Prisons and ‘Discipline’ in India

JILS Blog

by Shishir Bail

In 1977 French Philosopher Michel Foucault authored what is widely considered to be a seminal work in the study of incarceration and imprisonment; the book titled ‘Surveille et Punir’ in French which was later translated to English as ‘Discipline and Punish’. In it, he traced the evolution of the ‘the prison’ as an institution in European society and placed its emergence among subtle but deeply significant political-economic process. Prisons, he argued, represented the farthest tip of the disciplinary form of power that was taking shape in European society during the 19th Century. The disciplinary form, first seen in the schools, factories, hospitals and military of that time, operated above all through the careful observation of the minute actions and bodies of its recipients, and the constant manipulation and evaluation of these in view of fixed and non-malleable standards. Through these processes of subtle…

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