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date: 26 November 2020

Visuality and Criminologyfree

  • Judah ScheptJudah ScheptDepartment of Justice Studies, Eastern Kentucky University


There can be no doubt that criminology has taken something of a visual turn, as evidenced by increasing numbers of articles, conference panels, edited volumes, monographs, and seminar series that support visual research within criminology and related fields (Brown, 2014; Carrabine, 2012; Brown & Carrabine, 2016; Lippens et al., 2013). This development has come with important calls for both direct, empirical engagement with images, as well as new methodological approaches that mobilize images for a “politically charged analysis” (Hayward, 2010, p. 3). While visual criminology, as it has come to be known, has taken up the importance of the image, the issue of representation, and the photograph, it has been slower to engage on the terrain of visuality, a concept that can sometimes slip into shorthand for the realm of the visual, but which means something more closely resembling an authorized view of society and history (Mirzoeff, 2011a). Visuality is the production, representation, and naturalization of state power that at once fabricates order and, in doing so, organizes the available vocabularies for describing and challenging it. Visuality is a mechanism by which the quotidian violence underwriting authority is made illegible and unseeable. a process that relies on knowledge production for legitimacy and consent.

It is here, at the intersections of visuality’s naturalization of the everyday violence of law and its naturalization of an authorized constellation of ideas and terms from which to draw meaning about the world, that the role of criminology must be considered. As a science of crime and punishment, criminology is both subordinate to the terms and ideologies of the state and continually reproduces and reifies those terms by providing the gloss of scientific objectivity. Criminology is largely managerial and reformist, a discipline dependent on the state as much for grant monies and evaluation projects as for the very normative terms of study—crime, law, punishment—that underwrite its very existence and relevance.

Yet, the relationship between criminology and visuality is not one of wholehearted subservience and hegemony. Even as the discipline should be understood as an important intellectual prosthetic in the state’s fabrication of social order through technologies of illumination, capture, and mapping, visuality is never complete and criminology is not uniform. Indeed, criminology has an established if uneven lineage of radical interventions into the common sense of state violence. The question remains open as to the role criminology might play in enacting counter-visuality, an intellectual and political project aimed at inscribing in the social body the capacities to render such violence legible.

Disciplining Knowledge: Introducing Visuality, and Criminology

In The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, Nicholas Mirzoeff notes Karl Marx’s dilemma of revolutionary change as “the creation of something which does not yet exist.” Mirzoeff goes on to explicate what must go into such creation: “first, to name what was being created, and then to give it visualizable and recognizable form. In short, this was a task of imagination” (2011b, p. 165). Curiously, Mirzoeff chooses not to include the longer passage from which that line of Marx’s is excerpted. In fact, the line appears toward the end of one of Marx’s more famous passages:

Men make their own history, but not of their own free will; not under circumstances they themselves have chosen, but under given and inherited circumstances with which they are directly confronted. The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living. And just when they appear to be engaged in the revolutionary transformation of themselves and their material surroundings, in the creation of something which does not yet exist, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they timidly conjure up the spirits of the past to help them; they borrow their names, slogans and costumes so as to stage the new world historical scene in this venerable disguise …

(Marx, 2005, p. 1)

Marx’s argument here, of course, is that attempts at revolutionary change ultimately repeat history—“first as tragedy, then as farce” as he famously claims—because they fail to abolish the constitutive parts of earlier social formations. The contradiction between attempts at revolutionary change drawing on historical scripts and Mirzoeff’s insistence on the revolutionary potential of imagining speaks directly to the operations of visuality and countervisuality, or what Mirzoeff calls “the right to look.”

Although perhaps counterintuitive, visuality is not inherently visual. Visuality, according to Mirzoeff, is a production of state power that at once fabricates order and, in doing so, organizes the available vocabularies for describing and challenging it. Mirzoeff argues that visuality is comprised of three constitutive components: classification (through naming, categorizing, and defining); separation (of those classified as a means for social organization); and aestheticization, by which he means the production of a normalized and hegemonic “common sense.” In other words, the opposite of the right to look is the authorial role of the state in constructing, legitimating, and normalizing its own history and presence.

Mirzoeff quotes cultural theorist W. J. T. Mitchell as arguing that “An empire requires not just a lot of stuff but what Michel Foucault called an ‘order of things’: an epistemic field that produces a sense of the kinds of objects, the logic of their speciation, their taxonomy” (Mitchell, 2005, p. 155, in Mirzoeff, 2011b, p. 49). The visualizing of history and the construction of terms and classifications by which we artificially and yet politically segment the world requires contributions of language, logic, mapping, and other forms of structuring that produce a regime of knowledge that is rooted in state power. Following Marx’s metaphor, these are the “names, slogans, and costumes” of the past on which the present inevitably relies. This is visuality.

Mirzoeff discusses Thomas Carlyle as the first to use the term visuality in English in this way, specifically deploying it to “refer to what he called the tradition of heroic leadership, which visualizes history to sustain autocratic authority. In this form, visualizing is the production of visuality, meaning the making of the processes of history perceptible to authority” (2011a, p. 475). But visuality as the authorized view of history requires a mechanism by which to maintain and reproduce its legitimacy. Here, Mirzoeff turns to Jacques Derrida, and in particular his essay “The Force of Law” (1990), to illuminate the source of visuality’s authority. Derrida offers an incisive observation about the intimacies between law, violence, and authority: “There is no law that does not imply in itself, a priori, in the analytic structure of its concept, the possibility of being ‘enforced,’ applied by force” (1990, p. 925). Moving on to consider Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence, Derrida goes on to parse the translation of Benjamin’s original German, in doing so showing again the intimacy—even at the level of etymology—between violence and authority. He writes that in the original, Critique of Violence appears as Zur Kritic der Gewalt, where Gewalt, translated into French and English as “violence,” actually signifies for Germans “legitimate power, authority, public force … Gewalt, then, is both violence and legitimate power, justified authority” (1990, p. 927). Mirzoeff summarizes Derrida as arguing that “[a]uthority’s presumed origin in legality is in fact one of force, the enforcement of law, epitomized in this context by the commodification of the person in slavery. This self-authorizing of authority required a supplement to make it seem self-evident, which is what I am calling visuality” (2011a, p. 480).

Visuality, then, is the mechanism by which the quotidian violence underwriting authority is made illegible and unseeable. Crucially, this manufactured absence relies in part on defining certain acts of spectacular violence as violence itself and as abhorrent to, and outside of, the liberal democratic state. Spectacular displays of state power—which Foucault (1977) suggests have been eclipsed by a kind of disciplinary or regulatory power—for present purposes should be considered as actually obscuring the way that violence is not exceptional to the state but rather woven into its very operation (see also Martinot & Sexton, 2003; Wall, 2016). Visuality’s work is to mask the inherent violence of states in a vocabulary that leaves intact the very logics, infrastructures, and institutions necessary for the violence to occur in the first place (Mirzoeff, 2011b; Neocleous, 2000, 2003; Kelley, 2016).

