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Toward an Anthropology of Prisons Author(s): Lorna A. Rhodes Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 30 (2001), pp.

65-83 Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3069209 Accessed: 14/09/2008 23:09
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Annu. Rev. Anthropol.2001. 30:65-83 Copyright? 2001 by AnnualReviews. All rights reserved


Lorna A. Rhodes
98195; Seattle, Washington Universityof Washington, Departmentof Anthropology, e-mail: Irhodes@u.washington.edu

institutions, Key Words imprisonment, historyof confinement, subjection, of incarceration ethnography * Abstract The latetwentieth of the prisonsyscenturysaw an intenseexpansion tem in the UnitedStatesduringthe same periodin which Foucault's Disciplineand Punishinfluenced academicapproaches to powerandsubjection. This articlereviews the history,sociology,andanthropology of the prison,as well as some recentpopular of thecurrent situation. It highlights criticalperspectives on modemformsof critiques andreformandsuggestsareasin whichan anthropology of prisonsmight punishment takeup questionsof modernity, social andethnoclassification, subjection, suffering, graphicpossibilityin the contextof an increasingly politicizedandracialized system of incarceration.

In the United Statestoday almost two million people are in prison.The expansion of the prison system began in the early 1980s, continues despite years of falling crime rates (Blumstein & Wallman2000), and has resulted in the highest rate of incarceration in the world (Blumstein & Beck 1999, Caplow & Simon 1999, Donziger 1996, Mauer 1999). Most of today's prisons are a far cry from those of the earlier decades of the twentiethcentury,in which the occasional sociologist could ply his traderemarkably undisturbed (Tonry& Petersilia1999a).Contemporarypenology involves an increasinglymanagerialand technologicalorientation, psychologically and sociologically based forms of classification,and tight control over informationand access (DiIulio 1987, Rhine 1998). A huge correctionsindustrydependson prisongrowthand promotesnew technologies of enforcement, surveillance,andrestraint (Christie1994; Dyer 2000; Parenti1999, pp. 211-244). The past20 yearsof prisonexpansionarethe sameyearsin which"theprison"thatspace of regimentation and surveillancedescribedin Discipline and Punishhas come to figure prominently in contemporaryscholarship (Foucault 1979, Gordon 1991). The drawing of the kneeling prisonerthat illustratesFoucault's discussion of Bentham'spanopticonremains an icon of disciplinarysubjection andan omnipresent subtextin discussionsof the modem interpenetration of power and knowledge. Yet the extent to which Foucault'sprisoneither serves as a guide



RHODES to the historicalprisonor representsany particular form of institutionaldiscipline is unclear.Twenty-fiveyears ago the developmentof a massive prison complex by the end of the century was beyond the horizon of the historiansand social scientists then engaged in a wide-rangingcritiqueof institutionsof social control (e.g. Morris1974). Todaya largeandgrowingbody of workalludesto, butdoes not explore,theprisonas a centralsite forthe exerciseof disciplinary power(e.g. Butler 1990, Santner 1996), while other literature,less theoreticallydriven, describes and critiques a rapidly metastasizing"prisonindustrialcomplex" (Burton-Rose 1998, Tonry & Petersilia 1999a, see also Parenti 1999, Duguid 2000, Alford 2000). Little workin anthropology concernsprisons.Otherdisciplines,however,have an overwhelminglyproductivehistoricalinvolvementwith crimeandpunishment. Psychiatry and psychology, sociology, criminology, and to some extent modern philosophy emerged as "disciplines"in relation to nineteenth-century institutionsand are deeply implicatedin theirclassificatoryand normalizingimpulses (Foucault1965, 1979, 1988; Kittler1990; Leps 1992). These fields sharewith the prisonitself two featuresof modernitydescribedby Giddens.The firstis a "hidden a "drive to repetition" (Giddens1994,pp. 68-70) thatcan already compulsiveness," be seen in Weber'sdiscussion of the Protestantwork ethic. The same ethic drove Benthamand Howardwhen they inventedthe penitentiaryas a means of producing conscience throughrepetitiveand meaningless work (Bentham 1948[1789], Semple 1993, Southwood 1958). The long engagementof the "disciplines"with the prison is nothingif not repetitive,a point thattroublesany attemptto critique or contributeto these discourses. The second feature of modernityis reflexivity, the "pervasivefilter-back"(Giddens 1994, p. 91) throughwhich academic discourses affect the objects they describe. This looping of influenceproduces a double"(Lash 1994, p. 112;Beck et al 1994) in almostall areasin which "haunting disciplinaryknowledges intersect with the practice of incarceration(for a more generaldiscussion of reflexivityin relationto prisons see Caplow& Simon 1999, pp. 97-110). Much writingon prisons consists of normalizingdiscoursesenmeshed in this dynamic (see, e.g. Mays & Winfree 1998). A smaller literatureattemptsmore self-reflectiveand problematizingapproaches,while also revealingthe difficulty of escaping the prison's disciplinaryorbit. In this review I consider this second form of prison writing,which I have divided into four generaltypes: (a) contemporarycritiquesdirectedagainstthe numbingeffects of the currentsituation;(b) of efforts,particularly following Foucault,to revisit and revise our understanding and work that an (c) prison history; sociological anthropological attempts entry into and a direct engagementin the interiorlife of the prison;and (d) work that addresseswomen as prisonersand problematizesthe predominance of masculine perspectivesin and on the prison. I end with a discussion of prospectsand difficulties for futureanthropological work.ThoughI discuss some Europeansources, my primaryemphasisis the prisonin the United States. For generaloverviews of US prisons see McShane & McShane (1996), Christianson(1998), and Tonry&



