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Leslie Topp Inaugural Lecture - The Spaces We Are Reduced To

Venue: Online

No booking required

Join us for Professor Leslie Topp's inaugural lecture, The Spaces We Are Reduced To.


During the coronavirus pandemic, spatial variety has given way to spatial monotony as we have been compelled to live our personal, social, working and studying lives in the same type and small number of spaces. This situation has thrown into stark relief the inequality of access to what could be called spatial self-determination – for which variety is a precondition. The most privileged have had the run of large multi-roomed houses and private gardens, allowing them to choose when to be alone and when to be in company with the others in their households. Others have been living alone in small dwellings and long-term isolation. Still others have lived in constant enforced togetherness: large families sharing two rooms, or single asylum-seeking men sharing converted barracks. For the person living alone, public and semi-public spaces such as libraries, cafes and universities represent a chance for conviviality; for the person without privacy at home, the same spaces offer opportunities for solitude. With those spaces withdrawn, they are reduced to endless isolation or togetherness.

Historic spaces of incarceration – the prisons and asylums of the long nineteenth century – have spatial reduction and monotony designed in. Built to control moral infection and manage poor and unruly populations, they removed not only liberty, but spatial self-determination of the most intimate kind, enforcing mass isolation for some and mass togetherness for others.

In this lecture Professor Topp will explore what the pandemic has taught her about the phenomenon of spatial reduction in nineteenth-century carceral institutions – its centrality and yet strange invisibility in the scholarship. She will also propose that these institutions have lessons to teach us about our very recent spatial experiences.


This event will be held online. Please book to ensure that you will receive the unique URL to join the lecture prior to the start.

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