“Against the backdrop of unfettered markets and enfeebled social-welfare programs, when the penal system has become a major engine of social stratification and cultural division in its own right, the field study of the prison ceases to be the province of the specialist in crime and punishment to become a window into the deepest contradictions and the darkest secrets of our age.” (Wacquant 2002, 389)
The ‘punitive turn’ has brought new ways of thinking about geography and the state, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. Geographical engagements with incarceration have put these spaces, and experiences within them, firmly on the disciplinary map. Human geography, and specifically the evolving sub-discipline of ‘carceral geography’, have much to offer to the study of incarceration, and taking the ‘carceral’ as a locus of research offers useful opportunities both to invigorate ongoing developments within human geography, and to contribute to positive social change.
In his recent paper in TIBG, Chris Philo (2012, 4) described carceral geography as a sub-strand of ‘geographical security studies’, drawing attention to consideration of ‘the spaces set aside for ‘securing’ – detaining, locking up ⁄ away – problematic populations of one kind or another’. However, there is a basis for a slightly more nuanced interpretation of the wide range of work in this emerging field. Three broad, interlinked areas of interest can be identified, which may be described as
- the nature and experience of carceral spaces
- the spatial or distributional geographies of carceral systems
- the relationship between the carceral and an increasingly punitive state.
Using this intentionally broad categorisation, this website presents some of the current work being undertaken under these general headings, links to information about specific projects, and via the Network page, to the growing number of researchers working in this field, and to information about new books in this field.