‘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.

‘What are you working on’…Rob Creasy

*Over the Summer, academic staff in Social Sciences will be posting updates on what they’re working on in terms of their research: up first, subject director Dr. Rob Creasy*

I have just submitted a book to Palgrave Macmillan which we hope will be published by Xmas. This means that you can put this on your Xmas list for Santa. The book is to be titled “The Taming of Education: contemporary approaches to teaching and learning” and draws upon Sociology, Social Policy and Education Studies to argue that over recent decades the way in which we provide education has changed in ways that make it not fit for purpose. It draws upon the work of Rittel & Webber (1973) in using the concept of wicked problems to argue that education has increasingly been seen as a process and where that process has become tame. This is not a good thing. It is the basis of the third level module The taming of education! Basically it doesn’t matter if you see education in an idealistic way as contributing to your self-development or a utilitarian way, as only having value in how it can get you a job, education that is tamed is impoverished. Think about how at 6th form you were expected to learn a script and focus on a right answer. This is tame. Think about how some students are solely focused on content and getting the right things in, this is tame. Education needs to be able to promote creativity and originality but it often doesn’t do this because of a focus on targets and passing. The thing is that education is not a process in the way that a manufacturing process is and you aren’t buying a degree. There is uncertainty to education but uncertainty reflects the concept of wickedity and many people don’t like the idea of this.

As a process the book draws upon work that I did for my doctorate but develops this and widens it so it’s about 25% doctoral thesis and 75% new material. It’s taken me about a year to write and has provided a few headaches along the way. It’s my first book so has been a new challenge for me but very rewarding. In fact I am now thinking of pitching to write a textbook aimed at students on courses related to the wider Children’s workforce as this reflects work that I did between 2009 – 2015 so it will be a matter of organising class notes. The plan is to do this as a joint book with my wife so that will ease the workload. Whatever happens, I will expect to be busy over the next year writing a paper or two for a journal and looking to get started on the textbook. Ideas for papers are always welcomed.