Dr Gill Buck, Dr Ian Mahoney and Dr Emma Murray recently followed in a long tradition of postgraduate research in Criminology at Keele with the award of their PhDs. We offer our warmest congratulations to our new doctors and to all of the academics who supervised their projects.
Gill’s thesis was entitled ‘Peer mentoring and the role of the voluntary sector in [re]producing ‘desistance’: identity, agency, values, change and power’. It was supervised by Dr Mary Corcoran and Professor Ronnie Lippens. Prior to this project, and despite much enthusiasm for the practice of peer mentoring by ex-offenders, it had received very little empirical scrutiny. Gill’s thesis examined the micro dynamics and intimate interactions within these relationships. In doing so it highlighted how mentors are often much more than functional additions to existing criminal justice systems. They are also presented as teachers, co-operators and critical agents. The narratives in this study highlight how dominant forms of knowledge often minimise or miss the lived experiences of crime and change. In contrast, peer mentors place lived experiences at the centre of their approach and in doing so they critically question exclusionary practices and re-humanise themselves and their peers.
Gill’s data were obtained from qualitative interviews with twenty peer mentors, eighteen peer mentees, four service coordinators and two Probation officers, who were drawn from a range of voluntary sector providers in the North of England. Observations of practice were also carried out, including: volunteer recruitment processes; training courses; and formal supervision sessions. Mentors were also observed facilitating group work with their peers. The analysis of the data drew upon techniques of thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis focusing upon how mentoring was described, performed and justified by participants. As a result of this analysis five overarching themes emerged from the research. These are: identity, agency, values, change and power.
Gill is now a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Chester.
Ian’s thesis, ‘Graftin’ up ‘anley duck: Narrating the influence of unemployment upon identity and crime in Stoke-on-Trent’ was supervised by Dr Tony Kearon and Professor Ronnie Lippens. The research set out to explore the influences of unemployment upon senses of identity and involvement in crime in Stoke-on-Trent. It drew upon the Free Association Interview method to explore the lives and experiences of a group of men living in some of the most deprived parts of the city between 2010 and 2014. Ian looked at experiences of unemployment, underemployment and insecure employment upon the lives and narratives of these men and their perceptions of the world around them. He aimed to understand the effect of their experiences and how they have come to reconcile their position in society.
Ian’s thesis outlined how people construct and maintain an identity which makes sense to them in the face of the significant challenges posed by the deindustrialisation and prolonged decline of the city of Stoke-on-Trent. It revealed how their evolving sense of self is influenced by the communities in which they live, whether that is an urban, social housing estate, a hostel or on the streets. The thesis challenges existing hegemonic depictions of what it is to be part of the homogenously branded ‘socially excluded’ and the manner in which senses of social order which, although they may not be seen as ‘normal’ or acceptable to wider society, are formed. Ian argued that the people deemed socially excluded are active and engaged actors seeking to find senses of security, belonging and unity in an increasingly atomised, insecure and fragmented world.
Ian is now a Lecturer in Criminology at Liverpool Hope University.
Emma’s thesis, supervised by Professor Bill Dixon (now at Nottingham University) and Dr Barry Ryan (SPIRE) was entitled ‘Reimagining the Veteran: An investigation into Violent Veterans in England and Wales post 9/11’. Emma’s thesis provided an original investigation into the status of violent veterans in the United Kingdom post 9/11. Drawing upon a series of interviews conducted during 2011-2014, it framed the problem through the focused lens of Veteranality. Veteranality is understood here to be the regulation and rehabilitation of veteran offenders within the criminal justice framework, with a conscious attempt to understand the limitations of governing regimes by foregrounding questions of political agency.
Emma looked directly at the tensions and conflicts veteran offenders experience as they move from a war paradigm to one of criminal justice on domestic soil. Central to this was the ethical decision to “give voice” to the veterans by allowing them to narrate their own experiences prior, during and after war, which proved crucial to the study. As violent veterans exposed the limits of juridical approaches to their crimes, so they added further empirical weight to the claims that times of war and peace are less easily demarcated and set apart. Embodying the normalisation of violence in new security terrains, their testimonies presented significant challenges and demand a thorough rethinking of the violence of warfare in the 21st Century.
Emma is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Liverpool John Moores University.