Home > Discourse and identity: a study of women in prison in Ireland.

Quinlan, Christina (2006) Discourse and identity: a study of women in prison in Ireland. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.

External website: http://doras.dcu.ie/19167/1/Christina_Quinlan_2013...

This dissertation deals with the question of whether women prisoners’ identities are completely subjugated by the prison or whether they are able to resist identity subjugation. My thesis is that, although women prisoners are subjugated as prisoners, they have developed ways of resisting subjugation as women. This study is based on a critical ethnography of women’s experiences of imprisonment in Ireland in both a historical and contemporary context. Methodologically the study is informed by feminist epistemology, discourse analysis, and semiotics. The aim of the research was to explore the social and spatial experiences of imprisonment. The historical data is taken from published and archived memoirs, historiographies, prison records and reports. The contemporary data is based on a quantitative profile of women currently in prison, the crimes for which they are imprisoned and the sentence imposed upon them. I also conducted a series of qualitative in-depth interviews with 83 imprisoned women. During these interviews I photographed the women’s personal prison spaces. Using a series of photo elicitation interviews, I examined with the women the meanings of their personal prison spaces and the meanings of the artefacts which they displayed within those spaces. In addition, I interviewed thirty people involved with and working in the prisons; conducted a content and semiotic analysis o f print media representations o f women’s prisoners in a range of newspapers; and undertook an examination of the structures of the women’s prisons.

The analysis of the research material reveals a comprehensive profile of women prisoner’s experiences in the Irish prison system. The meaning, effect and implications of their experiences are established. The main conclusions centre on the manner in which these prison experiences shape their identities, subjectivities, and senses of self.

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