Prison Life: Inside and Out – Event at the University of Birmingham 19 March 2014

Arts and Science logoPrison Life: Inside and Out

This event, part of the University of Birmingham’s Arts & Science Festival 2014 showcases multi-disciplinary research exploring aspects of prison life – ranging from prison visitation and recidivism, pathways to imprisonment, the impact of imprisonment on prisoners’ families, and the difficulties prisoners face following release. 

Speakers include Louise Dixon (School of Psychology), Marie Hutton (School of Geography), Karen Graham (School of Education) and Garry Henry (practitioner). These speakers will be followed by an opportunity for questions and audience discussion. 

When: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Where: Law Building, Lecture Room 2 (R1 on the campus map)

Attendance is FREE, but please register by clicking here or by contacting Marie Hutton directly at

UK-Brazil Comparative Security Sector and Penal Reform Workshop March 2014


Under the Researcher Links scheme funded by the British Council and São Paulo State Research Council Dr Fiona Macaulay of the University of Bradford Peace Studies Department and Dr Renato Lima, of the Brazilian Forum on Public Security are running a two-day workshop on ‘Comparative Approaches to Security Sector Reform, with a special focus on the Penal System’ in São Paulo on 13-14 March 2014. The workshop’s focus is on career development, international collaboration, network building and peer mentoring. 

The workshop’s focus is on career development, international collaboration, network building and peer mentoring. The workshop will have contributions from other leading researchers – Professor Alice Hills of the University of Durham, and Professor Roy King, Emeritus Professor, University of Bangor from the UK, and Dr Fernando Salla, from the Centre for the Study of Violence, University of Sao Paulo, and Dr Túlio Kahn, UNDP consultant and former Chief executive of the Latin American Institute on Crime (ILANUD).

They are now inviting Early Career Researchers from the UK and Brazil to apply to attend this workshop. All travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the Researcher Links programme. The application form (available at the url below) should be sent to Dr Macaulay at before the deadline of 1 December 2013.

Call for Papers: RGS-IBG 2014 Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres

Call for Papers: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, August 2014

Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres

Organizers: Anna Schliehe (University of Glasgow) and Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham)

Spaces of confinement can be found in various settings and institutions, from psychiatric establishments, centres for migrant detention, to prisons and penitentiary camps. Carceral geography has continued to expand its scope, taking a range of different perspectives on custodial spaces. This session seeks to conceptualise and collect these perspectives on closed spaces to think through theoretical and empirical aspects of carceral spheres, and toexplore in particular the interactions between borders, the materiality of confinement, and the individual. We are looking to explore innovative methods of engaging with those in confinement and to closely consider positionalities of the researcher in these settings.

This perspective includes aspects of spatial and social tactics, embodied and emotional experiences of living in closed spaces, and effects on inmates, visitors, staff and researchers. Theoretical insights into the constitution of confinement often draw upon the work of Foucault, de Certeau, Agamben or Goffman. We are interested in the utilization of these abstractions, but also in work which draws from different theoretical constructs.

In attempting to reflect on ‘geographies of co-production’ and more collaborative ways of working we very much welcome inputs from cognate disciplines on aspects of space and confinement, as well as from beyond the academy.

Suggested topics within this theme of carceral geography could include (but are not limited to) the following:

–         Spatiality of places of confinement at various scales

–         Individual institutions; their design, lived experience and future perspectives

–         Aspects of time and space relations

–         Individual experiences of entering and leaving closed spaces

–         Spatial tactics and governmental strategies

–         Aspects of care and control including health and well-being

–         Marginalised groups in confinement e.g. in relation to age, gender, disability, sexual orientation

–         The position of the researcher

–         Entangled encounters of inside and outside

–         Agency and mobility

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Anna Schliehe ( and Dominique Moran ( by February 10th 2014.

Reflections on the TerrFerme Colloque: Prisons, Paradoxes and Interpretation

The recent colloquium (16-19 October 2013) organised by the TerrFerme research group in Pessac, Bordeaux, was both a hugely enjoyable and convivial event, and a real eye-opener to the fascinating and important work going on outside of the English language.

As the responses to my and Karen Morin’s recent Call for Papers for the AAG conference in 2014 are showing, carceral geography is expanding its scope and articulating itself towards a variety of aspects of contemporary critical human geography; however, the monolingualism of many authors writing in English (and I include myself in this) means that we are probably insufficiently aware of the work going on in other languages – perhaps most notably in French.

Thanks to the consideration of Benedicte Michalon and her colleagues at TerrFerme, who designed a conference with simultaneous interpretation between French and English, and to the patience of the French speakers presenting their work at a pace that allowed the interpreters to work, the conference allowed a glimpse of the wealth of fascinating work being undertaken in the French language. I’m providing just a taste of some of that here, and hope that readers of this blog will follow up with the authors to find out more.

For me, one of the key words of the colloque, and one that thankfully needs no translation, was ‘paradox’. Time after time, presenters came back to this term to understand the often conflictual coexistence of different interpretations, practices, notions, in and around the space of the prison (broadly defined).

Sarah Curtis (Durham University) opened the conference by showing that not all English speakers are monolingual – by giving a lecture in French on her work on therapeutic landscape, risk and technical safety in secure hospitals in the UK. For her, the paradox was in the balancing of wellbeing and technical safety, when risk is controlled through designing-out danger in the physical environment (for example, by removing ligature points and attempting to create environments in which no physical harm can be done to onesself or to others). She reported health workers observing that identifying a patient’s progress was challenging when there was no opportunity for them to demonstrate that they could exist safely in a context of risk, and that controlled environments encouraged playful destruction when patients became bored.

Marie Morelle and Emmanuel Chauvin (University of Paris 1) spoke about the spatial distribution of persons in prisons and refugee camps in Chad and Cameroon, offering a rare comparison of these types of confinement, in a non-first world context. They drew attention to the informal arrangements which serve to keep order in both contexts, andthe interactions and ‘power games’ which shaped these spaces, in relation to local, national, international, state and non-state actors inside and outside the facilities.

Nathalie Bernardie-Tahir (University of Limoges) spoke about the confinement of migrants on the island of Malta, and focussed on the personalisation of space, and the importance of the historical legacy of migration to Malta for contemporary understandings of this geopolitical setting in restricting migrant mobility.

Lucie Bony (University of Paris 10) spoke from her PhD research into previous residential arrangements and the experience of carceral space on the part of prison inmates. She had some fascinating insights into the ways in which age and previous living arrangements intersected with life experience and particularly travel experience, to shape the interpretation and experience of incarceration in terms of the living environment of the prison. For some, the prison mimics the neighbourhood from which they come, and they feel ‘at home’ in this setting. For others, prison recalls experiences of travel – seeing new people and new places, and prisoners experience it almost as a piece of anthropological research. These and other perspectives lead prisoners to engage differently with their prison environment, personalising the space and feeling at home within it, or distinguishing strictly between inside and outside as a form of resistance or expression of autonomy.

Barbara Baudin (University of Grenoble, Marc Bloch Centre, Berlin) and Nicolas Fischer’s (University Versailles-St Quentin en Yvelines) work discussed the vagueness of the legal situation regarding immigrant detention in France, and specifically the fact that spaces of detention and of administrative confinement (of prisoners who had reached the end of their sentences, but who were deemed too dangerous to be released) existed in space before they existed in law. Drawing on the example of the scandal of d’Arenc, they talked through the codification of this space, and the paradox of the existence of the carceral architecture in space pre-dating the codification of these spaces in law.

Marine Bobin (University Toulouse Le Mirail) gave a fascinating presentation from her PhD work on jails in Navajo territory in the USA, and the idea of the “indigenous” prison. She traced the paradoxes of the co-location of a traditional Navajo ‘peacemaking’ centre in front of a new Navajo jail, detailed the individualisation of the Navajo jail (such as a sweat lodge, and coloured floor tiles which recall Native American patterns), and linked these issues to the fractures within the Navajo community between those who believe that the prison is antithetical to traditional Navajo justice, and those who see the jail as bringing some form of welcome ‘modernisation’ to the Navajo community.

Camille Boutron (IFEA Lima) presented on the political role of incarceration for female combatants in Peru (1980-2010), and spoke passionately about the paradoxes of imprisonment for women for whom both the domestic sphere, and participation in guerrilla forces, can be seen as forms of confinement. She described the prison as a bridge between these two confinement spaces, and as a space which has performed a strategic role in Peru’s armed conflict through the politicisation of female political prisoners.

In a final session on confinement and mobility, David Scheer (University Libre de Bruxelles) spoke about internal spatial flows in three prisons in Belgium – one old decrepit prison, a newer one built to the same design, and a planned prison in which prisoners will move around carrying electronic tags which monitor geolocation and enable particular doors to be opened depending on the level of autonomy and access afforded to each individual prisoner. Reading these spaces as disciplinary, David thought through the ways in which the three spaces enabled or restricted autonomy and created or contested the notion of the docile prisoner. Read David’s blog Entre Quatre Murs /Between Four Walls here.

Caroline Touraut (Centre Max Weber, Lyon) gave a compelling example of the proximity of mobility and liberty through her study of the experience of carceral space on the part of older prisoners, who as they age and become less physically mobile, not only encounter limited mobility within prison spaces ill-designed for their needs, but also face prejudice based on assumptions (rightly or wrongly) that they are sex offenders. She presented moving testimony from interviewees which brought vividly to life the marginalisation suffered by these inmates.

Fleur Guy (University of Lyon 2) presented from her PhD research into care homes for troubled young people in France, describing the paradox of distance from the temptation of the city, with the need to keep young people close to their communities, to aid their future integration. She drew on fieldwork which showed considerable empathy with young people as they devised spatial strategies to enter and leave the semi-closed spaces of the care homes, the dislocation they felt from their previous lives, and the disturbance which resulted from repetitive moves between facilities.

Although these thumbnail sketches represent less than half of the work presented in French in Pessac, they represent a flavour of the work which appears to be most relevant for carceral geographers at this moment. Over lunch with colleagues from TerrFerme, there were discussions about the possibilities of publishing in English in ways which would point up the findings of French language research – which would be very welcome indeed.

Carceral Geography at the AAG 2014: Call for Papers on Historical Geographies of Prisons and Jails

Call for Papers, 2014 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Tampa, FL, April 8-12, 2014logo_aag


Karen M. Morin, Bucknell University
Dominique Moran, Birmingham University

What have historical geographers contributed to discussions of incarceration – what prison spaces, knowledges, and practices have caught our attention, and why? Following on last year’s AAG Historical Geography plenary, “Carceral Space and the Usable Past,” this session aims to bring together the work of historical geographers, as well as those who use historical-geographical logics and perspectives, to examine conceptions of crime, regimes of punishment, and their corresponding spaces of “corrections” and confinement. Broadly, the session aims to incorporate a historical-spatial focus into the study of correctional institutions (prisons and jails) and their larger social contexts. Relevant treatments of prison/jail space would include: 1) historical study of the nature of spaces of incarceration, individuals’ experiences in them, and their regulatory regimes and systems of punishment; 2) historical study of the spatial or distributional/ locational geographies of carceral systems, particularly with respect to their impact on community economic development and local geographies; and 3) study of the historical relationship between the carceral and an increasingly punitive state. Historical geographers can inform, and be informed by, these three areas of carceral geography that we like to term, after Tosh, “critical applied historical geography” that can be put in action for progressive social transformation.

Suggested topics within this theme of Historical Geographies of Prisons and Jails include (but are not limited to) the following, and may cover a wide geographical arena:
•    the spatial fixity and spatial legacy of prison sites at various scales
•    prison towns and their social-spatial logics and priorities of development
•    individual correctional structures, their design, architectures, and lived experience
•    dark tourist sites: the jail or penitentiary as museum space and/or memorial
•    local, small scale heritage sites of corrections, for instance in settlement communities
•    relationships between correctional institutions and the development of urban space, particularly alongside racial and other social topographies
•    decommissioned and re-commissioned corrections sites
•    prisons as living memory
•    prisons, jails, and local cultural geographies
•    punishment regime shifts and their counterparts in use of interior prison spaces (that is, spatial tactics of punishment historically)
•    new prison design within a developmental context
•    media treatments of historical sites of corrections and punishment (film, television, art)

Submissions: Please submit 250-word abstracts to both Karen M. Morin ( and Dominique Moran ( by Monday 21st October 2013.

Terrferme Conference “Confinement viewed through the prism of the social sciences: Contrasting facilities, confronting approaches”

The programme for the Terrferme 2013 conference “Confinement viewed through the prism of the social sciences: Contrasting facilities, confronting approaches.” has been released (conference details here) and the line-up suggests that this will be a fascinating event opening a space for diverse, international discussion of confinement.

I was honoured to be invited to join the scientific committee of the conference, and to provide some comment on one of the sessions, and I look forward to seeing everyone in Pessac in October!

Registration online before 16 October 2013 at

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Opening speech: Denis Retaillé (Director of the Adess Research Centre); Michel Pernod (Vice Director of the Bordeaux 3 University Scientific Council)

Screening of the film A l’ombre de la République (In the shadow of the Republique, french version with English subtitle) and debate with the film-maker Stephane Mercurio

Thursday 17 October 2013

Introduction to the Conference: Bénédicte Michalon, Djemila Zeneidi (Adess, Cnrs/Univ. Bordeaux)

Sarah Curtis (Durham University) ‘Compassionate containment’? Balancing technical safety and therapy in the design of psychiatric wards 

Le continuum carceral / The Carceral Continuum

Chair :      Olivier Milhaud (ENeC, Cnrs/Univ. Paris IV)

  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore (City University of New York) Partition: Devolution, Realignment, and Challenge
  • Emmanuel Chauvin, Marie Morelle (Prodig, Cnrs/Univ. Paris 1) Des prisons et des camps de réfugiés : des modèles d’enfermement au service de la gestion des territoires ? / Managing territories through confinement? Prisons and refugee camps in Chad and Cameroon
  • Nathalie Bernardie-Tahir (Geolab, Cnrs/Univ. de Limoges,), Camille Schmoll (GeographieCités, Cnrs/Univ. Paris 7,) Enfermer les migrants indésirables : les échelles de l’enfermement en contexte insulaire (Malte) / Enclose unwanted migrants: scales of confinement in an island context (Malta)
  • Mahuya Bandyopadhyay (Univ. of Delhi) Confinement, Control and Resistance beyond the Carceral: Exploring Prison Para Connections
  • Lucie Bony (Lavue, Cnrs/Univ. Paris 10) L’incarcération dans les trajectoires individuelles : comment le passé résidentiel agit-il sur les manières d’habiter et de cohabiter en prison? / Incarceration and biographical trajectories: how does the residential past influence the way to live and coexist in prison?

Comments and Discussion: Georg Glasze (Univ. Erlangen-Nürnberg), Olivier Milhaud (ENeC, Cnrs/Univ. Paris IV)

Espace et pouvoir / Space and Power

Chair :      Marie Morelle (Prodig, Cnrs/Univ. Paris 1)

  • Kelly Gillepsie (Univ. Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) A post-apartheid prison? / Une prison post-apartheid?
  • Barbara Bauduin (Univ. Grenoble, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin), Nicolas Fischer (Cesdip, Cnrs/Univ. Versailles – Saint Quentin en Yvelines) Retenir sans détenir : jeux et enjeux d’architecture / Detention without Punishment: Issues and debates on administrative confinement architectures
  • Marine Bobin (Lisst, Cnrs/Univ. Toulouse Le Mirail,) Construire des prisons chez les Navajos : vers une « indigénisation » de la prison / Building jails in Navajo territory: toward an “indigenous” prison?
  • Alain Morice (Urmis, Cnrs/Univ. Paris 7) Le confinement des travailleurs saisonniers étrangers en Europe: propositions pour un modèle comparative / Confining seasonal workers through accommodation: some proposals to a comparative model in the European countries

Comments and Discussion : Olivier Razac (Ecole Nationale de l’Administration Pénitentiaire, Agen)

Chair :      Camille Lancelevée (Iris, EHESS, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin)

  • Fleur Guy (Evs, Cnrs/Univ. Lyon 2,) De la porte ouverte aux barbelés, usages de la contrainte spatiale dans les foyers de placement pour adolescents / From open doors to barbed wire: the use of spatial constraints in teenage foster institutions
  • Lilian Ayete-Nyampong (Wageningen Univ.) Underlife of a total institution: Ethnography of confinement sites in Ghana for juvenile and young offenders / La vie clandestine d’une institution totale : ethnographie de lieux d’enfermement pour adolescents et jeunes délinquants au Ghana
  • Anna Schliehe (Univ. of Glasgow) Re-discovering Goffman : Contemporary carceral geography and the ‘total’ institution / Re-découvrir Goffman : la géographie carcérale contemporaine et l’institution « totale »

Comments and Discussion : André-Frédéric Hoyaux (Adess, Cnrs/Univ. Bordeaux)

Friday 18 October 2013

Pluralité des acteurs de l’enfermement et mise en tension des institutions / Institutions facing the diversity of the actors of confinement

Professionals in confinement settings

Chair :      Mathilde Darley (Centre Marc Bloch Berlin)

  • Nicolas Sallée (Univ. Paris Ouest) Au bord de l’incarcération. Les éducateurs de la Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse à l’épreuve de leur intervention en centres éducatifs fermés / At the Edge of the Prison. A Study of Educational Practices in French Juvenile Closed Centres
  • Arnaud Frauenfelder (Univ. of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Genève), Eva Nada (Univ. Neuchatel), Géraldine Bugnon (Univ. Genève) « Pluridisciplinarité et ouverture sur l’extérieur » : des agents d’encadrement à l’épreuve d’une réforme d’une prison pour mineurs / “Multidisciplinarity and outward orientation”: managerial staff challenged by juvenile prison reform
  • Camille Lancelevée (Iris, EHESS Paris, Centre Marc Bloch Berlin) Quand la prison annexe l’hôpital ? La place des soins psychiatriques en milieu pénitentiaire en France / When prison encroaches upon hospital? Psychiatric care in the French prison system
  • Adelaïde Bargeau (Sage, Cnrs/Univ. de Strasbourg,) La réforme de la garde à vue : la fin du « huis clos policier » ? / The Effects of the French Police Custody Reform on Interrogation Conditions

Comments and Discussion : Gilles Chantraine (Clersé, Cnrs/Univ. Lille 1), Mathilde Darley (Centre Marc Bloch Berlin)

(Dé)construire l’ordre / (De)constructing Order

Chair :      Gilles Chantraine (Clersé, Cnrs/Univ. Lille 1)

  • Yasmine Bouagga (IRIS, EHESS Paris) Le droit à la conquête des territoires d’enfermement ? Questions sur de paradoxales circulations et usages du droit dans les lieux de privation de liberté, à partir du cas de la prison / Can legal rights conquer places of confinement? Questions on paradoxal circulations and uses of law in prison
  • Benoît Eyraud (Centre Max Weber, Cnrs/Univ. Lyon2,), Livia Velpry (Univ. Paris 8) Malades difficiles et détenus souffrants : différences et similarités du rôle de l’enfermement dans le soin psychiatrique specialise / Difficult patients and suffering prisoners. The role of confinement in specialized psychiatric care
  • Fabrice Fernandez (IRIS, EHESS Paris) Humaniser la sanction ? Le traitement carcéral de l’indiscipline / Humanizing punishment? The carceral treatment of indiscipline
  • Grégory Salle (Clersé, Cnrs/Univ. Lille 1) La marchandisation de la gestion carcérale en France et en Allemagne : esquisse de généalogie compare / Can we speak of a commodification of European prison systems? France and Germany compared

Comments and Discussion : Carolina Kobelinsky (St Antony’s College, Univ. of Oxford)

Des institutions face aux transferts de normes  / Institutions and the circulation of standards

Chair :      Carolina Kobelinsky (St Antony’s College, Univ. of Oxford)

  • Helga Zichner (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography Leipzig), Bettina Bruns (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography Leipzig) The standards of confinement in the Western Newly Independent States (WNIS) – an aspect of the EU immigration policy in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova / Les normes de l’enfermement dans les Nouveaux Etats Indépendants Occidentaux – Un aspect de la politique migratoire de l’UE en Biélorussie, Ukraine et Moldavie
  • Andrew M. Jefferson (Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture, Copenhagen) Surviving Philippine Prisons – an account of entangled encounters / Survivre dans les prisons philippines : des relations entrecroisées

Comments and Discussion :  Djemila Zeneidi (Adess, Cnrs/Univ. Bordeaux)

L’enfermement à l’épreuve des inégalités. Production de l’altérité et assignations identitaires / Confinement and Inequality. Production of Otherness and Identity assignements

Chair : Tristan Bruslé (Centre d’Etudes Himalayennes, Cnrs)

  • Jérémie Gauthier (Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin) Contrôler, vérifier et garder à vue. Effets sociaux des pratiques policières d’immobilisation et d’enfermement / Check, search and custody measures. Social effects of law enforcement practices
  • Elise Roche (Evs, Cnrs/Insa de Lyon,) Construire contre l’enfermement. Le village d’insertion Rom : l’hébergement au risque des logiques carcérales / Building against confinement: the case of Roma people’s shelters
  • Camille Boutron (Ifea Lima, Ird) Incarcération politique et trajectoires militantes féminines. L’espace carcéral comme enjeu de contrôle social et de mobilisation politique des femmes au Pérou (1980 – 2010) / Political incarceration and female combatant careers. Prison space as a challenge for the social control and the political mobilization of Peruvian women (1980- 2010)
  • Louise Tassin (Urmis, Cnrs/Univ. Nice) Le clandestin tunisien et le réfugié africain. Catégories et discriminations dans le centre fermé de Lampedusa (Italie) / The undocumented Tunisian and the African refugee. Categories and discriminations in the detention center of Lampedusa(Italy)
  • Aurore Mottet (Urmis, Cnrs/Univ. Nice) Rapports interethniques en situation d’enfermement : le « penser ethnique » des organisations humanitaires. / Ethnic relations in confinement: the “ethnic-thinking” of humanitarian associations
  • Guillaume Le Blanc (Univ. Bordeaux 3) Migrants indésirables / Unwanted migrants

Comments and Discussion : Andrew M. Jefferson (Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture, Copenhagen), Tristan Bruslé (Centre d’Etudes Himalayennes, Cnrs)

Saturday 17 October 2013

Mobilités et enfermement / Mobilities and confinement

Chair : Olivier Clochard (Migrinter, Cnrs/Univ. Poitiers)

  • Lauren Martin (Univ. of Oulu, Finland) Detention and the Production of Migrant Precarity / Rétention et précarisation du migrant
  • Stéphanie Latte-Abdallah (Iremam, Cnrs/Univ. Aix-Marseille) Entre la prison. Incarcération politique, porosités et mobilités en Palestine après 2000 / Prison: in and out. Political Incarceration, porosity and mobility in Palestine after 2000
  • David Scheer (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Circulations internes en établissement pénitentiaire : à la recherche du disciplinaire manqué ? / Internal flows in prison: the quest to the missed discipline?
  • Caroline Touraut (Centre Max Weber Lyon, Ined) Trajectoires et mobilités des détenus âgés en France / Old prisoners’ constrained mobility. The case of French prisons

Comments and Discussion : Dominique Moran (Univ. of Birmingham), Olivier Clochard (Migrinter, Cnrs/Univ. Poitiers)

Lorna Rhodes (Univ. of Washington, Seattle) Thinking through the institutional interior / Penser l’intérieur de l’institution

Concluding discussion

“Sites of Confinement” event at Liverpool John Moores University – March 2013

Many thanks to Monish Bhatia for bringing this upcoming event to my attention – sounds like a great opportunity to discuss some very current ideas.

Sites of Confinement is taking place on 22nd March 2013, at Liverpool John Moores University, 68 Hope Street, Liverpool, UK.

This day conference offers an opportunity to critically discuss increases in the uses of confinement and incarceration in relation to neoliberalism, globally as well as in the UK.

With activists, researchers and academics working in prisons, detention centres and camps, it will consider the roles of social structures, power, and lived experience in relation to confinement. Importantly, this conference will consider increases in incarceration as a method of social control in areas of extreme deprivation, as well as with marginalised groups.

The full details, including speakers and paper titles, and joining instructions, are available here

Carceral Geography at the AAG 2013

Thanks to a wonderful response to the Call for Papers, Shaul Cohen and I have been able to organise a number of sessions on Carceral Geography for the AAG 2013 in Los Angeles this April.

 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, and is proving an increasingly vibrant field. These sessions provide a space for discussion of recent 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.

There will be four sessions in all, sponsored by the Cultural Geography Specialty Group of the AAG – three paper sessions and a roundtable session for a forthcoming book: Details are:

Carceral Geography: Debates, Developments and Directions I

Carceral Geography: Debates, Developments and Directions II

Carceral Geography: Debates, Developments and Directions III ‘Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention’

This session coalesces around a new edited book which defines a new field in geographical research, drawing together the work of a new community of scholars and a growing body of work in carceral geography – the geographical engagement with the practices of imprisonment and migrant detention. Increasingly, these spheres overlap. Just as ‘mainstream’ prison populations have expanded over the past twenty-five years, there has also been a veritable explosion in the use of detention for irregular migrants. Migrants are increasingly scrutinized as criminals, so much so that scholars and activists now refer to this nexus as ‘crimmigration’. This book brings together scholars whose work engages practices of imprisonment and/or migrant detention with the goal of opening up a forum within geography and related interdisciplinary fields of study (critical prison studies, criminology, etc.) for conversation / dialogue across these ever more intertwined spheres.

Organisers and Panelists: Dominique Moran, Nick Gill, Deirdre Conlon, Lauren Martin, Kelsey Nowakowski, Mason McWatters, Julie de Dardel

Carceral Geography: Debates, Developments and Directions IV

Call for Seminar Papers: Carceral Coordinates

Carceral geographers may be interested in the following call for papers for a seminar organised as part of The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2012 conference, which is taking place at the University of Toronto, Canada, April 4-7th 2013. The call is posted below:
Organisers: Brett Story (University of Toronto) and Jill Stoner (University of California, Berkeley)
“An entire universe added to my Time.” – Jacobo Timerman, Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number
It is in the nature of imprisonment to alter the space of Time, to skew location in all its dimensions.  Prisons and their analogous cultural counterparts, so often designed according to strict Cartesian geometries and precise temporal segmentation, nevertheless establish their own geographies, and their own histories, outside these systems.We invite participants to reflect on sites and scenes imposed and invented through various states of imprisonment: solitary confinement and its attendant tactics of subversive communication; death row and its Kafkan politics of infinite postponement; urban contexts that effectively establish their carceral qualities with assortments of cameras, gates, laws and keys. 
We hope to assemble within the seminar a wide representation of genres – including conventional and new forms of literature by and about prisoners – and to chart these various discoveries onto a new, shared map that will allow us to better navigate the current landscape of incarceration in its various iterations.  Thus will emerge a new positioning system – perhaps global, perhaps not – without the conventions of latitude or longitude, its distances not measured in feet or miles.  We refer here to literature in its broadest sense: fiction, texts, documents, film, etc.
Paper proposals should go through the conference website, and acceptance is competitive. International submissions are welcome; international participants should just make sure to obtain any necessary visas well ahead of time.

The Eclipse of Prison Ethnography? Reflections on the Symposium

I had the pleasure of attending the first day of the International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research (ICCCR)’s “Resisting the Eclipse: An International Symposium on Prison Ethnography” event at the Open University, and was lucky enough to hear terrific papers by eminent prison ethnographers.

The theme for the event was a response to Loïc Wacquant’s paper The Curious Eclipse of Prison Ethnography“, in which he expressed incredulity at the scarcity of ethnographic field studies of American jails and prisons, horrified to discover that, at a time when such examinations are most urgently needed, they appear to be disappearing under the weight of more conventional ‘correctional’ research. The response at the symposium was perhaps most strongly expressed by the lack of empty chairs in the seminar room at the OU – it was packed with people who either already engage directly in prison ethnography, or are planning to do so.

A theme emerging from the first day was of the ‘punctum’ as a point of entry into or heightened awareness of, a situation or context. In her keynote address Lorna Rhodes spoke about ethnographers in general and prison ethnographers in particular, identifying ‘punctums’ or punctuation points as a way of making known or understandable what is going on in a particular wider context. She used the example of a waste bin filled with discarded prison ID cards, each with the face of a prisoner staring out of it, as a punctum which had brought home to her the passage of time in prison and the aging of prisoners as their ID card photo remained the same. In her keynote address, Yvonne Jewkes observed that an ‘eclipse’ is a veiling or an invisibility, rather than an absence, and pointed out that prison ethnography is alive and well in contexts other than the United States, to which Wacquant referred. As a contributor to a forthcoming book in carceral geography, she drew attention to the prison scholarship going on outside of criminology. She also called for prison ethnographers to write and speak not only about their own experiences of research, but also about the sometimes unpalatable positive features of imprisonment, as a counter to a Critical Criminology discourse which tends to marginalise discussion of the humour, enlightenment, humanity and agency which can occur in prison, in what are often unrelentingly negative portrayals of prison life.

Rod Earle, Coretta Phillips, Abigail Rowe and Martyn Hammersley considered the actual experience of undertaking prison ethnography, speaking about the challenges they had faced whilst conducting research in prisons. Abigail Rowe’s experiences were particularly pertinent to the ‘punctum’ theme, as she described the numerous occasions on which she was mistaken for a prisoner whilst undertaking research in a women’s prison in the UK, and the insights this gave her into the way the prison operated when a researcher was not (thought to be) present – one small detail illuminating a wider system in uniquely useful way.

Ben Crewe and Laura Piacentini responded to their brief of ‘Writing and Reading a Prison?’ by discussing, respectively, the ways in which prison ethnography can delve deeply into prisoners’ backstories to illuminate their present of imprisonment, in that affording an audience for prisoners’ lifestories enables them to express thoughts and feelings which may often be suppressed in prison; and the integrity of prison ethnography, in terms of the prison ethnographer’s work flowing from a value system, and their work taking the form of that of an ethno-cultural specialist for their particular site, with appropriate insights into the context and consciousness in which penality exists.

Finally, Jennifer Sloan, Deborah Drake and Alison Liebling talked to their title “Thrown in or Drawn in? Sinking or Swimming in prison research and ethnography”, again drawing on their own experiences of researching inside prisons. The three speakers spanned the demographic of the researchers in the room, from Jennifer Sloan speaking as a new PhD graduate, sharing salutory lessons with the many PhD, masters and undergraduate students in the room, to Alison Liebling reflecting on returning to prisons she had researched within a decade ago, and reflecting on the changes which had taken place. Alison’s talk also recalled the ‘punctum’ theme, through her story of remaining in contact with a prisoner she interviewed some time ago, who had since been released, and whom she now knew as a free individual – drawing attention to the importance of the ‘front story’ in the same way as Ben Crewe had highlighted the ‘back story’.

All in all, a hugely successful, enlightening and positive event, with candid exchanges between people genuinely interested in, and supportive of, each other’s work. For carceral geographers, an encouragement to delve deeper into the work of criminologists and prison ethnographers, to learn from the enormous wealth of expertise and experience demonstrated by these speakers and the symposium delegates. I only wish the arrival of a new crop of undergraduates at Birmingham hadn’t prevented me from attending the second day!