Call for Papers: Carceral Geography at the AAG 2013

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Conference 9-13 April 2013, Los Angeles, CA., USA

Carceral Geography: Debates, Developments and Directions


Dominique Moran, University of Birmingham, UK

Shaul Cohen, University of Oregon, USA

 “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 so-called ‘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.

Carceral geography is a new but a fast-moving and fast-developing sub-discipline. Although the first paper by a geographer published squarely in this field was probably the work of Dirsuweit (1999), the enormous potential of spaces of incarceration for geographical enquiry was highlighted by Philo (2001) who turned a book review into an agenda-setting article germinating the ideas which have informed the development of this area of research, in terms of a critical engagement with spaces of confinement and a dialogue with the work of Foucault and Agamben. A decade after this paper was published, and with the sub-discipline proving an increasingly vibrant field, this session aims to provide a space for discussion of this scholarship, situating it in the context both of contemporary human geography and of the interdisciplinary literature from criminology and prison sociology upon which it draws, and to also explore a range of potential avenues of future research which are open to transdisciplinarity, which are both informed by and extend theoretical developments in geography, but which also, and critically, interface with contemporary debates over hyperincarceration and the punitive state.

This call is intentionally broad, but papers in this session could, for example, explore any of the following issues in a range of geographical contexts, in relation to ‘mainstream’ imprisonment, migrant detention, or both:

  • debates, directions, and developments within the field of carceral geography
  • synergies with criminology and prison sociology
  • the nature and experience of spaces of confinement, broadly conceived
  • the geography of systems of confinement
  • the nature of mobility within incarceration
  • hyperincarceration and the carceral ‘churn’
  • penal architecture and prison design
  •  ‘green’ or sustainable prisons
  • notions of the ‘carceral’ which extend beyond physical confinement, understanding the carceral as emplaced, mobile, gendered, embodied and affective
  • conceptualisations of timespace in incarceration
  • the tension between the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of penal institutions
  • relationships between incarcerated persons and family and friends
  • experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals after release

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by email to Dominique Moran ( and Shaul Cohen ( before 14th September 2012.

Successful submissions will be contacted by 1st October 2012 and will be expected to register and formally submit their abstracts online at the AAG website by October 24th 2012. Please note a range of registration fees will apply and must be paid before the formal submission of abstracts.