2A Carceral (Im)materialities

Monday 17th December 2018 11:30-12:30

2A Carceral (Im)materialities


Carceral imaginaries in science fiction: Toward a palimpsestic understanding of penality

Kaitlyn Quinn (University of Toronto), Erika Canossini (University of Toronto) and Vanessa Evans (York University)

The prison is as figurative as it is physical. In this paper, we embrace this ubiquity by turning to how penality is imagined in science fiction. Mobilizing Black Mirror episodes to unveil their carceral undertones, we interrogate the liminal expanse between fiction and lived experience. We hold this television series alongside punishment and society scholarship, asking: how does an imagined dystopian penality fit within the longue durée of penal change? Many scholars have turned away from macro explanations of penal change toward accounts that prioritize complexity and variegation. The latter group cites multiple orienting logics and overlapping penal regimes; punishment is imagined as agonistic (Goodman et al. 2017), braided (Hutchinson 2006), or assembled (Maurutto and Hannah-Moffat 2006). We argue that if A and B represent different penal regimes, together they are not simply A+B, but rather AB + BA. This combination not only impacts the outcome, but also the way we view, understand, and use each of the parts. As such, we imagine the continual re-combination and re-configuration of penal regimes as best captured by our notion of palimpsestic penality. As in a palimpsest where text is superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing, existing ideologies of punishment are continually overlaid, effaced, and re-imagined. Our analysis relies on qualitative coding of all 19 Black Mirror episodes, developing 6 vignettes to illustrate the palimpsestic quality of penality. While this concept emerges from fiction, we assert that it may also orient scholarship toward a greater appreciation of penality’s multiplicative and processual character.


When should a cell not be a cell? Creating a palliative care suite

Rachel Forster (Novus and HMP Wakefield)

The subject of palliative care is always emotive and can be fraught with conflicting opinions about what constitutes ‘good’ care and from whose perspective. This becomes a more complex issue when you consider what palliative care, and specifically a palliative care suite, should be, in a high security prison. If a patient room in a hospice is trying to be less like a hospital, by hiding much of the clinical equipment behind cleverly designed cupboards and units, what should the equivalent space in a prison healthcare department aspire to be (or not be) like? In 2017, the Co-Mission-d Art Group were approached by Care UK to create a few pieces of artwork to improve the palliative care suite at HMP Wakefield. From initial discussions with the group it became apparent that this felt somewhat tokenistic, and not enough to change the room referred to around the prison as ‘the departure lounge’. Consequently, the project evolved and the group chose to redesign the whole room, paying particular attention to what items, that were not available elsewhere in the prison, could be used to soften the space. Drawing on aspects of Foucault’s work on heterotopias and research into the power objects have to reinforce identity and locate us in the world around us, this paper will explore questions around what a palliative care suite should aim to look, and feel, like within a prison context and for whose benefit?


This life is like a prison”: The carceral logic of exile dispossession in Calais, France

Maria Hagan (University of Cambridge)

Since the demolition of the infamous Calais ‘Jungle’ in October 2016, the French state has optimised its system of processing centres designed to sort exiles into their ‘deserved’ categories. Hundreds of exiles however continue to settle in the borderzone, living informally in fear of the system. In reaction to this bid for self-determination the state imposes a ‘zero camp tolerance’ policy whereby shelter-building is actively hindered: police are omnipresent and systematically destroy shelter, generating hidden, nomadic encampments under constant threat. Drawing on five months of ethnographic fieldwork in Calais in 2017-18 I argue that the imperative to funnel exiles into the state system through material dispossession reveals a carceral logic on the part of the state, which opts for greater securitisation and violent policing of exiles at the expense of its humanitarian commitments. This case study advances understandings of carceral geographies which are immaterial, seeking to control through practices, experiences and spatial dynamics rather than fixed infrastructural spaces. To grasp this phenomenon I propose the concept of the ‘contingent camp’: the camp which is not so much a fixed place as a contested space. The paper concludes that the emergence of this space-type reveals a seeping out of carcerality beyond the camp or the detention centre to the regulation of informal presence in public spaces.