Category Archives: Conferences

CfP: Examining troubling institutions and geographies at the nexus of care and control

Call for Papers: Examining troubling institutions and geographies at the nexus of care and control

Convenors: Tom Disney (University of Birmingham) and Anna Schliehe (University of Glasgow)

Institutional spaces of care and control can be found in various settings, ranging from psychiatric establishments, centres of migrant detention, prisons, orphanages, but also encompassing environments such as schools or military academies. Building upon previous work into the geography of institutions and geography in institutions (Parr and Philo 2000: 514), we want to explore the complicated and sometimes opaque relationship between care and control. This CFP responds to recent calls in carceral geography (Moran and Turner, AAG 2016) and aims to explore the potential diversity of research in this area. The session intends to collect different perspectives on empirical and theoretical engagements with everyday life in institutional spaces, to examine the troubling relationship between care and control; where one is at risk of being transformed into the other (see Disney 2015, Schliehe 2014). Does care inevitably cede into control? To what degree does this trouble us? Do we wish to trouble our conceptualisation of care and control – shake the ideas from the Foucault’s and the Goffman’s back to life in these ever changing institutional landscapes or find new lenses to unpick these spaces? We are interested in wide ranging perspectives from different sub-fields to discuss this relationship, such as carceral geography, mental health geography, children’s geographies and architectural geography. We also welcome contributions from other disciplinary backgrounds such as criminology or arts-based research to explore innovative methodological approaches and interdisciplinary engagement with the nexus of care and control.

Papers are invited which explore:

  • Institutional spaces where care and control are seen to intersect or collide
  • Methodological approaches, ethics and researcher positionality
  • Conceptual frameworks around institutional geographies
  • Spatiality of places of care and control including tactics, agency and resistance
  • Vulnerable and marginalised groups within institutional spaces of care and control, in particular in relation to age and gender
  • Embodied experiences and corporeal practices
  • Aspects of design and spatial practice
  • Beyond the ‘traditional’ carceral environment – the boarding school, military environments, hospices, care homes

Deadline for submitting abstracts is Wednesday 10th February 2016

Please send abstracts up to a maximum of 250 words and proposed titles (clearly stating name, institution, and contact details) to Tom Disney ( and Anna Schliehe (

Dates: 30 August – 2 September 2016: Location: Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and Imperial College London

Further details about the conference at:


Distant Voices Festival

The first Distant Voices Festival will take place from November 5th to 9th at the CCA in Glasgow, exploring crime and punishment through music, writing and film.

Over the past 18 months, the project – a collaboration between SCCJR and Vox Liminis (a charity that aims to bring creative practice to criminal justice and its reform) – has brought together artists, criminologists, musicians, ex-prisoners and others in a creative exploration of attitudes to punishment and reintegration.

The Festival offers members of the public the chance to hear these resulting songs performed live, hear a discussion on crime and punishment with some of the country’s top crime writers, and watch a film about how people move on from crime. Ten individuals will also have the opportunity to take part in a facilitated songwriting process with Louis Abbot (Admiral Fallow) and Kim Edgar.

Full programme details, along with a video trailer, can be found at

Violence Against Women and Girls: A Workshop on the Geographies that Wound

(Original post: CRIT-GEOG-FORUM)


The Wellcome Collection, London

Monday 14th September 2015 (0830-1730)

The publication of the article ‘The Geographies that Wound’ (Chris Philo, 2005) brought attention to the interlaced geographies that create vulnerabilities for certain bodies, in certain places, over others. Ten years on, the workshop will revisit the theme of wounds and wounding with a specific focus on violence against women and girls (VAWG) – a human rights abuse often described as one of the starkest collective failures of the international community in the 21st century. While in geography the wounded body has been examined in relation to the geopolitics of conflict, asylum and garment-work (as notable but not exhaustive examples), the workshop looks to extend and deepen scholarship on precarious corporealities to lived experiences of VAWG. It also aims to counterbalance the onus in geography on war-related violence to generate greater awareness of the everyday spaces of VAWG within, but also critically beyond, (inter-) national landscapes of conflict and militarism. Bringing together geographers and inter-disciplinary speakers, the workshop aims to explore the characteristics and dynamics of the entangled spaces and scales that render women’s and girls’ bodies the place of physical and psychological harm. It will also consider the ‘treatment’ and healing of wounds through different means, a range of spaces and temporalities, and with varying outcomes.

The workshop includes keynote talks by Professor Chris Philo (University of Glasgow) and Professor Rachel Pain (Durham University).

It marks the end of a 2012-2015 study on domestic violence and legal reform led by Katherine Brickell and joint funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID).

If you would like to attend, listen to the presentations and participate in discussions please sign up through Eventbrite by 31 July at 5pm (there are 30 places available, all of which are free):

All good wishes,

Katherine (workshop organiser)
Dr Katherine Brickell
Reader in Human Geography
Department of Geography
Royal Holloway, University of London
Surrey TW20 0EX

Twitter: @k_brickell
Tel: 01784-443563
Fax: 01784-472836

Troubling Institutions – exploring spaces of security and care

By Anna Schliehe

On the 11th of December 2014 the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at Glasgow University hosted a day conference on ‘Troubling Institutions’, an event that considered the different spaces of institutional care through the lens of carceral and asylum geographies. The conference fits into a broader series of events that have been happening throughout the past few years centering around the theme of asylum and post-asylum spaces. 2014 is an important year for institutional care in Glasgow, as this month marks 200 years of organised psychiatric care in the city, which has allowed a unique opportunity to critically re-explore issues of mental health and institutional care. A range of events have taken place throughout the year that allowed conversations which have led us, as a group, to think further about the enormous complexity of ‘the institution’. In many ways, the title of this conference conveys our diverse reflections on these debates and discussions throughout the year. For example, can we think of institutions as themselves troubling or are we (society, community, individually) troubled by the presence? Are we unsure about how to deal with the institutions contemporary role in society or concerned about retelling the histories they may contain? Do we wish to trouble the conceptual landscape around the institution – shake the ideas from the Foucault’s and the Goffman’s back to life in this ever changing landscape of care or find new lenses to unpick these institutional foundations? Can our (perhaps that of academics) troubling of institutions be itself disruptive or disturbing to the everyday workings of these institutions? How can we really deal with the troubling nature of the stories these institutions and the experiences within them reveal? All of these questions (and so many more) haunt much of our individual research into mental health and carceral geographies and we wanted to find a way to extend these critical conversations that we have been encountering throughout the year into the role of closed institutions.

This event opened the conversation up to carceral geography, criminology, media studies and many other disciplines which was reflected in the line-up of presenters and discussants as well as the audience. The first presentation of the day was held by Tom Disney who told us about his research on institutions for children and young people in a Russian orphanage. This was discussed by Karen Lury with a lively account of media representations of similar institutions and the depiction of children in film. Annie Crowley followed on from that and drew connections to her own doctoral research on vulnerable girls and young women in Scottish institutions and wider institutional landscapes.

The second session which focused on asylum and post asylum institutions was kicked off by Victoria Wood and Sarah Curtis who gave us an insight into their new paper on Nostalgia, Therapeutic Landscapes and the psychiatric hospital. This was discussed by Jenny Laws who introduced her follow-up of a research project on how a new psychiatric hospital building affects patients and how the old building triggers emotional responses. Louise Boyle drew connections between nostalgia, solastalgia and her own research on social anxiety disorder and the importance of social media and the internet more generally.

The third session of the day looked at carceral geography and penal institutions with a presentation by Dominique Moran on prisons as troubling institutions which was discussed by Jen Turner, Sarah Armstrong and Marguerite Schinkel. The mixture of geographical and criminological debate touched on issues of long-term imprisonment, openness and closedness of penal institutions, boundaries and architecture and design. The lively debate that developed at the end of the session was carried over into the fourth ‘open’ session of the day that was chaired by Chris Philo who also gave us a summary of earlier discussions and an outlook as to what debates on ‘troubling institutions’ can achieve.

We were really happy to be able to welcome so many people to join us from such diverse backgrounds. ‘Troubling institutions’ could only scratch the surface of different spaces of security and care but we think it made clear how important research into these environments is. The interest in the conference also showed that it is still very much a timely matter and touches many different practices and theories. There is scope for further conceptual debates as well as more practice based involvement. This has been a special opportunity for us to be able to link different disciplines and sub-disciplines and have such a lively and interesting discussion. It was great to be able to join up different initiatives and networks like SCCJR, carceral geography and our own asylum and post-asylum network. Particular thanks go to the SCCJR for providing a small exhibition by their artist in residence Jenny Wickes on institutional spaces of punishment.

