Rafe McGregor hosted Narrative Justice: A British Society of Aesthetics Conference on Aesthetic Education from Theory to Practice at Edge Hill University from 5th to 6th March 2019. The conference was generously funded by the British Society of Aesthetics and facilities provided by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Edge Hill. The purpose of the conference was to exchange ideas between aesthetics and criminology – more specifically, to explore the intersection of the two disciplines in relation to narrative representation. As such, there were four speakers from each discipline.
The conference was opened by Sarah Worth (philosophy, Furman), who presented a fascinating discussion of the way in which universities in the southern American states are confronting – or in some cases avoiding – their connections with slavery, some of which are substantial. Stephen Wakeman (criminology, Liverpool John Moores) argued for the significance of fictional representations to criminology, using HBO’s Game of Thrones as a paradigm of contemporary penal policy. Derek Matravers (philosophy, Open) sketched a sophisticated position between Louis Mink and Noël Carroll in order to establish the relevance of super-truths in determining the relationship between non-fiction narrative representation and truth. Andrew Millie (criminology, Edge Hill) concluded the first day by tracing several areas of overlap across the subdisciplines of visual sociology, philosophical aesthetics, and theoretical criminology by means of the concept of taste.
The second day was opened by Ronnie Lippens (criminology, Keele), who began with the novels of Don Delillo, moved on to the relationship between law and waste, and then foregrounded the importance of Lucifer as a model for twenty-first century leadership. Vladimir Rizov (criminology, Suffolk) used illustrations of suspected criminals being forced to pose for prototypical mugshots to argue for a power relation between photographer and subject that extends to all documentary photography and remains ethically problematic. Eileen John examined the transformative significance of words, reading, and writing in the context of incarceration, focusing on Malcolm X’s experience as represented in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Naziya O’Reilly (philosophy of education, Leeds Trinity) closed the conference with an explanation of how Stanley Cavell’s life, as represented in Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory, constituted a philosophy that could – and should – be applied to restorative practice at schools. All presentations were followed by lively discussions between and among the different disciplines and perspectives on justice and narrative. The conference was attended by twenty-six delegates, staff, and students.
Image courtesy Edge Hill