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Accepted Paper:

Divergent disclosures: working with prisoners in Nicaragua  
Julienne Weegels (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

What meanings does disclosure acquire in a strongly politicized arena?

Paper long abstract:

Over the course of my graduate research (2009-2016) with (former) prisoners within and without the Nicaraguan prison system, the issue of research disclosure has acquired different shapes and meanings. Working with prisoners in a double role - both as an ethnographer and as an arts workshop assistant - I made sure all research participants were well informed of my research into their experiences and performances of violence, masculinities, and prisoner 'change of attitude' (a change in behavior promoted through a progressive privilege system). I generally chose not to disclose my research to the respective prison administrations. This partial disclosure, however, was not fixed but rather evolved along with changes in the political landscape surrounding prison. Human rights organizations were effectively denied access to prisons as of 2008, and stricter regulations regarding the authorization of foreign visitors (and journalists) were imposed in 2013. As of then all organizations working in the prisons also needed official political endorsements from the Sandinista government - in power since 2007. The evolvement of the implosion of party, government and institutional politics underlay these restrictive measures. In that same period prison overcrowding and violence, for example, deepened and my commitment to the prisoners and the research project strengthened. In this paper I consider what meanings disclosure acquires in such a strongly politicized arena, to be able to engage in a constructive discussion around different forms of disclosure in ethnographic prison research, divergent priorities, and why such research may still be ethical (even if risky) in such an environment.

Panel P085
Undisclosed research and the future of ethnographic practice [Anthropology of Confinement Network]
  Session 1