Critical geographies of confinement

Critical geographies of confinement in Ireland, Britain, and elsewhere was a ‘flipped format’ event, with two elements:

  • Pre-recorded presentations, available online from 25 January to 8 July 2022
  • Live panel discussion on Tuesday 1 February 2022, moderated by Joseph Robinson and Deirdre Conlon

Videos from this session are no longer online, but are available on request from Deirdre Conlon.


Building on the success of two organized sessions at the Conference of Irish Geographers (in May 2021), this CGWG mid-term event included pre-recorded presentations followed by a live discussion from the following presenters:

  • Critical geographies of confinement
    Bulelani Mfaco: Technological University Dublin, spokesperson for MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
  • A Conversation on Mapping Direct Provision in Ireland
    Vukašin Nedeljković: Artist and independent scholar and Dr Sasha Brown: Maynooth University, Ireland
  • Confined to an institutional childhood? The mobilities of early 20th century children in the Poor Law system
    Ella Bytheway-Jackson: University of Liverpool, UK
  • Welcome to country? Countering enduring forms of colonial carceral control in Australia
    Dr Kate Coddington: University at Albany, State University of New York, US
  • A Nation Made of a Thousand Prisons: Settler Colonialism & the Ongoing Genocide of Indigenous People in Canada
    Dr Adam Barker: University of Sheffield, UK


In February 2021 the Irish government announced plans to end its’ direction provision system for asylum seekers by 2024. While the exact character of the ‘new’ system to respond to irregular migration remains unclear, the government’s proposals appear to echo elements of Ireland’s “breathtaking history of incarceration” (Lentin, 2016: 24), which is characterised by the confinement and repressive control of marginalised individuals in institutions including psychiatric hospitals, industrial schools, workhouses, mother and baby homes, Magdalene Laundries, and Direct Provision Centres (O’Sullivan & O’Donnell, 2012). With this, questions related to exclusion, dignity, justice, and responsibilities toward marginalised members of communities, in Ireland, Britain, and elsewhere, (re)surface yet again.

The mini-conference was informed by critical interest in the significance and resonances of case studies from the Irish State, Britain, and elsewhere. This includes (but is not limited to) consideration of settler colonial practices with Australia’s Aborginal communities; recent attention to Canada’s residential schools, for example, the uncovering of evidence of unmarked graves of over 200 indigenous children who were confined in a residential school in Canada (see The Guardian, 28 May 2021), and in the UK, calls for a government apology for ‘pain and suffering that the practice of forced adoption caused many women [in the UK] from the 1960s onwards’ (see The Guardian, 7 July 2018 and The Times, 26 May 2021), and, thereby, intended to extend discussion of the spatialities and temporalities of confinement to a wider audience.

The mini-conference provided an opportunity for academics at all career stages to reflect on the contributions, synergies, and future directions for scholarship and activities among those whose work engages space(s) of critical migration, confinement, social control, and the carceral more broadly. Invited presenters prepared short (10-12 min.) recorded presentation informed by the following questions:

  1. How can or should critical/carceral geography contribute to understanding confinement–historical or contemporary–in Ireland, Britain, or elsewhere?
  2. How have survivors, scholars, artists, activists, and organisers exposed and challenged the temporal and/or spatial continuities across sites of confinement, control, or incarceration?
  3.  What new insights can we generate by thinking spatially about systems of social control?
  4. What sorts of new (or recurring questions) can critical scholars help illuminate in light of the ongoing uncovering of evidence of new and old forms of social control?

Event organisers

  • Deirdre Conlon (Leeds)
  • Sasha Brown (Maynooth)
  • Joseph Robinson (Maynooth)