Undergraduate Research: Jesse Clements

25 Aug, 2022

Undergraduate Research: Jesse Clements

We're so pleased to provide undergraduate research opportunities! This past semester, Jesse Clements was mentored by Tory Jeffay and worked on Tory's dissertation, The Forensic Imaginary. Read about her experience below!

Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2022, I worked as a research fellow under Tory Jeffay, for her Film and Media dissertation “The Forensic Imaginary: Visual Media and Evidentiary Culture.” For this project we were investigating the historical legacies of photography and film within courtrooms and police work, and tracing how they came to be recognised. Beginning with early 20th century courtroom battles around handwriting analysis and will forgeries and continuing through the emergence of moving picture images and police surveillance techniques, this project relied heavily on the historical archive of both law and media objects. For its final chapter, Tory’s dissertation examined the role that personal injury cases played in introducing films as courtroom evidence.

My research tasks included using newspaper accounts and secondary source literature to identify relevant legal cases and obtain and read through the original trial transcripts. I also used archival newspaper databases to gather contemporary accounts of the cases and create summaries. Another aspect of my research was devoted to going through the FBI database of the Rodney King trial and untangling the different ways that film, computer simulations, and other visual evidence were introduced and treated within that context.

Continuing this work with Tory after beginning it originally in 2020 through the SURF SMART Fellowship, was a deeply rewarding experience. I was able to see my own archival research skills grow as well as watch a dissertation evolve over the course of two years. Diving into the archive never stopped feeling like a treasure hunt of discovery, to track down particular resources and be surprised by many, many unexpectedly interesting and bizarre things along the way. I’m deeply grateful for the research opportunity as well as the funny, supportive and insightful mentorship from Tory. As I wrote my own Rhetoric honours thesis this year, I was often aware of how much my own work had benefited from this experience, in helping me approach and structure my own original research project.