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Sociology, Social Work, & Criminology Professor Presents Research on Serial Murder and Leisure at the University of Cambridge

Sociology, Social Work, & Criminology Professor Presents Research on Serial Murder and Leisure at the University of Cambridge

DJ Williams, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, & Criminology recently presented his research on serial murder and leisure at the North London Forensic Service 12th International Conference. The conference addresses topics relating to forensic psychiatry, law and mental health. This year the conference focused on deaths in custodial settings, prison suicide, violence in prisons and serial homicide. The conference catered to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, criminologists, forensic practitioners, police officers and prison staff.

Williams’s presentation focused on serial homicide as a leisure experience. He said that research has been conducted on psychological factors associated with serial murderers, but none has been done on why they enjoy killing people and how homicides play out, which is where Williams comes in.

To study this, Williams looks at the popular Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) and applies it to homicide research. He looks at the different types of leisure, the benefits associated with each type, and can narrow down why certain serial offenders killed based on different leisure types and practices.

“The same leisure properties that apply to playing golf apply to killing people,” Williams said.  “I can look at the homicide process of a serial killer and say whether their murders are casual leisure, serious leisure, project-based leisure or some combination. I also look at the various intrapersonal, interpersonal and structural constraints to leisure and can tell how specific offenders negotiate these in order to continue killing for fun and enjoyment.” 

Williams became interested in these topics because he loves studying bizarre behavior and why people do unusual things, as well as death and interpretations of death. His research has been featured in hundreds of media reports worldwide. His latest forthcoming study, coauthored with Drs. Jeremy Thomas (ISU) and Michael Arntfield (Western University, Canada) is titled, “An empirical exploration of leisure-related themes and potential constraints across descriptions of serial homicide cases.”

Williams was also recently quoted in an article for the “The Economist” titled “Can you really be addicted to sex?” along with several other leading sexuality experts. The article will appear in the December/January issue.

For students interested in Williams’s research, they can take ISU courses on sexual crimes and human behavior and the social environment. Williams said that the leisure science aspect of his research can be applied to a variety of topics to teach students about sociology.

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