Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Michelle Brown

Committee Members

Stephanie Bohon, Tyler Wall, Harry Dahms, Kishonna Gray


Since its inception, the horror genre has been reflective of cultural fears. In neoliberal society, horror cinema has experienced a cultural revival that has challenged the conventional boundaries of the genre and expanded our current understandings through a convergence of neoliberalism and gothic horror with unprecedented popularity in the cultural imaginary. The conjuring universe, one of the highest grossing and most popular horror universes to date, presents a key space for cultural criminologists, like horror and film fans, to engage with the terror of the neoliberal world through mediated new gothic images, resulting in a gothic criminology. Through an ethnographic content analysis of the conjuring cinematic universe, this dissertation addresses three primary questions: 1) What emerging cultural anxieties can we discern from new patterns in horror related to demonic possession as it relates to the neoliberal era? 2) How can existing understandings of horror be elaborated in ways that extend gothic criminology? 3) What do demonic horror films teach us about criminological understandings of neoliberalism?

I use the conjuring universe as a case study to analyze how neoliberal social formations have changed the face of American horror with a focus on the revival of possession. The cultural revival of gothic metonym and tropes, coupled with an explicit link to true crime genres, culminates in a neoliberal gothic criminology centered upon the tension of declining social institutions in relation to personal responsibility as a key response to neoliberal logics.

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