Witnessing Wootton Bassett: An exploration in cultural victimology

Sandra Walklate, Gabe Mythen, Ross McGarry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The media reporting and visual witnessing of repatriations at Wootton Bassett have become an increasingly frequent occurrence since the first spontaneous saluting of what was then a lonely procession, by Royal British Legion members in 2007. UK military deaths from the war in Afghanistan have now reached over 300 and media sources have begun speculating as to which entry point is likely to replace Wootton Bassett when RAF Lyneham closes in August 2011. Our purpose in this paper is to explore the 'public performance' and 'witnessing' of these events through two 'lenses': the literal via photography and the theoretical by way of victimology. Our intention is to situate ourselves as visual, critical, and certainly not neutral, witnesses. In so doing, we wish to use pictures taken by the photographer Stuart Griffiths to propose three cultural trends that our witnessing of his pictures of Wootton Bassett suggests. In so doing we present three themes that we think are identifiable within these photographs: the compression of private and public grief; gothicism and the emergence of 'dark tourism'; and displays of resistance. By way of conclusion we discuss the implications of this analysis for victimology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-165
Number of pages17
JournalCrime Media Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • cultural victimology
  • documentary photography
  • soldier as victim
  • witnessing

Cite this