The recent development of carceral geography is indebted to the contributions of French-speaking scholars – even though their work is sometimes not as widely read as it deserves to be. This post seeks to bring to the attention of those able to read them, two terrific new books (in French) by Marie Morelle and Julie de Dardel:
Yaoundé carcérale. Géographie d’une ville et de sa prison by Marie Morelle Lyon ENS Editions, Collection Sociétés, Espaces, Temps 2019 228pp
Based on interviews with detainees, prison leavers, their families, as well as prison administration and NGOs, observations conducted in the prison and in the districts of Yaoundé, Marie Morelle reveals the daily life of Yaoundé central prison. This book goes beyond stereotypes about African prisons, (often reduced to overcrowded and dilapidated spaces, as signs of “states in crisis”) which are still little-known, and puts them into perspective in relation to national and international actions and discourse on prisons. More broadly, the author sheds light on the urban life of marginal populations and the regulatory practices to which they are subjected by the authorities in Cameroon. Demonstrating the existence of a continuum linking prison and working class neighbourhoods, the book shows how the government in power manages poverty as well as political opposition in the city. At the crossroads of urban, social and political approaches in geography, this book is aimed at social science students and anyone interested in prisons and human rights.
Exporter la prison américaine Le système carcéral colombien à l’ère du tournant punitif by Julie de Dardel Neuchâtel Editions Alphil Presses universitaires suisses 2016 264pp.
On May 10, 2001, they transferred me by military plane to the new Valledupar prison. We knew that it was the Yankee regime there. They took everything from me, they gave me a uniform […] and they shaved my head. The guards were very young, they treated us in a completely inhuman way. We had never known that before […]. The detainees quickly launched a protest movement on the subject of access rights. The response was brutal. Repression by fire and blood, with batons and tear gas.
The testimony of this prisoner reflects the shift in the Colombian prison system following a reform inspired by the American maximum security prison model. Carried out within the framework of the “Plan Colombia” agreements – Washington’s vast anti-drug and anti-guerrilla program in this country – the changes in the Colombian prison system are indicative of the way in which the “punitive turn” initiated in the United States is exported internationally. This book is based on rich ethnographic material, collected during a field survey in Colombia and the United States. The study is based on observations in Colombian prisons and on in-depth interviews with prisoners, family members, guards, prison officials, human rights activists, as well as architects and contractors from the city. American prison industry. The new Colombian prisons are described there as an unprecedented space of dispossession and control, but also as a place of multifaceted resistance from the prison community.