Keynote 2 – Chris Philo

Tuesday 18th December 2018 15:00-16:00

Keynote 2 – Chris Philo

The punishments of space: another look at Foucauldian carceral geographies

It may be that carceral geographers/prison researchers feel that we know all we need to know about Michel Foucault, the French intellectual and critical social historian.  His seminal work Discipline and Punish (1975/1976), with its discussion of Bentham’s Panopticon, related penal forms and a widening ‘carceral archipelago’, is relatively familiar – if still maybe not as fully appreciated as it might be – as part of the furniture behind the emergence of carceral geographies as a new sub-field.  The publication (first in French [2013] and then in English [2015]) of Foucault’s 1972-1973 research-based College de France lecture series, The Punitive Society, prompts further reflection on what more or else he can potentially tell us in this respect.  This lecture series sees Foucault preparing the ground for Discipline and Punish, but there is much that differs from the latter monograph (not least the limited attention paid to Bentham’s Panopticon).  He worries away at the now largely taken-for-granted nature of imprisonment as punishment, digging deeply into the whole phenomena of ‘confinement’ (or ‘sequestration’) as a tool for dealing with – indeed, punishing – troubled and troublesome populations.  He thereby speaks across the years to ongoing debates in carceral geographies about the spatial fundamentals of the sub-field: namely, the status of a spatial shutting-away of certain peoples in set-apart places.  Moreover, central to The Punitive Society is a thorough-going critical appraisal of what is meant by ‘exclusion’, and the lectures effectively stage a shift in focus from exclusionary spaces to inclusionary spaces (the latter here comprising spaces that exclude-through-inclusion).  In short, here Foucault engages with what I term the ‘spatial primitives’ of carceral geographies, ones often with savagely punitive motivations and corollaries, and his provocations should hence remain central to our sub-field.

philoProfessor Chris Philo’s ongoing research interests concern the historical, cultural and rural geographies of mental ill-health, supplemented by scholarship in the following fields as well: social geographies of ‘outsiders’; children’s geographies; new animal geographies; historical and contemporary figurations of public space; geographies of ‘new spiritual practices’; Foucauldian studies; the history, historiography and theoretical development of geography. Much of his historical research on ‘madness’ and asylums is brought together in A Geographical History of Institutional Provision for the Insane from Medieval Times to the 1860s in England and Wales: The Space Reserved for Insanity (2004).