dr Corcoran was Principal Investigator for a ground-breaking, 30-month long study, voluntary sector adaptation and resilience in the mixed economy of resettlement in England and Wales (April 2015-November 2017). A third theme relates to projects on critical life-course events in prison and on bereavement , grief and loss in custody in collaboration with academics and practitioners from palliative care, nursing, law, ethics and the prison and probation services.

In this presentation, Dr Corcoran will discuss how the spectacle of the body in pain has long functioned heuristically in the history of crime and justice. Within this phenomenon sits a counter-cultural tradition of re-enacting outrages in public view to rally against injustices. However, if 'spectacular suffering' has predominantly been discussed as a visual experience, this paper examines its performative aspects. Transgressive performance is evident in demonstrations of forced-feeding, hunger strikes, self-immolation and lip-sewing carried out by prisoners or by their intermediaries with a view to publicising their cause. The presentation proposes that during such exhibitions, the body in pain becomes a central heuristic device for converting suffering into a medium for public consumption and political mobilisation. However, tropes of corporal suffering are susceptible to political clawback and resistance from spectators. These possibilities call the publicity of suffering into question as an inherently progressive strategy.

The paper will be followed by a response from Dr Aimie Purser from the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham. Her research revolves around the study of identity (self) and 'the human condition' (materiality/morbidity/mortality, emotions and morality). In particular, Dr Purser's research develops new approaches to transcending traditional dualisms, for example those of body and mind, or experience and representation, to explore non-dualistic ways of understanding embodied (inter)subjectivity and connections between cultural representation and experience of self (and others).

Criminal Justice Research Centre

School of Law
Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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