Dr Phil Carney

Lecturer in Criminology
Director, Erasmus and International Programmes, SSPSSR
Kent Academic Lead, Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology


Dr Phil Carney's approach to criminology is to mix creative, cultural, historical, interpretive and critical approaches, particularly those that seek an understanding of power, desire and resistance.

Dr Carney maintains that, 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. 

Having trained in medicine, during which time he also graduated in medical sociology, Dr Carney specialised in psychiatry with a particular interest in both psychoanalytic approaches and forensic issues.

Dr Carney studied his Master's in Criminology at Middlesex University. He had funded attachments to institutions in Holland (Erasmus University) and Italy (University of Bari) in law and political science departments, respectively.

Research interests

Dr Carney's areas of interest include photographic theory, critical theory of spectacle, critical criminology, cultural criminology, visual criminology, desire and power and the micropolitics of fascism.

Taking a view that photographic representation and presentation is at the heart of the mass-mediated society of spectacle in modernity, Dr Carney undertook ESRC-funded doctoral studies, completing a thesis entitled 'The Punitive Gaze', in which he used 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, his 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, Dr Carney has 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 Dr Carney takes 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.

Current research includes:

  • The theory of the photograph and its application in a critical approach to the modern spectacles of crime, punishment, war, torture and terrorism.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The micro-politics of fascism and the will to punish.


Dr Carney teaches the sociology of crime and deviance at undergraduate level and critical and global criminology at postgraduate level.


If you have a proposal within Dr Carney's areas of interest, please contact him by email.


  • Kent Academic Lead, Doctorate in Cultural and Global Criminology (DCGC).
  • Director Erasmus and International Programmes, SSPSSR, University of Kent. 
  • Kent Coordinator, Common Study Programme in Critical Criminology.
  • Member SSPSSR Research Ethics Committee, University of Kent. 
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