Petersilia(1999b); for studies of historicaland contemporary prisons worldwide (1991), Morris(1998), and Stem see, for example, O'Brien (1982), Spierenburg (1999). (1998). On the recent spreadof US practicesto Europe,see Wacquant


meets the current A growingcriticalliterature prisonboom head-onby questioning its premises and contextualizingthe political emphasis on crime and punishment that supportsit. Over half of prisonersin the United States are AfricanAmerican and threefourthsare people of color; a rapidlygrowing numberare women, also three fourths of color (Currie 1998, Donziger 1996, Mauer 1999, Miller 1996, Tonry1995). Criticscontendthatprisonsperforma kind of social, economic, and large numbersof poor and minoritypeople political "magic"by "disappearing" (A Davis in Gordon 1998/1999, Donziger 1996, Hallinan2001, Irwin & Austin 1993, Miller 1996, Tonry 1995, Walkeret al 2000). This process occurs on many and dissent throughincreasingly levels. One is political:repressionof "disorder" draconianmethods of policing and control, including the war on drugs (Baum 1996, Dowker & Good 1995, Kennedy 1997, Kerness 1998, Miller 1996, Parenti 1999, Perkinson 1994). Anotheris economic: Prisons createjobs both in the ruindustrialsector, ral areaswhere they are sited and in the growing prison-related remove the unemployedfrom statisticalvisibility, add to the census of depopulated counties, and disenfranchisecurrentand former prisoners (Christie 1994, Davis 1998b, Dyer 2000, Gilmore 1998, 1998/1999, Gordon1998/1999, Western & Beckett 1999, WesternPrisonProject2000). The public discourseon crime reinforcesthis prisonmagic. Containinga barelyconcealedsubtextin which danger and other men of color, to "law-abidingcitizens" is located in African-American racism in it "reproduces ... [an] ideologically palatablefashion"(Parenti1999, ... fears ..." (Davis 1998b, p. 62), and "relieves serves to "mobilize p. 242), us of the responsibilityof seriously engaging ... the problems of late capitalism" (A Davis in Gordon 1998/1999, p. 148; see also Baum 1996, Dyer 2000, of Parenti 1999, Reiman 1998, Tonry 1995). Analysts of media representations the and cultural work these crime and imprisonment to point political, economic, representations performin supportingpolicies that lead to increasingrates of incarceration(Chambliss 1999, pp. 13-59; Baum 1996; Beckett 1997; Caplow & Simon 1999; Currie1998; Dyer 2000; Ferrell& Websdale 1999). The proliferation of "supermaximum" high securityfacilities is a parallelform of magic within to further some prisoners,again disproportionately prisons, serving "disappear" African-American and other men of color, throughnew forms of high-tech solitaryconfinement(Abu-Jamal1995, Dowker& Good 1995, Grassian1983, Haney 1993, HumanRights Watch 1997, Kerness 1998, Parenti1999, Perkinson1994). Ranging from pragmaticto visionary,from experience-nearto sweeping, critiques of the prison problematizeits role in the productionof an "enemywithin" (Duguid 2000, pp. 147-77). Prisonersalso participatein this critical traditionof


RHODES resistance to the prison's "dualfunction:to keep us [non-prisoners] out as well as them in" (Wicker 1998, p. xi). One formerprisonerwrites, "Most Americans remainignorant... thatthey live in a countrythatholds hostage behind bars anotherpopulouscountryof theirfellow citizens"(Baca 1998, p. 363). Among many voices from that second countryare Himes (1998[1953]), Rideau (1992), Abbott to Franklin(1998b), Chevigny (1981), and Genet (1964), as well as contributors (2000), Arriens(1997), and Leder (2000). A prisonernewsletterand website report on prison conditions, legal actions, and the political climate (Prison Legal News, with links to many otherprison sites; see also Burton-Rose1998). Prisoners' accountsof current conditions,especially of solitaryconfinementin supermax of despair"(Abu-Jamal1995, p. 12) andare"far prisons,describea "nether-world morebleakanddesperatethanthe prisonliterature of anyearlierperiod"(Franklin 1998a, p. 17). the conversation"-both popular Many critics of the prison aim to "interrupt and academic-that frames contemporaryforms of incarcerationas inevitable (Gordon1998/1999, p. 156). They takeon whatFeldman,writingaboutthe media Desert Stormand Rodney King, calls "cultural anesthesia": imagerysurrounding "thebanishment of disconcerting,discordant,and anarchicsensorypresencesand agentsthatunderminethe normalizingand often silent premisesof everydaylife" (Feldman1994, p. 405; cf. Daniel 1998, Kleinman& Kleinman1997). Anesthesia resultsfromevadingthe "embodied character of violence,"not only through denial, but also throughnumbingly repetitivemedia images that engage the viewer in "material andwar,theprisonenacts complicity"withits terms.Likepolice brutality on the bodies of "others"a violence camouflagedby its position as what Davis calls an "abstract site" in the public imagination(A Davis in Gordon 1998/1999, p. 147; cf. Benjamin 1986[1920], Davis 1999, Santner1996). At the same time, is highly fetishized,bothas the spokenor unspoken however,this national"secret" complementto crime and in many of its public representations (cf. Sloop 1996). The academic study of prisons is enmeshed in this contradiction:On the one contributesto the abstractionthat protects hand, the appearanceof "objectivity" these sites from view, while on the other,intenseengagementrunsthe dangerof a compulsiveintimacywith the termsprovidedby the prisonitself.


