1st International Conference for Carceral Geography, 2016

The first Carceral Geography Conference was held at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday 13th December 2016. Over one hundred delegates attended, with 34 papers presented by 40+ authors across seven paper sessions. There was a truly international, interdisciplinary field of speakers, with presenters joining the conference from the US, France, Belgium, Australia, Norway and Canada as well as the UK, and contributors drawn from academic disciplines of geography, criminology, sociology, law, history, architecture, and more, as well as practitioners from UK and overseas prisons and prison administrations. Undergraduate Geography students at the University of Birmingham attended in connection with a module in Carceral Geography, having previously formed part of the Organising Committee, assisting in selection of abstracts and programme planning.

The programme was as follows (printable pdf available here):

Welcome and Introduction to the Programme

Sessions 1A and 1B

12.00 Brown Bag Lunch – discussion of a draft Proposal for a Carceral Geography Working Group of the RGS-IBG

Sessions 2A, 2B and 2C

Sessions 3A and 3B

Closing Panel Discussion

Slides with audio are now available for most presentations – see links below.

Session 1A Concepts, Definitions and Methodologies

Rachel Forster (HMP Wakefield) @rach_f14


Challenging Boundaries: Prison Commissioned Art Projects as a Means to Explore the Choreographed Behaviours of Different Spaces

The value of arts based programmes in prisons has been widely researched, with the rehabilitative benefits to individuals evidenced through a growing body of anecdotal research. Less, however, has been done to consider any impact such work has on the prison environment itself or what makes it successful. The Co-Mission-d Art group has been established at HMP Wakefield as a new and alternative approach to delivering meaningful art projects in the current financial climate. The group provides the opportunity for the prisoners to work together as part of a creative team to develop artwork commissioned by different departments around the prison. Using case studies to support examples, this paper will consider to what degree the routines and behaviours of both prisoners and prison staff are choreographed and whether this changes in different spaces. The purpose of these discussions is to underline how open and direct collaboration between different prison departments and a group such as the Co-mission-d Art group has the ability to challenge perceptions and expectations about what it is possible to achieve. This can hopefully lead to an increased awareness of the approaches being adopted in these spaces to identify what works successfully and what can be improved.

Ruth Armstrong and Amy Ludlow (University of Cambridge) @ACLudlow @JustisTogether


Edgework and productive discomfort

Since 2015, a learning community has developed between HMP Grendon and the University of Cambridge that spans institutional walls. In this paper we draw upon the work of Richard Sennett to explore the nature and purposes of institutional edges, their relative rigidity and porosity, and what happens when we embrace the productive discomfort of learning spaces that turn boundaries into borders. Drawing on Gill Valentine’s work we consider the sorts of boundaries that productively destabilise exclusionary practices and prejudices. Grounded in qualitative data from the first two years of evaluation, we reflect upon the methodological challenges of rigorously observing and authentically describing the entanglement of interactions that simultaneously arise within and constitute porous learning spaces. We share preliminary insights from data that has been collected using participatory narrative inquiry which attempts to better capture these complexities.

Christophe Mincke (National Institute for Forensic Sciences and Criminology, Belgium @XtopheMincke

Slides (pdf)

It takes a border to escape

Although modern prison has evolved over time, it remains commonly defined by its walls and their role of confinement. Nevertheless, evolutions, such as the rise of community sanctions and electronic monitoring or the constant monitoring of how a sentence is enforced have opened new perspectives beyond the wall. The 500 pages of preparatory work for the Belgian penitentiary law (2005) show the development of a new vision of prison. The central concept of ‘normalisation’ calls into question the classical border separating the ‘abnormal’ prison from the rest of society. In our contribution, we will show that this new prison project is based on the requirement for openness and mobility from inmates and other actors, rather than closure and immobilisation. In this context, being outside the walls does not mean that one has done his time or has escaped the carceral system. Therefore, can we consider the inmates as freed by mobility, or should we consider the option to free them from mobility? In other words, do the recent evolutions of the carceral imply reconsidering the ways in which one opposes the prison and defines the problem it poses to our societies?

Anna Schliehe and Julie Laursen (University of Cambridge)


Confinement, Crossings and Conditions for prisoners in the UK and Norway: comparative research on penal exceptionalism

As part of a larger research project this paper aims to explore the challenges and possibilities of conducting comparative research using our own particular experiences of boundary crossing over country borders and research methods. Interrogating the crossing of the prison boundary from entry to exit, this newly-started research project analyses different temporal and spatial arenas of confinement in the UK and Norway. The paper will explore the challenges embedded in the selection of research sites in these two different jurisdictions and building interview schedules and surveys to cover the experiences of diverse prisoner groups; ‘mainstream’ male, female and sex offenders. We draw on a framework that captures different aspects of the prison experience, formed around the concepts of the ‘depth’, ‘weight’, ‘tightness’ and ‘breadth’ of confinement (Crewe 2015: Crewe, Liebling, Hulley 2014: Crewe 2011). Reflecting on these conceptual frameworks that have not yet been explored in a carceral-geographic context, this paper also aims to engage in dialogue on the thesis of penal exceptionalism (Ugelvik and Dullum 2011; Pratt and Eriksson 2013) and the special role that Nordic countries have played in prison research.

