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8 Crime Media Culture 3 (2012)

handle is hein.journals/cmctre8 and id is 1 raw text is: 


                                                                             Crime Media Culture
Getting       on top through               mass                             0 The Author(s) 2012
                                                                           Reprints and permission
murder: Narrative, metaphor,                                     sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
and     violence                                                    Oo         cmc sagepub com

Lois Presser
University of Tennessee, USA

This paper makes a case for narrative criminology by describing the storied nature of mass murder
by Jim David Adkisson in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Drawing on interviews with and writings
by David, I suggest that his narrated identity was central to his violence. The ways in which
he conjured himself, his personal and political situation, and despised others, animated his felt
compulsion to do harm. In David's story he simultaneously asserted (1) the license to harm and
thus triumph over a depersonalized enemy and (2) harm's inevitability. A narrative approach can
explain the particulars of crime including its particular seductions.

mass murder, metaphor, narrative, violence

Contemporary social theories of narrative advance three main ideas: (1) self-stories are vehicles for
identity; (2) storied identities shape action; and (3) stories are cultural products (Bruner, 1987;
Gergen and Gergen, 1988; Kerby, 1991; Linde, 1993; Polkinghorne, 1988; Rosenwald and Ochberg,
1992; Sarbin, 1986; Somers, 1994). Narrative criminology extends these ideas to crime, positing
culturally circumscribed self-stories as antecedents to action including criminal action (Presser,
2009). In this paper I examine mass murder through the lens of narrative criminology. I show mass
murder to be a storied feat by scrutinizing what convicted killer Jim David Adkisson shared in his
writings - dating before and after his crime - and during in-depth interviews after his conviction.
   On the morning of Sunday, July 27, 2008, Jim David Adkisson, a 58-year-old white man, entered
the sanctuary of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA with
a guitar case containing a semiautomatic shotgun. Shortly thereafter he took out the shotgun and
began shooting. He killed two people and seriously injured six others before church congregants
tackled him. David intended to shoot as many people as he could until police intervened and shot him

Corresponding author:
Lois Presser, Department of Sociology, University of Tennessee, 901 McClung Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0490, USA.
Email: lpresser@utk.edu

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