Environmental Humanities

Carceral Climates in Australian Prisons

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Theorising and grappling with the ‘weathers of incarceration’ in Australia.

This project asks how heat, cold and humidity (among other atmospheric, meteorological and elemental forces) collide with carceral infrastructures; and, how people living in Australian prisons experience these phenomena. Informed by primary archival research, I argue that Australia’s prison system weaponises the weather – a weaponisation that is unevenly experienced across different infrastructures, bodies and geographies. My invocation of ‘the weather’ draws upon work by scholars in Black Studies (Christina Sharpe) and feminist environmental studies (Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Hamilton). These scholars posit that, far from a neutral or apolitical phenomenon, the weather is more-than meteorological – a force that is implicated within, and co-productive of, our political, social, bodily and material ecologies.

This research will contribute to an emerging body of scholarship that generatively cross-pollinates questions of contemporary carceral systems and human justice with environmental injustice, particularly in the context of climate change. To date, however, there has not been any sustained or systematic research into these issues in Australia. The absence of any explicit interrogation of the weather and imprisonment in Australia is a gap that requires urgent attention – one that this thesis directly accounts for.

This Honours thesis project is being led by Stella Maynard, a 2020 Honours Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute. It will be completed under the supervision of Tess Lea, Associate Professor at the Department of Gender and Cultural studies.