The study of penal practices in colonised parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean has recently witnessed a significant shift. The first generation of research into the coercive measures of colonial states tended to focus rather narrowly on imprisonment. The second generation, which has emerged only in the last five years, has significantly widened their field of vision to incorporate much more than the prison. The most recent literature considers capital and corporal punishment, as well as the larger functioning of police and courts. It also explores in more depth the ways in which indigenous peoples experienced and interpreted their punishments. Finally, this new research is sensitive to the paradoxes and tensions of colonial punishment, which often frustrated its purposes. This article reflects upon these historiographical shifts, and argues that, in light of these developments, a new framework for the study of colonial punishment is now called for. It suggests that an approach which views colonial coercive techniques as part of imperial ‘coercive networks’ encapsulates this new thinking
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