Disciplined mobility and carceral geography: prisoner transport in Russia

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Abstract

This paper identifies and addresses a significant weakness in the literature on mobility – the theorisation of mobility and power, and specifically, the consideration of mobility as an expression of power. It argues that the ‘mobilities turn’ has tended to draw a connection between mobility, autonomy and freedom, and in so doing has inadequately explored and theorised involuntary and coerced mobility. To illustrate this, the paper draws together two literatures that have thus far been poorly integrated, and that at first seem an unlikely pairing – the mobilities work that has exploded in scope and diversity over the past decade and that seeks to ‘undermine sedentarist theories’ in geography (Sheller M and Urry J 2006 The new mobilities paradigm Environment and Planning A 38 207–26, p 208), and the nascent field of ‘carceral geography’, a body of work beginning to coalesce around the spatialities of detention and imprisonment, but that, in its focus on spatial regulation, has thus far tended to overlook the mobilities inherent in carceral practices. The two are drawn together through consideration of an example of ‘disciplined mobility’– contemporary prisoner transport in the Russian Federation, which serves as an illustration both of punitive power expressed through mobility and of mobility in the carceral context. The paper then argues that future research in mobilities must consider more fully the disciplinary nature of mobility, and suggests that the concept of ‘disciplined mobility’ (after Packer J 2003 Disciplining mobility: governing and safety in Bratich J Z, Packer J and McCarthy C eds Foucault, cultural studies, and governmentality State University of New York Press, New York 135–63), may form a framework for such future research.

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