‘What are you working on’…Jack Denham

Continuing our blog series on current research practice, it’s my turn to step into the digital limelight. In terms of research, I’m going to tell you briefly about four ongoing projects. One of which is almost completed, one will take but a day, one is yet to begin, and one is never-ending.

My PhD – submitted

PhD write up has taken almost every second of my non-lecturing time of late, submitted just three weeks ago. The final piece of this puzzle was the abstract, which is probably the easiest way for me to summarise this work for you:

This thesis investigates crime memorabilia, or ‘true crime objects’, and proposes the concept of ‘authenticity’ as a way of understanding the perceived value and imagined criminality inside of objects, artefacts, exhibitions and consumables associated with famous violent crimes. Murderabilia has enjoyed a sustained rise in interest in both news media and popular culture, but academic research has been limited. It addresses a central contradiction in the paucity of literature that has touched upon murderabilia – to what extent is murderabilia an extension of existing violent transgressive narratives in popular culture; or a will to transgress these mainstream discourses themselves; or a combination thereof? To that end, this thesis seeks to understand where the consumption of criminal transgression sits as part of the broader system of objects, and the broader popular cultural genre of true crime as well. Through a digital and traditional ethnography conducted over ten months (September 2014 – July 2015), covering museum exhibitions of murderabilia, personal murderabilia collections, and manufactured murder merchandise, murderabilia is revealed as a complicated negotiation of some of the contradicting demands of art, culture, antique – and consumerism. It is argued that the consumption of murder objects is reflective of a broader societal will to transgress banality and sameness in 21st century Western consumer capitalist marketplaces, and not as an embracement or glorification of criminal transgression itself. Consumers are positioned in pursuit of experiences of perceived authenticity, despite embracing dominant popular cultural narratives of crime in the process.

York City Big Read – just a day

For one hour in the evening of Tuesday 19th September, I’ll be doing a public lecture on the merging of crime fiction and crime fact for York City Library’s York City Big Read festival – more information on this to follow in the coming weeks at www.jackdenham.com

Deviant Spaces – yet to begin

My first project after PhD completion – with Matt Spokes and Ben Lehmann, I’ll be reviving an old project idea that I had back as an MA student to investigate how the dead, particularly victims of famous violent crimes, inhabit space and place through differing approaches to memorialisation. We’re hoping to turn this into a book – again, expect updates on this intermittently via www.jackdenham.com

Death and Culture – ongoing

Ongoing is the development of the Death and Culture Network. We have a call for book proposals for our new book series Emerald Studies in Death and Culture, dates announced for the biennial conference (7-8 September ’18), and keynotes as well – information on all available on the website.

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