Labour and the Canadian Carceral State

Country: Canada

City: Ontario

Abstr. due: 01.04.2019

Dates: 14.03.19 — 15.03.19

Area Of Sciences: Economics and management;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Brock University


This two-day interdisciplinary workshop aims to explore the contemporary and historical intersections of work and labour and the Canadian carceral state. Select papers will be included for publication in an edited collection. 

While issues of carcerality in the United States are increasingly subject to critical examination, this has been less true in Canada despite the existence of a wide range of issues, both similar and dissimilar to those of Canada’s southern neighbour. The Canadian carceral state is not limited to its police lockups, provincial and territorial jails, and federal prisons. Canada has a long history of state-enforced confinement in the forms of work and internment camps, reserve systems, migrant work programs, and more. These institutions were—and in many cases continue to be—deeply intertwined with issues of work and labour. While important scholarly work is being done on incarceration in Canada, these efforts are often segregated in different academic disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. As such, this symposium provides an opportunity for scholars of work, labour, and incarceration to engage in direct dialogue across disciplinary boundaries.

This particular focus allows for attention to be paid to the way that work and labour produce systems of incarceration, the political economy and class dimensions of incarceration, the potential of resistance to carcerality that centres on work (and the refusal to work), the intrinsic connections to gender, race, and colonialism, and the complex and sometimes contradictory role of organized labour and the labour movement in producing and resisting the carceral state.


Possible topics may cover contemporary or historical cases, and could include, but are not limited to:

  • The policing and repression of social movements, the left, and labour
  • Organizing and resistance to work within Canada’s prisons, camps, and detention centres
  • Canadian prison labour and the prison industry
  • Guard and prison staff labour and unions
  • Labour and Canadian residential schools
  • The political economy of colonialism and Canada’s reserve system
  • Gender, sexuality, and ability in relation to work and carcerality
  • Historical and contemporary instances of forced labour and internment
  • Legacies of slavery and indentured servitude
  • Conscription and mandatory military service
  • The relationship of organized labour to carceral systems

We welcome proposals for original individual papers or panels that address the themes and issues outlined above. For individual proposals, please submit a 250-word abstract, along with full contact information, in one PDF document. For panels, please submit 250-word abstracts for each paper, along with full contact information for each panelist, in one PDF document.

Activists, organizers, and independent researchers are encouraged to submit proposals. Some subsidies will be available for graduate students and the precariously employed.

Conference Web-Site: