Popular and visual narratives of punishment in museum settings

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


Museums tell us a great deal about punishment, both past and present. As storied spaces they ‘remember’ punishment through accounts of brutality and benevolence; condemnation and compassion; retribution and righteousness. Indeed, these tourist sites offer powerful narratives about crime, but they are also spaces which can problematize concepts such as ‘justice’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘order’. This chapter will consider the stories Texas tells about the death penalty within the Texas Prison Museum. Drawing on a museum ethnography undertaken in the Lone Star State, it will outline and analyse various narrative features found within this Texan tourist site. More specifically though, this chapter will address the tensions found to be at work within the museum setting and consider how we might begin to explain these as ‘counter-narratives’ of Texan punishment. As this chapter will argue, museums offer a unique opportunity to understand how a collective narrates its own relationship with criminal justice; they are significant sites in which meanings are made and opinions formed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment
EditorsMartina Althoff, Bernd Dollinger, Holger Schmidt
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030472368
ISBN (Print)9783030472351
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2020


  • Texas
  • identity
  • victimhood
  • execution
  • death-penalty
  • death-row
  • museum
  • punishment
  • offender


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