‘Sensory penalities’

This blog is born from ideas and conversations which led to proposing ‘Sensory Penalities: Exploring the Senses in Spaces of Punishment and Social Control’ (Emerald).
The book seeks to explore forgotten field notes, and the visceral, personal reflections buried within them to ask what privileging these sensorial experiences does for how we understand, and research, spaces of punishment and social control. Publication is scheduled for this year, and the book will now be the first in “Emerald Studies in Culture, Criminal Justice and the Arts”.

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Sensory penalities a definition:

Sensory: Relating to sensation or the physical senses; transmitted or perceived by the senses. A focus on sensory experience as a source of knowledge with the aim of offsetting and undermining our ocular-centric way of thinking about the criminological world. By doing so we move closer to the way the world is experienced, not as discrete packages of information but as a constant deluge of sensory input which we sift and prioritise to make manageable. In so doing we construct our objects of knowledge in the ‘image’ of our cultural expectations, academically and socially.

Penality: relating to or constituting punishment (and its discussions).

The use of this concept is also a respectful nod to Garland and Young’s “the power to punish” (1983). We share their explicit emphasis on the sociological as well as their contention that to elevate one aspect of the expansive apparatus of punishment to the exclusion of others is to risk distorting analysis and to obscure the complex relationships between different parts of the whole. This provides our theoretical anchor. As they succinctly put it:

The very contestability of social science suggests that its objects of knowledge are not simple reflections of naturally occurring events, but that social science creates its own objects by a process of theoretical and… practical relevances and reflections (Garland and Young 1983: 2)

Sensory penalities: exploring the experience of places and processes of punishment in a way which privileges the sensory.