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Carceral Geographies: Spaces and Practices of Incarceration by DominiqueMoran, Routledge, New York, 2015, 194 pp., cloth $148.70 (ISBN 978-1409452348)

Reviews / Comptes rendus
Carceral Geographies: Spaces and Practices of
by Dominique Moran, Routledge, New York, 2015,
194 pp., cloth $148.70 (ISBN 978-1409452348)
DOI: 10.1111/cag.12346
Dominique Morans new book, Carceral Geography:
Spaces and Practices of Incarceration, is a significant
contribution to the academic investigation of the
explosive growth of incarceration. Carceral Geog-
raphies astutely interrogates the ways in which
power over bodies becomes institutionalized in the
form of prison spaces by reviewing the complex
array of practices, individual experiences, and
forms of mobility that make prisons possible and
even palatable. Moran accomplishes this by drawing
upon a carefully selected and quickly expanding
body of literature, within which Moran is, un-
questionably, a trailblazer.
Over the past few decades, states in the developed
world have abandoned the classical reformist
mentality that drove early prison reforms and
experimented with mass incarceration as a way of
regulating growing populations who have been
abandoned by neoliberal public policies. This
transformation in police power is what many now
call the punitive turn.Carceral geography emerges
at this moment as a way of understanding how
prison spaces are spatial, emplaced, mobile, em-
bodied, and affective(p. 1). Morans text is a useful
counterbalance to much of the literature on the
punitive turn, which, due to the influence of
quantitative methods from criminal justice and
police sociology, tends to represent incarceration
as a statistical problem rather than problematizing
the practice of incarceration itself. Carceral geog-
raphys largely ethnographic approach challenges
the notion that prisons are about containment and
exclusion, but rather demonstrates that prisons are
fluid, geographically-anchored sites of connec-
tions and relations(p. 150): they mark the body
with tattoos and missing teeth, and they are marked
by mobility networks within, between, and beyond
The book is divided into three sectionsCarceral
Space, Geographies of Carceral Systems, and The
Carceral and Punitive Statewhich advance,
roughly speaking, from the scale of the body and
of the everyday, to the broader social spectacle of
incarceration. Each chapter introduces an analytic
lens of carceral geographyprison transport, car-
ceral space-time, and prison architecture, to take
just three exampleswhich provide an indispens-
able springboard to graduate students and re-
searchers seeking to grasp key literature in the
field. For example, Chapter 8 challenges the stability
of prison boundaries, first by demonstrating the
many ways in which prison boundaries are powerful
precisely because they are permeable spaces in
which forms of subjectivity and discipline are
enacted, and second, by showing how the carceral
follows the body beyond the prison walls through
constant surveillance, probation, and the carceral
churn(106) of recidivism. Although the book does
not contain an overarching theoretical argument, it
is replete with theoretical inspiration and provoca-
tion, while being entirely readable. I recommend
Morans website,, as
a frequently updated companion to the book, and
one of the best examples of online academic
citizenship done well.
Although the book is strong overall, there is no
review of the role of race in incarceration, which is
surprising since mass incarceration is widely
understood through the lens of slavery and racial
control (see Michelle AlexandersThe New Jim
Crow). Furthermore, although much of the re-
search in this sub-discipline is motivated by prison
abolitionism, there is no sustained discussion of
spaces of carceral resistance. Any text which
boldly attempts to review all of the relevant
literature on prison spaces is bound to leave
someone disappointed, but these absences felt
significant in light of the growing chorus of
criticisms of incarceration.
I want to close with a storyuncommon in book
reviews, I know. I spent a week recently working with
the CARA project, a team of legal advocates who
work with detained asylum-seekers at the South
Texas Family Residential Facility in Dilley, Texas.
The Canadian Geographer / Le G
eographe canadien 2017, 61(1): e17e18
DOI: 10.1111/cag.12346
© 2017 Canadian Association of Geographers / L'Association canadienne des g
The Canadian Geographer
Le Géographe canadien
The Canadian Geographer
Le Géographe canadien
One morning, while checking into the facility, a
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) staff
member searched my bag, found Morans book,
removed it, flipped through it, held it up unapprov-
ingly and said, You cant bring this in. Reading
material is considered contraband inside the facil-
ity.Worried that it would be confiscated, I assured
the guard that this was not mere reading material,
but rather important reference material.I meant
it. With Carceral Geographies, Moran has created a
book worth being confiscated by prison guards.
I can give it no higher praise than that.
Austin Kocher
The Ohio State University
Alexander, Michelle 2010. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration
in the Age of Colorblindness. New York, NY: The New Press.
The Canadian Geographer / Le G
eographe canadien 2017, 61(1): e17e18
e18 Reviews / Comptes rendus
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This book seeks to analyze the issue of race in America after the election of Barack Obama. For the author, the U.S. criminal justice system functions can act as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it adheres to the principle of color blindness.