Nick Gill (University of Exeter), Deirdre Conlon (University of Leeds), Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham) and Andrew Burridge (University of Exeter) @drdconlon

Read the full published paper here

Carceral circuitry: New directions in carceral geography

Despite the popular impression of prisons and other carceral spaces as disconnected from broader social systems, they are traversed by various circulations that reach within and beyond their boundaries. This article opens a new analytical window onto this reality, developing the concept of ‘circuits’ to critically enquire into the carceral. Drawing inspiration from Harvey’s work, the article makes circuits do fresh work, teasing apart the emerging carceral landscape to provide a new critical epistemology for carceral geographies. In so doing, a meta-institutional agenda for critical carceral geography is derived, and possible ways to short-circuit carceral systems are revealed.

Session 1B Carceral Infrastructures

Berit Johnsen, Elisabeth Fransson and Francesca Giofre (KRUS, Norway)

Slides to follow

Prison, Architecture & Humans

How does the architecture of prisons relate to humans inside? What do the prison space breathe into the process of becoming something else than a prisoner? As Hammerlin (2017, forthcoming) writes “(..) within philosophy and sociology the relationship between humans, materiality and space has always been an important one (..)”. Hammerlin refers to thinkers as Lefebvre, Merleu-Ponty, Giddens, Bourdieu and Foucault. Thinkers that has contributed with theories and concepts that, in later years, has been re-vitalized and renewed through the work of Deleuze & Guattari, Bennet, Löw, Hastrup, Østerberg and Moran. In the forthcoming book “Prison, Architecture & Humans” researchers’ and architects in the PriArcH network studies socio – material conditions in prisons related to architecture, space, topography and interior. The book is a bricolage of texts and pictures from Italy, Sweden and Norway. We draw on a complex and reflexive cultural concept, understanding prison space as both bodily, material, historical and relational. Through different methodologies we move into different prison landscapes and let pictures, theory, ideas and affects open up new reflections regarding connections and disruptions, lines and dilemmas directly and indirectly related to the three concepts PRISON, ARCHITECTURE & HUMANS. With the book, we want to create a possibility for discussing places and spaces where punishment takes place. The intention is to bring new questions into prison research, alternative ways of doing prison research and stimulate to collaboration between architects, researchers, governments and planners that can make prisons more human.

Kate Gooch (University of Birmingham) and Russ Trent (NOMS) @drkate_gooch

Slides (pdf)

Broken Windows, Ageing Prisons and the ‘Dark Corners’ of Prison Violence: Re-examining the relationship between carceral spaces, boundaries and prison violence

In 2015, Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Justice, announced an ambitious prison reform and modernisation agenda with the intent of ‘designing out the dark corners of prison violence,’ making an explicit connection between the quality and modernity of the prison environment, and the behaviour it generates and inspires. Whilst prison violence has been a topic of longstanding interest to prison scholars, the theoretical debate about prison violence has often focused on the depriving nature of the prison environment, rather than its spatial qualities, or its decency and modernity. Thus, the extent to which the experience and conditions of prison spaces shape – and is shaped by – prison violence is often overlooked. This paper seeks to address this gap, critically assessing the extent to which the environment – and environmental changes – influence prison violence. It explores the extent to which decency and modernity may be different and distinct concepts, and questions whether prison violence can truly be ‘designed out.’

Gudrun Brottveit (Østfold University College, Norway)

The becoming of punishment

Based on dialogues about punishment with an inmate, in one of the most modern high-security prison in the world, the paper seeking to focus on the connecting line between punishment, pain and prison architecture in a human geographical perspective (Moran 2015). The study focuses on how spaces of incarceration and the becoming of punishment is in constant motion and moves thinking in direction of the decentralized subjects interaction with human- and non-human materiality (Deleuze & Guattari 2004). In today’s execution of sentence the consideration of humanity is high. It builds on the ideals that puts people at the center and highlights the individual’s human dignity, independence, inviolability and inherent worthiness (St.meld. nr. 37. 2007-2008). Human prisons sentences and the idea of reintegration is a consequence of changes in penal ideologies, which again characterizes the design of prison architecture in time and space. The attempt to humanize the punishment, through raising material standard and make prisons more luxurious, can for some inmates perceived as an exaggeration of punishment, because it reminds them of the ordinary life outside as they are sheltered from through isolation, loss of time and deprivation of liberty.  This aim of this paper is not to understand and interpret the meaning of the punishment, but to study what kind of action powers that put into play in the affective meeting between human- and non-human materiality and the becoming of punishment as a continuously evil in the space among them (Deleuze & Guattari 2004).

Lauren Martin (University of Durham) @laurenlmartin

Slides to follow

Confined by Cashlessness: Living on the UK’s Azure card

This paper will explore how the UK government’s Azure Card, a “cashless” support system for refused asylum seekers, affects recipients’ mobility and care relationships. Refused asylum-seekers can apply for the card’s £35.39 weekly support after receiving official refusal of the asylum claim. In doing so, they must qualify as destitute and also agree to dispersal to no-choice housing. This housing is often located far from family members and in areas with shrinking legal, social, and health services for migrants. A plastic debit card, the Azure card is distributed to heads of household and single migrants and can only be used at approved grocery retailers and charity shops. The card cannot be used for bus or train tickets and transactions are monitored for purchases outside users’ home area. Designed as short-term support for people in the pre-removal process, people live on the Azure card for 6 months to 2 years. This paper argues that the card’s mobility requirements (to specific shops) and limitations (to home areas), denial of cash, and relationship to dispersal places particular pressure on care relationships between family members and within communities of support. Tracing the intersections of digital surveillance, intimacy, and asylum, the paper seeks to contribute to carceral geographers’ rethinking of the relationship between confinement, mobility, and care.

Session 2A Diverse Carceralities

Lucy Baldwin (DeMontfort University) 

Motherhood disrupted

Motherhood Disrupted: The relationship between compassionate prison space, maternal emotions and maternal identity: reflections of post-prison mothers.

Prison is a challenging place for most women but this emotional space is magnified when it is a mother who is incarcerated. The maternal experience for mothers in prison is often at best disrupted, at worst destroyed, by the location. This paper considers how maternal emotions and the maternal role are assembled and challenged through carceral space, and more specifically, how mothers themselves assimilate this experience whilst navigating motherhood post incarceration. The data presented is based on twenty recorded in-depth individual interviews with released mothers across England and Wales. The research findings highlight the significant emotional harm and turmoil felt by mothers themselves and on mother-child relationships, experienced during incarceration and long after their release. Furthermore, the findings emphasise the significance and value of compassionate and thoughtful management of carceral space in relation to mothering emotions. The paper concludes with reflections on the findings of the study and recommendations for future research and practice.

Ben Crewe (University of Cambridge) @crewebencrewe


Place, time and long-term imprisonment

Very little is known about the experience of long-term imprisonment, despite a growing number of men and women in England and Wales serving sentences that were almost unheard of a generation ago. Drawing on the work of Margaret Archer, this paper conceptualises long-term imprisonment as a triple dislocation: from prisoners’ previous life-worlds, from their existing sense of self, and from their imagined futures. Exploring how prisoners adapt to this predicament, the paper focuses primarily on the ways that they handle living across two different social and temporal domains, those of the prison system and the free community. The paper details the ways that prisoners at different sentence stages define ‘home’ and ‘real life’, and describes how they manage the incongruity between their sense of time passing inside and outside the prison. The aim of the paper is to highlight how the boundary point between the carceral interior and the external world operates in prisoners’ perceptions, shaping and reflecting how they adapt, and doing so dynamically, as their sentences progress.

Benedicte Michalon (CNRS, France)

Slides to follow

Former prisoners detained. Prison experience and social differentiation in detention centres

The criminal conviction of foreigners is sometimes accompanied by a withdrawal of the residence permit, an order of removal and a placement in a detention centre. The confinement of former prisoners alongside other foreigners raises the issue of the effects of a prison past on the experience of detention and on the daily social order prevailing within this particular institution. The paper will seek to capture the effects of processes of social distinction resulting from the biography of foreign detainees upon social relations in detention, particularly focusing on previous experiences of prison confinement. The aim will be to think about how a particular experience of confinement – prison – influences the later experience of detention, both institutions sharing similarities but also showing differences. The analysis will therefore focus on the borders of confinement and on how to conduct research encompassing various sites and practices that geographers tend to study together under the concept of confinement.

Lorraine Paterson (Cornell University)

Slides to follow

Exilic Itineraries of French Indochina

From Equatorial French Africa to the penal colony of New Caledonia, the French colonial administration of Indochina used various territories within the vast expanse of the French empire as penal locations for deported and transported prisoners between the years of 1865 and 1941. Vietnamese royals might be exiled to Algeria and Reunion island, whereas messianic religious leaders from Cambodia were banished to French Guiana, but all passed through incredibly unfamiliar landscapes. This paper explores some of these exilic experiences, using historical and ethnographic sources to document the personal perspectives of the individuals who underwent these passages. In doing so, it argues that exilic locales, even penal colonies themselves, were not just places of rigid reinforcement of racial and political boundaries, which tolerated no subversion.   Instead, it reveals that categories of exile were crude and could be subverted; cultural geographies and passages of exile were complex, and could be ephemeral.  Exilic itineraries can thus be raised out of the footnotes and margins of colonial history, and the influence and cultural legacies of these unwilling travellers of the trans-colonial globe traced.

Adam Barker (University of Leicester) @adamoutside


Carcerality and Indigeneity: the roots of ‘Indian territory’ and Settler society in North America

In this paper, I propose to examine the settler colonial history of ‘Indian territory’ – officially recognized or sanctioned spaces assigned to tribes or bands – in Canada and the United States through the lens of carcerality in order to demonstrate the diverse yet consistent ways that these spaces have been constructed to incarcerate Indigenous bodies and disrupt their claims to land. I argue that settler colonisers have consistently sought ways to immobilize indigeneity, which has resulted in the proliferation of carceral spaces, designed to restrict Indigenous mobilities in a variety of ways. While some of these spaces – such as residential schools – are well examined, others such as reserves/reservations in which many Indigenous communities are violently and juridically constrained have not been considered in this way. Reserves can be seen as carceral spaces designed to contain, constrain, and punish Indigenous bodies in order to destroy Indigenous peoples. However, despite the deployment of complex technologies of surveillance and discipline in the creation of these boundaries, these ‘prisons of grass’ – the term coined by the Metis activist and scholar Howard Adams – were not impervious, and many Indigenous people escaped incarceration and elimination as well.

Session 2B  Carceral Mobilities

Katherine Roscoe (University of Leicester) @katwee_


Maritime Mobilities and Permeable Prisons: theorising prison islands in colonial Australia

The global proliferation of penitentiaries from the mid-nineteenth century has led us to imagine confinement primarily in terms of high walls and enclosed cells. Yet, in the colonial context, convicts acted primarily as a labour force who were mobile through, and exploiters of, natural resources. This paper explores how movement between institutional, terrestrial and maritime spaces shaped the experiences of convicts on prison islands in colonial Australia. Using two case-studies – Cockatoo Island and Rottnest Island– it compares the different perceptions of island space held by European convicts, on the one hand, and Indigenous prisoners, on the other. This paper is divided into two parts: it begins by analysing boat crossing to islands, and the relationship between maritime mobility and on-board confinement. The second section explores how convicts’ lives on islands were dominated by permeability to the sea, which shaped both their daily labour regimes and forms of convict-led resistance. Bringing together top-down institutional records with first-hand testimony, this paper shows how insularity fundamentally altered the experience of incarceration in hitherto unexplored ways. By situating island prisons within wider landscapes, it theorises convicts’ experiences at the intersection between European and Indigenous geographies, natural and manmade geographies, and terrestrial and maritime geographies.

Jen Bagelman (Exeter University) @bagel_woman

Slides to follow

Subterranean Detention & Sanctuary from Below

“YVR Embraces the World”…travelers encounter this motto as they move through the airport in Vancouver, Canada. Surrounded by gift-shops selling Indigenous artwork and soothed by a waterfall feature, this airport exudes an atmosphere (Adey 2013) of calm. Yet, few travelers will be aware that just below their feet –beneath the airport’s spa – exists a CBSA holding cell where irregularized migrants have committed suicide to escape deplorable detention conditions. While critical geographical scholarship has carefully mapped how spatial strategies, such as offshore detention (Mountz 2015), holds migrants at a distance there is relatively little work examining how exclusionary mechanisms creep into the very heart of urban spaces, yet remain unnoticed, by going underground. This paper shows how the ‘carceral archipelago’ (Foucault, 1978) extends not only outwards but below. While addressed as an intractable problem, this paper also points to emergent sanctuary tactics that challenge these hostile spatial strategies. In particular, this paper examines how anti-colonial migrant justice network Sanctuary Health is creatively mobilizing ‘from below’ to expose Canada’s largely invisibilized vertical carceral geography (Walia 2012). Moreover, this paper shows how Sanctuary Health also establishes new spaces of solidarity and belonging across unceded, urban spaces. 

Carrie Crockett (University of Leicester) @CarrieCrockett2

Slides to follow

Crossing into Exile: Carceral Transportation and the Great Trakt

In 1903, American traveller Charles Hawes described Sakhalin as ‘the final destination of the unshot, the unhanged [ . . .] convicts and exiles who are frequent escapees or repeated murderers’. The Sakhalin island penal colony of exile and katorga (forced labour) was geographically situated at the edge of the Russian empire, north of Hokkaido. Because of its remote location, exile to Sakhalin was considered the most extreme sentence of banishment. This paper examines the route that prisoners travelled to reach Sakhalin between 1867 and 1905. It suggests that the path was itself a carceral space despite that fact that portions of its intersected with other traveling groups such as tradespeople, peasants migrating eastward, and European travellers. This paper will examine the evolution and physicality of the Siberian Trakt with emphasis on its development, physicality, and shared spatiality.

Max Horder (University of Cambridge)

Slides to follow

Condemned to the carceral: Binding dangerous populations to captivity in São Paulo

My paper builds on the idea of ‘disciplined mobility’ to consider the criminal justice system as an institutional vehicle for the movement of carceral bodies. Scholarship on the social practices of captivity has tended to focus on bounded sites like the prison and the slaughterhouse, in addition to the semi-enclosed spaces of the slum, barrio or favela. Less work has been done on the way in which bodies are institutionally moved between these spaces. Instead of seeing carceral spaces as isolated sites of spatial confinement, I draw together previous scholarship and argue that the carceral is an all-encompassing lived reality for marginalised bodies. I develop the established scholarship that understands carceral space not only as bounded by sites but also by types of ‘dangerous’ populations. I further argue that coerced movement between disparate sites of enclosure is as significant as the sites themselves. I conclude that the social institutions which forcibly relocate bodies into different carceral spaces must be incorporated into an understanding of mobility as an expression of power. Finally, I emphasise that a ‘carceral comparison’ can be theoretically enriched through a link historical captive mobilities, such as between the sugar plantation and the slave ship.

Louise Hide (Birkbeck, University of London) 

How new ‘therapeutic’ approaches changed the meaning of space in English psychiatric hospitals, 1945-1980s

By the mid-1950s, around 154,000 psychiatric patients were living in appalling conditions, crammed into overcrowded and often violent wards that were locked and short-staffed. The mental hospital was increasingly understood not as a place of care and treatment, but as pathogenic in itself. In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation, psychiatric spaces were opened up to reflect a new liberal, permissive and therapeutic approach to the treatment of mental illness. Ward doors were unlocked and patients were allowed to roam freely around the hospital, often mixing with the opposite sex for the first time. In this paper, I will explore some of the consequences of unlocking ward doors. How, I will ask, did it affect relationships between patients and staff, especially between female patients and male nurses? I will examine how certain spaces, such as lifts and unoccupied wards, took on new or different meanings, becoming ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous’, delineated from other parts of the hospital by invisible psychological boundaries. Furthermore, whilst ‘open doors’ were intended to liberate patients from their incarcerating environment, I will show that those who were unable to conform to the new regime were often subjected to greater restraint and seclusion.

Session 2C Expanding the Carceral 

Andrew Burridge (University of Exeter)


Punishment through distance: reporting to the UK Border Agency and the use of Short Term Holding Facilities

Asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application to remain in the UK are typically required to report to the UK Visas and Immigration Agency (UKVI; formerly UK Border Agency) on a regular basis. Reporting centres are located within existing Home Office buildings, or at local police stations where UKVI officials will set up temporarily. This is a moment of exceptional anxiety and difficulty for those who are awaiting a decision. The threat of detention and removal is constant during this time, but particularly at the moment of reporting, a technology deployed by the Home Office to bring asylum seekers to them, rather than conduct increasingly unpopular home raids. This research sets out to map these sites of detention that have been overlooked within critical studies of carceral space: at both Home Office and police reporting locations Short Term Holding Facilities (STHFs) are used to detain persons before transfer to removal (detention) centres elsewhere in the UK. For those supporting asylum seekers, this can also be a crucial moment for advocacy before they are transferred. To date there is no publicly available information providing an overall picture of the landscape of STHFs used for immigration and asylum reporting.

Ian Tucker (University of East London), Steven Brown (University of Leicester) Ava Kanyeredzi (University of East London), Laura McGrath (University of East London) and Paula Reavey (London South Bank University) @ianmtucker1


Agency, sensation and movement: Experiencing containment in a medium secure forensic mental health unit

Situated between the mental health and criminal justice system, forensic mental health units are spaces that exist to offer a therapeutic alternative to carceral containment. Consequently, patients can occupy complex positions in which notions of risk and vulnerability become bound up in ongoing material practices of attempting to be a ‘good patient’ on a journey of recovery. This includes navigating the self in institutional space, including institutional practices (e.g. mealtimes) as well as managing more personal spaces (e.g. bedrooms). Life on the ward is designed to operate through an institutional logic of movement along individual care pathways towards discharge. However, patients do not necessarily experience space as a clearly defined linear ‘path’, but instead exist in psychological ‘life spaces’ that incorporate relational affects within and beyond the physical boundaries of forensic units, e.g. memories, hopes for the future. Bound up in patients’ life spaces are notions of agency and sensation in a space in which patients can come to feel as if they are just ‘doing time’. This research is based on 40 interviews with staff and patients in a forensic mental health unit. An additional visual component in the form of a photo-production technique was used with service-users, so that the physical space of the hospital featured more prominently in their experiential accounts. We argue that forensic settings are unique spaces of containment that can produce multiple forms of temporal discontinuity (Foucault, 1989), as life on the ward manifests as a tension between a logic of movement along defined pathways, and an everyday reality of feeling stuck in a space, without a sentence, and consequently considerable uncertainty about discharge, and one’s readiness for it when it does arrive.

Fabian Namberger (Goldsmiths College, University of London) 

Slides (pdf)

Humanitarian Spaces of (Dis-)Connection: A Multi-­Level Analysis of the Fortified Aid Compound as a Space of Neo-­Colonial Domination

The paper examines the space of the fortified aid compounds in the context of western humanitarian aid missions. Marked by a militarised architecture of segregation and deterrence (defensive walls, barbed wire, security staff and surveillance technology), the built structure of the fortified aid compound isolates international aid staff from a (potentially) violent “outside”, while it also creates an inner enclave of (relative) “peace” and recreation. Arguing that the multi-scalar space(s) of the fortified aid compound aggravate long-inherited power relations between “global north” and “south”, my paper uses the analytical tools of postcolonial urban studies and, in particular, Henri Lefebvre’s threefold concept of colonisation, in order to render visible the neo-colonial implications of the fortified aid compound on a global, intermediate and “private” level. While the global and intermediate level suggest a shift of sovereign power from the territorial state container to the micro-scale of the compound itself, an analysis on the “private” level shows that here neo-colonial power manifests itself in a twofold manner: As the internalisation of an isolating and risk-averse aid-subjectivity on the part of the international aid staff on the one hand and in the performance of a theatre of domination vis-à-vis (allegedly) passive aid beneficiaries on the other.

Anoma Pieris (University of Melbourne)

Carceral archipelago: confinement architectures of the Pacific War

Characterisations of the Pacific Basin as a tropical archipelago essentialise its geo-cultural diversity as an alternative way of envisioning the region and its politics. This paper offers a darker projection of this archipelagic imagination as one forged by imperial competition and wartime violence. It traces its genesis across the history of World War II internment and POW camps. Their spatial proliferation as a carceral geography produces a variety of temporary environments where civil and legal rights are suspended. The roles adopted by captors in their treatment of prisoners reflect the social prejudices of the period, the politics of imperialism and the specific responses of warring nations during various stages of the conflict. The broader project asks how an interdisciplinary approach from architecture and human geography might address this imperial history. Its innovation is in drawing together diverse models of incarceration related to the Pacific War in Singapore, Japan, North America and Australia, in acknowledging the divisive treatment of racially different colonial and national subjects and tracing their passage through multiple spatial configurations of camps. Each camp type offers a situated interpretation of a recurrent spatial model that domesticates military facilities for civilian or prisoner of war accommodation.

Michael Miller (University of Sheffield) @no_michael_

Slides(pdf) Transcript(pdf)

From Eugenics to the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Disabled Students and the Continuum of Carceral Practices

This paper explores how dominant, mandated, and accepted practices of mainstream education are restrictive, exclusionary, and (structurally) violent (particularly) for students determined to have Special Education Needs (SEN). A historical link will be made between eugenic laws and discrimination of students with disabilities, and how forms of this are still played out in the classroom. The justifications for ongoing stigmatization, segregation and isolation of students with disabilities have remained constant in (and out of) the classroom, with a motive of protection and concern for the wellbeing of ‘normal’ students from the undesired Others. This unquestioning perpetuation of dis/ability as boundary has and continues to naturalize the justification of punitive forms of discipline such as expulsion, juvenile incarceration, and institutionalization. The connection between deinstitutionalization and the ongoing criminalization of disability will be examined through the continuum of carceral and eugenic practices, reinforced partially through the disproportionate rates and measures of punishment for SEN students. These forms of (structural) violence that have taken part in the construction and maintenance of the school-to-prison pipeline – policies that patrol and criminalize students who cannot/will not fit an increasingly surveilled, controlled, and competitive school system – will be especially emphasized in the context of SEN students.

Session 3A Carceral Crossings

Kellie Moss (University of Leicester)

Slides to follow

Carceral Confinement in Western Australia: A System of Integration or Exile?

The history of convicts’ confinement in Western Australia has been dominated by one towering limestone structure: Fremantle prison. However, convicts were incredibly mobile as they built public works beyond the walls of the prison, and received nominal freedom as a probationer, which enabled them to work on the peripheries of the settlement. This paper focuses on the way that the transported convict’s experience of confinement was dominated by mobility. My argument will be divided into two sections to explore two facets of convict mobility beyond traditional edifices of confinement: The first layers carceral geographies over Indigenous geographies, to assess how the deployment of convicts as labourers across the colony was an essential part of the dispossession of the Indigenous population .The second section examines the rehabilitative practices of the penal system in its attempt to reintegrate the convicts into the community at the end of their sentences through the use of a ‘ticket of leave’, changing common perceptions of when punishment ‘ended’.

Lindsay Miller (University of Sheffield) @praxivist


Borders on land and maps and minds: How border imperialism and psychiatric imperialism manifest in the mobilizations of asylum

It may be unsurprising that existing research unanimously indicates that immigration detention has a negative impact on the mental states of those detained. Yet, the ways border imperialism and psychiatric imperialism intersect in the context of detention centres – wherein asylum practices globally have been exposed as violating human rights through detention, forced medication and bio-incarceration – is an under-researched area of investigation. This presentation will examine the ways distress experienced before and while within immigration detention centres is framed within a Western discourse of pathology and psychological dysfunctionalism which serves to both depoliticize and dehumanize displaced peoples, making them additional targets for psychiatric oppression. This process then adds to the reification of the social construction of borders / the state as well as ‘normal’ mental states in how historical and ongoing imperialist endeavours, which put borders on land and maps and minds, trouble the perception of ‘asylum’ as a place to seek sanctuary to instead expose ‘asylum’ as a place of incarceration and violence whether in the setting of detention or psychiatric hospital. The ever expanding borders of ‘abnormality’ and the surveillance of these borders (diagnosis) will be also be linked to the ever expanding border surveillance of countries.

Lucy Williams (University of Kent)

Slides to follow

Young asylum seekers crossing borders: child, adult, refugee, refused, returned.

This paper will consider the carceral ‘borders’ crossed and re-crossed by separated young people claiming asylum in the UK. These include the ‘hard’ borders of national frontiers and within the detention and prison estates, as well as the ‘softer’ borders of immigration categories, asylum support arrangements and local policy and practice. Key in the experience of these young people is the crossing of the border between child and adult and I will discuss how becoming an adult radically affects the carceral geographies young asylum seekers live within. Young asylum seekers move from the relatively benign forms of asylum support offered to children to the more punitive regimes of control they enter if refused asylum and ‘aged out’ at 18. Enforced removal may represent a final border crossing, from the Home Office’s point of view at least, but may mark the start of a new round of border crossings for young people negotiating new identities as returnees and/or as secondary migrants moving on. Empirical data is drawn from small-scale qualitative study carried out in Kent for the mental health charity MIND. The project collected testimonies from young care leavers considered ‘Appeal Rights Exhausted’ and facing destitution, detention and deportation.

Franck Ollivon (Université Lumière Lyon 2)

Slides to follow

Exclusion outside the prison walls: electronic monitoring and the experience of confinement

In France, electronic monitoring was launched in 2000. It was then conceived as the most inexpensive solution to an endemic prison overcrowding and as the best way to reduce recidivism among the carceral population. The fact that the sentence was served at home was the cornerstone of this second objective. Nevertheless, home is the place of ordinary life whereas the electronic monitored convict remains a prisoner, an individual in an exceptional position. Moreover, this penal measure is increasingly used for convicts living in precarious conditions. Therefore, confinement can be highly conflictual with other residents and put the monitored convicts at risk of re-offending. This paper aims at critically questioning how the dwelling conditions of convicts under electronic monitoring interfere in the experience of confinement. How do they cope with the ordinary nature of a place which is used in such an exceptional situation? With what kind of tactics or strategies, whether legal or illegal, do they deal with the confinement? Drawing from my fieldwork in France, I would like to argue that the convict under electronic monitoring lives an in-between and ambivalent experience: he/she endures at the same time a strong feeling of loneliness and the overwhelming presence of others.

James Gacek (Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh) @JamesGacek


“Me Time”: (Re)Imagining the Carceral Spaces and Violent Geographies of Solitary Confinement

This paper contributes to the growing literature on carceral spaces and violent geographies by examining the relationship between the practice of solitary confinement and inmates that use segregation to ephemerally escape from the general prison population. Rather than discounting the mounting evidence that indicate the harms resulting from time spent within segregation, this paper reconsiders and draws upon geographical scholarship that examine violent geographies as relational assemblages, underscoring how notions of violence and peace are confounding concepts which exist on a spectrum, and are contingent upon inmates’ experiences of solitary confinement. Indeed, solitary confinement is not simply a fixed and immutable place, nor should researchers and scholars merely analyze and catalogue violence occurring behind its walls; cautiously considered differently, this carceral space can be recognized as co-constituted by, and mediated through, inmates’ experiences. In effect, this research speaks to and supplements the burgeoning calls for the abolition of solitary confinement. This analysis is supported by semi-structured interviews conducted with ten former inmates living within the city of Winnipeg, Canada.

Session 3B Emotions and Embodied Carcerality  

Andrew Wooff and Layla Skinns (Edinburgh Napier University) @ajwooff

Slides (pdf)

The Role of Emotion, Space and Place in Police Custody

Police custody is a complex environment, where police officers, detainees and other staff interact in a number of different emotional, spatial and transformative ways. Utilising ethnographic and interview data collected as part of a three-year study which aims to rigorously examine what ‘good’ police custody is, this paper analyses the role that conditions of custody, both physical and emotional, play in creating an environment that fosters ‘good’ police custody.  Architecture has previously been noted as an important consideration in relation to social control, with literature linking the built environment with people’s emotional ‘readings’ of space.  No work, however, has examined the links between temporality, liminality and emotional performativity in a police custody context.  In this environment, power dynamics are linked to past experiences of the police, with emotions being intrinsically fluid, embodied, relational, liminal and temporal.  By analysing some of the embodied experiences of detainees and staff within custody, links between emotion, space and context are examined in relation to ‘good’ custody practices.  The paper concludes by arguing that it is important to understand the micro-scale, lived experience of police custody in order to develop broader understandings of the links between the conditions of custody and ‘good’ police custody.

Adam Elliott-Cooper (University of Warwick) @adamec87


Naming Names: The Racialised Body and Black Resistance to the Carceral State

This paper looks at the ways in which black bodies are criminalised by the state, and rehumanised by campaigns against policing. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with organisers and ethnographic data gathered through action research as a participant in the struggles examined in this paper, I analyse four London-based black community campaigns which use the body as a space to articulate resistance in post-2011 Britain. This paper argues that the state racism intersects with patriarchy through the carceral continuum, extending to black bodies become, reproducing the processes by which they become a space of dehumanisation. It goes on to use campaigns against violent state racism in Britain, led by women, as case studies to argue that a radical rehumanising of black people subjected to racial violence must incorporate critiques of patriarchy, in addition to critiques of racism, to build effective struggles of resistance against the carceral state. The paper identifies and analyses the role of the body as a space which black struggles against police violence, and contributes a black feminist framework to better-understand the role of women in spaces of black struggle against policing in post-2011 Britain.

Carly Guest (Middlesex University) and Rachel Seoighe (Middlesex University @racheladrianne

Slides to follow

Shutting down Holloway: displacing women and practicing punishment in the periphery

This paper will explore some initial themes and ideas arising from our project exploring the closure of Holloway prison and its impact on women’s wellbeing and relationships, in the context of the government’s policy of moving prisons to remote locations. This policy raises issues around visibility and how practices of punishment are increasingly consigned to the periphery. Thinking through the ‘emotional geographies’ (Davidson and Milligan, 2004) of the prison space and how the prison can devastate the lives of women (Moore and Scraton, 2014; McCorkel, 2013; etc.), we are exploring how the transfer from one prison to another causes further disruption to women’s lives and a breakdown in crucial support networks both within and outside the prison.   Our paper will explore the physical site as an oppressive structure, engaging with the affective experience of detention in Holloway prison. We will discuss how this gendered, punitive space was simultaneously a space of recovery, friendship and mutual support. We will draw on interviews and archival work with photographs and prison artefacts in order to reflect on how women made lives for themselves in Holloway.

Vincenzo Scalia (University of Winchester) @scaliavincenzo


Space of Abuses: Torture and Carceral Geography

The peculiarity of prisons is strongly related to space, both externally and internally. Prisons are perceived by the collective imaginary as a place to remove, to be secluded from the rest of society, both a symbol and an instrument of permanent exclusion. Contemporary prisons are mostly hidden from public view, and built in areas which are distant from urban spaces. A marginal place, hosting marginal persons, creates the conditions a further geography of exclusion, which takes place inside prisons. All the penitential space from cells to the ambulatory, are designed to control prisoners, thus depriving them of such things as privacy and freedom of choice. It is within this context that abuses happen: prisoners have been spoiled of their personal identities, so they become just naked life, at the disposal of the prison staff, particularly of prison officers. Other spaces of further seclusion, such isolation rows, are created. In these areas, kept away from the sight both of public opinion and from the other prison population, abuses on inmates, performed either by individuals or by squads, take place. This paper will draw on the theories of Stanley Cohen, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, to discuss prison abuses under a special aspect.

Anastasia Chamberlen (University of Warwick) 


Changing Bodies, Ambivalent Subjectivities, and Women’s Punishment

This paper explores the punishment-body relation by looking at women’s experiences of imprisonment and their embodied identities. It maps changes in women’s self-perceptions and body-image in and out of prison and illustrates both how women cope with punishment through their bodies and how they use their bodies to resist prison-specific and social pressures. Drawing on a notion of embodiment informed by the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1962), I consider the capacity of the body to be both an ‘objective’ entity, and an embodied subject. Following this phenomenological framework, I start from the premise that bodies form the foundation of our ability to perceive and give meaning to the world and to ourselves. Using findings from a qualitative study I show that while punishment targets the prisoner’s body and often succeeds in inscribing and stigmatising it, the prisoner maintains a sense of subjectivity in custody through her body. She relies on it to make sense of her lived experiences, to survive punishment and to resist its lasting effects, and uses it to reconstruct an ambivalent, embodied identity post-release. From this perspective, I propose that the prisoner body is understood as both the object and as the subject of modern punishment.