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Palgrave Macmillan

Doing Indefinite Time

An Ethnography of Long-Term Imprisonment in Switzerland

  • Book
  • Open Access
  • © 2023

You have full access to this open access Book


  • This book is open access which means that you have free and unlimited access
  • Explores long-term imprisonment in Switzerland and expands the field which mainly focusses on the US and UK
  • Offers a wide range of methodological suggestions including gaining access to the field
  • Critically discusses understandings of imprisonment

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology (PSIPP)

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Table of contents (8 chapters)


About this book

This open access book provides insights into the everyday lives of long-term prisoners in Switzerland who are labelled as ‘dangerous’ and are preventatively held in indefinite, probably lifelong, incarceration. It explores prisoners’ manifold ways of inhabiting the prison which can be used to challenge well established notions about the experience of imprisonment, such as ‘adaptation’, ‘coping’, and ‘resistance’. Drawing on ethnographic data generated in two high-security prisons housing male offenders, this book explores how the various spaces of the prison affect prisoners’ sense of self and experience of time, and how, in particular, the indeterminate nature of their imprisonment affects their perceptions of place and space.

It sheds light on prisoners’ subjective, emplaced and embodied perceptions of the prisons' various everyday time-spaces in the cell, at work, and during leisure time, and the forms of agency they express. It provides insight into prisoners’ everyday habits, practices, routines, and rhythms as well as the profoundly existential issues that are engendered, (re)arranged, and anchored in these everyday contexts. It also offers insights into the penal policies, norms, and practices developed and followed by prison authorities and staff.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Institute for Penal Law and Criminology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

    Irene Marti

About the author

Irene Marti is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Penal Law and Criminology at the University of Bern and at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at the University of Basel, Switzerland. Since 2013, she has been a member of the Prison Research Group at the University of Bern.

Bibliographic Information

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