Modus Vivendi: The cell, emotions, social relations and television




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Peer reviewed



ABSTRACT- This paper documents some of the findings from a doctoral study examining the role of in-cell television in a closed adult male prison. Interviews with serving prisoners and staff indicate the complex nature of relationships (social relations) within prison settings. In particular, prisoners’ relationships with other prisoners, especially those they share a cell with, was a significant feature of this research. Television’s role within these dynamic relationships has personal, social and policy value for prisons and the people within them. This paper draws upon two separate case examples of prisoners who, at the time of interview, shared a cell. The ways in which they relate to television and each other provides some initial understandings of what happens to prisoners when they share a cell together. This paper discusses the role of television in light of safer custody agendas with a particular focus on the emotive dimensions of the prison cell. Here the paper draws close attention to contemporary discussions about the salience of emotions and space. In particular the work of Crewe et al (2013) in relation to the emotional geography of the prison space and Moores' (2011) concept of 'reach' with respect to media use. The paper highlights the complexities of the ways in which space is negotiated within the cell and how everyday life with television is organised to nourish the pains of prison within a cell sharing context. This paper ends by making a number of statements about how future research needs to explore both the emotive and social geographies of the prison cell.



emotion, prison cell, social relations, prisoner, pains of incarceration, television


Knight, V. (2015) Modus Vivendi: The cell, emotions, social relations and television. AAG 2015 Chicago paper: Carceral Geographies IV: Gendered and Embodied Confinement.


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice