Articles | Volume 69, issue 5
Standard article
22 Dec 2014
Standard article |  | 22 Dec 2014

Alone inside: solitary confinement and the ontology of the individual in modern life

B. Story

Abstract. The long-term solitary confinement of prisoners causes fundamentally debilitative psychological damage. This violence, inherent to the socio-spatial organization of solitary confinement, diminishes prisoners' capacity to function as human beings. Yet while violence might characterize the ends of solitary confinement, individuation defines the means. This paper argues that solitary confinement, while an extreme case, shares crucial characteristics with other spaces, structures, and modes of organization familiar to Western society. The actual experiences of prisoners subjected to conditions of total isolation, moreover, contradict the prevailing ontology of the individuated subject. The irreconcilability of this paradox invites inquiry into the political and material problematic of individualism itself. The violence of solitary confinement's spatial practice therefore holds important implications for a critical reassessment of any or all socially isolating institutions and individuating ideologies within the structural fabric of modern life.