Conceptualising different settings and institutions under the umbrella of security and care makes it possible to see them as a group of spaces that are all – to varying degrees – involved with similar practices and future perspectives. These alternating poles allow for debates on risk and protection; patients, inmates and offenders; agency and mobility; as well as the design of these spaces that is inherent in the built structures. Questions of health, well-being and possibilities for improvement are at the heart of all these institutions – the differing understandings and outcomes of these concepts provide a starting point for geographical engagement and critical analysis. This conference was meant to explore closed institutions, such as prisons, hospitals, children’s homes and asylums, and their implications from a range of disciplinary perspectives including human geography, criminology and sociology. By bringing together these different voices this event wanted to connect the expertise across the disciplines and encourage interdisciplinary conversations on the possibilities, boundaries and future directions of this field of study.


Welcome and Introduction (Cheryl McGeachan[1] and Anna Schliehe[2])

Session 1               Institutions for Children and Young People

Presentation 1 – ‘Childhood Institutions – The Orphanage’ – Thomas Disney[3]

Discussants [Karen Lury[4], Annie Crowley[5]]

Session 2               Mental Health Institutions

Presentation 2 – ‘Therapeutic Landscapes’ and emotional ties to past settings; salvage and abandonment as considerations in Psychiatric Hospital design’ – Sarah Curtis[6] and Victoria Wood[7]

Discussants [Jenny Laws[8], Louise Boyle [9]]

Session 3               Penal Institutions

Presentation 3 – ‘Troubling Institutions: Prisons and the Design of Carceral Space’ – Dominique Moran[10]

Discussants [Jen Turner[11], Sarah Armstrong[12], Marguerite Schinkel[13]]

Session 4               Discussion

 “Free Session” chaired by Chris Philo[14]

Closing Comments (Anna Schliehe and Cheryl McGeachan)


[1] Lecturer, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow

[2] Doctoral Researcher, Human Geography, University of Glasgow

[3] Doctoral Researcher, Human Geography, University of Birmingham

[4] Professor of Film & Television Studies, University of Glasgow

[5] Doctoral Researcher, Criminology, University of Glasgow

[6] Executive Director – Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience in the Department of Geography, Durham   University

[7] Research Associate, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University

[8] ESRC – Future Research Leader in the Department of Geography, Durham University

[9] Doctoral Researcher, Human Geography, University of Glasgow

[10] Reader in Carceral Geography, University of Birmingham

[11] Research Associate, Department of Criminology, University of Leicester

[12] Senior Research Fellow, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow

[13] ESRC Future Research Leader, Criminology, University of Glasgow

[14] Professor of Geography, University of Glasgow

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.

Reflections on RD Laing’s Archives Workshop

Creative Writing Event

By Cheryl McGeachan

On the 18th September 2014, a small group came together on level 12 of the University of Glasgow library to take part in Wellcome Trust supported event ‘Encountering R.D. Laing’s Archive: Mental Health, Care and Creativity’. Below are a few reflections on my experiences of the day from my pencil scribbled notes and some of the rough work produced. It was a wonderful day, full of mixed emotions as the city of Glasgow buzzed with referendum uncertainty below, and I hope to write more about the event in the near future.

The delicate sound of a young Ronnie Laing accompanying his father on the piano fills a room in the archive. I have worked on the prominent Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing (1927-1989), for many years ( and I have made his archive collections ( my second home but today I was not working alone. Twelve new friends, keen to explore Laing’s papers (some for the very first time), joined me in the Special Collections and the encounter was an inspirational one.

Our first task was tricky. “Imagine you could add something to the Laing archive”, creative writer Geraldine Perriam inquires, “what would it be?” The group discusses the politics of the archive – who decides what goes into the official repository? How would we feel about the remnants of our lives being possessed in such a way? Issues of trust and meaning are highlighted as important, privacy becomes key.

