Extended: Call for Papers: "Voicing the Less Dead," Edited volume on true crime and the "less dead"

deadline for submissions: 
April 9, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Editors: Dr. Francesca Borrione, University of Virginia and Professor Heather J. Macpherson, Worcester State University

Extended for Abstracts until April, 9, 2022: Voicing the Less Dead: Unheard, Unseen, Unknown, an edited collection (in-process)


In true crime, the most gruesome murder often reaches the headlines. An obsession for unusual, grim, bloody murders surrounds true crime stories and its impact on the public. In mainstream true crime, the profile of the dead tends to conform to the usual configuration: female, white, middle to upper class, possibly young and ‘beautiful,’ as Gwen Ifill taught us when she defined the “missing white woman syndrome” (2004). The widespread coverage of the Gabby Petito and Sarah Evarard cases--occurred respectively in the summer of 2021 in the United States and in March 2021 in the U.K.--raised concerns about the ways in which the mainstream media disproportionately focus on crime cases involving white women, while similar stories about non-white women receive little attention and support (Hassan, 2021; Sanghani, 2021). 

Recently, documentaries such as Unseen (Paglin, 2016), The Tale of Grim Sleeper (Broomfield, 2014), podcasts such as The Less Dead (Frangie and Jones), reports on missing person cases such as the disappearance of Tiffany Whitton (Junod, 2016) or the serial killer Samuel Little and his “less dead victims” (Lauren, 2018) focused the attention on raising awareness about the so-called “less dead,” those who belong to marginalized groups and whose stories are often unheard, those people whose life and death simply matter less within the societal sphere.

Steven Egger defines the less dead as “a term coined to refer to the majority of serial murder victims, who belong to marginalized groups of society” (278).The less dead, Egger argues, “are considered less-dead because before their deaths, they virtually “never were,” according to prevailing social attitudes. In other words, they are essentially ignored and devalued by their own communities or members of their neighborhoods and generally not missed when they are gone. A few examples are prostitutes, the homeless, vagrants, migrant farm workers, homosexuals, the poor, elderly” (278).

Our collection aims to explore and expand definitions of ‘less dead’ to consider and include the bypassed and ignored cases of those who are essentially voiceless unless their stories are told and made public. We are particularly interested in true crime stories at the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, class--stories that explore the layers of discrimination toward vulnerable population categories. 

We want well-researched, rigorous, and accurate essays that critically explore true crime and the ‘less dead’ from a historical, social, political, cultural, and/or media studies perspective; and we welcome creative nonfiction works that shed a light on previously unknown true crime stories, works that give voice to the invisible and dismissed.


Topics May Include (but are not limited to):


  • Defining or definitions of ‘less dead’

  • Historical and hidden cases

  • Ignored cases involving marginalized groups and vulnerable subjects

  • The ‘less dead’ and social justice

  • Analysis of patterns and data involving the ‘less dead’

  • Dismantling white-washed stories in media

  • Representations of the ‘less dead’ in true crime media

  • The ‘less dead’ and intersectionality

  • Global examinations of the ‘less dead’

  • Societal and law enforcement attitudes on the ‘less dead’



Please send a well-developed, 250-500 word abstract  with a third-person biographical statement of 75 to 150 words to the editors at lessdeadcollection@gmail.com by April 9, 2022. The abstract must outline the author’s theoretical framework and identify the aims of the work. Please include a bibliography of 3-5 relevant texts. 

Formal invitation to contribute essay to the volume sent by May 15, 2022.

Deadline for the submission of the essay for double-blind peer-review, September 15, 2022.

Projected date of publication TBA

About the Editors

Francesca Borrione is assistant professor, general faculty in Media Studies at the University of Virginia. She specializes in true crime, Italian American literature and film, and Kosovar cinema. Her essays have appeared in edited collections (The Cinema of Ettore Scola, Contemporary Balkan Cinema) and academic journals such as Italian American Review and Clues.

Heather J. Macpherson is a full-time instructor of English at Worcester State University. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Bennington Review, 580 Split, The Worcester Review, Blueline and other fine places. She is also the publisher and editor of Stone Quarterly, a new creative arts journal launching this winter.