Accepted Paper:

"Who am I?". Collapsing time and practices of a self-reconstruction in a confinement institution.  


Luigigiovanni Quarta (University of Pisa)

Paper short abstract:

What does it mean to deal with an immobile time in a social space of constraint? Within an anthropological understating of mental illness and confinement experiences, I reflect on the production of autobiographical narratives as ethical exercises that make people able to act on their own Self.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on a ethnography carried out inside an Italian High Security Hospital for mentally ill offenders, and analyses how patients' practices of autobiographical narrative can influence the relationship with their existential experience within a confinement space - here understood not necessarily as a material space of reclusion. During my fieldwork, I dealt with a fragmented social space where time seems to collapse: people are forced to reflect on the causes of their confinement, and are stuck in a routinized time. In a place where today is identic to yesterday and tomorrow, a sort of absence of time characterizes patients' experience of confinement. However, people are not necessarily passives in front of such time collapsing. Through their reflection, they can imagine a future that allows a rethinking of their past and a manipulation of the ethical conditions that structure their present. Producing autobiographical narratives is a tactical action (de Certeau, 1980) that people enact to constitute themselves as dialectic beings-in-the-world (de Martino, 1977; Zigon, 2008). Furthermore, it implies an ethical commitment: every narration is told as the "true" story of their life. Thus, for inmates autobiographical narratives are instruments to master their present condition and to escape from a collapsing time, thus establishing an active relationship with their surrounding world. Telling-the-truth, in autobiographical narratives, is both a reflexive practice and an ethical action: the origin of a self-reflexive moral system, which informs a possible Self used by inmates to act in the world in a new relational way.

Panel P004
Confinement as a category of practice and a category of analysis [Anthropology of Confinement Network]