Colonial Carcerality: The Birth of the Modern Prison in India


ACLS Fellowship Program




Introducing a new system of punishment based on long-term incarceration, prison construction was among the most important infrastructural changes brought about by the British colonization of India. A visual culture surrounding colonial Indian prison space developed that included objects such as prints, architectural plans, drawings, and photographs. This project sets out to write a spatial history of the prison by analyzing this visual culture. A spatial history reveals how colonial Indian prisons both exemplified and contradicted the claims of British rule, arguing that prison space was not simply a natural and passive arena where events unfolded, but rather was produced through material experience and its visual representation. Ultimately, “Colonial Carcerality” demonstrates how a spatial history of prisons is of fundamental importance, as it provides a critical model for engaging with the prison from a humanistic approach, thereby expanding the possibilities for how we interpret and imagine prisons.