Accepted paper:

The prison house: domesticity under arrest


Michał Murawski (University College London )

Paper short abstract:

What happens to the everyday aesthetics and materiality of domestic life when the state turns a subject’s home into a prison? Or when an outlaw fearing custody turns an extraterritorial space such as an embassy into a home?

Paper long abstract:

This paper lays out the parameters of a research project, which examines the manner in which the everyday aesthetics and materiality of the home intersect with the punitive apparatus of the state. Collecting core data on the cases of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, this study will focus on two categories of state-home interaction: (i) house arrest, where the law incarcerates a subject within their own domestic space; (ii) and diplomatic asylum, where an outlaw fearing incarceration turns an extraterritorial domain such as an Embassy into a home. Although house arrest and diplomatic asylum are ancient practices, they have acquired radical new forms during recent decades, under the impact of shifting sovereignty regimes and sophisticated surveillance and monitoring technologies. Nevertheless, their study has remained the preserve of legal scholarship and applied criminology, and no significant work has been carried out on everyday domesticity under sovereign confinement. This paper considers recent anthropological literatures on: the impact of state bodies and economic systems on the material culture and aesthetics of dwelling (Buchli 2000, Navaro-Yashin 2012, Miller 2012); and on the relationship between sovereignty - in its 'statist' (Ssorin- Chaikov 2008, Grant 2009) as well as 'outsourced' modes (Aretxaga 2003, Hansen and Stepputat 2005, Ong 2006, Wacquant 2009) - and cultures of incarceration, exile and resistance. It lays out working premises for an ethnographic study of the prison-house, a nodal terrain on which the macro- and micro-dynamics of state power converge with the everyday intimacies of domestic life.

panel P051
Prison ethnographies, research intimacies and social change