The Ballad (or Fugue) of William Cullum: Disciplining the Body of Prisoner 55552-052

Andrew Irving, William Cullum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The chapter by William Cullum and Andrew Irving explores the relationship between individual identity and physical movement, in particular where the state exercises the power to curb that movement—as in a jail. Movement is treated in the chapter as an existential capacity that responds to contingency and finitude, generating its character. The point of analytical origin is Montaigne's characterisation of the “work of life” as a perpetual journey, an unfinished project: a space of possibility whereby existence and even time itself may be bent to a person's will and fashioned through movements, actions and relations with others. How does this manifest itself, however, in a state of imprisonment: incarcerated in the American penitentiary system? How are existential capacities for movement, action and expression realised, constrained, and recalibrated in U.S. Federal Prison? Here is a recasting of categorial identity and legal status: a change in rights, verbal address, clothing—and freedom of movement. Focusing on how prisoners move—and are moved—within the U.S. penal system provides this chapter with the opportunity to understand how time and space, body and identity are lived, experienced and organised, as a particular category of person who is continuously subject to the will of others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Existential Human Science
EditorsHuon Wardle, Nigel Rapport, Albert Piette
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003156697
ISBN (Print)9780367742317
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023


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