EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P002)
Confinement institutions, ethnography, and public relevance [Anthropology of Confinement Network]
Location U6-36
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho) email
  • Ueli Hostettler (University of Bern) email

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Short Abstract

How do anthropologists of confinement navigate a variety of interlocutors shaped by particular understandings of confinement institutions as 'social problems'? How do anthropologists engage with policy-oriented publics and in what ways do they assert the relevance of ethnographic research?

Long Abstract

Prisons and confinement institutions tend to be the object of particular public understandings as 'social issues', which are not without shaping those of the anthropologist's research interlocutors - from the confiners to the confined -, of funding agencies, and, to some extent, of anthropologists and their research problems themselves. Anthropologists of confinement are also bound to interact at some level with policy-oriented audiences, whether these audiences are directly involved or not in policy-definition or policy-implementation. What are these publics' dominant frames of expectation in relation to prison-research? How does this influence the anthropologist's research agenda? How does ethnography fit into these frames of expectation, when compared with other modes of inquiry? Can ethnographic research not designed for policy effectively communicate the policy implications of its outcomes, or simply be perceived as socially relevant? How, and under which conditions, can complex, multi scalar depictions of contemporary confinement landscapes contribute to change inadequate perceptions and formats of intervention in these worlds? What is, in this specific context, the potential of ethnography as a comprehensive resource for reasoning about social problems?

We invite scholars of prison and confinement to critically address these issues by reflecting on their experiences of engagement with a range of relevant publics -- before, during or in the aftermath of field research.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Anthropology "dealing" with media: reflections on the public consumption of research in prison

Author: Ueli Hostettler (University of Bern)  email

Short Abstract

Based on past and on-going research, the paper deals with interactions of researchers and media on contents of prison research. In recent years, both media and academic research have been transformed by commercial logics. How does this shape expectations, interests, and outcomes?

Long Abstract

Media have, much like public funded research, an important role in democratic societies for the provision and distribution of information. At the same time, media production is a business with its own commercial logics and academic research has been transformed by greater emphasis on third-party funding, output, and "excellence". In this context, media-research interactions happen and shape particular forms, topics and issues. This paper focuses on the interaction between researchers of the Prison Research Group at the University of Bern and different represents of media in the context of past and ongoing research in the prison context. What are the expectations, interests, and issues? What are concrete experiences and outcomes? What is the influence on anthropologist's agenda? These questions are also analyzed in the context of the multiple ways anthropologists have been engaged with the media in the past and their scientific production has been "subject" of media production.

"Do you really want to know what happens inside the prison?": an attempt of ethnographic restitution in the prison of San Pedro, La Paz

Author: Francesca Cerbini  email

Short Abstract

The “kind” of prison is crucial in understanding whether an ethnography might be relevant for public policies. My ethnography in the prison of San Pedro (Bolivia) can shed a light on the possibilities of affecting local penitentiary policies.

Long Abstract

In order to evaluate the relevance of a prison ethnography for public policies, it is important to begin by reflecting on the "kind" of prison we are talking about. For example, a prison settled in Latin America usually shows a lot of "peculiarities" in the internal management and organization which create a dramatic fracture between the idea of prison people get used to think about and the reality of the prison itself. As a consequence, in non-western prisons there is a difference in the State's "regard" on this kind of humanity and the social context. Ethnographic deep analysis can fill the gap between theories about prison and reality. This has been my main engagement during my ethnographic fieldwork in the prison of San Pedro, a self-governed penitentiary in the middle of La Paz city (Bolivia). Due to the State institutions' political "laxity" and the Justice corruption, the inmates lived completely neglected. Once inside the prison, they were forced to buy or rent a cell and to pay for a lot of services that usually are free. In this very critical context, to which extent can we discuss about public policies? Do people living outside the prison and within the State really want to know what happens inside the jail? I would discuss my attempt of restituting my work to the prison community and formal authorities in order to question the concept of "relevance" of my ethnographic work for local penitentiary policies.

