Litigating the carceral soundscape

Track:
POLICING, PUNISHING AND FLINGING
What:
Talk
When:
16:00, Sunday 9 May 2021 (30 minutes)
Discussion:
0

Simcha Walfish, McGill University, Canada

This paper proposes a sensory reading of contemporary prison case law that draws on the literature on “carceral acoustemologies.” It asks whether the pain of imprisonment has remained inaudible to judges. The paper begins with a brief history of sound in the conception and design of the modern prison. It then situates the case law on the sonic dimensions of incarceration in the context of a system that was designed with silence at its core. The next part considers the ways that this enduring silence has figured in the case law, alongside excessive noise, music, and personal sound devices. Our research highlights the ways that sound in prison has remained an important site of discipline and contestation that has yet to be appreciated adequately by the courts. The article concludes with observations about the ways that probing the role of sound in the logic of incarceration can complement litigation efforts that question carceral logic. This paper was co-authored with David Howes.