The power of carceral mobilities: Victoria Pereyra Iraola

Carceral Crossings

The Carceral Geography Working Group of the RGS-IBG is delighted to present the first in a series of Carceral Crossings, showcasing both newly published work in this subdiscipline, and engagement with it by Early Career Researchers.

For more information on the Carceral Crossings series, (including information about how to propose a piece for the series), click here.

The power of carceral mobilities

Victoria Pereyra Iraola PhD Candidate at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Warwick, UK (victoria.pereyra@gmail.com)

What do (im)mobilities unveil about relations of power around carceral spaces? Jennifer Turner and Kimberley Peter’s recently published book Carceral Mobilities addresses this and other questions through an exciting, rich and enlightening contribution to the growing field of carceral studies. Their book sheds light on the important role of (im)mobilities not only for prison management and everyday life inside different current and historical prisons, but also for the circulation of policies between criminal and immigration fields, and the regulation of life beyond prison walls, among other issues. The book may not only become a valuable source of reference for geographers and criminologists, but also for political scientists, historians, anthropologists and social policy researchers.

Across the seventeen chapters of the book (with a foreword by Dominique Moran and an afterword by Peter Merriman) different countries are covered, including the United Kingdom, but also Italy, France, Australia, the United States, Romania, Colombia. Throughout the different chapters, mobilities are not only analysed as physical journeys and transport, but also as ‘embodied, imaginative and experiential’ (Cresswell and Merriman, 2011, Maddrell, 2017), as an instrument and source of power (Moran, 2015, Urry, 2007, Gutierrez Rivera, 2017) and as a key concept in the study of colonial and postcolonial ‘orders’ (Maher, 2017), to name only a few. The book shows how mobilities, among other things, are ‘embedded in institutions’ (Brown, 2017) ‘a property of things and people’ (Urry, 2007, Schliehe, 2017) and a resource for political activism (Marshall et al., 2017). Overall, the book shows how the intersection of (im)mobilities and carceral studies can produce interesting findings that may contribute beyond the confinement of these disciplines.

My own work is deeply connected with many of the concepts and ideas deployed throughout this book. Based on research conducted in but mainly around different prisons in the City of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and its outskirts, my research focuses on the way in which (im)mobilities are deployed in different (both subtle and overt) struggles that those imprisoned and their families (mainly women) perform against the imprisonment regime. Building from the Foucaldian concept of counter-conduct, I analyse how these (im)mobilities are both an integral part of these struggles as well as an element of carceral governmentality*.

I focus on the analyses of three different case studies. These case studies are: the weekly gendered travels that families (mainly women) do to male prisons to bring food and care for those imprisoned; the bureaucratic and judicial practices around prison/juridical files that those incarcerated need to perform to require and obtain their early release or remission form prison; and a specific initiative developed by those imprisoned to set up a trade union for those incarcerated that work inside prisons. Throughout the cases, the thesis reflects on the role that carceral (im)mobilities have on the gendered way in which penal and reproductive work is experienced in and around prisons. It also studies the way carceral (im)mobilities are not only regulated by rationally-minded bureaucratic files but mainly through the hope and fear that is enacted through them. Overall, my thesis shows how (im)mobilities are employed as a resource to struggle against the deployment of prisons as ‘warehouses’ while at the same time play a key role in the expansion of carceral forms of power and exclusion.

While incarceration and detention continues to rise in different parts of the world, understanding the relationship between (im)mobility and carcerality becomes a much pressing issue. Finding methodological approaches that may help researchers to transcend the confinement of prison/detention centre walls in the study of imprisonment and confinement becomes essential. In this context, the timing of Carceral Mobilities is crucial. Books like this one, as well as Moran’s prolific work on carceral geography, give breath to new scholars interested in understanding the politics of imprisonment and in finding new ways to struggle against the injustices of confinement.

*By carceral governmentality, I do not mean only the government of the prison but rather the ‘ensemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power’ around carceral spaces (Foucault, 1991).

BROWN, E. 2017. Mobilising carceral reformation: Mobility, the will to change, and the urban history of the juvenile court. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

CONLON, D., GILL, N. & MORAN, D. 2013. Carceral spaces: Mobility and agency in imprisonment and migrant detention, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

CRESSWELL, T. & MERRIMAN, P. 2011. Introduction. In: CRESSWELL, T. & MERRIMAN, P. (eds.) Geographies of mobilities: Practices, spaces, subjects. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

FOUCAULT, M. 1991. Governmentality. In: GRAHAM BURCHELL, C. G. A. P. M. (ed.) The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

GUTIERREZ RIVERA, L. 2017. The world of the ‘rondines’: Trust, waiting, and time in a Latin American prison. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

MADDRELL, A. 2017. Carceral transitions experienced through Community Service placements in charity shops. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

MAHER, K. 2017. The other side of mobiltiies: Aboriginal containment in Australia from rail to jail, past and present. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

MARSHALL, E., PINKOWSKA, P. & GILL, N. 2017. Carceral transitions experienced through Community Service placements in charity shops. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

MORAN, D. 2015. Carceral Geography, Surrey, Ashgate.

SCHLIEHE, A. 2017. On ‘floaters’: Constrained locomotion and complex micro-scale mobilities of objects in carceral environments. In: TURNER, J. & PETERS, K. (eds.) Carceral Mobilities: Interrogating Movement in Incarceration. Routledge.

URRY, J. 2007. Mobilities, Polity.