Troubling Institutions Conference 2014 – Abstracts


Childhood Institutions – The Orphanage

(Presented by Tom Disney (University of Birmingham)

 The orphanage as an institutional space represents a significantly underrepresented area of study in Geography, both theoretically and empirically. While institutional spaces such as prisons (Moran et al. 2011, Moran 2012) and asylums (Philo 1989) have often been explored to understand how micro-populations are disciplined through everyday life, this research is often adult-centric and fails to consider the ways in which childhood institutions might challenge traditional understandings of institutional environments (see Goffman 1961 and Foucault 1998).

In an attempt to address these issues this paper draws upon ethnographic data gathered while working in an orphanage for disabled children in the Russian Federation. It considers the everyday practices within the institutional environment of the orphanage, in particular exploring the conceptualisations of the disabled orphan’s body as ‘dirty’ and how this is implicated in practices of ‘dehumanisation’ (Goffman 1961), transgressing the borders of ‘normal’ human contact and bodily practices. This paper utilises the work of Douglas (2002) and Kristeva (1982) in to analyse everyday life in the orphanage such as human touch, dirt and washing. Through this analysis this paper addresses the need for further empirical considerations of orphanage spaces, provides alternative theoretical considerations of institutional space through an examination of childhood experiences of such spaces, and finally contributes to cross-disciplinary debates surrounding care practices and orphan well being in institutional spaces.

 ‘Therapeutic Landscapes’ and emotional ties to past settings; salvage and abandonment as considerations in Psychiatric Hospital design.

Presented by Sarah Curtis (Durham University) and Victoria Wood (Newcastle University)

We explore the connections between theories relating to therapeutic landscapes and to emotional attachment with landscapes associated with past experience.  We use these ideas to interpret findings from research on emotional reactions to changes to medical spaces of care. We draw on findings from a qualitative study of the transfer of psychiatric inpatient care from an old to a newly built facility. Our findings show how the meanings attributed to ‘therapeutic landscapes’ from one’s past can evoke emotions and memories, manifesting in ideas about nostalgia, solastalgia, salvage and abandonment, which can impinge on one’s present therapeutic experience in a new hospital setting. We reflect on how consideration of these ideas might contribute to better future built design of psychiatric inpatient facilities and the wellbeing of those using them.

Troubling Institutions: Prisons and the Design of Carceral Space

(Presented by Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham)

Prison design is crucial to the relationship between the ‘carceral’ and the state, in that it is the process which determines, in large part, how the goals of a criminal justice system are materially expressed. However, prison design remains under researched within criminology and prison sociology, and is yet to attract the attention of carceral geography. With this in mind, this exploratory paper overviews the significance of prison design, sketches out the extant research on this topic, and suggests areas of potential intersection between carceral geography, geographies of architecture, and health geographies, in the latter case specifically in relation to the notion of therapeutic landscapes.

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One thought on “Troubling Institutions Conference 2014 – Abstracts

  1. Pingback: Troubling Institutions – exploring spaces of security and care | Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces

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