R.D. Laing Archive

It is missing. I cannot find it. Between the dusty files and the crackling tape recordings is something that is not there. Something is missing. Time rolls on and I am still searching. I climb the stacks and seek out the files – letters from friends, patients, lovers and friends long gone, case note records of patients past, diaries that document the lectures attended, books read and people encountered, photographs of ghostly relations – but there is still a feeling of something not quite there. What is it I cannot find? Maybe it is him. (My first attempt at the ‘archives’ writing exercise)

The power and the will to record, to hold on to the memories of a life are noted. Our attention is taken from the archive itself by Geraldine and out into the wider landscapes of mental health care. We think about place. Different depictions of hospitals and their grounds are discussed and described. I think of Laing and of Gartnavel Royal Hospital. I think about the people that have over the years called the place home.

We are asked to think about voice. Geraldine prompts us to write a conversation that is happening ‘in place’. The image of the hospital refuses to leave my imagination and so I write about two patients, Ethel and Rose, and situate them in Gartnavel’s grounds.


Ethel: I can’t remember the last time I saw him.

Rose: Me either (sighs).

Ethel: Did he say if he would come back?

Rose: (Long pause) I don’t remember.

Ethel: Me either.

The grey-filled sky seems to fall over the hospital blanketing it in a heavy carpet of evening light. It begins to get cold and the two women bring their white jackets closer to their bodies, clutching at the last remnants of heat.

Ethel: He felt it too, you know.

Rose: (sighs and coughs) I suppose.

The sky turns blacker as time passes by. Evening turns quickly to night and the two figures become locked into the landscape.

Rose: I don’t think it matters now anyway. The time for help has passed.

Ethel: (Laughs) There was never a chance for you, my dear.

Rose: (Slowly smiles)

Ethel: I just can’t remember when he was last here, maybe I shouldn’t try to remember those terrible days and nights.

Rose: Ronnie always was a man of many talents, disappearing seems to be his favourite trick recently.

Ethel: I hope he doesn’t stay away for long … this time.

The hospital suddenly becomes enveloped in darkness and the archive stack is locked for another day.

Rose: Maybe he will come again tomorrow?

(My first attempt at the ‘conversations’ exercise)

The group thinks about times when conversations do not flow. We think about the sometimes difficult relationships between people in the psychiatric setting and the importance of reflecting critically about listening. Geraldine then prompts us to think about ‘voice’. We are asked to think about Laing’s voice. I chuckle as I have heard this voice speak many times through different recordings, the slow Scottish drawl that could be cutting and kind.

Laing’s voice from the archive

RD: Why are you doing that?

 Me: Me? What? Sorry?

 RD: Why are you looking at my things like that?

 Me: I’m trying to understand them.

RD: Why?

Me: Because it might be important?

RD: Really? But what do you want from it?

Me: I want to know why you thought the way you did, why you wrote about people experiencing mental ill-health the way that you did, what you saw, felt, experienced …

RD: But how you can you do all that? That is a little absurd.

Me: I thought from the materials that you left behind I could trace these fragments of experience, tack them together and find something important.

RD: Why don’t you just ask me to explain?

Me: Because, you are gone.

(My first attempt at the ‘voice’ exercise)

The end of the day draws closer and the group reflects on the ways in which we can all work with different stories. The range of materials used in the workshop, carefully compiled by Sarah Hepworth of the Special Collections, from Laing’s student essays, handwritten drafts of poems, letters from Angus MacNiven and Jean Paul Sartre, drafts of talks, obituaries and press releases through to materials relating to Gartnavel such as the Gartnavel Gazette and annual reports, all inspired a range of new stories to be imagined and told. We end the event by talking about the importance of curiosity and the value it has for allowing new ways of thinking about mental health and the people who experience its diverse dimensions.

European Explorathon: Glasgow

Introducing Explorathon – Scotland’s first ever European Researchers’ Night


All across the continent on Friday the 26th September there will be an interactive celebration of research, aiming to showcase the best innovation taking place across Europe in the Sciences and the Arts and Humanities.

The Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces research cluster are delighted to announce that we have secured a stall at the Glasgow event, which is being held at the Glasgow Science Centre. We will be running a number of activities for both children and adults.

All of the Explorathon events are free to attend, including entrance into the Science Centre from 6pm, but some require advance booking. Events include:

A welcome message from the International Space Station in the IMAX, followed by a film.
Special editions of Café Sci, Glasgow Skeptics and Bright Club.
“Discovery zone”: Around 150 researchers bring their work to life with hands on demos.
“Researchers in the Spotlight”: A selection box of top academics deliver bitesized talks.

Please see the website for further details and booking information: