Capture and Control: Geographies of Detention and Incarceration

Geography/Criminology 3040 - Spring 2015

I’m teaching this course for the first time in the spring. While I am still trying to finalize the readings, I thought I’d post what I have.

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Modern democratic states often rely on practices of detention and incarceration in order to demonstrate (and increasingly, to circumvent) the power of the rule of law. As a result, international and domestic detention spaces like refugee camps, jails and for-profit prisons, war prisons, black sites, migrant detention islands, border checkpoints, and protest camps are utilized in an ever-expanding number of spatial, legal, and political contexts. In this course we will explore these spaces, and engage in a detailed historical and theoretical investigation of the complex and often-contradictory processes that produce them.

Globalization, as an economic process and spatial practice, is often associated with movement, speed, and dynamism. However, with increasing regularity, spatial isolation is called on to preserve or secure these spaces of movement and exchange. Moving beyond simple walls and cages, detention spaces are increasingly intertwined with the cross-border flows of people, goods, and capital that have come to describe global modernity. This poses challenging legal, spatial, economic, and political issues at the heart of globalization, and these will frame class discussions and debates.


The course is loosely divided into two sections. The first section of class–which will take us until Spring Break–is designed to introduce the central themes and questions surrounding the history and development of the prison apparatus in the United States. We will trace a narrative through readings that deal with uses and abuses of incarceration and its rapid expansion in America; with the issues of race, property, and economy; and with the role of the state. Part two—the second half of the semester—will cover a range of issues pertaining to the uses of detainment and sequestration in a global context. We will wrestle with the issues of mobility and migration; with political asylum and refugee camps; with torture and issues of bodily harm and control; and with the contradiction of detainment for punishment and detainment for security.

Day 1: Why detain?

Angela Y. Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (Seven Stories Press, 2003), 9–21.

L. L. Martin and M. L. Mitchelson, “Geographies of Detention and Imprisonment: Interrogating Spatial Practices of Confinement, Discipline, Law, and State Power,” Geography Compass 3, no. 1 (2009): 459–77

Week 2: Spaces of Detention: Enclosure, Exclusion, and the Practices of Power

Olivier Razac, Barbed Wire: A Political History, trans. Jonathan Kneight (New York: New Press, The, 2003), Introduction; 5–22; 50–69; 70–84.

Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage Books, 1979), 3–23; (recommended):104-114.

Week 3: Jim Crow, Labor, and Early 20th Century Incarceration in the US

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “Where Did All the White Criminals Go?: Reconfiguring Race and Crime on the Road to Mass Incarceration,” Souls 13, no. 1 (March 18, 2011): 72–90

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, (New York: Anchor, 2009). (Introduction: 1-12)

Week 4: Prisons, Profit, and Accumulation by Dispossession

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, 1st ed. (University of California Press, 2007). Introduction and Chapter 3: The Prison Fix. (available on ebrary)

Anne Bonds, “Building Prisons, Building Poverty: Prison Sitings, Dispossession, and Mass Incarceration,” in Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, ed. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 129–42 (available on ebrary)

Week 5: Race, Mass Incarceration, and the US Prison State

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, 1st ed. (New Press, The, 2010). Chapter 1: The Rebirth of Caste; p. 20-58

Marie Gottschalk, “Hiding in Plain Sight: American Politics and the Carceral State,” Annual Review of Political Science 11 (June 2008): 235–60.

Week 6: Beyond the Wire: Policing, Control, and Cultures of Mass Incarceration

Katherine Beckett and Steve Herbert, “Penal Boundaries: Banishment and the Expansion of Punishment,” Law & Social Inquiry 35, no. 1 (2010): 1–38.

Monica Varsanyi, “Fighting for the Vote: The Struggle against Felon and Immigrant Disenfranchisement,” in Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, ed. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 266–76.

Anthony J. Nocella II, Priya Parmar, and David Stovall, eds., From Education to Incarceration: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 2014). (Chapter one: Nancy A. Heitzeg: Criminalizing Education: Zero Tolerance Policies, Police in the Hallways, and the School to Prison Pipeline)

Week 7: Migrant Detention: Globalization, Mobility, and Law

Lauren L. Martin, “‘Catch and Remove’: Detention, Deterrence, and Discipline in US Noncitizen Family Detention Practice,” Geopolitics 17, no. 2 (April 2012): 312–34.

Nancy Hiemstra, “‘You Don’t Even Know Where You Are’: Chaotic Geographies of US Migrant Detention and Deportation,” in Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention, ed. Dominique Moran, Nick Gill, and Deirdre Conlon (available on ebrary)

Spring Break

Week 8: Care and Custody: Borders, Human Rights, and the Refugee Camp

Michel Agier, Managing the Undesirables: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Government, 1st ed. (Polity, 2011). (Chapter 2: Encampment Today: An Attempted Inventory (36-62))

Dan Bulley, “Inside the Tent: Community and Government in Refugee Camps,” Security Dialogue 45, no. 1 (February 1, 2014): 63–80.

Week 9: The Body in prison, the body as prison: Torture, hunger, health

Jonathan Simon, Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America (New York: New Press, The, 2014), (Chapter 4 on health; Chapter 5 on overcrowding)

John W. Schiemann, “Interrogational Torture Or How Good Guys Get Bad Information with Ugly Methods,” Political Research Quarterly 65, no. 1 (March 1, 2012): 3–19.

Week 10: The Camp, States of Exception, and Law (Reconsidered)

David Chandler, Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison, 1ST edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). (Chapter 2)

Primo Levi, If This Is a Man, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York, NY: Orion Press, 1959) (35-70)

Week 11: Empire and Emergency

Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003). (introduction:2-7)

Caroline Elkins, “Detention, Rehabilitation, and the Destruction of Kikuyu Society,” from Mau Mau and Nationhood: Arms, Authority, and Narration, eds. E.S. Atiano Odhiambo and John Lonsdale (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003) (191-226)

Week 12: No Class (I will be at a conference)

Week 13: War Prisons & Military Detention

Laleh Khalili, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies. Stanford University Press, 2012. (Chapter 5: Banal Procedures of Detention) (on ebrary)

Sibylle Scheipers, ed., Prisoners in War (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), introduction 1–20. (on ebrary)

Week 14: Border Walls, Occupation, Siege

Helga Tawil-Souri, “Digital Occupation: Gaza’s High-Tech Enclosure,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41, no. 2 (January 2012): 27–43.

Borderlands Autonomist Collective, “Resisting the Security-Industrial Complex: Operation Streamline and the Militarization of the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands,” in Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis, ed. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 190–208