Ethnography and the peace process in Colombia

Author: Laura Ordóñez (Universidad del Rosario )  email

Short Abstract

What are the implications and scope of ethnography in transitional scenarios from war to peace as Colombia ?

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the articulation of processes and mechanisms of restorative justice in a scenario of transitional justice from an ethnographic and comparative perspective of local and international experiences.

This, in the context of tensions and political and academic debates posed by current peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP, as well as the fulfillment of a decade of implementation of the Justice and Peace Law with the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). On one hand, there are those who argue that criminal punishment for the guerrillas is necessary, as a nonnegotiable minimum of justice. On the other, those who defend the possibility of alternative mechanisms of imprisonment. This tension necessarily leads to the question of prisons in our country and the role, function and efficiency of the deprivation of liberty as a means of punishment for serious violations of human rights and, simultaneously, as a suitable mechanism to achieve the objectives of truth, justice, reparation for victims and non-repetition of the violence. The aim of this paper is to examine the role of ethnography in these scenarios as a key methodological perspective to illuminate these tensions and build a set of strategies and tools that serve as an input for decision and public policy makers.

Ethnography and prison reform: a situated account

Author: Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)  email

Short Abstract

Taking stock of a three-decade experience of engaging with prison actors, and with a focus on a particular experience of interacting with a committee for prison reform, I aim to discuss the ingredients that render ethnographic accounts valuable to policy oriented publics.

Long Abstract

Having conducted ethnographic enquiries on prisons and penal confinement in Portugal during the last three decades, I have had several occasions to engage with publics implicated in policy-definition or policy implementation at different levels. I have also interacted with a variety of institutional agents and frontline personnel acting one way or another upon what they generally define as a "social problem". Regardless of the nature or the degree of their power to intervene on that problem, these could all be considered as policy-oriented audiences, whether they were policy officials, committees for prison reform, magistrates, national or local prison directors, social workers and other actors. Their expectations in relation to prison-research and its outcomes are formed within particular frames, such as the "denunciation" of prison ills, or the production of "specific recommendations" to remedy them…. For my part, although I consider my research to have policy implications, it was not itself policy-driven or designed for policy. However, in spite of being far from matching these audiences' dominant frame of expectations, my work was surprisingly well received and did produce a particular form of impact relevant for policy.

Taking stock of this general experience of publicizing ethnographic research, and with a focus on a particular experience of interacting with a committee for prison reform, I discuss the ingredients that can render ethnographic accounts valuable and persuasive to policy oriented publics

"What is prejudice for you?": homophobia and youth detention facilities in Brazil

Author: Marcio Zamboni (Universidade de São Paulo (USP))  email

Short Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on my etnographic experience following the so called “workshops of awareness on sexual diversity” that took place in youth detention facilities in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on my etnographic experience following the so called "workshops of awareness on sexual diversity" (oficinas de sensibilização à diversidade sexual) that took place in male youth detention facilities in Sao Paulo, Brazil. These workshops were organized by the State Public Defender's Office (Defensoria Pública do Estado) in units of Fundação CASA (as it is called the juvenile detention system in the state of Sao Paulo) where cases of homophobia had been registered. Two different workshops were held in each institution, one only with staff and the other directly with the internal (always under the supervision of the staff). As an anthropologist, I took part in these meetings in two ways: first as a researcher interested in the issue of sexual diversity in these institutions. Second, as an expert able to contribute to the improvement of these activities.

Between inside and outside: projects of visual research inside Italian prisons

Authors: Rossella Schillaci  email
Valentina Bonifacio (University Ca Foscari of Venice; Parsons-The New School)  email
Lucia Veronesi  email

Short Abstract

The aim of the paper is to discuss why the use of a video-camera as a research tool is a particularly valuable resource in prison, it offers a mean for communicating on the part of the inmates, in a situation openly and drastically marked by impotence and disempowerment.

Long Abstract

In the debate on the feasibility of ethnographic research inside detention centres, visual medias can represent an interesting starting point for negotiating the presence of anthropologists inside such a restricted space. It is impossible in fact to start doing research inside a prison without the consent of the inmates, but on the other hand it is very difficult to get to know someone inside a prison and to establish a trustful relationship with that person prior to the investigation (unless the anthropologist already knows the person before s/he went to prison). The researcher can't just 'happen to be' in a prison. According to the Italian Ministry of Justice, any person who is not related to the inmates through a kingship network is a "third person" and needs to present "reasonable causes" in order to meet them. Moreover, it is the prison director who decides if the reason presented by the third person is reasonable or not, and if the encounter is finally possible. Our claim is that the use visual media - in this case a videocamera - can facilitate the relationship by providing a "reasonable cause" both for the institution representatives and for the inmates. Without going into the topic of the legal constrains, we would like to offer some narratives on how the presence of a camera helped justifying the presence of the anthropologist in the prison, and how it facilitated the encounter with the inmates.

High security hospitals: Kafka beyond Kafka

Author: Luigigiovanni Quarta (Sapienza University of Roma/EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales de Paris))  email

Short Abstract

Rethinking my fieldwork at the High Security Hospital in Tuscany, in this paper I reflect on the relationship between anthropological discourse and experts involved in managing of this institutions. How wide is the gap between theoretical discourse and political and practical knowledge?

Long Abstract

Social scientists are use to consider Kafka's work as a metaphor of hyper-bureaucratized world of State institutions. The experience of his main character K is considered as the universal experience of modern subject. K perceives himself like a social agent whose presence and sense is annihilated by the state-machinery. The institutions of confinement are part of this bureaucratic apparatus.

Starting from my ethnography carrying out in a High Security Hospital (Tuscany), in this paper I try to contradict/confute this narrative about the institutional world showing how bureaucratic cultural codes are open to the possibility of negotiation and meanings' sharing. Fieldwork experience leads to see the existence of liminal spaces, where macro- and micro-practices define, in a shared frame and/or in conflicting way, the value and meanings of institutions of confinement. We cannot think about High Security Hospitals as a product of static structure: they are extremely plastic and malleable. Ethnographic data show that they are a variable cultural building emerging by interactions of many different co-working social actors.

High Security Hospitals don't live only in a Kafkaesque space of rejection and annihilation of any kind of dialogue but also in a space of negotiation. Within this space anthropology's narratives can produce slipping and phases transition if it breaks off suspicious theoretical approach to institutional world and it becomes practical knowledge. By acting as actor of the game, I learned a know-how beyond written rules and I was a producer of new spaces of agency for those in the institution.

The sick, the walls and the morals: revisiting the syphilis prison-infirmaries

Author: Cristiana Bastos (University of Lisbon)  email

Short Abstract

Continental European prison-infirmaries for sick prostitutes served for temporary confinement of potentially contagious women while providing them with medical treatment. The study of those penal-sanitary institutions allows us to expand the scope of confinement debates.

Long Abstract

In opposition to the prohibitionist regimes that outlawed prostitution, regulationist regimes not only consented but strictly controlled commercial sex in brothels and other venues. Sex workers had to carry a professional license, go to regular check ups and obey the sanitary police. Symptoms of venereal disease led to forced internment in houses of confinement, which in some circumstances were special hospital infirmaries. In this paper I will bring data from two early twentieth century prison-infirmaries in Lisbon, Portugal, which were medical and penal devices at once: Santa Maria Madalena and Santa Egipcíaca, both located in the hospital of Desterro, then a wretched annex of the central hospital of São José. I will also analyze the debates between the health professionals and advocates of regulation Vs the opponents of legal prostitution. The debates lasted until prostitution was outlawed in 1961, when the mounting evidence about penicillin's therapeutic powers over syphilis weakened the arguments for a policed prevention and for confinement as a tool of public health. The analysis of the broad period of debates regarding the social implications of confinement as prevention will contribute to expand the scope of current debates on the anthropology of confinement.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.