1B Health and Wellbeing

Parallel Session 1B (Day 1 11.00-12.00)

Health and Wellbeing

James Butterworth (University of Oxford) : Music, Space and Social Relations in an English High Security Jail

Much of the research on music and the arts in prisons, at least in the UK and US, has centred on analysing and evaluating specific programmes and interventions, often run by individuals and organisations external to the prison. There is an understandable tendency for such research to focus on issues of effectiveness (i.e. does it work and how can it be improved?) and moral performance (i.e. is it right or just?). In this paper, however, I seek to take a step back and think about the role of music and sound in the prison environment more broadly, as well as to make use of a more holistic ethnographic approach to music and sound in prison spaces and prison life. I draw on fieldwork in an English high security jail, to examine the interrelation of musical sounds, spatiality and social relations (among prisoners, among staff and between prisoners and staff). In particular, I consider how music and sound mediate the spatial understanding of the prison, how music enables prisoners to create (imaginary) spaces, the role of music and sound in figuring private and ‘public’ spaces (and how this is affected by cultural and religious difference), and the impact of music and sound on relationships between staff and prisoners.

Kate Herrity (University of Leicester) : Sound, time and space: a rhythmanalysis of prison life

This paper draws on research conducted using aural ethnography in a local men’s prison.  Sound was both a methodological basis and the focus for the project. Exploring sound prompts enquiry in to its disruptive potential for how we understand the relationship between people, time and space in prison. Does this complicate the way the experience of ‘doing time’ is understood? Lefebvre identifies rhythm as emphasising the relationship between people, space and everyday living. Rythmanalysis is the method for listening to these rhythms as a means of analysing social processes of meaning-making. Applying these ideas to prison life prompts a re-examination of the way prison spaces are experienced by those within them. The concepts of polyrhythmia and arythmia – two rhythms in harmony and dissonance respectively – offer a means of illustrating how time is understood within the prison environment. Rather than being experienced as a linear phenomenon, this paper argues, the prisoner feels time in different modes simultaneously. Sound can be understood as the temporal sense. Incorporating sound in to examinations of people, time and prison spaces therefore adds to texture to our understanding of the prison.

Will McKeithen (Department of Geography, University of Washington) : Differentiated Biocitizenship: Bodily Life and Health in a Women’s State Prison


A mysterious paralysis radiates from fingers to forearm. A woman, not yet old enough to qualify for a mammogram, ponders her family history of early-onset breast cancer. An X-ray reveals a fractured jaw two years too late. These are the everyday experiences of embodied life in a single present-day US state women’s prison. Recent writings in carceral geography trace the ways confinement becomes intimately sensed and inscribed upon prisoners’ flesh (Moran, 2012; Wahidin and Tate, 2005). In understanding captive life (as well as its afterlife post-release), we may focus on bodies’ subjection to governing forces – whether anatomopolitical discipline (Foucault, 2012), disposability (Alford, 2000), or mundane managerialism (Chantraine, 2008) – or their lively excesses (Philo, 2012). This paper brings these debates to bear to understand the experiences of women living under minimum and medium security custody. This paper, which presents preliminary findings from ongoing interviews with formerly incarcerated women, focuses on women’s stories of accessing institutional healthcare, informal practices of care and survival, and visceral sensation and change. I ask what we might learn from these women’s stories – stories of neglect, uncertainty, doctoring, suspicion, surveillance, and their uneven exercise across the prison. As both prisoners and patients, these women and their experiences force a reconsideration of current debates on carcerality, the biologization of life, and biocitizenship (Petryna, 2013; Rose, 2007). In particular, I focus on the concept of biocitizenship to ask how women’s bodies and lives become unevenly biologized according to regimes of custody, class, rights and rightlessness, friendship, race, and gender; and, in turn, how women use their bodies as arenas for political claims to inclusion, justice, and knowledge. Doing so prompts important questions about the constitutive relationship between biocitizenship and un/freedom.