RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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316 Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres (1)
Affiliation Geographies of Justice Research Group
Convenor(s) Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham, UK)
Anna Schliehe (University of Glasgow, UK)
Chair(s) Anna Schliehe (University of Glasgow, UK)
Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham, UK)
Timetable Friday 29 August 2014, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 2
Session abstract Spaces of confinement can be found in various settings and institutions, from psychiatric establishments, centers for migrant detention, to prisons and penitentiary camps. Carceral geography has continued to expand its scope, taking a range of different perspectives on custodial spaces. This session seeks to conceptualise and collect these perspectives on closed spaces to think through theoretical and empirical aspects of carceral spheres, and toexplore in particular the interactions between borders, the materiality of confinement, and the individual. We are looking to explore innovative methods of engaging with those in confinement and to closely consider positionalities of the researcher in these settings.

This perspective includes aspects of spatial and social tactics, embodied and emotional experiences of living in closed spaces, and effects on inmates, visitors, staff and researchers. Theoretical insights into the constitution of confinement often draw upon the work of Foucault, de Certeau, Agamben or Goffman. We are interested in the utilization of these abstractions, but also in work which draws from different theoretical constructs.

In attempting to reflect on ‘geographies of co-production’ and more collaborative ways of working we very much welcome inputs from cognate disciplines on aspects of space and confinement, as well as from beyond the academy.
Linked Sessions Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres (2)
Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres (3): Panel
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
The artistic ‘touch’: engaging with the confined at the Art by Offenders exhibition
Jennifer Turner (Aberystwyth University / University of Leicester, UK)
The guilty person, the prisoner,” comments Ioan Davies, “everywhere across time and societies … [is] not expected to write. They are expected to be written for [either by the authorities or by benefactors]” (1990, 7). However, in spite of this, there are many different ‘voices’ to be heard from inside the prison. These narrative or aesthetic practices resist the dehumanising, colonising practices of the visual gaze that prisoners so usually find themselves under (Camhi 1989). In many cases, the confinement of prisoners results in a production of rich outputs. In this paper, I focus attention on an annual award scheme that actively encourages prisoners to not only produce art, but submit it for external scrutiny and possible commendation. I argue that this process of allowing ‘outsiders’ to interact with this artwork has a number of important purposes. First, as many of the pieces are for sale, prisoners contribute to a system of production and economic exchange. Second, as well as generating their own income, the celebration of these pieces, both in the gallery and through specific awards, helps in the self-production of creative individuals legitimised in the arts community and wider society. Finally, I draw on literatures of ‘touch’ and hapticality to consider how production and consumption of this artwork may enhance prisoners’ ability to ‘touch’ the world outside of prison. What is revealed is an entangled encounter between confined individuals, gallery visitors (and in this case, the hybrid researcher/visitor) and the spaces of confinement in which this artwork is produced.
Exploring the hazy distinction between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ in a Visitors’ Centre at a Scottish Prison
Rebecca Foster (University of Glasgow, UK)
Goffman, of course, created the concept of the ‘total institution’: institutions which have an “encompassing or total character” with binary distinctions between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, and prisons were so included in this conception (Baer and Ravneberg, 2008: 205).In recent years, some scholars have begun to challenge Goffman’s concept of the total institution, at least in regards to the prison, and have instead argued that the boundary between prison and’ the outside’ is rather more blurred. Perhaps nowhere is this blurred distinction more pronounced than in the spaces where the prison and ‘the outside’ collide, as has been influentially identified and explored by Dominque Moran (Moran, 2011: 339) and others (for example, Comfort 2003: 80). The prison visit room would be the archetypal example of this. However, visitors’ centres, facilities “visitors can wait for their visit prior to entering the main prison” (Families Outside, 2010: 2) are also spaces where these ‘separate’ worlds collide, in a unique and complex way. The presentation will be based on ethnographic research conducted at the Salvation Army Visitors’ Centre at HMP Edinburgh. This Centre is architecturally distinct, geographically apart from, and ideologically separate from the prison located immediately behind it; in principle, the inside (the prison) and the outside (the community) are very much apart. Yet, findings from fieldwork suggest a rather more blurred divide between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. This paper will explore these findings and consider the implications of this, for all those who pass through the Centre’s doors.
