The Carceral Imaginary Working Group at FHI is centered around the co-directors’ prison-based fieldwork projects, our teaching in university and in prison settings, and public programming which challenges academic and public audiences to grapple with issues related to incarceration – globally, nationally, and locally. Together we are thinking through the meaning of “incarceration,” “freedom,” and “hope” in a carceral context, and bringing artists, writers, NGO actors, state officials, and ethicists into those conversations to offer additional insights into prison and post-prison experiences.

To productively question the meaning of incarceration, the metaphoric location of the working group will be in the in-between spaces of “free” society and an “incarcerated” one. The working group investigates the spatial, geographical, experiential, and temporal boundaries of incarceration, prison-specific and beyond. It also explores how carceral sites produce semblances of the everyday, the natural and the homeland, how they evoke the surreal and extraordinary, and envision the future. As such, the Lab creates forums for conversation, for curating photography and other-media exhibits, and for hosting public performances.

Research sites include Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; Manus Island, Papua New Guinea; the state of Maharashtra in India; and Butner, North Carolina in the United States.


Negar Mottahedeh, Ph.D.
Professor of Literature

Leela Prasad, Ph.D.
Professor of Religious Studies

Christopher Sims, MFA
Undergraduate Education Director, Center for Documentary Studies
Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy