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Going Up (And Down) the River: The Geographies of Art, Agency and Resistance across Carceral and Urban Space in the Hudson Valley Region & New York City

Authors: Adam Morse*, University of Oregon
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: cultural geography, carceral, prison, art, urban, New York City, localized power, tactics, resistance
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


I contextualize the geographies of art within carceral space as a form of localized power enacted at micro scales, and further problematize the question of to what extent do prisoners’ agentic tactics function as enactments of resistance for prisoners within their carceral environment. Furthermore, I inquire as to the ways in which former prisoners utilize their artistic skills and experiences beyond prison within urban and community space when they are released. In so doing, I interrogate the extent to which former prisoners perform resistance through doing art in these spaces. I evaluate this by examining multiple art programs within the New York State prison system in the Hudson Valley region. I investigate prisoners’ participation in the system’s theater, musical, and visual arts programs, and how prisoners take their artistic skills and identities back home to New York City, where many of them play managerial roles in facilitating the arts for former prisoners and others through the organizations that offered them arts programming while incarcerated. Theoretically speaking, my investigations are rooted in Foucault’s work on the technologies and culture of the self, as well as de Certeau’s conceptualization of tactics and praxis. I argue that, within what de Certeau would call “the proper” that is, the prison, prisoners use art as a tactic, to “seize on the wing” to better navigate the carceral state and its temporal impacts; in effect, these enactments produce social, political and cultural commentary through the artistic medium, which may or may not be deemed “resistance”

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