Sunday 30 June 2019

#HCNet Conference Report 3

#EarlyCareerResearchers and #HCNet’s future by Kate West

A colleague recently tweeted that ‘The #EarlyCareerResearchers are our future, read them well and let them lead the way ...’. This was evident at the first #HCNet meeting. To see such fantastic early career scholarship is empowering in an academy where so many ECRs labour in positions of precarity. As a young scholar I sought mentorship from senior colleagues. I once asked one of my doctoral supervisors if they’d publish with me and they replied that it would be unfair of them to associate themselves with my research. They were right. It turns out that rather than looking ‘up’ I ought to simply look ‘across’ to my peers. Rhiannon Pickin and Dan Johnson are the epitome of early career self-empowerment, working together to empower one another. Their paper of material culture and the crime museum contributes to ongoing efforts in criminology to theorise emotion, affect and ethical spectatorship in the crime museum. Their move away from so-called iconic sites of trauma and suffering that pepper the canon including Tuol Sleng and Alcatraz is refreshing. Although these sites are important, Rhiannon and Dan demonstrated the extent of unethical spectatorship in local museums here in the United Kingdom. Another highlight was Katherine (Katy) Roscoe’s paper on settler-colonial prison islands. Katy charted a striking optical regime operating on Cockatoo Island (incidentally a voyeuristic site of trauma and suffering today) that decenters a unilateral panoptic (all-seeing) gaze associated with nineteenth century prisons to one that constituted exchanged glances across the water.

Finally, and perhaps what has stayed with me the most, was Kate Lister’s moving keynote. Cultural historians, especially those of emotions, have recently begun to reflect on the separation between emotion and making history. Kate’s keynote was a refreshing, feminist reminder that as embodied, feeling researchers we owe a duty to those we research, not least those who we survive. Nowhere can this be more applicable than in relation to historical criminology. The future is bright for historical criminology, an reflexive and ethical one populated by young, dynamic and thoughtful scholars who are supporting and empowering one another.  

Kate West is Lecturer in Criminology at Oxford Brookes University. Kate researches visual, material, and aural cultures of crime from the eighteenth century to the present day. Her first monograph What Was Criminology: An Unlikely Art History is in preparation.

Black and white photograph of a sofa and coffee table lit by a window with a wall full of shelves of books behind
'Home Fires (where my books wait for me)' by Dayna Bateman via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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