Abstract: This paper aims to discuss the relationship between punishment and art. It seeks to set a theoretical and methodological framework that will help unpack the role that the arts – as means of self-expression, creative and therapeutic practices and as institutional and political exercises – play in the delivery and experience of, and in the survivability and resistance to punishment. The paper argues that considering the relationship between punishment and art critically requires us to acknowledge its many dimensions. To do so, it will discuss three different scenarios: art as something that can be borne out of punishment – as a somewhat positive, if unintentional, outcome of punitive lived experiences; art as complicit in the delivery of punishment and perpetuation of penal power; and art as emancipatory and resistive practice in relation to punitive settings and conditions. It will conclude by warning that art’s emancipatory potential in challenging punitive and hostile politics and its potential to contribute towards an abolitionist, anti-carceral agenda, are only feasible when art is comprehensively decoupled from its implication in the delivery and expansion of punishment.
Anastasia Chamberlen is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Her research interests lie in the areas of theoretical criminology, the sociology of punishment and prisons, feminist theory and theoretical debates in the study of emotions, embodiment and health. More recently, her research has looked at the role of artistic expression in the experience of punishment. Her work broadly covers themes such as the lived experiences of imprisonment; the embodied aspects of survival strategies in prison; marginalization, vulnerability and stigma in criminal justice; and the relationship between emotions and the motivation to punish. Mostly recently, she authored Embodying Punishment: Emotions, Identities and Lived Experiences in Women’s Prisons (2018, Oxford University Press) and co-authored (with H. Carvalho & R. Lewis) 'Punitiveness Beyond Criminal Justice: Punishable and Punitive Subjects in an Era of Prevention, Anti-migration and Austerity' (British Journal of Criminology, 2019). For more details on Anastasia’s projects see here.