At Home and Abroad: Doing Geography in the Prison Territories of America

Authors: Shaul Cohen*, University of Oregon
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Territory, Incarceration, Identity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Iberville, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years increasing attention has been drawn to the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, where some 2,000,000 people are confined to the very circumscribed worlds of the cell, cell block, and the jails and prisons that in the past generation have proliferated across the American landscape. In this paper I will explore the (im)permeability of prison/social/racial/economic boundaries, drawing upon my experiences in carceral facilities over the past decade. I will attempt to shed light on various territorial strategies that reinforce or undermine the power of the state, and the tactics of resistance that challenge the methods and goals of penal isolation. In exploring the dynamics of doing geography in prisons I will draw comparisons with fieldwork conducted in “foreign” countries, and the methods, limitations, and insights that come with outside status. The paper will also draw attention to the complex worlds that exist within prisons, where social patterns that are common to the outside world are also prevalent, though they are reproduced in extreme circumstances. The paper will also argue for the tremendous importance of geographic fieldwork, even and perhaps especially in hard to reach places.

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