It is here, at the dual intersections of visuality’s naturalization of the everyday violence of law and its reification of an authorized constellation of ideas and terms from which to draw meaning about the world, that the role of criminology as both discipline and practice must be considered. This articles’s examination of criminology refers both to the academic discipline and the larger circulation of discourses and ideas about crime and punishment that come out of the discipline and from which they derive some legitimacy. As a science of crime and punishment, criminology is both subordinate to the terms and ideologies of the state and continually reproduces and reifies those terms by providing the gloss of scientific objectivity.

Michel Foucault (1980, 1977) has offered forceful critiques of criminology, noting its intimacy to the state. Calling criminology a “set of garrulous discourses,” full of “endless repetitions,” Foucault notes that the discipline was integral to the growth of systems of punishment in the 19th century and that it remains “indispensable in enabling judges to judge” (1980, pp. 47–48). That is, criminology offers to judges (read here more broadly as those possessing juridical or political power) the minimum credibility necessary to pass sentences, remand to treatment, arrest, imprison, and execute, in short, to engage in what Robert Cover calls “organized, social practices of violence” (1986, p. 1601). For Ned Polsky, the intimacy between the discipline and “the judge” was no coincidence, given that the great majority of criminologists were practitioners in orientation and often in practice and “[f]or them a central task of criminology … is to find more effective ways to reform law breakers and to keep other people from becoming law breakers. I suggest that (those individuals are) undertaking such activity not as a social scientist but as a technologist or moral engineer for an extra-scientific end: making people obey current American criminal law” (Polsky, 1967, pp. 141–142). More recently, Ian Loader and Richard Sparks have noted that even the well-intentioned approach of public criminology falls squarely within the longer tradition of the discipline combining intellectual curiosity “with a reformist ambition of some kind (to prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders, improve the quality of justice, or in some allied way, alleviate avoidable human suffering)” (2010, p. 771). As Wayne Morrison elegantly notes, “the defining ability of state power remains the key to criminological epistemology” (2004, p. 343), a relationship that leads Mark Neocleous to conclude that “criminology has become little more than ideology” (2000, p. ix).

The kind of critical attention discussed here can be understood as an attempt to visualize visuality: to call attention to the criminological creation of the very categories that service the discipline, to say nothing of the ways that the categories structure and produce the dispossession of millions of people. Criminology’s role in the very production of the ontologies, categories of behavior and subjecthood being studied helps explicate what Jock Young (2011) has observed as the discipline’s fetishistic embrace of methodology. In the increasing abstraction of complex and historical patterns into the statistical languages of prediction and risk we should see the further calcification of visuality’s processes of naming, categorizing, and classifying. Young, one of the fiercer critics of criminology from within, argues persuasively: “The war against crime, drugs, terrorism, demands facts, numbers, quantitative incomes and outcomes—it does not demand debates as to the very nature of these battles, it does not want to question definition, rather it wants ‘hard’ facts and ‘concrete’ evidence” (2011, p. 23). He continues, observing that the

elective affinity between positivist criminology and bureaucratic needs of the criminal justice system is not simply a question of the need for numbers and statistical formulation willing to provide them. It is a question of shared notions of ontology and of social order, of worldviews which are coincident in their mappings of the social world and the place of the deviant within it, backed by common and more general anxieties with regard to social order. For the desire to place society in orderly and carefully delineated categories and the patterning of such order is not merely a useful accountancy device for the criminal justice system on the part of managers (which it is), or a scholarly desire to classify and seek regularity in the social universe. It is much more than that.

Young is correct in his astute observations of the intimate relationship between academic criminology and the state. Indeed, it would be inaccurate to speak of these two entities as if they are entirely distinct with some concentric overlap. And yet it’s in this distinct conceptualization that I think Young misses how criminology as a structure of thought—beyond positivism and at times including the critical strains of the discipline—is a part of the state production of knowledge he criticizes. Criminology is largely managerial and almost exclusively reformist, a discipline dependent on the state as much for grant monies and evaluation projects as for the very normative terms of study—crime, law, punishment—that underwrite its very existence and relevance. Stanley Cohen observes this relationship in “Against Criminology,” the eponymous essay from his book that offers a masterful genealogy of leftist criminology, arguing that criminology maintains a relatively defendable reputation as a scientific discipline “despite the fact that its status derives entirely from the exercise of power throughout the penal apparatus (Cohen, 1998, p. 26).” He continues that the important critiques of the positivist search for “causes” of crime should now be deployed toward “the obsession with effectiveness, evaluation, classification, [and] ‘what works’” (Cohen, 1998, p. 26). Perhaps most to the point, which is to say most directly foundational of these strains of disciplinary critique, Wayne Morrison notes that criminology’s status as firmly situated between applied science on the one hand and rigorous and objective social science on the other is belied by its very ontological foundation: “the ability of the nation-state to define what crime is” (2010, p. 191).

Criminology’s role in enacting and legitimating visuality is reflective of neither an inherent fascistic quality to the discipline nor a conspiracy between the academy and state. Rather, the emergence and quality of the discipline must be understood within the national and world historical processes that gave it shape and structure. Jock Young notes McCarthyism’s particularly chilling effect on American college campuses, where academics were forced to sign loyalty oaths and patriotic pledges and where, according to Ellen Schrecker, “no academic who refused to cooperate with an investigating committee was able to find a regular teaching position at an academically respectable American college or university” (1986, p. 266, quoted in Young, 2011, p. 179). As Young summarizes, “They left academia, they seriously tempered and scaled down their scholarship, syllabuses were rewritten, faculties were careful with their contacts and lectures to students … An enormous brain drain occurred either out of the profession or out of the country” (p. 179). While the history of McCarthyism is often considered in analyses of the government’s repressive overreach generally and its rabid anti-Communism specifically, it is germane to a study concerned with the efforts to police the boundaries of political and historical legibility. While the first criminology department was established in Berkeley by August Vollmer in 1921, the discipline coalesced into an academic society in 1941, and began to significantly expand two decades later. With universities regaining some political ground lost during McCarthyism, criminology would appear to stake important intellectual territory for the state. As Micol Seigel notes, academic criminal justice emerged explicitly as an extension of the state into the academy to contain the turmoil of the 1960s. She quotes William Arnold as noting,

Since the funds for the discipline and its attendant research came primarily from the federal government, the discipline and research have been strongly oriented to reforming the criminal justice system, i.e., making it more effective without threatening too much either our civil rights or our stratified economic order. Necessarily, then, research has been powerfully influenced by politics, especially the vicissitudes of funding and shifting concerns of governmental agencies. It has been, as sociology was in its earlier years, melioristic.

(Arnold, 1981, p. 90, in Seigel, forthcoming)

Seigel notes that the burgeoning field in the 1960s solidified over the next decade, as the number of programs rose from 209 to over 1,200. Importantly, this reflected shifts within the focus of the university rather than overall growth, signifying changing priorities for higher education and an investment in technocratic and social control efforts. These shifts reflected those occurring more broadly under neoliberal state restructuring and which also foreshadowed the neoliberal and managerial techniques currently at work in the American university (Giroux, 2014; Moten & Harney, 2004). So the ascent of academic criminology and criminal justice was itself a state project; while criminology has been a basis from which radical scholars have launched important critiques, it nonetheless has shaken off neither its historical origins nor their technocratic and administrative mandates (Cohen, 1998; Young, 2011).

