The atmospherics of incarceration

Authors: Jennifer Turner*, University of Oldenburg
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: carceral geography, prison, atmosphere, affect, emotion, architecture
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 2:10 AM / 3:25 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Imprisonment – with its restrictions on movement, monotonous regimes and sparse surroundings – is often deliberately engineered to be an environment lacking emotion, where sensory deprivation is used with punitive effects (Arrigo and Bullock, 2008). However, previous research has, conversely, explored carceral spaces as those filled with a cacophony of sounds; a potent concoction of smells; and brimming with competing emotions (Crewe et al., 2014; Herrity, 2008). Accordingly, we can raise a number of questions: What does prison feel like? Can prison smell a certain way; or conjure certain sights and sounds? This paper focuses on the ‘carceral atmospheric’ (Turner and Peters, 2015) that is emergent from the physical prison landscape. An atmosphere is a molecular form that surrounds us, permeating the body through the air we breathe. It is both physical and metaphorical: something that is understood and felt by each part of our being. This paper examines how visible, tangible and experiential components of prison architecture coalesce to produce an atmospheric paradoxical to the anaesthetising environment that the prison often suggests. By considering the production and consumption of prison space in examples from individuals working and living in these environments, it explores how visual aspects of architecture and design also have a more pervasive impact on sensory experience to unlock a discussion of the carceral atmospheres that are designed, engineered, co-constituted and seep unexpectedly from these prison sites.

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