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Carceral Spaces: Histories of Modern Punishment and Confinement

Module Convenor: Max HodgsonLink opens in a new window

Module description
This second-year module offers an introduction to the histories of punishment and confinement. It explores key topics
including the sociology and archaeology of incarceration, changing practices of punishment across the modern period, the birth of the prison, and state-run concentration camps. Students will be introduced to the ways that philosophies of
punishment have been understood and practiced across the modern world, and will learn how to historicise
incarceration, its meanings across time, space, race and class. The course will encourage students to debate more
traditional, Foucauldian understandings of punishment, alongside more recent analyses of carceral methods as
existing as part of a continuum of penal practices and theories, related to concepts of the enlightenment, modernity,
and political ideology. In its focus on incarceration across Britain, Russia and the Soviet Union, Germany, Scandinavia
and the US, the course will also address important contemporary debates over increasing prison populations, mass
incarceration programmes, the role of race and racism in modern imprisonment, and the efficacy of current penal

Principal module aims
The course encourages students to think critically about incarceration and punishment from a global perspective.
While no prior knowledge of the topic is assumed, the module aims to challenge students’ pre-existing conceptions
about the reasons for, and methods of, modern punishment; to allow them to study incarceration using transnational
historical methods; and to understand why ideas about punishment have differed so starkly, or been implemented in
such varied ways throughout the modern period. The course introduces students to some of the key texts in the field,
as well as ongoing debates and research.

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the key themes and issues in the history of incarceration and
    punishment, and evaluate them in historical context
  • Generate and communicate ideas and findings about punishment in historical context, through analysis of a
    range of primary and secondary source material
  • Engage with and critically examine the historiographical development of the study of punishment and
  • Analyse the development of punishment and confinement in relation to broader theoretical and conceptual
    developments around the notion of modernity and political ideology
  • Act with limited supervision and direction within defined guidelines; lead and participate in seminar discussions,
    delivering analysis clearly and effectively in oral presentations and group discussions

Week 1: Sociologies and archaeologies of punishment: historical introduction
Week 2: Transnational Carceral Practices: convict colonies, transportation, and the birth of the prison
Week 3: Britain and Europe: structure, architecture, penal philosophies and reform
Week 4: North America: slavery, silence and separation, failing reform
Week 5: Germany: state health to Nazi death camps
Week 6: Reading week
Week 7: The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union: imperial exile to the Gulag
Week 8: Post-war Internationalism: the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation and Standard Minimum Rules
Week 9: Mass Incarceration and Race: Britain and America
Week 10: Contemporary Incarceration and its Failures: Britain vs Scandinavia