In the last episode of 2020 taken from our ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ conference, Hannah Berry presents a phenomenology of serial killers.
Season 5 episode 99: 20 December 2020
To close the first set of releases of season five of our podcast, we continue with another presentation from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online. This episode features Hannah Berry (University of Liverpool). Hannah was one of the organisers of the 2020 annual conference, serves as Secretary of the BSP, and will be back next week for our 100th episode of the BSP Podcast conducting a special interview to celebrate the milestone. Before that, here is Hannah telling us why ‘We Need to Talk About Ted’.
You can also find this episode on iTunes and all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.
‘We Need to Talk About Ted’
ABSTRACT: There is an increasing fascination with serial killers, morbid crime and the general macabre within popular culture and contemporary society. It has often been argued that our enjoyment of sad films; the act of slowing down when driving to view a crash site; looking at a dead animal in the park; listening to interviews with serial killers, and even; eating meat are “survivalist” tendencies, as well as a means of reinforcing pro-social values (Burkeman, 2012). We indulge these curiosities and watch highly rated television programs such as Making a Murderer, Unabomber, Mindhunter, Criminal Minds, The Fall, True Detective, etc. These fictional and non-fictional narratives examine the intricate details of the crime, the history, the criminal investigation and the prosecution of serial killers and are often supplemented with a clinical psychologist’s reflection of why the perpetrator acted in this way. Bonn claims that there appears to be an innate human tendency to identify or empathise with all things –whether good or bad –including serial killers (2014), and this may be why we are fascinated with them. I will present a corpus analysis and critical discourse analysis of interviews with two serial killers: Ted Bundy (an American serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered women during the 1970s) and Ted Kaczynski (also known as the Unabomber: an American domestic terrorist and anarchist who killed 3 people in the late 1970s and 80s). I will analyse the linguistics devices the criminals used when: referring to the victims; the use of agency in descriptions of the crimes, and; present a phenomenological description that aids my linguistic analysis in order to track the awareness of the embodied other and the level of consciousness of the others’ subjectivity throughout the interviews. I will include a social commentary on how the criminals were presented to the public and how the language used to describe them shaped the popular conception of “serial killer”.
BIO: Hannah Berry has recently completed her doctoral thesis on empathy from the University of Liverpool. The thesis is called ‘The Shoe Never Fits: a phenomenological revision of empathy and intersubjectivity’ and offers a critical analysis of phenomenological, psychological and biological descriptions of empathy and proposes a development to Husserl’s theory of analogising apprehension in order to describe an interpersonal experience that takes into account sociability as well as the subjective experience of self and other. Her interests are in psycho- and socio-linguistics, forensic linguistics, pragmatics, phenomenology and philosophy of mind. Hannah is the current secretary for the British Society for Phenomenology and is the lead tutor of the WEA’s North West refugee education programme.
This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone: https://www.britishphenomenology.org.uk/bsp-annual-conference-2020/
The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?