RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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350 Mapping carceral geography – confinement, closed spaces and affective atmospheres (2)
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 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
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 (1)
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
Prison as Stage and Actor
Sarah Armstrong (University of Glasgow, UK)
Dvora Yanow writes: ‘Built spaces are at once storytellers and part of the story being told’ (1998, p. 215). In this paper I apply her perspective to spaces of punishment, exploring the implications of seeing the prison as both stage and actor. The paper begins by arguing that a pervasive reading of the prison, one which connects a range of diverse literatures from ethnographies to statistical reports, is in terms of the (raced, massed, classed and gendered) body contained. That is, we generally treat prison as a stage for human actors. It is a setting of confinement and a system of ordering the meaning of which arises from the experiences of the human beings who have been processed through it. In other words prison reduces to imprisonment, institutions to institutionalization. I think this perspective is understandable but also dangerous. It directs attention away from the container and to the contained, thus training critique and reform on the needs (and behaviour) of the inmate. The two main aims of this paper will be first to assemble the prison as an actor from its component parts – its prisoners, buildings, managers, offices, visitors, grounds, numbers and imagination (evoking the raising of the Leviathan in the recent film of this name, 2012) – and second, to pursue the implications of doing so for re-framing a critical debate about penal boundaries and transformation. I hope that this re-conceptualization will expose otherwise invisible connections between prison and other forms of confinement and punishment (in the community, through civil processes) opening up new spaces for understanding and challenging contemporary practices.
What Encounters Count? Approaching prisons as relational spaces
Liv S. Gaborit (DIGNITY – Danish Institute against Torture, Denmark)
Andrew M. Jefferson (DIGNITY – Danish Institute against Torture, Denmark)
This paper will focus on the encounter as an object of study and an analytic lens through which to understand prisons as fundamentally relational spaces. We will emphasise the spatial, temporal and intersubjective qualities of encounters between institutions and their occupants. Institutions and their occupants will be shown to feed off each other through a complex process featuring accommodation, assimilation, mirroring, and varying degrees of complicity as well as multiple contradictions and dilemmas. Drawing on empirical material from a 2-year research project conducted in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Philippines the paper will elaborate on the notion of the entangled encounter showing it to be a theoretically loaded term as well as a lens through which to approach prisons. The data will be presented in the form of dynamic comparisons across sites. Firstly, we will present data about the encounters between three prison reform NGO’s and the prisons they target for change. We will explore the constitutive dynamics of these encounters and show how differences across prison regimes invite differing NGO responses reflected in the encounters. Secondly, we will present data about the situated encounters between prisoners and guards in the three countries showing how differences and similarities in styles of encounter help nuance our understandings of these prisons and raise questions about conceptualisations of prisons in general.
Prison and urbanism: the city as a utopian reference for prisons
David Scheer (Free University of Brussels, Belgium)
This communication aims at proposing a reflection on integrating prison in urbanism history; both metaphorically (monastery prison, prison fortress, the town prison) and materially (the issue of internal flows, technology, the use of objects and places…).
This analysis is based on a paradox: the more prisons are built in countryside, the more architects try to build the prison as a city. The metaphor between prison and city is logical. Indeed, a prison is a closed place; the hermeticism is one of the most important characteristics of a prison. Thus, all the facilities and services have to be into the prison’s walls, such as in a town.

For each prison’s model, we can found a utopia linked to the city. This utopia could be isolation, surveillance, education… For example, the “prison-monastery” aims to protect prisoners from the temptations of the city. The amendment of the inmates is only possible in a shelter confined in the city. Other example, the “prison-storage” is built to park a mass of undesirable people, out of the city. Or, finally, the “prison-school” is constructed to educate (reintegrate) convicted people, with the aim to bring them back to the city.

This communication will not analyse the relation between prisons and cities – many authors studied this aspects. I rather propose to study the prison as a city itself. Indeed, prison’s architects often use the metaphor of the city to describe or legitimate the prisons they designed. If the prison’s borders are more and more porous, the prisons further looks like a self-sufficient village. This model (or the recuperation of a model) sometimes generates some original forms: walled bungalows, penitentiary houses, vertical prisons…
Thinking through carceral geography: conceptualising and exploring confinement
Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham, UK)
Anna Schliehe (University of Glasgow, UK)
Drawing on the rich material of the previous presentations, this paper aims to conceptualise carceral geography as a newly emerging sub-field within human geography, offering a unique perspective and understanding of closed spaces.

The so-called punitive turn has brought new ways of thinking about geography and societal measures of control, and has highlighted spaces of incarceration as a new terrain for exploration by geographers. This paper offers a new narrative by engaging with the inter-disciplinary and international perspectives of these sessions on mapping carceral geography and ist affective atmospheres.