While criminology hasn’t done much to engage visuality directly, the discipline has recently taken something of a “visual turn,” as evidenced by increasing numbers of articles, conference panels, edited volumes, monographs, and seminar series that engage and develop visual research and analysis under the banner of “visual criminology” (Brown, 2014; Carrabine, 2012; Brown & Carrabine, 2016; Lippens et al., 2013).

Foundational work in what would become cultural criminology profiled scholarly engagement with the visual (Ferrell & Sanders, 1995). More recently, cultural criminologists have called for a visual criminology that “becomes an essential method … to account for meaning, situation, and representation, and to confront the harms of injustice and inequality” (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 187). This embrace has also been accompanied by a push for recognizing the analytical and political significance of what Ferrell and Van de Voorde (2010) call the “decisive moment” (see also Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008), where visual representation, like a photograph, can capture the hypermobile and contradictory processes that characterize late modern life. Hayward takes this argument a step further in calling for a “new methodological orientation towards the visual” that is capable of encompassing meaning, affect, situation, symbolic power, efficiency, and spectacle in the same “frame” and which produces a “politically charged analysis” (2010, p. 3). These analyses, along with entire texts devoted to questions of photography and criminology (Biber, 2007), mark important contributions to criminological engagement with images and media representation more generally. What is missing, at times, is a treatment of how to engage methodologically and analytically with the political production of the image itself, as well as the analytical and visual tools we have for perceiving it. That is, visual criminology has been slow to connect the production of the image with its role in the reproduction of state power (Schept, 2014; Wall & Linnemann, 2014).

Absent such a treatment of the visual and the state, scholarship may well be destined to operate within what Mirzoeff calls “complexes of visuality.” He identifies three paradigmatic complexes: the plantation, imperial, and military industrial complexes. These operate as “a set of social organizations and processes” as well as referring to “an individual’s psychic economy” (p. 5). He argues “the resulting imbrication of mentality and organization produces a visualized deployment of bodies and a training of minds, organized so as to sustain both physical segregation between rulers and ruled, and mental compliance with those arrangements” (p. 5). Following and extending Mirzoeff’s argument, we might consider criminology’s operation as a major source of intellectual legitimacy for a fourth complex: the prison industrial complex. The term is often misapplied narrowly, as a concept describing the privatization of punishment, and is often accompanied by the erroneous argument that private profit lies at the heart of mass imprisonment. But the original formulation of the term, circulated in the mid-1990s by Angela Y. Davis, Mike Davis, Eric Schlosser, and the organization Critical Resistance, was much broader, used to critique the growth of mass imprisonment, its entanglement with private capital, and, crucially, the changes in state capacities and priorities occurring during the same period of decades that the sharp increase in US imprisonment began (Gilmore, 2007). Importantly, and as Eric Schlosser (1998) argued in a foundational piece in The Atlantic, the term also speaks to the ways that the prison functions “as a state of mind.” Since then, other scholars have made similar arguments. Recent work by leading criminologists Todd Clear and Natasha Frost has described the “structured intellectual economy” (2014, p. 45) brought about by the four decades of what they refer to as the “punishment imperative.” Similarly, Judah Schept observes the existence of a “carceral habitus,” a disposition toward imprisonment that is the product of the patterns and effects of a neoliberal capitalism that “naturalizes carceral expansion into the political common sense of communities reeling from crises of deindustrialization, urban decline, and the devolution of social welfare” (Schept, 2015, p. 23).

The relationships between criminology and visuality cannot be easily broken down into a narrative of wholehearted subservience and hegemony. Even as the discipline should be understood as an important intellectual prosthetic in the state’s expression of visuality, visuality is never complete. The remainder of this article examines several of the ways that the relationship between criminology and visuality is expressed, including through the production of the visual; the fabrication, mapping, and policing of space; and a consideration of whether criminology can play a role in fighting for the right to look.

Visuality, Visibility, and the State

While visuality is not inherently visual, the visual—the image, the illumination, and the creation of legibility—can often be mobilized in the exercise of visuality. Images and accompanying narratives have been central to constructions of nationhood. This was certainly true of landscape photographers who, according to Shawn Michelle Smith, “directed viewers how to see and invest in the terrain, transforming land into nation by framing the view” (2013, p. 167; see also W. J. T. Mitchell, 2002). Writing of the Iraq war and grievability, Judith Butler argues that “by regulating perspective in addition to content, the state authorities were clearly interested in regulating the visual modes of participation in the war” (2010, p. 65). At times, constructions of nationhood relied on the camera’s capture and presentation of inferior or threatening others. Susan Sontag notes that the use of photography as a tool of surveillance and control of increasingly mobile populations began with its deployment by “the Paris police in the murderous roundup of Communards in June 1871” (1971, p. 5). Eamonn Carrabine (2012, p. 470) has expanded on the role of photography in the expansion of imperial power, noting that the practice “presented to metropolitan consumers images of distant people that firmly placed them as barbaric, bizarre, primitive or picturesque—permitting Victorian notions of progress and superiority to flourish” (see also Said, 1979), an observation that adds to an impressive body of work in photography and social theory that has considered the camera’s ability to produce difference and deficiency through presenting visual tropes that suture inferior people and places (Barthes, 1978; Ferrell & Van de Voorde, 2010; Sekula, 1986; Sontag, 1977).

Importantly, the camera’s ability to link inferiority to individuals through the image should be understood as the work of ideology. Judith Butler has made a similar argument with respect to the framing of war and in particular the photography of atrocity. Writing of Susan Sontag’s treatment of photography and its limits to express atrocity, Butler argues that the frame of the photograph

functions not only as a boundary to the image, but as structuring the image itself. If the image in turn structures how we register reality, then it is bound up with the interpretive scene in which we operate. The question for war photography thus concerns not only what it shows, but also how it shows what it shows. The “how” not only organizes the image, but works to organize our perception and thinking as well. If state power attempts to regulate a perspective that reporters and cameramen are there to confirm, then the action of perspective in and as the frame is part of the interpretation of the war compelled by the state. The photograph is not merely a visual image awaiting interpretation; it is itself actively interpreting, sometimes forcibly so.

(Butler, 2009, p. 71)

Following this, Butler argues that discussions of representation must adjust their analysis and instead consider what she calls “representability,” since the field of capturable images is structured by state permission. That is, we must consider the field itself beyond its actual content, since, as she argues,

it is constituted fundamentally by what is left out, maintained outside the frame within which representations appear. We can think of the frame, then, as active, as both jettisoning and presenting, and as doing both at once, in silence, without any visible sign of its operation.

(Butler, 2009, p. 73)

Stuart Hall observes this in his discussion of Roland Barthes, including the notion that the photograph operates as an “index of an ideological theme” (1981a, p. 238; more broadly, see Hall, 1982, 1996; Hall, Critcher, Jefferson, Clarke, & Roberts, 2013). In other words, the photograph only can be read within the structured universe of ideology, within which a given analytical vocabulary is delimited. As Jones and Wardle (2010) explain in their treatment of the visual construction of Maxine Carr, “A photograph imbued and read within the dominant ideology will itself become expressive of those ideas; will solidify them, then seem to connote them inherently” (p. 56). Photographs play active roles in making the social world—confirming existing vantages and analyses, and further calcifying the vocabularies we have for ascribing meaning to the world the image depicts.

Yet the photograph is also a site of struggle, as it can be mobilized or set within an analytical framework to show a kind of dialectical image where it conveys its own contingency on the historical forces and their tensions that produced it (Benjamin, 1969a, 1969b; Buck-Morss, 1991; Smith, 2013). As Phil Carney notes, the photograph “is not primarily a semiotic spectacle. It is not a static picture but a dynamic power. As a social force, the photograph performs in a field where the material realities of cultural practices in the field of power and desire are at stake” (2010, p. 31).

Importantly, a strength of the concept of visuality is the recognition that this process of naturalization occurs through a number of processes constitutive of authorizing history, in which image production is but one. In the United States, for example, the photograph was part of a larger system of management, what Allan Sekula calls a “bureaucratic-clerical-statistical system of ‘intelligence’” (1986, p. 16) and what Hito Steyerl (2003) refers to as “documentality,” or the “permeation of a specific documentary politics of truth with superordinated political, social and epistemological formations. Documentality is the pivotal point, where forms of documentary truth production turn into government—or vice versa.” Mark Neocleous makes a similar point about the intimacy between the state and images of the population. He writes about the emergence of statistics as an important technology of state power, not only by offering a “legitimate” predictive capacity to render the complexity of society intelligible, but also by “insinuating itself into the practices of power by becoming a form of intelligence gathering of the most general kind since, as with information-gathering, there is by definition nothing beyond its scope: nothing may escape their gaze is how one nineteenth century statistician described their task” (2003, p. 55, emphasis in original).

Mapped onto the racialized figure of the “criminal,” scholars at the intersection of photography and criminology have recognized a similar relationship between photographic portrayal and hegemonic representation, or what Carney has called the “social practice of production” (2010, p. 18). Criminologist Katherine Biber (2007, p. 5) has similarly observed that legal images “purport to tell the truth … [and constitute] evidence.” Photographer Taryn Simon concurs, noting that it was photography that provided the criminal justice system a medium that “transformed innocent citizens into criminals” (2003, p. 7). For Allan Sekula (1986, p. 5), images of the criminal might confirm the staying power of the 19th-century “new juridical realism” and the instrumental potential of photography to enact “a silence that silences” (1986, p. 6) through the contest between the univocal, essential, truthful image and the perceived duplicity and multiplicity of the criminal. In the invention of these latter characteristics, Sekula argues, a biotype “other” distinct from the bourgeois “self” emerges. The image of this “criminal” indexes the mutually constitutive history of criminology and photography and reveals their intimacy with racist pseudo-sciences of physiognomy and phrenology (Sekula, 1986, pp. 15–16; see also Linneman & Wall, 2013; Rafter, 2009).

This “writing of race into crime” is an old and ongoing project (Muhammad, 2010). Another strand of its genealogy demonstrates the importance of visibility—knowing and seeing—to the fabrication and preservation of a racial order. Writing of the “Lantern Laws” in effect in early 18th-century New York City that required Black and Indian slaves to carry light with them if they were out after dark, Simone Browne notes that the laws made the lit candle

a supervisory device … and part of the legal framework that marked black, mixed-race and indigenous people as security risks in need of supervision after dark … we can think of the lantern as a prosthesis made mandatory after dark, a technology that made it possible for the black body to be constantly illuminated from dusk to dawn, made knowable, locatable, and contained within the city. The black body, technologically enhanced by way of a simple device made for a visual surplus where technology met surveillance … and encoded white supremacy, as black luminosity, into law.

(Browne, 2015, p. 79)

Browne’s analysis shows that surveillance is an old racial project and that its rootedness in knowing, locating, and containing should give pause to those who position the debate as being about privacy (see also Wall, 2013). Indeed, the very terms of the debates about contemporary state violence—from the calls for body cameras and more competency trainings for police to the discussions about privacy vs. security in the wake of the revelations about the NSA—reveal the authorized view of society that sees the violence of policing, imprisonment, and surveillance as aberrations or, at best, as marking a state of exception. Visuality’s success here is to make illegible the quotidian violence that is foundational to and underwrites the modern capitalist state. Consider, for example, Robin D. G. Kelley’s (2016) recent observation about how to analyze state violence:

Going to the root illuminates what is hidden from us, largely because most structures of oppression and all of their various entanglements are simply not visible and not felt. For example, if we argue that state violence is merely a manifestation of anti-blackness because that is what we see and feel, we are left with no theory of the state and have no way of understanding racialized police violence in places such as Atlanta and Detroit, where most cops are black, unless we turn to some metaphysical explanation.

First, note that for Kelley, addressing the root is a process of illumination of what the capitalist state renders unseeable and unknowable. Second, and more germane to the present point, one can easily see how misrecognizing the problem of state violence as the problem of individual anti-Black racism entirely shifts how we view the state and thus how we conceptualize reforms. Following Kelley’s example, if the problem is understood as individual anti-Black racism and its occasional expression through police brutality, then the answer can lie in better training, more cultural competency, and more Black officers, liberal projects that criminology, and the university more broadly, readily take up (Schept, Wall, & Brisman, 2015).

The problem, as Kelley suggests, is that the spectacle of individual police violence camouflages its more quotidian occurrences that uphold a racial capitalist social order. In classifying and categorizing police violence as only those most spectacular displays of militarization, repression, and hails of bullets, visuality operates through the state’s “invented structural grammar” to reproduce the everyday operations of white supremacy and racial capitalism (Martinot & Sexton, 2003, p. 177). As Martinot and Sexton argue, our structured vocabulary for perceiving the violence of police reveals “the structure of inarticulability itself and its imposed unintelligibly … an economy of the loss of meaning” (Martinot & Sexton, 2003, p. 177).

Visuality produces how we read and see images. It provides the available schema of definitions and classifications for seeing and ascribing meaning to social conditions, a process that is “always already in part a question of what a certain racist episteme produces as the visible” (Butler, 1993, p. 16). As a number of other scholars have argued (Brown, 2014; Story, 2015; Gilmore, 2016), the image of the Black body—arrested, imprisoned, killed—even when found in representations mobilized to evoke concern, critique, or humanization, can result in a perverse confirmation of Black premature and violent death and reify the institutions and patterns that produce it. As Michelle Brown puts it, dominant representations rely on “the quintessential carceral image: the racialized body displayed in confinement” (2014, p. 185).

