In the year since I joined The Carceral Archipelago, it has been a pleasure to support the novel and extensive research being conducted by the project’s members. Our team is conducting research on and about five continents over as many centuries and making exciting connections and discoveries in archives, at heritage sites, and in fruitful connections with researchers in formal and informal settings. As you explore this blog, the posts by our researchers speak to the intellectual curiosity, innovation and range of inquiry undertaken by The Carceral Archipelago since the project launch in March 2013. Today, primary research is continuing in several areas, but our team is also moving into analysis, theoretical considerations, and dissemination.
Clearly, when it comes to The Carceral Archipelago, I’m not only the Project Manager, I’m also a fan.
Which is why I’m excited to tell you about the two projects that make up much of my work on CArchipelago at present: our upcoming conference and the development of our new Project website. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would be delighted to discuss the processes and challenges of administering an international research project, the pitfalls and joys of financial reporting, and the cornucopia of forms and regulations involved in our operation. However, I have been reliably informed that my enthusiasm for such things is not universal, so I’ll save that for another time.
In September 2015, The Carceral Archipelago will welcome scholars from around the world to the University of Leicester for a tightly focused 3-day scholarly meeting, “The Carceral Archipelago: Transnational Circulations in Global Perspective, 1415-1960.” With panels organized around themes such as Early Modern and Modern transportation, Internal colonization, Slavery and coerced labour, and Political prisoners, and geographic locations including Russia, Australia, and France, our single-stream format is intended to set the stage for a sustained conversation about the global history of convicts and convict transportation. In the preparation and organization of the conference, one of my key concerns is creating an environment that will support productive and collegial engagement between participants. This care-based concern requires that I think carefully about the kinds of spaces – meeting rooms, break areas, dining rooms, green spaces – that will encourage and not impede such interactions. It also turns my attention to accessibility and navigability of the conference spaces, information, and processes. And, of course, to food. Eating together is an age-old ceremony. The conversational spaces it creates brings people into relationship – even if only for the duration of the meal – and the casual and personal connections in this ceremony are usually much improved if the food is good. With these concerns in mind, we have certainly found a strong fit with our conference venue, College Court. This purpose-built facility with on-site accommodation and expert catering at the University of Leicester is meeting and exceeding my expectations as we come into the final months of conference preparation, and I hope our participants will find it as responsive, professional, and accommodating as I have.
But one of the best things about The Carceral Archipelago’s conference is that although registration will not be open, the presentations and keynotes will be freely available as professional podcasts! It is our hope that making the conference content and materials available to the wider scholarly community and general public will increase the usefulness of this meeting. Whether for research, general interest, or teaching, the podcasts, speaker pages, and visual presentations will be a valuable resource but also an accessible and enduring record of this stimulating meeting.
In addition to the conference podcasts, the Project’s online presence will be increasing significantly in the next six months as we are in the process of building our new website. ConvictVoyages.org will use maps, images, videos, audio clips, timelines, and charts to represent the complex and entangled histories of convict transportation and penal colonies. A key feature of the website will be a series of more than 20 essays contributed by leading experts. These essays are geographically and temporally organized historical sketches that will quickly situate readers within specific histories of transportation and convict flows. Accompanied by maps, images, and a list of key readings, we hope these ‘expert essays’ will form the basis of accessible research and teaching resources which, along with the rest of the website, will establish a new baseline for this important and truly global history.
While the Project’s research team is actively involved in creating the content for ConvictVoyages.org, my work lies in coordinating and corralling both content and creators and liaising with our cartographer, Laura Vann, and our web developer. Make no mistake, this is demanding and rewarding work. Constant attention to fine detail is needed to ensure continuity across all the content pieces, and also to make sure that the content is developed in-step with the construction of the website. My role also involves translating the ideas of the project team into step-by-step work plans that will ensure content, form, and technical considerations will come together efficiently and on-time. In this, one of the most enjoyable parts of my work on ConvictVoyages.org is corresponding with outstanding scholars – on our team and beyond – who consistently demonstrate outstanding generosity with their expertise, materials, and time. After the initial launch, ConvictVoyages.org will be expanded significantly over the next three years, and will stay live for years after the conclusion of The Carceral Archipelago Project.
These are exciting times for the Carceral Archipelago as the Project researchers bring the research and findings generated by this exceptional research team into to the wider scholarly community. My role is concerned primarily with maintaining a stable administrative footing for the Project, and tending to our organizational relationships within the University of Leicester. This work does bring a certain satisfaction, but I’d like to end by saying what a special opportunity and experience it is to be involved with the Carceral Archipelago Conference and ConvictVoyages.org, two major undertakings that are key to establishing an accessible intellectual legacy of this important Project.