Witnessing the UK Wootton Bassett repatriations through media images: Implications for victimology

Witnessing Wootton Bassett: An exploration in cultural victimology

From Crime Media Culture

Wootton Bassett is a small town in England. It is situated close to the Royal Air Force Lyneham base where service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are repatriated. Media reporting and similar visual witnessing of repatriations has become a frequent occurrence since the first spontaneous saluting of what was then a small procession by Royal British Legion members in 2007. Since that time UK military deaths from the war in Afghanistan have reached over 350, As the number of people present at the repatriations has steadily increased, it would seem that this is an impulse expressing a collective grief. This paper explores the ‘public performance’ and ‘witnessing’ of these events. It identifies three themes within the photographs of the processions: the compression of private and public grief; gothicism and the emergence of ‘dark tourism’; and displays of resistance. In conclusion the article explores the implications of this analysis for victimology.

Abstract

The media reporting and visual witnessing of repatriations at Wootton Bassett have become an increasingly frequent occurrence since the first spontaneous saluting of what was then a lonely procession, by Royal British Legion members in 2007. UK military deaths from thar in Afghanistan have now reached over 300 and media sources have begun speculating as to which entry point is likely to replace Wootton Bassett when RAF Lyneham closes in August 2011. Our purpose in this paper is to explore the ‘public performance’ and ‘witnessing’ of these events through two ‘lenses’: the literal via photography and the theoretical by way of victimology. Our intention is to situate ourselves as visual, critical, and certainly not neutral, witnesses. In so doing, we wish to use pictures taken by the photographer Stuart Griffiths to propose three cultural trends that our witnessing of his pictures of Wootton Bassett suggests. In so doing we present three themes that we think are identifiable within these photographs: the compression of private and public grief; gothicism and the emergence of ‘dark tourism’; and displays of resistance. By way of conclusion we discuss the implications of this analysis for victimology.

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Article details
Walklate, S., Mythen, G., & McGarry, R. (2011). Witnessing Wootton Bassett: An Exploration in Cultural Victimology Crime, Media, Culture, 7 (2), 149-165 DOI: 10.1177/1741659011407110

     
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