Kathryn Claire Higgins (known mostly as Kat Higgins) is a critical interdisciplinary scholar of communication, culture, and the politics of vulnerability. Her work is concerned with how communication negotiates justification for different practices of violence, exclusion and domination -- especially, those we enact in the name of 'safety' or 'justice'. Her research is particularly concerned with how state violence is reproduced through, and thus contingent in, the representational work of media. Her approach coalesces media and journalism studies, critical discourse analysis, feminist theory, and the sociology of criminalization and state violence.
Kat is a Lecturer in Global Digital Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, based in the Department for Media, Communications and Cultural Studies. She was previously based in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication (C3). She was additionally affiliated with Annenberg's Center for Media at Risk and Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication. Her PhD was earned in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science
Her current research is organized in two streams:
Criminalization, Justification, and the Journalism of Harm
This first stream is concerned with the cultural entanglement of criminal justice institutions and the news media, looking specifically at how criminalization (as a normative response to harm and social conflict) is reproduced through crime journalism. Her doctoral project, titled Realness, Wrongness, Justice: Exploring Criminalization as a Mediated Politics of Vulnerability, used multi-modal critical discourse analysis of news texts to theorize the mediated construction of so-called ‘African gang crime’ in Melbourne, Australia. This research theorised Australian journalism as a site racial vulnerability politics, wherein the legitimacy of punitive and/or coercive interventions against migrant communities is negotiated through symbolic struggles over what vulnerability means and wants in contemporary Australian life. Its major contributions are a radically expanded theoretical account of how criminalization works through media culture and a framework for a decriminalized journalism of harm.
Sexual Violence, Media, and the Politics of Doubt
Her second research stream is concerned with how the “believability” of sexual violence is being renegotiated by and through digital media, in a conjuncture framed by two historical shifts: the cultural aftermath of the #MeToo movement, and the rise of “post-truth” politics. This project, which is co-authored with Sarah Banet-Weiser, is published as Higgins' first book, Believability: Sexual Violence, Media, and the Politics of Doubt (Polity, 2023). Their analysis offers a feminist retelling of our post-truth predicament by centering the endemic historical doubtfulness of sexual harms, and so too of those most often harmed: women, queer people, and racialized subjects. Using the analytic of a mediated “economy of believability”, the book adopts a case study approach to analyse what we call the “digitization of doubt”: the manifold ways that social media platforms and digital forms of evidence are restructuring public struggles over truth as they relate to sexual violence and misconduct.
Higgins' research and writing have appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed academic journals including Journalism, Feminist Media Studies, Visual Communication, and Television and New Media, as well as more public-facing publications including Progressive International. She is the recipient of a competitive PhD Studentship from the London School of Economics, as well as two Top Student Paper awards from the International Communication Association (Philosophy, Theory & Critique, 2022; Visual Communication, 2021). A full list of publications, presentations, and other achievements can be found in her CV.