Title

(Un)Lawful Memories: Autobiographical Garden Spaces in Sylvaine Dampierre’s Un Enclos

Subject Area

French and Francophone Studies

Abstract

This paper examines French filmmaker Sylvaine Dampierre’s documentary Un Enclos (1999) as a powerful case-study of how gardens, the law, and notions of freedom intersect. It draws from the theories of discipline and docile bodies that Foucault develops in Discipline and Punish in order to demonstrate how the prison garden space in the film acts as a source of self-knowledge and reflection, and thereby manifests the processes of subject (re)formation Foucault elucidates. Moreover, it interprets these “moments of (self) learning” within the theoretical framework of life-writing. In so doing, it bears upon key debates about life-writing as an expression of individual identity that, paradoxically, emerges from social, cultural, and juridical constraints that serve to delimit subjectivity.

Un Enclos offers compelling images of women, gardens, and prison spaces to underscore the concept of freedom from physical and metaphysical perspectives. The film unfolds as a series of brief interviews of prisoners in Le Centre Pénitentiaire de Rennes, a women’s prison in the French city of Rennes. The documentary presents the women’s interviews as extemporaneous reflections and observations about their life in prison, their prison sentences, and freedom through the lens of the prison’s garden space. It shuttles between sequences focusing on the women working in the garden, their brief interviews with Dampierre, and still shots of the prison and its garden that serve to encapsulate the tensions between enclosure and freedom, introspection and the world beyond the self. Moreover, Dampierre gives pride of place to the practice of first-person self-narrative by crafting the film’s themes of imprisonment and liberty around strategies of life-writing. In this way, she invites viewers to assess how telling one’s story can, on the one hand, help reconfigure definitions of freedom and autonomy, and, on the other hand, perhaps act as yet another mechanism of generating compliance.

Brief Bio Note

Lisa Connell is Associate Professor of French at the University of West Georgia. Her book in progress, Corporal Pedagogies: Bodies of Knowledge in Contemporary Francophone Caribbean Narratives, investigates how key policies from the slave era mediate, prompt, and are made manifest in postcolonial representations of knowledge formation.

Keywords

gardens, subject formation, freedom, life-writing

Location

Afternoon Session 2 (PARB 239)

Presentation Year

April 2019

Start Date

4-11-2019 4:05 PM

Embargo

12-17-2018

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Apr 11th, 4:05 PM

(Un)Lawful Memories: Autobiographical Garden Spaces in Sylvaine Dampierre’s Un Enclos

Afternoon Session 2 (PARB 239)

This paper examines French filmmaker Sylvaine Dampierre’s documentary Un Enclos (1999) as a powerful case-study of how gardens, the law, and notions of freedom intersect. It draws from the theories of discipline and docile bodies that Foucault develops in Discipline and Punish in order to demonstrate how the prison garden space in the film acts as a source of self-knowledge and reflection, and thereby manifests the processes of subject (re)formation Foucault elucidates. Moreover, it interprets these “moments of (self) learning” within the theoretical framework of life-writing. In so doing, it bears upon key debates about life-writing as an expression of individual identity that, paradoxically, emerges from social, cultural, and juridical constraints that serve to delimit subjectivity.

Un Enclos offers compelling images of women, gardens, and prison spaces to underscore the concept of freedom from physical and metaphysical perspectives. The film unfolds as a series of brief interviews of prisoners in Le Centre Pénitentiaire de Rennes, a women’s prison in the French city of Rennes. The documentary presents the women’s interviews as extemporaneous reflections and observations about their life in prison, their prison sentences, and freedom through the lens of the prison’s garden space. It shuttles between sequences focusing on the women working in the garden, their brief interviews with Dampierre, and still shots of the prison and its garden that serve to encapsulate the tensions between enclosure and freedom, introspection and the world beyond the self. Moreover, Dampierre gives pride of place to the practice of first-person self-narrative by crafting the film’s themes of imprisonment and liberty around strategies of life-writing. In this way, she invites viewers to assess how telling one’s story can, on the one hand, help reconfigure definitions of freedom and autonomy, and, on the other hand, perhaps act as yet another mechanism of generating compliance.