The Spectre of Crime: Photography, Law and Ethics

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Journal Article
Social Semiotics, 2006, 16 (1), pp. 133 - 149
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A grainy series of surveillance photographs was tendered into evidence at the trial of a young Aboriginal man accused of robbing a bank. Two police officers testified that they recognised him from the photographs. On appeal to the High Court of Australia, the judges thought that the hooded bandit in the image looked like the spectre from Hamlet. This article uses the discourse of spectrality to explore the consequences for law and ethics when haunted by the transgressive image. It examines the confrontation between the foundational illegality of the Australian nation, and the indigenous man who is accused of a crime against property.
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