the criminology and criminal justice network
Time: September 18, 2012 at 10:30am to September 19, 2012 at 4:15pm
Location: Milton Keynes
Event Type: symposium
Organized By: Open University - Deborah Drake, Rod Earle, Abigail Rowe (ICCCR, The Open University) Andrew Jefferson and Tomas Martin (Global Prisons Research Network) Jennifer Sloan (University of Sheffield)
Latest Activity: Jul 24, 2012
18-19 September 2012
The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
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.
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