The structuring power of the state to naturalize its everyday violence works through other institutions as well, including the prison. Gina Dent has argued “the history of visuality linked to the prison is also a main reinforcement of the institution of the prison as a naturalized part of our social landscape … The prison is wedded to our experience of visuality, creating also a sense of its permanence as an institution” (in Davis, 2003, p. 17). Similarly, Schept examines the naturalization of carceral institutions into the political common senses of different kinds of communities negotiating different elements of neoliberal crisis and expresses a concern that the growing appearance of carceral institutions in a variety of American landscapes “sediments [the prison’s] common sense prevalence and obscures the all too important questions of what was there before and what could have been there instead” (Schept, 2014, p. 206; see also Schept, 2015). Writing of the attention to and handwringing over the Abu Ghraib photographs, Dylan Rodriguez astutely notes how revelations of the torture and violence often fell within existing categories of perception that proclaimed the exceptionality of the violence. This neglects to consider the redactive work that the spectacle of the photographs and torture performed on behalf of everyday racial class war carried out domestically. As Rodriguez observed,

Even amid budding antiprison and prison abolitionist activisms and critical scholarly praxes, black, brown, and indigenous suffering, survival, and civil/social death too easily become the naturalized landscape on which the political drama of other scenes of torture and terror take place, as if this mundane and proximate—that is, unspectacular—institutionalization of punishment and death is assumed to be a given, rather than something to be acted on in a moment of radical political urgency.

(Rodriguez, 2006, p. 10)

Mapping Visuality

It is important to reiterate that visuality shapes and takes shape in the material world. As Mirzoeff argues, visuality is a process “formed by a set of relations combining information, imagination, and insight into a rendition of physical and psychic space … a discursive practice for rendering and regulating the real that has material effects …” (2011b, p. 476). Don Mitchell similarly insists that wars over culture, which are nothing less than battles for history, “take place” (2000), that is they are both products of and reshape through conflict material conditions and geographies. Visual artist Trevor Paglen likewise reflects on his work depicting the (in)visibility of the security state:

It sounds like an obvious thing to say but it’s a very powerful methodological premise. Infrastructures of power always inhabit the surface of the earth somehow, or the skies above the earth. They’re material things, always, and even though the metaphors we use to describe them are often immaterial—for example we might describe the internet as the Cloud or cyberspace—those metaphors are wildly misleading. The Cloud is buildings with servers in them.

(Jobey, 2015)

Indeed, part of a critical study of the state should include “seeing” visuality: tracing its work and looking back. Thinking about visuality’s spatial work—both the way it authorizes history through the visual work of the landscape and the way scholarship tracks that landscape—necessarily raises the importance of thinking about and through geography.

Geographers have long argued for understanding the relationship between landscape and the naturalization of power (Gilmore, 2007; Harvey, 1996; Mitchell, 1996, 2003; Mitchell, 2002; Smith, 2008). Don Mitchell has observed, for example, “the look of the land plays a key role in determining the shape that a political economy takes” (1996, p. 17). W. J. T. Mitchell argues that

landscape … has a double role with respect to … ideology: it naturalizes a cultural and social construction, representing an artificial world as if it were simply given and inevitable, and it also makes that representation operational by interpellating its beholder in some more or less determinate relation to its givenness as sight and site.

(2002, p. 2)

That is, landscape is integral to the operation and naturalization of the relations of power that produce its contours and shape its meaning.

Visuality works through the landscape to naturalize how we empirically engage with the social world. Nicholas Blomley notes the ideological work of propertied space as “citational, reiterating past performances and thus reproducing dominant norms and practices” (2003, p. 134). Moreover, he argues, “if there are violences to property, it is very easy to treat these—like legal violences more generally—as impersonal, inevitable, and apolitical. Property regimes can easily appear to be simply part of the landscape and as such their violences can appear to be part of the order of things” (Blomley, 2003, p. 134). As Don Mitchell observes of Cosgrove’s body of work, “the very idea of landscape as a ‘way of seeing,’ as a particular kind of view rendered through a rationalization and mathematical ordering of perspective, has a history that is inextricably bound up to the hypercommodification of land that came with the capitalist transformation in Europe” (Mitchell, 1996, p. 26). This history of the foundational period of land enclosures and consolidation of bourgeois class power occurred, in part, through processes of criminalization, imprisonment, and execution reliant on new classifications of crime (Linebaugh, 2006, 2014). As Peter Linebaugh observes of this period characterized by expropriations and hangings of the newly urban poor, it’s a “history of the neck” (2006, p. xxiii) and as Marx noted, this “history of … expropriation is written in the annals of mankind in blood and fire” (1990, p. 875). In short, and as Mark Neocleous has elegantly argued, “the fabrication of social order is simultaneously the fabrication of spatial order” (Neocleous, 2003, p. 101).

There is perhaps no greater illustration of both the connections between visuality, space, and social order on the one hand, and the intimacies and interdependencies between academic criminology and professional criminal justice on the other, than attempts to apprehend and pacify space by police departments and city planners. In the policing of urban space in the pursuit of fabricating order centered around accumulation and private property (Beckett & Herbert, 2009; Herbert, 1996; Herbert & Brown, 2006), the specific placement of police officers in schools as a form of “winning hearts and minds” (Schept, Wall, & Brisman, 2015), and the collaboration between criminologists, urban planners, and police departments in attempting to “design out crime” (Felson et al., 1996; Felson & Boba, 2010), there is an explicit connection between authority, authorized views of history, and the work both perform in space. This authorized view of space is, in fact, foundational to what Mirzoeff (2011a) defines as the Plantation Complex of visuality or, in a word, “oversight.” In Mirzoeff’s treatment, the plantation economy’s “regime of taxonomy, observation and enforcement” was directed from a central viewpoint because, “the production of colonial cash crops, especially sugar, required a precise discipline, centered on surveillance, while being dependent on spectacular and excessive physical punishment” (2011a, p. 50). Oversight collapsed discipline and punishment into a scopic regime. Important work on architectures and technologies of state violence have extended this conceptualization and pushed analyses to consider the three-dimensional operation of scopic regimes in colonization practices abroad and at home. This work introduces and explicates the politics of verticality as states enact aerial and subterranean police power through everything from drone warfare and surveillance to control of aquifers (Mbembe, 2003; Wall, 2013, 2016; Weizman, 2007).

Importantly, even attempts to harness the power of visualizing space for critical or progressive ends may still operate within complexes of visuality. Against practices of crime mapping that further criminalized people and neighborhoods, the Million Dollar Block project sought to map the mass imprisonment of Black residents by demonstrating the socio-spatial concentration of prisoners’ home communities. Quite literally, the maps demonstrated the trajectory of people and money from square blocks in some of, for example, New York City’s poorest neighborhoods to prisons upstate. The maps were an attempt to shift the conversation from “the problem of crime” to the “problem of prisons.” And yet, as Brett Story (2016a) argues, the maps themselves operate through discursive registers that reproduce dominant logics and practices:

The cartography of the million dollar block serves to shore up the “criminal” as a reified category of bad, and reproduce the ostensibly causal relationship between “crime” and prisons. This discursive formation serves to produce a new category and attendant object for state intervention: the criminogenic urban neighborhood, for which the million dollar block becomes both euphemism and compass.

(Story, 2016a, pp. 10–11)

In other words, the cartographic concept of the million dollar block interacts with and reproduces historic notions of Black criminality to inject into space a concept that, despite noble intentions, reifies a classificatory schema. As Story continues,

As representations and sites of power-knowledge, maps are always embedded within historical landscapes of social relations, dominant ideologies, and structures of common sense … The tendency of these maps is to occlude, rather than disclose, the kinds of structural factors and social relations that actually give rise to spatially differentiated chances of incarceration. Not only is the category of crime left intact, despite its historical contingencies, but so are the urban processes for which the categories of crime and differentiated arrestability are put to work: gentrification; labor deregulation; racial profiling; and capital accumulation. This logic misses the key structural questions not only of why people live where they do but why their neighborhoods are criminalized as they are. A whole lot gets written out of this picture, including, most glaringly, the state.

