Onstage and Off: The Shifting Relevance of Gender in Women’s Prisons

  • Manuela Ivone Cunha


Even though international research on men’s prisons is no longer oblivious to gender, approaches to women’s prisons have tended to be more gender-bound as a whole. Besides having informed a specific reflexive agenda of representation, the angle of gender has presided over most research issues as an analytical overall parti pris—from the gendered nature of prison regimes to the gendered character of prison cultures, socialities and ‘pains of imprisonment’. This more ‘gendercentric’ agenda is, however, becoming more diversified for theoretical and empirical reasons alike. These involve a recognition of the diversity of women prisoners’ experiences and identities, and an attention to a wider variety of aspects of carceral life. Drawing on field approaches to the Portuguese carceral world spanning three decades, I propose to take this debate further by focusing on contextual shifts in the actual saliency of gender as a category of identity and social life in women’s prisons.


Women’s prisons Gendercentrism Prison regimes Prison cultures Gender identity 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Ivone Cunha
    • 1
  1. 1.CRIAUniversidade do MinhoBragaPortugal

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