Richard Nisa

To access the most recent iteration of my CV, click here.

I am an Assistant Professor of Geography at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Florham Campus. My days are passed fumbling through the challenges of new(ish)-fatherhood, teaching, and researching and writing on a host of issues at the interface between geography, history, and architecture. My general academic interests revolve around military detention, discourses of security, the human body, and media practices.

This website would not have come into existence without a good deal of coding help from my friends Josh and Mandy. They are amazing. Anything on this site that looks bad or functions poorly is solely my doing.

Before beginning my life as an academic, I worked full-time as an architect and freelance designer in New York, Paris, and Iowa. I still find time to design—fitting in small projects between trips to the archive and trips to the Children’s Museum. I live in Brooklyn with my wife, N, and our son, H.

email me at nisa [at] fdu [dot] edu
twitter: @nisaface

Regarding the Crisis

The title of the site comes from a short essay by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, the English translation of which was published in the journal October shortly before his death. This piece offers a prescient description of how technologies, networks, and media savvy have all contributed to the changing spatiality of power due to the collapse of more traditional “enclosed” institutions. He writes:

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure–prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an “interior,” in crisis like all other interiors– scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control… (p.3-4) Deleuze, G. 1992. “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October. Vol 59 (Winter); p. 3-7.

We are all-too familiar with this collapse. With increasing regularity, public schools announce budget deficits, academic performance shortfalls, and bureaucratic chaos. Hospitals are often dangerously overcrowded, lacking in necessary funding, and have a number of practices politicized and services cut. Even the most well funded interior institutions—state militaries—have in the last twenty years seen the influx of private contractors and corporate service-providers: the military industrial complex run roughshod over the limits of the war machine. Deleuze points out that these changes increased dramatically in frequency following World War II. As rigid structures began their descent into perpetual reformation, a new mode of control—a society of control—began to take their place. Control, as a diagram of power, is decentralized, lightweight and mobile. If institutional enclosures are solid molds, Deleuze argues, than controls are modulations, self-deforming casts that can change to fulfill the needs of power.

In the context of my work, this shift has produced a distinct set of spatial practices that challenge the prevailing logics of detention, placing an emphasis on mobile and open performances of detainment rather than a fixed institutional isolation. Ultimately, post-Cold War detention practices have endured a substantial reorientation, today representing not only the successful completion of counterinsurgency strategy, but increasingly emerging as a vital means of contemporary security practice. Detention is no longer spatially or temporally fixed. Successful detention is not only a question of designing and constructing a secure edifice, but something much more complex. The crisis of enclosure points towards an understanding of how institutional power has leaked out of its interior and is veering towards the total decentralization and free-floating dynamism of control.

–New Year’s Day, 2010