(2016a, p. 12)

The maps attempt an intervention into the problematic project of crime mapping but reify the categories and discursive formations that, in this case, constitute both the problem and the “solution.” The Million Dollar Block map, then, exemplifies an attempted counter-visualization that ultimately fails to disturb the discursive bricks and mortar that construct the available discourse regarding punishment (Sloop, 1996).

Locating Story’s analysis of the neoliberal logic at the core of the Million Dollar Block cartography in a broader consideration of visuality and criminology is highly generative. For in her analysis, and the passages above in particular, is the realization that a reformist attempt to visualize the political economic patterns undergirding mass incarceration has resulted in an actual obstruction of a view outside of the state’s own vantage and vocabulary. This aligns with broader critiques of the political and epistemological work of maps and mapping technologies, including Geographic Information Systems (Crampton, 2010). As Knowles, Westerfeld, and Strom (2015, p. 235) argue,

Critics of GIS pointed out that those who treated GIS as a tool were prone to ignore how it shaped its users’ understanding of society, as well as the troubling associations of GIS with power hierarchies embedded in the military, economic development, and social violence against disadvantaged minority populations.

At its most extreme, they argue, GIS maps of various Nazi camps served both to expand knowledge of the spatial dimensions of the Holocaust and, troublingly, reproduced the “Nazi’s dehumanizing, distant, instrumental view” (pp. 242–243) through working within the same “impulse to quantify, modularize, distantiate, technify, and bureaucratize the subjective individuality of human experience” (Presner, as quoted in Knowles et al., 2015 p. 244).

This tendency attributed to the Nazi regime is by no means endemic to them. As other scholars have observed, the quest to quantify, measure, standardize, and map society is inherent to modern state formation. Writing of processes of mapping early European cities, James C. Scott quotes the historian Lewis Mumford in describing the military logic underwriting the practices of making cities intelligible to the state:

“Long before the invention of bulldozers,” Mumford adds, “the Italian military engineer developed, through his professional specialization in destruction, a bulldozing habit of mind: one that sought to clear the ground of encumbrances, so as to make a clear beginning on its own inflexible mathematical lines”.

(Scott, 1998, p. 56)

Discussing Napoleon’s redevelopment of Paris through the Prefect of the Seine Baron Haussmann, Scott continues that Haussman’s project was to have Paris intensely visualized:

Legibility, in this case, was achieved by a much more pronounced segregation of the population by class and function. Each fragment of Paris increasingly took on a distinctive character of dress, activity and wealth—bourgeois shopping district, prosperous residential quarter, industrial suburb, artisan quarter, bohemian quarter. It was a more easily managed and administered city and a more “readable” city because of Haussmann’s heroic simplifications.

(1998, p. 63)

Mark Neocleous makes a similar point, writing,

the map became the perfect symbol of the state. To map a territory means to formally define space along the lines set within a particular epistemological and political experience—a way of knowing and dominating—… which serves the interest of the state.

(2003, p. 119)

To conclude by way of coming full circle to an earlier and central point, the fabrication of social and spatial order (Neocleous, 2000)—the work of visuality—requires other technologies beyond the cadastral map. The map is just one technological form of the political process of mapping society. Neocleous notes that the role of mapmakers was similar to that of statisticians described in an earlier section: intelligence gathering toward the political and epistemological project of state power. As he notes,

it is impossible to undertake an accurate census or other forms of statistical administration unless there is some territorial framework on which to base the work. In cataloguing space, the map adds documentary intelligence concerning territory to the wealth of other intelligence the state holds about itself. It increases the legibility of the territory by identifying key features of the geographical order fabricated by the state.

(2003, p. 121)

Indeed, other examples of mapping society abound in this rich literature. Scott notes the seemingly mundane process of surname standardization that became constitutive of state power, noting,

in almost every case it was a state project, designed to allow officials to identify, unambiguously, the majority of its citizens. When successful, it went far to create a legible people. Tax and tithe rolls, conscription lists, censuses, and property deeds recognized in law were inconceivable without some means of fixing an individual’s identity and linking him or her to a kin group.

(1998, p. 65)

Simone Browne and David Theo Goldberg discuss the census in similar ways. Goldberg argues that the census is the state’s form of “stocktaking,” enabling the visualization of “population size, shape, distribution, quality and flow of labor supply, taxation and conscription pools, political representation, voter predictability, and the necessities of population reproduction” (Goldberg, 2002, p. 189), while Browne notes that the census is also a form of racializing surveillance in that it fabricates and reproduces the very concept of race through the practice of mapping society. Ultimately, Browne notes, from its inception in 1790 where it asked about the number of free white men, women, and other people in a given household as well as the number of enslaved black people, the “census has been a technology of disciplinary power that classifies, examines, and quantifies populations.”

Counter-visuality and Counter-criminology

Visuality is never complete. The process of authorizing history is contestable and requires ideological struggle. The existence of visuality means also the existence of its fallibility and the possibilities at stake in the demand for a right to look. As Tyler Wall and Travis Linnemann argue regarding the aesthetic authority of police power, visuality is not

absolute and/or uncontested, as slave revolts, colonial insurrections, revolutions, and everyday acts of resistance to the dominant order prove. Some form of countervisuality always exists in antagonistic relation to those peoples, institutions, and structures seeking to “authorize authority” by aestheticizing a particular (im)moral geography.

(2014, p. 140)

The choice, as Mirzoeff notes about countervisuality and the right to look, “is between continuing to move on and authorizing authority or claiming that there is something to see and democratizing democracy” (2011b, p. 5). Implicated in this choice are the mechanisms of knowledge production that organize both the discourses that reproduce visuality and the radical imagination that can perceive the choice in the first place. As Mirzoeff has noted elsewhere, the right to look is “not simply a matter of assembled visual images but the grounds on which such assemblages can register as meaningful renditions of a given event” (2011b, p. 477). That is, the right to look requires the counter-images and counter-glossaries that can un-imagine the authorized world and perhaps reimagine something different (Armstrong, 2013; Brown & Schept, 2016; Carlen, 2008; Correia & Wall, 2017). This is an abolitionist project of undoing and remaking, resonating with Sora Han’s observations about Moten and Harney’s work on the Undercommons:

If prison abolitionist discourse today strains to articulate a program that is for something instead of against prisons (or even punishment), then I hear Moten and Harney suggest that the only way for the “responsible responsiveness” of a “yes” to arrive is to affirm the beyond toward which the political horizon of prison abolition stretches. This beyond is “the abolition of a society that could have prisons, that could have slavery, that could have the wage, and therefore not abolition as the elimination of anything but abolition as the founding of a new society.

(Moten & Harney, 2004, p. 114, in Han, 2014)

Reading Han through visuality and countervisuality, the argument for abolition can be understood as the affirmation of a beyond that is undefined and indefinable by the conditions and categories of racial capitalism and its authorized view of history.

This countervisual and abolitionist vision inevitably falls into tension with criminology given the discipline’s “shared notions of ontology and of social order” with the state (Young, 2011, p. 23). What does it mean, then, for criminology to grapple on this terrain? Perhaps more to the point, is this terrain on which criminology could or should engage? Can criminology exist in the space of counter-visual knowledge? One way to take up these questions is by considering criminology’s attempts to confront its role in authorizing official history as well as its role in radical change. This has been done elsewhere recently, particularly in discussions of abolition and critical carceral studies directly (Brown, 2014; Brown & Schept, 2016; Ruggiero, 2010), the tensions between radical and liberal criminologies (De Giorgi, 2014; Platt, 2014; Simon, 2014) and the role of activist criminology (Belknap, 2014) and public criminology (Loader & Sparks, 2010), particularly in tension with abolition (Piché, 2016), to say nothing of the foundational work within criminology that raised these questions (Cohen, 1998; Mathiesen, 1974). This oeuvre suggests that criminology doesn’t operate outside of authorized history it legitimates but rather can stand in reflexive and committed resistance to it. Of critical importance within this body of work is the recognition that an abolitionist project of counter-visuality must necessarily include a reckoning with the very concepts and vocabularies that, in their normative deployment, are constitutive of the discipline and its connection to the state. That is, this work recognizes the need to counter not just the everyday violence of the racial capitalist state but the terms and classifications that inscribe in the social body the capacities to render such violence legible.

By way of a conclusion, this article engages work in conversation with criminology and which stakes a methodological, political, and epistemological position for the right to look. These examples conduct two radical activities. First, they are “framing the frame” (Butler, 2009, p. 6), which Butler argues “exposes and thematizes the mechanism of restriction, and constitutes a disobedient act of seeing” (p. 72). That is, they depict the operation of visuality, including the structural limitations of much criminological work. Second, they push beyond the “limits of representation” (Brown, 2009) and the “edge of sight” (Smith, 2013) and conduct the courageous work of enacting the right to look.

In filmmaker Brett Story’s 2016b film The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, for example, she actively seeks to challenge liberal and progressive documentary traditions and strategies centered on humanization tropes and the generation of sympathies for individuals positioned as innocent or excessively punished. In these films, and I would extend her argument here to include other forms of knowledge and cultural production, very much including criminological research, there is alternately righteous anger or dispassionate analysis always framed around a miscarriage of justice, a wrongful accusation, an excessive sentence, or a redeemed individual. The structuring categories of crime and punishment remain intact and the historical processes that are the conditions of possibility for the carceral state remain shrouded in the cinematic or scientific focus on the empirical moment.

In contrast, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, a film about the presence of the prison but in which the viewer never actually sees one, Story (2016b) extracts the prison out of the common sense visual and analytical vocabulary of crime and punishment and relocates it in relationship with and at times as central to other processes in society: gentrification, job loss, county revenue generation, the meaning of work, and patterns of uneven development. Crucially, Story’s film and descriptions observe that the prison’s centrality to the operations of the social formation is often occluded by the notion that the prison is marginal; following Gilmore (2007, p. 11), The Prison in Twelve Landscapes insists that the prison is, in fact, historically central to the reformation of the state under neoliberalism and immediately relevant to all sorts of spaces in society that are putatively “free.”

Like Story’s work in the film, artist Trevor Paglen attempts to see that which is often invisibilized—that is, outside the frame—but which materially exists and structures the contemporary social world. His work raises profound political, methodological, and ontological questions. In his examinations of surveillance and black sites, for example, he questions, “If secrecy is a way of organizing institutions and human activities in such a way as to try to render them silent or invisible, then how do we go about trying to see them?” His work simultaneously attempts to enact the right to look and often demonstrates the failure of our capacity to see outside the vantages produced for us.

In his provoking essay “The Image as Machine,” which begins the book Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen, Niels Van Tomme describes Travor Paglen’s photography of clandestine military operations through telescope lenses. He writes of Paglen:

The ambiguous imagery he generates, which becomes the final work, systematically fails to adequately visualize the hidden reality it attempts to address. The telescope lens becomes a device embedded within the very violence it seeks to investigate, as such tools of vision are inextricably entwined with the history of, as well as ongoing standard developments within, the military industrial complex. Paglen thus raises fundamental questions that go beyond the specifics of the worlds he investigates, forcing us to reflect on the so-called neutrality of lens-based media in depicting military operations specifically, as well as the limitations of recording and processing our environment more broadly.

In another example, Paglen’s photograph entitled The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas) (2010) illustrates the complicated dynamic between visual scholarship and visuality. Van Tomme describes the image as “an abstracted and blurred visual plane, an amalgam of red and orange hues, with whites breaking through in the upper part and darkness appearing below” (2014, p. 27). Despite its abstract and indefinable presentation, The Fence is a photographic depiction of “The Fence,” the colloquial name for a massive and powerful radar system that surrounds the United States. The Fence, according to Paglen,

is an electromagnetic border that extends far into space from transmitters in Alaska, California, Texas, Massachusetts, Greenland, and the United Kingdom. The Fence is designed to track spacecraft overflying the United States and to serve as an early warning system to detect ballistic missile launches. (see:

But the Fence operates at frequencies that are invisible to human eyes. Paglen collaborated with a radio astronomer to produce an image visible to our eyes by shifting the electromagnetic frequency into a register within our capacity to see.

The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas) (2010) demonstrates several important features of contemporary visuality as it relates to the visual. Paglen shows, again, that visuality’s success occurs in part through its ability to operate at the level of our senses, structuring our ability to see or operating at the very limits of our perception, existing outside our own frames while adjusting the frame itself. But his work also demonstrates that this is never complete and that we retain the ability to look. Van Tomme notes that Paglen’s work explores the realm between the invisible and visible, situated in “the moment when something becomes perceptible but remains unintelligible, the instant when you find the evidence of absence, so to speak” (2014, p. 28). Paglen’s work here is a critique of state violence and secrecy through a form of what Simone Browne, following Steve Mann, calls “sousveillance,” or the art of looking back. In this case, Paglen attempts to apprehend the shadow state hidden in off-the-map landscapes that underwrites contemporary patterns of state violence. His work is also, however, a commentary on the medium, and in particular the limits of representation to capture the structuring of sight and site and the inevitable failed process of documentation. Paglen’s work demands the right to look and simultaneously admits to the limitations of being able to see.

Neither Story nor Paglen are criminologists but their work is instructive for a meditation on the relationship between criminology and visuality. Both The Prison in Twelve Landscapes and much of Paglen’s work seek to disrupt normative explanatory frameworks for understanding state violence. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes resituates the prison as central to contemporary American society, from fighting forest fires in California to generating revenue in St. Louis County to spaces in the formal and informal economies of New York City and eastern Kentucky opened up by the volume of prisons and prisoners. The film shows the diverse landscapes constitutive of the modern-day neoliberal carceral state. Paglen’s work dwells more specifically on the limitations and possibilities of seeing, of the work visuality does and the potential—limited, refracted, blurry—of looking back. These works offer an interdisciplinary (or perhaps anti-disciplinary) orientation, jettisoning the liberal logics that ultimately rescue and re-form police power and prisons from their own crises of legitimacy and the abolitionist potential those crises open up. Instead, they bring into the realm of the discussable both the operations of visuality and the possibility of seeing against it.

