Confinement institutions, ethnography, and public relevance [Anthropology of Confinement Network] 
Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)
Ueli Hostettler (University of Bern)
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Start time:
22 July, 2016 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
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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.

Accepted papers: