Confinement Working Group

This Humanities Institute Working Group intends to explore the broad theme of “confinement.” We hope to engage the rich interdisciplinary scholarship in critical prison studies, but we emphasize expanding beyond the prison as a major form of punishment, with a view to deepening our humanistic understanding of all forms of voluntary and involuntary confinement, such as asylum, monastery, segregation and seclusion, captivity, and so on. We seek to facilitate new conversations about the notion and practice of confinement and explore new ways in which confinement as an analytical lens could help formulate radical rethinking of many important topics in philosophy, politics, and society.

We hold regular reading discussions and workshops (please look up “Events” for our activities), and look for ways to engage wider academic and non-academic audiences. We welcome participation, suggestions, and proposals from faculty and students across disciplines.

Coordinators: Melissa Curley (Comparative Studies,; Ying Zhang (History,; Joey Kim (English,

Our first talk will feature Mary Thomas, presenting work-in-progress from her ongoing study of American girlhood in the space of the prison: “The ambivalence of social relations in a US juvenile detention facility for girls.” Professor Thomas is an associate professor in OSU’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; she is the author of Multicultural Girlhood: Racism, Sexuality and the Conflicted Spaces of American Education, a co-author of Urban Geography: A Critical Introduction, and an editor for the journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. The talk is slated for Monday November 7, 3:00-4:30pm, Hagerty Hall 451.

Our first reading group meeting will take place in December. In the spirit of interdisciplinarity, the reading group will bring two pieces into conversation with each other: Marie Gottschalk’s Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics and a chapter or two from Julia Hillner’s Prison, Punishment, and Penance in Late Antiquity. In the spirit of conviviality, we have purchased a handful of copies of Caught to share with the reading group. If you are interested in joining this discussion, please contact Melissa Anne-Marie Curley ( Location and time TBD.

Questions about the working group can be directed to Ying Zhang (