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Doing Prison Research


The research aimed to provide insights into the manner in which imprisonment is experienced by men. By better understanding how men ‘do’ being in prison, where many normalising contexts and resources for performing socially legitimate masculine identities are unavailable, such as liberty, goods and services, autonomy, heterosexual relationships, and security (Sykes 1958), where men are placed into feminising positions, and where such men are literally ‘captive’ in such a context for the researcher, it may help to enhance the understandings of masculinities more broadly, and to help to explain its association with crime. A key focus is upon interpersonal interactions between prisoners, based upon the concept of gender and the gendered body (and its use through gestures) being ‘performative’ (Butler 1990: 173).

In the prison setting, the audience for such performances is made up of both staff and, more noteworthily, other prisoners, who, at least in the prisons literature, are seen to enforce quite a strict code of behaviour within the prison setting (see Newton 1994: 196; Sabo et al 2001: 10; Crewe 2005; Hsu 2005 : 10). Relationships and interactions are,

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 23

J.A. Sloan, Masculinities and the Adult Male Prison Experience,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-39915-1_2

therefore, inherently linked to gendered identities. In addition, identity is arguably concerned both with how an individual is seen by others/ performs as a man (i.e. his visibility), and how he, as a man, experiences the institution and its components as an individual self.

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