Dr Phil Carney

Dr Phil Carney

Lecturer in Criminology, University of Kent

Taking a view that photographic representation and presentation is at the heart of the mass-mediated society of spectacle in modernity, I have pursued ESRC-funded doctoral studies, completing a thesis entitled The Punitive Gaze, in which I use case studies of photographed bodies in confinement to demonstrate a new critical theory of the mass-media photograph. In case studies examining the photographic events of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and the death of Myra Hindley, my aim was to show that another dimension of the power of the circulating photograph exists in excess of its representation and meaning: a force of practice or performance in and of the image. The photograph becomes both the scene and means of photogenic punishment.

In developing a theory of the active image I have drawn together some aspects of the writings of Marx, Nietzsche, Artaud, Foucault, Barthes, Deleuze and Guattari who, taken together in a particular way, may be seen to develop not only a materialist theory of power and desire as multiplicities but to provide the theoretical infrastructure for a materialist theory of the power in the circulating image, particularly in what we might call photographic production, where the photograph may be both the stage and instrument of performance, praxis and action.

It is in this way that I take an interest in what might be called rhizomic and nomadic methods, as forms of resistance to the imperial, territorial ambitions of ‘royal science’. Thus the ‘culture’ of cultural criminology is a vagrant concept that should be allowed to roam between disciplines and across fields, resisting the attempts of royal scientists to pin it to a map.

My current research interests include:

  1. The theory of the photograph and its application in a critical approach to the modern spectacles of crime, punishment, war, torture and terrorism.
  2. An inquiry into the different kinds of critical approach to the mass media beyond the standard ‘communications’ model, especially those that take into account the triangular relationship between spectacle, power and desire.
  3. The use of post-structuralist themes—particularly materialist conceptions of power and desire—in cultural criminology, in the renewal of critical criminology and in social and critical theory more generally.
  4. The micro-politics of fascism and the will to punish.

My background includes a training in medicine—during which time I also took a bachelors in medical sociology—and specialisation in psychiatry with a particular interest in both psychoanalytic approaches and forensic issues. The latter was the springboard to masters studies in criminology at Middlesex University associated with funded attachments to institutions in Holland (Erasmus University) and Italy (University of Bari).

My own approach to criminology is to mix creative, cultural, historical, interpretive and critical approaches, particularly those that seek an understanding of power, desire and resistance. For the sake of a more critically-aware society it is vital that we take a radical approach to the problems of criminalisation and punishment, and the multifarious forms of power and desire invested in them.

I am the University of Kent coordinator of the International Common Study Programme in Critical Criminology.

I am available for research supervision in any area related to my interests.

You are welcome to contact me by e mail