Further Reading

The following titles offer essential reading for examinations of the relationship between visuality and criminology. While some, like Nicholas Mirzoeff’s work, examine and explicate visuality directly, others focus more broadly on some of the concept’s constitutive relationships, including those between the state, knowledge production, the image and photograph, law and crime, and the production of social and spatial order.

  • Mirzoeff, N. (2011a). The right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Mirzoeff, N. (2011b). The right to look. Critical Inquiry, 37(3), 473–496.
Knowledge, Power and Photography
  • Barthes R. (1981). Camera lucida. New York: Hill and Wang.
  • Benjamin, W. (1969). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In H. Arendt (Ed.), Illuminations (pp. 217–252). New York: Shocken Books.
  • Butler, J. (2009). Frames of war: When is life grievable? London: Verso.
  • Sontag, S. (1977). On photography. New York: Picador.
State Power, Social Order and Space
  • Blomley, N. (2003). Law, property, and the geography of violence: The frontier, the survey, and the grid. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93(1), 121–141.
  • Mitchell, D. (2000). Cultural geography: A critical introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Mitchell D. (2003). Dead labor and the political economy of landscape: California living, California dying. In K. Anderson, M. Domosh, S. Pile, & N. Thrift (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Geography (pp. 233–249). London: SAGE.
  • Neocleous, M. (2000). The fabrication of social order: A critical theory of police power. Sterling, VA: Pluto Press.
  • Neocleous, M. (2003). Imagining the state. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
  • Scott, J. C. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
State Power, Ideology, and Representation
  • Camp, J. (2016) Incarcerating the crisis: Freedom struggles and the rise of the neoliberal state. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Hall, S. (1996). Encoding/decoding. In S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe, & P. Willis (Eds.), Culture, media, language (pp. 128–138). New York: Routledge.
  • Hall, S., Critcher, C., Jefferson, T., Clarke, J., & Roberts, B. (2013). Policing the crisis: Mugging, the state, and law and order, 35th anniversary edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Crime, Criminology and the Visual
  • Biber, K. (2007). Captive images: Race, crime, photography. New York: Routledge.
  • Brown, M. (2014). Visual Criminology and carceral studies: Counter-images in the carceral age. Theoretical Criminology, 18(2), 176–197.
  • Carrabine, E. (2012). Just images: Aesthetics, ethics and visual criminology. British Journal of Criminology, 52(3), 463–489.
  • Hayward, K., & Presdee, M. (Eds.). (2010). Framing crime: Cultural criminology and the image. New York: Routledge.
  • Schept, J. (2014). (Un)seeing like a prison: Counter-visual ethnography of the carceral state. Theoretical Criminology, 18(2), 198–223.


  • Armstrong, S. (2013). Using the future to predict the past: Prison population projections and the colonisation of penal imagination. In M. Malloch & B. Munro (Eds.), Crime, critique and utopia (pp. 136–163). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Arnold, W. (1981). Criminal justice: Review of a field. Mid-American Review of Sociology, 6(2), 79–95.
  • Barthes, R. (1978). Image-music-text. New York: Hill and Wang.
  • Barthes R. (1981). Camera lucida. New York: Hill and Wang.
  • Beckett, K., & Herbert, S. (2009). Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Belknap, J. (2014). Activist criminology: Criminologists’ responsibility to advocate for social and legal justice. Criminology, 53(1), 1–22.
  • Benjamin, W. (1969a). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In H. Arendt (Ed.), Illuminations (pp. 217–252). New York: Shocken Books.
  • Benjamin, W. (1969b). Theses on the philosophy of history. In H. Arendt (Ed.), Illuminations (pp. 253–264). New York: Shocken Books.
  • Benjamin, W. (1986). Critique of violence. In P. Demetz (Ed.), Reflections: Essays, aphorisms, autobiographical writings (pp. 277–300). New York: Shocken Books.
  • Biber, K. (2007). Captive images: Race, crime, photography. New York: Routledge.
  • Blomley, N. (2003). Law, property, and the geography of violence: The frontier, the survey, and the grid. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93(1), 121–141.
  • Brown, M. (2009). The Culture of punishment: Prison, society and spectacle. New York: New York University Press.
  • Brown, M. (2014). Visual criminology and carceral studies: Counter-images in the carceral age. Theoretical Criminology, 18(2), 176–197.
  • Brown, M., & Carrabine, E. (Eds.). (2016). The Routledge handbook of visual criminology. New York: Routledge.
  • Brown, M., & Schept, J. (2016) New abolition, criminology and a critical carceral studies. Punishment & Society. Available at
  • Browne, S. (2015) Dark matters: On the surveillance of blackness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Buck-Morss, S. (1991). The Dialectics of seeing: Walter Benjamin and the arcades project. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Butler, J. (1993). Endangered/endangering: Schematic racism and white paranoia. In R. Gooding-Williams (Ed.), Reading Rodney King: Reading urban uprising. New York: Routledge.
  • Butler, J. (2009). Frames of war: When is life grievable? London: Verso.
  • Carlen, P. (Ed.). (2008). Imaginary penalities. Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.
  • Carrabine, E. (2012). Just images: Aesthetics, ethics and visual criminology. British Journal of Criminology, 52(3), 463–489.
  • Clear, T., & Frost, N. (2014). The Punishment imperative: The rise and failure of mass incarceration. New York: New York University Press.
  • Cohen, S. (1998). Against criminology. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  • Correia, D., & Wall, T. (2017). The police: A field guide to American state violence. New York: Verso.
  • Crampton, J. (2010). Mapping: A critical introduction to cartography and GIS. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Davis, A. (2003) Are prisons obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • De Giorgi, A. (2014). Reform or revolution. Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict and World Order, 40(1–2), 9–23.
  • Derrida, J. (1990). Force of law: The “Mythical foundation of authority”. Cardozo Law Review, 11, 919. Translated by Mary Quaintance.
  • Felson, M., et al. (1996). Redesigning hell: Preventing crime and disorder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. In R. V. Clarke (Ed.), Preventing mass transit crime (pp. 5–92). Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
  • Felson, M., & Boba Santos, R. (2010). Crime in everyday life (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Ferrell, J., Hayward, K., & Young, J. (2008) Cultural criminology: An invitation. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Ferrell, J., & Sanders, C. (1995). Cultural criminology. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  • Ferrell, J., & Van de Voorde, C. (2010). The Decisive moment: Documentary photography and cultural criminology. In K. Hayward & M. Presdee (Eds.), Framing crime: Cultural criminology and the image (pp. 36–52). New York: Routledge.
  • Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The Birth of the prison (2d ed.). New York: Vintage Books.
  • Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings 1972–1977. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Gilmore R. W. (2007). Golden gulag: Prisons, surplus, crisis, and opposition in globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Gilmore, R. W. (2016). Seeing: The problem. Paper delivered at annual meeting of Association of American Geographers. San Francisco, CA.
  • Giroux, H. A. (2014). Neoliberalism’s war on higher education. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
  • Goldberg, D. T. (2002). The racial state. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
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