Harvard University, Cambridge MA
The rise of the prison has been an important historical development of the modern era. Over the past two hundred years, the growth of prisons has ticked upward. Confinement has come to dominate national penal regimes, increasingly replacing bodily harm as a primary form of punishment. Prisons now span the globe. While rates of incarceration have varied widely over the past two centuries across nations and over time, the last third of the twentieth-century witnessed an upward trend from the United States to Brazil and China. In the United States, prisons have become a pressing social problem with the highest number of its citizens behind bars of any country in the world.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) the influential book that first opened a new line of inquiry into the study of the prison, the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History is planning a conference to spark a global conversation among researchers in the social sciences and humanities at work on the history of distinctive penal regimes. We are interested in exploring the diversity of regimes of punishment, and especially the prison as an institution within them, the paths along which they changed, and—most especially—the connections between these changes in different parts of the world. The conference is open to papers that address a variety of themes from the philosophical underpinnings of systems of punishment, the character and function of regimes of incarceration and penality in colonial, liberal, neo-liberal and authoritarian state systems, and the distinctive cultures of confinement that have emerged within these varied systems. We hope to balance broadly comparative papers and revealing case studies. We are seeking proposals from scholars at all stages of their academic career, including graduate students. We are particularly interested in forging a global discussion of these topics, and therefore especially welcome contributions from outside North America and Europe.
The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History is a recently created center that responds to the growing interest at Harvard in the encompassing study of global history. The Initiative is committed to the systematic scrutiny of developments that have unfolded across national, regional, and continental boundaries as well as to analysis of the interconnections—cultural, economic, ecological and demographic—among world societies. For further information about WIGH and the conference, please consult our website at http://wigh.wcfia.harvard.edu.
Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 500 words and a brief curriculum vita. Please email your submissions to Jessica Barnard (firstname.lastname@example.org) by with the heading “Penal Regimes Conference.” Travel expenses (economy) as well as accommodation will be covered.
Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History, Harvard University ; Charles S. Maier, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History, Harvard University