Welling up asylum seekers’ memories
Clemens Bernardt (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
“Memories well up out of the depths of the unconscious and/or work away as (dis)enabling background. They are not static information, but are reworked in the light of current practice, and at the same time shape that practice” (Jones and Garde‐Hansen, 2012: 161).The aim of the forthcoming paper is to gain insight in the precarious process of welling up the sometimes hidden memories of asylum‐seekers staying in an Asylum Seekers’ Residence Centre (ASCR). I will discuss how these living memories are framed and fixed in the asylum‐procedure. In order to study and define an asylum‐seeker’s identity and motivations for seeking refuge, the asylum‐procedure evokes his or her memories. Herlihy & Turner (2007) assert that the chance of being granted asylum is mainly based on the asylum‐seeker’s ability “to recount a coherent, consistent narrative, describing past experiences of past persecution, which fit the definition of the Geneva Convention […]. However, for many, neither remembering nor relating some of the most horrific experiences of their lives is easy” (Herlihy & Turner, 2007: 268). The data for the study, consisting of a research‐diary, interviews and sketches, are collected in an ASRC in The Netherlands. Both in‐ and outside this centre its inhabitants remain confined within the time‐space of the extended procedure. For at least halve a year, but often much longer they have to wait for the Immigration and Naturalisation Service to study their asylumrequests. Uncertain about their future they are continuously reworking their painful or even traumatic memories.
Entangled identities inside and outside: exploring Cape Town street youth’s interconnected lives on the street and in prison.
Lorraine van Blerk (University of Dundee, UK)
For some time carceral geographies have been concerned with moving beyond spaces of confinement. For example, Dirsuweit (1999), through a focus on sexual identity, illustrated that prisoners’ identities on the inside can draw on cultural values and codes from the outside; while home identities have also been noted to become merged with, or separated from, those expressed in prison. However, much of this work has tended to focus on understanding expressions of identity inside while neglecting the implications of the prison experience (or fear of it) for identities on the outside. Through the exemplar of Cape Town street youth, this paper shows that prison identities are not confined to the inside but rather through entangled relational experiences stretch out to other spaces, influencing identity practices and lived realities on the street.
This paper draws on in-depth narratives with 25 street youth, aged between 15 and 28, the majority of whom have been in carceral confinement for multiple reasons, and usually several times. The paper explores how street youth’s lives are interwoven between the spaces of street and prison, exploring what this means for understanding their identities and lives on the street. The paper discusses how being on the street shapes their carceral experience but also how the gang structures they are exposed to therein have implications for life on the outside. The paper concludes by showing that ‘street’ and ‘prison’ are intricately entangled, with street youth’s everyday identities influenced and shaped by relational encounters and cultural strategies of the prison number gang system.
New Prisons and Dehumanisation
Pascal Décarpes (University of Bern, Switzerland)
Yvonne Jewkes and Dominique Moran wrote a paper - on UK’s newest prison, HMP Oakwood – published early 2014 and untitled “Britain's New 'Model' Prison Is Disturbingly Violent, And Its Design Could Be To Blame”. Their analysis contains striking similarities with some recent evolutions in the French prison system.
The last illustration of this topic – almost a paradigmatic ideal-type – concerns the penitentiary of Alencon-Condé-sur-Seine. Opened in Spring 2013 and presented as the most secured and modern prison in France, there hasn´t been any week without violence, assaults, staff complaints, etc. These problems even found national media echo on a usually rather confidential issue. In a broader context, linked to the notion of “geographical punishment” (Olivier Milhaud 2009), it seems that new penitentiaries aren´t accepted neither by staff members nor by inmates. As to the latters, there speak of ‘dehumanisation’ of modern prison compared to older ones, criticizing human isolation, lack of socialization, coldness of buildings etc. The dissatisfaction is paradoxical since some former penitentiaries were shut down because of filthy sanitary, malfunctioning heating, even cockroaches.
This proposal aims at understanding and analyzing the influence of contemporary prison models on the “pains of imprisonment” (Gresham Sykes 1958) with regard to detention norms that are supposed to guarantee inmates´ rights in the light of the European Convention on Human Rights. This proposal is based on a decade of field work in French prisons with different types of architecture and hosting various categories on inmates (pre-trial, short and long sentences, high-security penitentiaries).