The social construction of a serial killer

Bartels, Ross and Parsons, Ceri (2009) The social construction of a serial killer. Feminism and Psychology, 19 (2). pp. 267-280. ISSN 0959-3535

Full content URL:

Social Construction of a Serial Killer (Bartels & Parsons, 2009).pdf
[img] PDF
Social Construction of a Serial Killer (Bartels & Parsons, 2009).pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Much psychological research examining the serial killer has adopted an essentialist theoretical focus concentrating on the `nature' of the individual who commits the murder. This study, in contrast, aims to analyse the talk of a serial killer using principles taken from discursive psychology. A courtroom transcript concerning the confession to 10 murders by the serial killer, Dennis Rader, was analysed. The transcript was read and reread in order to examine how the killer drew upon popular understandings of serial killing, until eventually three main discourses were identified: perpetrator as `sympathetic', `serial killer' and `driven by sexual fantasy'. The analysis demonstrated that these discourses all served to reinforce the widely shared construction of the serial killer, i.e. being sexually motivated. Furthermore, the findings show how this construction served the functions of mitigating responsibility, justifying certain actions and obscuring violence. Possible implications of this construction and its discursive functions are discussed.

Keywords:Discourse analysis, discursive psychology, sexual murder, sexual fantasy, serial killing
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C810 Applied Psychology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:11766
Deposited On:03 Sep 2013 15:17

Repository Staff Only: item control page