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Prison Ethnography Symposium: Resisting the Eclipse

posted 6 Feb 2015, 16:14 by Julie W   [ updated 6 Feb 2015, 16:31 ]

On September 18-19th 2012, ICCCR at the Open University are hosting a symposium which we at GPRN have helped organise. Check out the website as it looks to be an exciting event! http://www.open.ac.uk/icccr/events/prison-ethnography/ From the website: 

"Are reports of the demise of prison ethnography exaggerated? Find out at this international gathering of prison researchers. Speakers, panels and workshops will explore what prison ethnography has got to offer in an era of mass incarceration. In 2002, Loïc Wacquant opened a special prison issue of Ethnography, with a piece entitled: "The Curious Eclipse of Prison Ethnography in The Age of Mass Incarceration". In his article, Wacquant expresses incredulity at the scarcity of ethnographic field studies of American jails and prisons. He is horrified to discover that at a time when such examinations are most urgently needed, they appear to be disappearing under the weight of more conventional 'correctional' research. This symposium contrasts the dearth of ethnographic work in the US with another story - one of a vibrant, critical and engaged body of prison research beyond the US penal nightmare. In-depth qualitative research is going on in many prisons across the world, and the researchers undertaking this work are struggling to find ways of talking and writing about their work that will draw attention to the methodological and political difficulties associated with prison ethnography, the voices of their informants, and the findings of their detailed studies. Their work appears in a variety of different journals, spanning a range of disciplinary fields from criminology, penology, ethnography, sociology, and anthropology. While this diffusion is welcomed at some levels, the profile of this kind of research remains low within any particular field. Ethnographic researchers of prisons and prisoners, many of whom conduct their fieldwork work alone, can themselves feel isolated, unsupported and unheard. At this symposium, prison researchers from around the world will come together to resist the silencing and invisibilisation of marginalised people that the relentless growth of imprisonment attempts to accomplish. We will discuss the tensions and challenges of conducting in-depth research in prisons and grapple with the methodological, ethical, analytical and political dilemmas that inevitably arise when we enter the closed worlds of prisons to conduct research. As Wacquant astutely observed, in an era of mass incarceration, the academic and political importance of prison ethnography has never been more pressing."

Conference report Conclusion

"The rich, varied and deeply moving exposition of non-Western prison ethnography that was considered on the second day was organised by Andrew Jefferson and Tomas Max Martin of theGlobal Prisons Research Network (GPRN). In keeping with the aims of the GPRN, the programme of speakers challenged the hegemony of the Anglo-American axis of comparison in prison studies and abundantly demonstrated how much there is to be gained by considering the ethnographic work carried out in prisons in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the former Soviet States.

At this symposium, prison researchers from around the world came together to resist the silencing and invisibilisation of marginalised people that the relentless growth of imprisonment attempts to accomplish. We discussed the tensions and challenges of conducting in-depth research in prisons and grappled with the methodological, ethical, analytical and political dilemmas that inevitably arise when we enter prison worlds to conduct research. The large community of ethnographers who came together for this event (over 100 delegates from 12 different countries) are testament to the academic and political importance of prison ethnography.

Many thanks to all the speakers and delegates and to Julia Willan and Harriet Barker from Palgrave Macmillan. All those who attended and presented at the symposium enriched the content of the two days in ways that the organisers could not have anticipated or designed into the programme. We are in the process of setting up an email list so that we continue to build up the community of prison ethnographers. If you want to be added to this list, please send an email toresistingtheeclipse@gmail.com

Read also Dominique Moran's blog post reflecting on her attendance at the symposium on her Carceral Geography website."

GPRN 2nd Annual meeting and Workshop December 2010, Holland

posted 7 Sep 2010, 02:52 by Andrew Jefferson   [ updated 5 Jan 2011, 10:25 ]

Dissecting the Non-Western Prison

The workshop in Holland 1-3 December 2010 brought together members (new and old) of GPRN for the third time following the inauguration of the network in December 2009 and our panel presentation at the British Society of Criminology’s Conference in July 2010.

The workshop had two primary purposes

  1. to consolidate links between members in a face to face format
  2. to present and discuss papers based on submitted abstracts for a joint publication

The publication project aims to present prison ethnographies in a frame and with a critical thrust that will speak to prison studies (and social theory in general) from the perspective of the non-Western prison. The presented papers were oriented around the social life of the non-western prison and organised in three broad themes:

  • Organization and everyday life
  • Incarcerated bodies
  • Methodologies
Prof Lorna Rhodes and Prof Annemiek Richters attended as specially invited resource persons and initiated the intense discussion of the papers and the themes. Lorna Rhodes and Andrew Jefferson rounded off the sessions by sketching out the conceptual framework for the publication and the editorial process.
The workshop was hosted and funded by the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR)

(Abstracts and Programme attached)

Rights Consciousness and Penal Change in Russia, lecture by Dr Laura Piacentini

posted 7 Sep 2010, 02:14 by Tomas Max Martin

On 26 January 2010 at 14.00-15:30 The Danish Institute for Human Rights presents Dr Laura Piacentini, who will talk on rights consciousness and penal change in Russia.

Drawing on her highly acclaimed ethnographic research in some 18 penal colonies across Russia, Laura Piacentini will explore some of the legal consciousness literature and consider it in the context of Russia’s exceptional transition in penal punishment that has taken place over the last 16 years. Russian imprisonment remains a much neglected area of criminological scholarship and it is even more surprising to note that the embedding of a rights consciousness in prisons, whereby prisoners have become knowing, active and vocal agents of human rights in the penal system, has not been matched by debate and discussion about the doctrinal, legal and socio-cultural mechanisms through which this flows. The lecture will discuss the need to urgently examine how a rights discourse can co-exist with the closing down of both human rights activism and penal reform under President Putin (past) and President Medvedev (present) and raise questions of how rights consciousness emerges in penal settings and is co-terminous with human rights regulation.

Laura Piacentini is Reader in Criminology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
She has been actively researching and publishing in the area of contemporary Russian imprisonment for over 10 years. Her first book, Surviving Russian Prisons won the British Society of Criminology Book of the Year award in 2005.

Laura Piacentini’s visit is supported by Amnesty International Denmark and arranged by the Global Prisons Research Network

GPRN panel at the British Society of Criminology Conference July 2010

posted 2 Sep 2010, 05:05 by Tomas Max Martin   [ updated 3 Sep 2010, 03:16 by Andrew Jefferson ]

GPRN made its first public appearance by jointly presenting a panel on "the social life of prisons – perspectives from beyond the West" at the recent BSC Conference (abstracts attached).

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