Accepted paper:

See you in prison, then

Author:

Silvia Vignato (Università Milano-Bicocca)

Paper short abstract:

This paper concerns a work in progress where the anthropologist’s former research-assistant resumes her role after being sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for drug trafficking. It shows how the proess of accessing prison can throw new light on a larger research.

Paper long abstract:

Why does a brilliant, 26 year-old Acehenese woman resort to drug dealing? Why does a 50 year-old anthropologist unexpectedly turns towards the ethnography of prison? Both question are answered through a gendered analyses of a post-conflict situation in developing Indonesia as well as through the password of "love". This paper attempts to put the two into the same analytical frame. It concerns a work in progress where the anthropologist's former research-assistant resumes her role after being sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for drug trafficking. It shows how the proess of accessing prison can throw new light on a larger research. The intricacies of Indonesian bureaucracy and the frustrated efforts of a group of well-meaning civil servants give an insight of the functioning of a big Indonesian city such as Medan. Similarly, the feeling of loneliness of a non-Medanese prisoner evokes the weight of the city even within the walls of its prison. The paper pays special attention to the hypertrophic role that the encounter plays when the research develops in a restricted place. For a classical anthropologist raised in awe of "the ethnographic context", the programmatic lack of the latter raises a methodological problem as it is difficult to cross-control the information.

panel P051
Prison ethnographies, research intimacies and social change