Kirstie’s research makes use of a new approach — the theory of necropolitics — to understand incarceration in Australia. Necropolitics is a framework that investigates how institutions can subjugate a specific population’s life to the point of social, political, cultural, and physical death.
Kirstie says that she was inspired to use necropolitics after she heard about it in one of her Honours classes at JCU. “Through some of my subjects, I got a chance to see the underbelly of the criminal justice system. And I thought ‘we should hear more about this issue’,” Kirstie says.
But it can be tricky to take on necropolitics as a lens for examining the criminal justice system. “My research is very interdisciplinary. It spans across Indigenous studies, criminology, sociology, and anthropology and the different perspectives of these disciplines all play a part.”
“To make sense of the interviews I have with former offenders, the theory is used to examine these experiences for different types of violence,” Kirstie says. “Violence doesn’t just mean physical violence, but there’s also symbolic, and systemic violence.”
This fresh approach allows Kirstie to consider the whole criminal justice system, rather than just small parts of it. “As Jiddu Krishnamurti, a famous philosopher explained, it’s important to understand the whole of something not just one part of something. The goal of my research is to understand the unequal relations of power within all three branches of the system and how they contribute to forms of violence experienced by Indigenous Australian people,” Kirstie says.
“I was really encouraged and supported during my Honours. So, when the opportunity came up to do a PhD, the research just naturally grew from there.”
JCU PhD Candidate Kirstie Broadfield