"Get in, get out, go back?": transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Prisons are unpredictable worlds that exist in time and in space. They are institutions people ‘go to’ acting as both a product and a generator of society’s lost trust in acts of malevolence, crime and re-offending (Wacquant, 2002). Prisons have endured for centuries and consequently, the arrangement of people, activities and buildings are deeply implicated in a power-knowledge couplet (see Foucault, 1980) where phenomena, events and structures of history are registered and dispersed. Indeed the prison is one of very few institutions where pain, suffering and power are depressed into the entire infrastructure and social fabric. In my ethnographic work a combination of sheer curiosity that Russia remains an uncharted penal territory for Western scholars, coupled with a long-standing personal interest in the region that extended to mastering the language, made the site one of rich and potent allure. What I have learned about all prisons - from doing prison research in Russia - is that ‘the place’ (jurisdiction) and the ‘the site’ (the prison) are the repositories of a unique cultural relationship: the relationship between the prison and the state is a clear mirror reflection of the relationship between the person and the state. Thus, the prison reveals the state, which is why prisons are such unique sites of sociological inquiry.

In my chapter I will do two things. First, I will reflect on almost twenty years of doing ethnography in Russian prisons. What I hope to achieve is a better understanding of the totality of the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of researching a hidden penal system such as Russia’s; one which looms large and vast across the European sphere and which weighs heavily in the histories of incarceration in high punishment societies. My own prison research journey is one in which the historical and cultural registers of incarceration can be understood as ruptured, contingent and in a state of cultural to-ing and fro-ing.
LanguageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography
EditorsDeborah H. Drake, Rod Earle, Jennifer Sloan
StatePublished - Jun 2015

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

Fingerprint

research policy
ethnography
correctional institution
Russia
totality
history
pain
jurisdiction
penalty
building
offense
infrastructure

Keywords

  • criminology
  • Russia
  • Russian prisons

Cite this

Piacentini, L. (2015). "Get in, get out, go back?": transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia. In D. H. Drake, R. Earle, & J. Sloan (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography (Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology).
Piacentini, Laura. / "Get in, get out, go back?" : transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia. The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography. editor / Deborah H. Drake ; Rod Earle ; Jennifer Sloan. 2015. (Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology).
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abstract = "Prisons are unpredictable worlds that exist in time and in space. They are institutions people ‘go to’ acting as both a product and a generator of society’s lost trust in acts of malevolence, crime and re-offending (Wacquant, 2002). Prisons have endured for centuries and consequently, the arrangement of people, activities and buildings are deeply implicated in a power-knowledge couplet (see Foucault, 1980) where phenomena, events and structures of history are registered and dispersed. Indeed the prison is one of very few institutions where pain, suffering and power are depressed into the entire infrastructure and social fabric. In my ethnographic work a combination of sheer curiosity that Russia remains an uncharted penal territory for Western scholars, coupled with a long-standing personal interest in the region that extended to mastering the language, made the site one of rich and potent allure. What I have learned about all prisons - from doing prison research in Russia - is that ‘the place’ (jurisdiction) and the ‘the site’ (the prison) are the repositories of a unique cultural relationship: the relationship between the prison and the state is a clear mirror reflection of the relationship between the person and the state. Thus, the prison reveals the state, which is why prisons are such unique sites of sociological inquiry. In my chapter I will do two things. First, I will reflect on almost twenty years of doing ethnography in Russian prisons. What I hope to achieve is a better understanding of the totality of the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of researching a hidden penal system such as Russia’s; one which looms large and vast across the European sphere and which weighs heavily in the histories of incarceration in high punishment societies. My own prison research journey is one in which the historical and cultural registers of incarceration can be understood as ruptured, contingent and in a state of cultural to-ing and fro-ing.",
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Piacentini, L 2015, "Get in, get out, go back?": transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia. in DH Drake, R Earle & J Sloan (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography. Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology.

"Get in, get out, go back?" : transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia. / Piacentini, Laura.

The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography. ed. / Deborah H. Drake; Rod Earle; Jennifer Sloan. 2015. (Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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N2 - Prisons are unpredictable worlds that exist in time and in space. They are institutions people ‘go to’ acting as both a product and a generator of society’s lost trust in acts of malevolence, crime and re-offending (Wacquant, 2002). Prisons have endured for centuries and consequently, the arrangement of people, activities and buildings are deeply implicated in a power-knowledge couplet (see Foucault, 1980) where phenomena, events and structures of history are registered and dispersed. Indeed the prison is one of very few institutions where pain, suffering and power are depressed into the entire infrastructure and social fabric. In my ethnographic work a combination of sheer curiosity that Russia remains an uncharted penal territory for Western scholars, coupled with a long-standing personal interest in the region that extended to mastering the language, made the site one of rich and potent allure. What I have learned about all prisons - from doing prison research in Russia - is that ‘the place’ (jurisdiction) and the ‘the site’ (the prison) are the repositories of a unique cultural relationship: the relationship between the prison and the state is a clear mirror reflection of the relationship between the person and the state. Thus, the prison reveals the state, which is why prisons are such unique sites of sociological inquiry. In my chapter I will do two things. First, I will reflect on almost twenty years of doing ethnography in Russian prisons. What I hope to achieve is a better understanding of the totality of the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of researching a hidden penal system such as Russia’s; one which looms large and vast across the European sphere and which weighs heavily in the histories of incarceration in high punishment societies. My own prison research journey is one in which the historical and cultural registers of incarceration can be understood as ruptured, contingent and in a state of cultural to-ing and fro-ing.

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Piacentini L. "Get in, get out, go back?": transitioning from prison ethnography to prison policy research in Russia. In Drake DH, Earle R, Sloan J, editors, The Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography. 2015. (Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology).