Mechanisms of confinement. A territorial approach to contemporary social and political control – Call for Papers

I was delighted to be invited by TerrFerme to join the scientific committee of their conference “Mechanisms of confinement. A territorial approach to contemporary social and political control“, to be held in Pessac, Bordeaux, France, 17-19 October 2013.

The Call for Papers for the conference is now out, with a February 1st 2013 deadline for submissions.

This symposium sets out to study the value, for analysis, of putting different types of custodial space into perspective. What does this comparison of analytical visions of confinement produce, what awareness does it develop? What facets of confinement can it highlight that have received little attention from specialized fields? These questions can be broken down into several major fields of investigation, an exploration of which would seem to benefit from the dialogue between research into the various custodial institutions: briefly;

Space and power relations: Power relations inside establishments that deprive people of their freedom are one of the central themes of research into confinement…

Control operators and institutions: private vs. public: Custodial institutions have often been apprehended by existing research as the expression of the sovereign power of the state over its subjects…

Routes, circulation, mobility: Since the 1960s American prison sociology has highlighted the necessity of considering custodial establishments in their relations with the exterior, with their environment…

Custodial institutions and inequality: Although different research trends in the social sciences have recently questioned the relationship between public institutions and inequality, particularly ethnic and religious inequality, this question seems to have received little attention in the literature on confinement…

Civil society and confinement: governing facilities, production and the circulation of knowledge: For several decades, associations and NGOs have played an essential role in a considerable number of custodial establishments…

The working languages of the symposium will be French and English (with simultaneous translation services provided).

Carceral Geography – new books!

What’s that saying? You wait forever for a bus and then three come along at once? Well, this is not quite all at once, but the great news is that there are four new forthcoming books which should be of interest to geographers and others working on spaces and practices of incarceration.

Further details are available on all of these books through the links above, but some brief information is below:

“Border Watch: Cultures of Immigration, Detention and Control”

Alexandra Hall 2012

Questions over immigration and asylum face almost all Western countries. Should only economically useful immigrants be allowed? What should be done with unwanted or ‘illegal’ immigrants? In this bold and original intervention, Alexandra Hall shows that immigration detention centres offer a window onto society’s broader attitudes towards immigrants.

Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders and Global Crisis”

Jenna Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, Andrew Burridge [Eds] 2012

The crisis of borders and prisons can be seen starkly in statistics. In 2011 some 1,500 migrants died trying to enter Europe, and the United States deported nearly 400,000 and imprisoned some 2.3 million people—more than at any other time in history. International borders are increasingly militarized places embedded within domestic policing and imprisonment and entwined with expanding prison-industrial complexes. Beyond Walls and Cages offers scholarly and activist perspectives on these issues and explores how the international community can move toward a more humane future. Working at a range of geographic scales and locations, contributors examine concrete and ideological connections among prisons, migration policing and detention, border fortification, and militarization. They challenge the idea that prisons and borders create safety, security, and order, showing that they can be forms of coercive mobility that separate loved ones, disempower communities, and increase shared harms of poverty. Walls and cages can also fortify wealth and power inequalities, racism, and gender and sexual oppression. See the related blog here.

“Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention”

Dominique Moran, Nick Gill & Deirdre Conlon [Eds] 2013

This book draws together the work of a new community of scholars with a growing interest in carceral geography: the geographical study of practices of imprisonment and detention. It combines work by geographers in ‘mainstream’ penal establishments that incarcerate people convicted of a crime by the prevailing legal system, with geographers’ recent work on migrant detention centres, in which refused asylum seekers, irregular migrants and some others are detained, ostensibly pending decisions on admittance or repatriation. In each of these contexts, contributions investigate the geographical location and spatialities of institutions, the nature of spaces of incarceration and detention and experiences inside them, governmentality and prisoner agency, cultural geographies of penal spaces, and mobility in the carceral context. In dialogue with emergent and topical agendas in geography around mobility, space and agency, and in relation to international policy challenges such as the (dis)functionality of imprisonment, and the search for alternatives to detention, the book draws upon and speaks back to geography, criminology and prison sociology.

Look out for this one early in 2013 – more details to come.

“Carceral Geography: Prisons, Power and Space”

Dominique Moran 2013

The so-called ‘punitive turn’ has brought about new ways of thinking about geography and the state, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. This book introduces ‘carceral geography’ as a geographical perspective on incarceration, tracking the ideas, practices and engagements that have shaped the development of this new and vibrant sub-discipline, and suggesting future research directions which are dynamically open to transdisciplinarity, which are both informed by and extend theoretical developments in geography, but which also, and critically, interface with contemporary debates over hyperincarceration, recidivism and the advance of the punitive state. This book conveys a sense of the debates, directions, and threads within the field of carceral geography, tracing the inner workings of this dynamic field, its synergies with criminology and prison sociology, and its likely future trajectories. By synthesizing existing work in carceral geography, and by exploring the future directions it might take, the book develops a notion of the ‘carceral’ as spatial, emplaced, mobile, embodied and affective.

More details to come as this one progresses…

Death Row documentary – geography and mobility

“Most people do not know when and how they will die. Death Row inmates do. They are told the exact day, hour and minute of their death, including all the precise details, procedures and rituals of their execution.

Death Row is a documentary series written and directed by legendary feature filmmaker Werner Herzog, telling the fascinating and controversial story of crime and the death penalty. Over the period of a year, Herzog interviewed inmates in America as they awaited their death, uncovering brutal stories of rape and murder.

Death Row is not so much a series about capital punishment as a deep and intriguing insight into the limits of human experience, asking what it feels like to know how and when you will die.” (Channel 4, UK)

There are a few days left for viewers in the UK to watch the first documentary on 4oD. It’s a fascinating piece of TV – particularly because the death row interviewee, Hank Skinner, describes the unusual experience of moving from the holding facility to the execution facility, only to be given a stay of execution, and to return once again to his holding cell.  Herzog teases out Skinner’s thoughts on food, the body, the passage of time, and the 40-mile journey between the holding facility and the execution facility. As Sam Wollaston notes in his review, ‘what Skinner saw out of the truck’s window, the other-worldliness, the noise of the tyres going over the joints in the bridge, the smell of the lake they drove by and the memories that the smell conjured up, memories of freedom’ are particularly evocative.

Although not focusing on the transportation of death row inmates per se, some recent work within geography has considered the transportation of prisoners and has theorised this movement in terms of mobilities and liminality, a state of ‘betweenness’. For example, Nick Gill’s recent paper argues that the increasing mobility of asylum seekers around the UK’s detention estate has significant implications for both the advocacy groups and professionals who hold influence over their experiences, and Dominique Moran et al’s paper contends that contemporary prisoner transport in the Russian Federation serves as an illustration both of punitive power expressed through mobility and of mobility in the carceral context.