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Graduate Student Conference - “Global Perspectives on the Prison & Systems of Punishment”


Illinois, United States

Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies Northwestern University

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The prison has come to represent the modern site of punishment in today’s world. However, systems of punishment have a long history, and they included banishment and exile, forceful conscriptions, forced migration and forceful dispersal, communal separation, and confinement. Scholars have been grappling with the fluid concept of punishment both as a lived experience and an analytic category to explore how various sites of punishment – on ships, in labor camps and quarries, on islands, military camps, and penal colonies – have defined and shaped our understanding of cultures of punishment across time and place. For instance, how has the prison become the dominant site of punishment in most societies across the world today? How has the emergence of the prison transformed notions and cultures of punishment in different parts of the world? How has imprisonment been used by non-government actors in their efforts to seize or create state power?

We therefore invite submissions from scholars in all fields of history and related disciplines to a conference on “Global Perspectives on the Prison and Systems of Punishment”. This conference aspires to bring together historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and other scholars across the humanities and social sciences who are engaged in studies of systems of law and punishment, prisons, asylums, conscriptions, labor camps, and forced migration to engage in an interdisciplinary conversation aimed at exploring cultures of punishment from the 15th century to the present.

The conference will take place on Friday, April 8, 2022. Professor Clare Anderson of the University of Leicester in the UK will serve as keynote speaker. Professor Anderson is an historian specializing in the history of prisons, penal settlements, and penal colonies in Mauritius and South and Southeast Asia from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. For more on Professor Anderson’s work see

Interested graduate students should send a paper proposal of no more than one page (250 words), and an updated CV to Chernoh Alpha M. Bah ( by Tuesday, January 4, 2022. A Northwestern history faculty committee will select the papers. Conference papers will be ten to twelve pages double-spaced and due on Friday, March 18, 2022, three weeks prior to the conference, in order to allow time for circulation to the commentators. Presentations will run for 10 minutes.

Contact Info:

Chernoh Alpha M. Bah

T.H. Breen Fellow at the CCHS

Contact Email:


  • Anthropology
Languages: English