‘There is more than one sort of prison, Captain’: a popular criminology of prisons and penal regimes in Star Wars

Colin Atkinson, Louise Brangan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In this paper we emphasise how science fiction, as a projection of the possible, can forewarn of dystopic dangers in emergent and future penal regimes. In this popular criminology we explore three archetypes of the prison as they have appeared across the Star Wars franchise: the panoptic prison; the labour camp; and the smart prison. The panoptic prison of the Galactic Republic invokes reflective nostalgia; prompting critical discussion of the deficiencies of the modern prison. Under the Galactic Empire prisons become labour camps, recalling the horrors of the Gulag as violent and cruel manifestations of underpinning ideology. Whilst the fall of the Galactic Empire signalled a return to governance based on democratic values, the representation of the smart prison in the New Republic continues to resonate as a techno-Gulag, reading as an allegory for a deeper crisis of liberal democracy. Analysed as such, prisons in Star Wars exist at the intersection of the past, present and possible futures of penal regimes, and in our current political climate can be a resource for resistance to technological trends and dystopic dangers. Star Wars, we conclude, and science fiction more broadly, is well-positioned to inform a radical re-imagining of future prisons and penal regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCrime Media Culture
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2023

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of '‘There is more than one sort of prison, Captain’: a popular criminology of prisons and penal regimes in Star Wars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this