Digesting men? Ethnicity, gender and food: perspectives from a 'prison ethnography'

Earle, Rod and Phillips, Coretta (2012). Digesting men? Ethnicity, gender and food: perspectives from a 'prison ethnography'. Theoretical Criminology, 16(2) pp. 141–156.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1362480612441121


Drawing from an ethnographic study of men’s social relations in an English prison this article explores the potential of attending closely to men’s practice for the light it may shed on the boundaries of punishment. Interviews with prisoners and fieldwork experiences reveal something of the way prison acts on an ethnically diverse group of men. Focusing on the way men use cooking facilities on the prison’s wings the article explores the way men make food for themselves and each other and thereby occupy prison space with unconventional (and conventional) gender practice. Using intersectional perspectives the article shows how practices of racialization, racism, conviviality and coercion are woven into the fabric of prison life. These quotidian experiences are juxtaposed against the question of how prisons and prisoner populations represent a spectrum of violence in which gender dynamics remain under-examined. By providing glimpses of men’s lives in an English prison to reveal aspects of the ways masculinities and ethnicities interact to shape a penal regime the authors offer some resources for, and perspective on, the theorization of punishment’s boundaries.

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