The Call for Papers for the 2nd International Conference for Carceral Geography, was held at the University of Birmingham, on 11th and 12th December 2017.
- Mary Bosworth (University of Oxford and Monash University)
- Ruth Wilson Gilmore (City University of New York)
- Andrew Jefferson (DIGNITY, Copenhagen)
- David Maguire (University College London)
The conference also featured a screening of Brett Story’s The Prison In Twelve Landscapes, dedicated activities for Postgraduate Researchers, a drinks reception, a conference dinner, and the first AGM of the Carceral Geography Working Group of the RGS-IBG (CGWG).
2017 is a milestone year for Carceral Geography. It marks forty years after the English translation of Discipline and Punish, twenty years after Teresa Dirsuweit’s ground-breaking study of women’s incarceration in South Africa, and ten years after the publication of Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Golden Gulag. Given the rapid development of the sub-discipline since and through these milestone publications, the intention of this conference was to recognise the founding of the CGWG in 2017 with an event which both reflects the diversity and energy of this area of research, and enables further interdisciplinary dialogue and development.
Carceral geography research is rich, diverse and multi-scalar, focusing on wider structural, political and institutional contexts as well as on everyday experiences, practices and agency; it is sensitive to change and difference across space and time, space/time, and between cultures and jurisdictions. Of particular note is the breadth of empirical focus; on spaces of ‘mainstream’ incarceration of ‘criminals’ for custodial sentences imposed by the prevailing legal system; spaces of migrant detention which confine irregular or non-status migrants pending decisions on admittance or removal; the overlaps and synergies between these spaces, their functional and post-functional lives, and also their porosity, in that techniques and technologies of confinement seep out of ‘carceral’ spaces into everyday, domestic, street, and institutional spaces. It also increasingly recognises ‘the carceral’ as spatial, emplaced, mobile, embodied and affective. A vibrant research dialogue has started to coalesce around the notion of the ‘carceral’ – asking what this term means, what it signifies, what its explanatory and critical purchase might be, and the extent to which it is anchored in or limited by its etymology in relation to the prison.
The CFP was intentionally broad, reflecting the diversity and expansive nature of carceral geography. A series of keynote addresses progressed thinking about the nature of the carceral, and carceral geography’s interdisciplinary perspective, but paper presenters and session conveners were at liberty to propose contributions which approached the carceral from any ontological, disciplinary or sub-disciplinary orientation, conceiving of it at any spatial scale and manifestation. Indicative, but by no means prescriptive or restrictive topics included: emotional geographies of carceral spaces, negotiation of material and imagined carcerality; individual experiences of carcerality; carceral subgroups like young people; multi-sensory carcerality and carceral atmospherics; mobile and embodied carcerality; the ‘trans’, ‘hyper’ or ‘quasi’-carceral; carceral circuitry; logics of confinement; the post-disciplinary prison; carceral metaphors; scholar-activism in carceral geography; carceral ‘crises and the il/legitimacy of carceral institutions.
Within this intentionally expansive call, papers/sessions which address the ethics of carceral geography research were particularly welcome, perhaps reflecting the extent to which carceral geographers are or should be motivated by a desire to address carceral crises by effecting change to carceral institutions; what kind of change this is, how this is to be achieved, and the role of the researcher/scholar-activist. Papers which considered ‘violence’, conceptually and/or with regard to lived carceral experience, and those which sit at the intersection between carceral and children’s geographies, perhaps considering youth custody, were also welcome.