Towards a new history of prison and confinement. International Workshop

Towards a new history of prison and confinement. International Workshop

Vincent Milliot and Philippe Minard (University Paris 8); Falk Bretschneider and Natalia Muchnik (EHESS)
Vom - Bis
08.11.2018 - 09.11.2018
Falk Bretschneider

At the crossroads of several historiographies dealing with justice and criminality, police, science, administration and the State, Churches, labour and marginality/poverty—, the history of prison and confinement has been widely renewed over the past decades. This is evidenced by the research program “Enfermements. Histoire comparée des enfermements monastiques et carcéraux” (, as well as by the many theses defended and the body of research carried out on the topic over the past years.

The French historiography on the subject has long been associated with certain controversies and works such as those by Michel Foucault, Yves and Nicole Castan, Jacques-Guy Petit and Michelle Perrot, amongst others. But recent developments of British and North-American historiographies as well as Spanish, Italian and German ones are offering new directions and new understandings. Prisons should no longer be considered from the sole point of view of the right to punish, as it was reformulated by Enlightenment reformists and jurists of the French Revolution. It is no more possible to think this history in any teleological way ( genesis of the prison institution, inescapable modernization of confinement, etc.). Thus, recent questionings now embrace comparative studies on prison singular practices, as well as the expansion, circulation and reinterpretation of confinement experiences, in the longue durée.

In fact, before the “invention of the modern prison-institution” at the end of the 18th century and in the 19th, some places of confinement and “penitentiary archipelagos” were set up to remove “the undesirables” from the social body, either for punitive, disciplinary or even charitable reasons (hospitals, pauper houses). Their functioning caused problems related to equipment and funding, determined supplying chains, sparked further discussions amongst administrative circles, magistrates, moralists, reformists and economists. So, more attention should be paid by social historians to the people who managed the places of confinement and supervised the inmates on a daily basis. The reinterpretation of this face-to-face situation leads not only to question the internal means of regulation of the places of confinement, but also to re-examine the diversity of the functions ascribed to those places, as well as the expectations and social representations attached to them.

This first two-days workshop will be dedicated to set the state of the art. It will mark the initial milestone in establishing an international network for the study of confinement, in early modern times more specifically. Two other thematic workshops will take place within the next two years, probably in Montreal and Moscow. An international conference is likely to conclude this collaborative work.

Papers may focus on a specific form of confinement in the early modern period (urban jails, general hospitals or similar institutions in other countries than France, hospital and ecclesiastical institutions, etc.). Current research concerns on specific cultural areas (non-European and European margins) will be especially welcome. Contributions dealing with more theoretical and methodological approaches will also be relevant.

In order to prompt discussions and reflections amongst participants, papers should be provided and read in advance. During the meeting, each paper will be then briefly presented (10-15 min).

Working languages : French and English.

Proposals :

Please send a 500-words proposal with a title, in English or French, along with a short abstract to before 30 June 2018.

Responses will be given in July 2018.

Papers should be sent before 15 October 2018, in order to be circulated in advance.



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Land Veranstaltung
Sprach(en) der Veranstaltung
Englisch, Französisch
Sprache der Ankündigung