Call for papers: Socio : “The Prison in the World: new perspectives”

The journal Socio is launching a call for papers on the theme of ‘The Prison in the World – new perspectives’. The dossier isco-ordinated by Falk Bretschneider (Centre Georg Simmel, EHESS) and Natalia Muchnik (Centre de recherches historiques, EHESS). Proposals forcontributions (title, 2 pages summary and bibliography) should be sent to Socio by 15 February 2019. The articles should be submitted by 15 May 2019.


The Prison in the World: new perspectives

Since its beginning, the historiography of the prison has integrated the transnational dimension of its object by focussing in particular on the circulation of projects and experiences. But large areas have been neglected. Thus most of the research bears on the beginning of the 19th century which some, like Michel Foucault or Michael Ignatieff in the 1970s and 1980s, consider to be the period in which the sentence of imprisonment as we still know it today, originated. Attention has also centred on the reforms of the penal systems in the Western powers, mainly France, the United Kingdom and the United States. This is why prison still appears today as a European and North American invention which subsequently spread to other continents, in particular in the wake of colonisation.

Revisiting the origins of the present-day prison

This dossier aims to examine this construction by following two main approaches. In the first instance, by considering whether penal imprisonment was perhaps the outcome of experiences prior to the French Revolution, as is suggested by some recent research on the joint institutions of the Ancien Régime, at one and the same time charitable and punitive, or on the continuity between the monastic world and the prison world. While these studies do not challenge the generalisation of confinement as a punitive model in the 19th century and the concomitant establishment of a specific penitentiary discourse and practices. They do nevertheless propose the inscription of these processes in a broader chronological context which includes the multiples forms of enclosure of the disadvantaged or marginalised from the 16th to the 19th century (hospitals, deviant religious and secular persons in monasteries. Accordingly it would therefore seem judicious, to question further, in particular by returning to the history of prisons in Antiquity.

But this chronological extension is also geographical. While the periods of Antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times have been dealt with in the Oxford History of the Prison, the standard work published in 1995 as a form of ‘pre-history’ of prison, the same applies to the sub-title of the work: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society. For the contributors, the present-day prison is in the first instance, a European and North American invention which spread, along with colonial conquests, to other continents. The Australian example, with its huge penitentiary colonies, served as a model for other spaces, including in Asia. This hypothesis of the ‘spread’ has been both confirmed and denied in recent research. On one hand, it cannot be denied that practices of specific forms of confinement did exist in some extra-European areas before the arrival of the Western powers. This has been demonstrated by Fariba Zarinebaf for the Ottoman Empire, Frank Dikötter for China or Daniel Botsman for modern Japan. It does appear, however, that in other areas, the emergence of imprisonment was contemporaneous with colonisation. This, for example, was the case in Africa, as is shown in the work of Florence Bernault, or in Indo-China where, according to Peter Zinoman, it was the continuation of the prisoner-of-war camps established by the French. As a result, we have to think of the two movements simultaneously: on the one hand, a global movement for ‘prison reform’ in the 19th century, the driving force for this being located in the Western world, and the reconfigurations of local traditions which are not the mere outcome of a modernisation along Western-type lines. This means that a new history of the prison and practices of incarceration, which is both chronologically and geographically open, is required today.

Prison in the global age

Nowadays in most countries in the world, custodial sentences dominate. However, while in the 19th century the legal aspects of imprisonment took shape in the international congresses attended by specialists from all over the world, it seems today to be largely dominated by national concerns. From being a transnational issue, has prison been reduced to a local issue today? The diversity of systems is obvious. The management of certain African or South-American prisons brings to mind the practices in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century (porosity, self-management and self-sufficiency of the prisoners, insertion in the urban environment). The issue therefore is also one of examining the current models of prison in the social sciences; these are often based on an exclusively Western and contemporary experience. Can we not attempt to understand the relations between these realities which are each unique and geographically located? In many respects, imprisonment today constitutes a global market (in prison design, techniques of supervision, infrastructures) characterised by a trend to the privatisation of places of imprisonment and to sub-contracting by national or international firms. This economic dimension evokes numerous exchanges around practices (methods of dealing with the detained, care, therapy, forms of work).In addition we have the question of religion, which gains in importance in particular around the problem of radicalisation in relation to Islam, but not uniquely, in the prison environment.

These various paths are of course not exclusive. Other proposals examining the prison or other modes of incarceration, penal or not, in its global dimension, will be welcome.


Proposals for articles, of approximately 5,000 signs (2-3 pages, includingbibliography and notes) should be submitted by 15 February 2019 to the editor:  These proposalsshould enable the editor to grasp precisely, both the research material onwhich the article is based, along with the problematic and the intellectualapproach of the author, the main hypotheses and the findings of the researchcarried out and the main concepts and references mobilised.

After acceptance of the proposal, the article, approximately 30,000 signs (notes and bibliographyincluded), should reach the journal by 15 May 2019 at the latest. It will then be submitted to the reading panel and toexternal readers.

We request authors to bear in mind the need to adopt a style of writing which ensures that the issues dealt with in the article are accessible to non-specialist readers.

As far as possible, the authors are requested to respect the guidelines located on the site of the journal at the address: <>.

OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
redactionsocio (11 décembre 2018). Call for papers: Socio : “The Prison in the World: new perspectives”. Carnet de la revue Socio. Consulté le 15 juillet 2024 à l’adresse

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