1 Mobilities and Change

Monday 17th December 2018 10:00-11:20

1 Mobilities and Change


Doing Colonial Time: Indigeneity, carcerality, and temporality in the settler colonies of Turtle Island

Adam Barker and Emma Battell Lowman (University of Hertfordshire)


Temporality is a key factor in racist and colonial ‘othering’ processes: the trope of the ‘mythic nomad’ or ‘noble savage’ has contributed to the exclusion and dehumanisation of many Indigenous populations (Fabian 1983). As writers from Vine Deloria (1969) to Kevin Bruyneel (2007) have pointed out, this is especially true in Turtle Island (North America), where ‘Indians’ are exiled to reserve/reservation spaces, and their attempts to assert agency in the political present are met with white settler counter-assertions that both colonisation and thus Indigenous people are only relevant in the past. In this paper, we take up the challenge of thinking through how time is deployed to both incarcerate Indigenous people in history and to circumscribe their material mobility. Tracing carceral circuitry to the circuitry of capital (Gill et al 2018), we argue that the compression of space-time that accompanies modernist projects, and is materialised in infrastructure such as roads and other methods of rapid transportation, has contributed to the rhetorical move of exiling indigeneity to the past. As technologies of transport have increased the speed at which people and things move across the land, Indigenous cultures that assert a much deeper connection to place are portrayed as inherently anachronistic. Combined with marginalisation and oppression that prevents Indigenous mobilities from competing with settler colonial mobilities, ‘modern life’ is made both narratively and materially inaccessible to Indigenous people, effectively incarcerating them in spaces understood as ‘of the past’.


Perilous mobilities and immobilities: Visualising refugee detention in Europe

Kathy Burrell (University of Liverpool)


There has been intense academic and media focus over the last three years on the so-called ‘European refugee crisis’, the different dangers people have been fleeing, and the torturous journeys which have been made to reach the borders of Fortress Europe. In what has unfolded as often violent and brutal experiences of movement and arrival, popular and political discourses about refugees, and Muslim refugees especially, have themselves perpetuated damaging tropes of otherness and the menace of outsider. There have been some notable attempts to cut through this, with the graphic narrative strip ‘A Perilous Journey’ from the PositiveNegatives organisation being a significant and thought provoking example (Burrell & Hörschelmann, 2018). In light of debates about different states of carcerality, the use of detention for those seeking asylum, and the centrality of waiting, limbo and im/mobility to the experience of being a contemporary refugee (Conlon, 2011), these graphic narratives offer some insights into how refugees’ experiences of detention, as well as the perilous journeys which precede this, can be depicted visually in sensitive ways, and why it is important to share them. They show how featuring the physical space of the detention centre not only anchors and structures the stories being told, but also presents an opportunity to slow down the narrative and introduce situations which may seem more ‘relatable’ for the viewing/reading audience, juxtaposing experiences of forced mobility and immobility in ways that have the potential to illicit greater empathy.


Unexpected expectation: Prison as a way to promote mobility

Christophe Mincke (National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology [NICC])


Ever since prison was first established, its legitimation has been a major concern of the modern State. In a liberal society, depriving someone of freedom of movement requires a strong justification. For centuries, the focus has been on the reasons why immobility should be imposed on offenders: as a punishment, to ensure surveillance and discipline of bodies and minds, to allow experts to treat social, psychological or medical deficiencies and so on. The history of the legitimation of prison has already seen counterintuitive discourses, such as reintegration through an institution that separates inmates from society, or curing mental disorders by placing people in harsh living conditions. In our contribution, we shall demonstrate that a new counterintuitive legitimation has emerged, underpinned by the invocation of mobility. This new legitimation suggests that the prison could be the place to mobilise inmates. We analyse this as a recourse to the ’mobilitarian ideal’ and its four imperatives: activity, activation, participation and adaptation. A second counterintuitive characteristic of contemporary prison is that the inmates are required to define the characteristics and the meaning of their punishment, as if the state did not know what to expect either from the convict or from the carceral. Our empirical approach will be based on an analysis of the parliamentary documents of the 2005 Belgian penitentiary law. Using NVIVO, we shall conduct a discourse analysis in order to identify the use of the mobilitarian ideal to define a legitimate prison for the future.


Coerced mobilities and dislocation: The workings of prison transfers in the United States

Iolanthe Brooks (Clark University)


This paper builds from previous studies of carceral transport as a form of coerced mobility (Blue 2015; Follis 2015; Moran, Piacentini, and Pallot 2013; Mountz et al. 2013) to consider the ways prison transfers act upon the bodies of those in the American justice system, and how they are reckoned with and resisted. It argues that coerced (im)mobilities are constitutive of the carceral and can therefore illuminate modalities of resistance and abolition. It takes a multiscalar, mixed methods approach to argue that the coerced mobilities of prison transfers reverberate from the intimacy of individual bodies to the chaotic logistics of supply chains (Cowen 2014; Hiemstra 2013; Mountz and Hiemstra 2014). In doing so, I employ abolitionist carceral geographies to link the prison to the migrant detention center and to argue that the borders between prisons and ‘the outside’ are contested, complex interfaces of encounter (Gilmore 2007). I consider how transfers act upon queer, especially trans*, bodies and how, in turn, we can ‘queer’ our study of carceral geography (Puar 2005; Stanley, Spade, and (In)Justice 2012). In sum, this paper considers coerced mobilities, logistics, and queer geographies. It comes out of a research project, conducted for my undergraduate honors thesis, that combines interviews with lawyers, advocates, and previously incarcerated people about experiences of transfers with data analysis, visual ethnography, and critical cartography.