In 1939 Rusche& Kirchheimer asked,"Towhatextentis the developmentof penal methodsdeterminedby ... social relations?" (Rusche& Kirchheimer1939). This had in the question great impact years following the reissue of their work in 1968, the same year in which the Paris studentuprisingstruckFoucaultwith the realization,he latersaid, thathe had been talkingaboutpower all along (Foucault 1980, pp. 115-16; also see Bright 1996, pp. 15-18). In Discipline and Punish FoucaultturnedRusche & Kirchheimer's questionon its head to offer the prison as an originarygroundfor the analysis of power (Foucault1979). Otherscholars,



influencedby the same moment, producedless generalizableaccounts that also direct attentionto the contingent natureof the prison and its embeddednessin social and political conditions(Howe 1994, pp. 63-64). Like Foucault, particular they challenge conventionalor "marchof progress"accounts(Howe 1994, Cohen 1988; for examples of conventionalhistoriessee Am. Correct.Assoc. 1983, Keve 1991). The more materialistof these approaches,and the closest to Rusche, considers prisons in direct relationshipto labor conditions. Writing about Americanpenitentiaries of the early nineteenth century, Melossi sees them as a response to economic dislocationin a society in which "Pauperism ... came to be intimately connectedwith the problemof... criminalbehavior" anda "voluntaristic explanation of 'beingpoor' [was] conduciveto a 'punitive'approach" (Melossi & Pavarini 1981, p. 119). At the Auburnpenitentiary-one of the firstAmericanprisons-a combinationof factory-stylelabor duringthe day and isolation at night created in the same way as the dominantform of factorywork"(Melossi "workstructured & Pavarini1981, p. 129; Melossi 1978). This approachcan be criticized for its insistenceon the primacyof the economic (as, e.g. by Howe 1994), butas a demystificationof the rhetoricof reformit also highlightsthe compulsivetemporaland of modernity. Prisonlabormimics the factorynot becausethe spatialarrangements factoryis the primaryinstitutionfrom which prison derives,but because the conin the postcolonialprison constitutes figurationof bodies, work, and architecture a form of power peculiarto the new democraticregime (Foucault 1979, Gordon 1991). This configurationis central to three histories written in the 1970s that join of mind" as central to the Discipline and Punish in regardingthe "architecture moder prison (Bender 1987). Rothmanconsidersthe asylums and penitentiaries of the Jacksonianera less in economic termsthanas the consequenceof a political responseto widespreadfear of social disorder(Rothman1971; see also Rothman was "one of the 1980). This response rested on the assumptionthat architecture most important of the moral sciences" (Rothman1971, p. 83). Evansexplores the [was] ... a serviceparalleldevelopmentin Englandof the belief that"architecture able weaponin the war... againstvice ... as a vessel of conscience and as pattern giverto society.. ." (Evans 1982, p. 6). The intentto make"eachindividual... the instrument of his own punishment," in the wordsof one proponent (Rothman1971), was most fully realizedat Pentonvillein England.Ignatieffdescribesthe enforceof totalisolationsustainedby an ment,in this mid-nineteenth-century penitentiary, "bureaucratic formalism" impersonal (Ignatieff1978, p. 113). "Mencame apartin the loneliness and the silence [and] ... were takenaway to the asylum"(Ignatieff 1978, p. 9). Further of the social contextandmoralcontingencyof thenineteenthunpacking has followed these criticalhistories.Important, centuryprison thoughso farscanty, is workthatmakesclearthe centralrelationship between slaveryandthe American prison.The coexistence of slaverywith the new penitentiary system was theorized advocates of whom were involved in the (some by prison antislaverymovement)



in termsof the beneficialeffects of laboron the mind (soul). Slaves were not subbut the position of the prisoneras a "slaveof the state" ject to reformof character, came bothto substitute for slaveryandto serveas an impetusfor the rationalization of prison discipline (Hirsch 1992, p. 76; Davis 1998a, p. 99; Lichtenstein1996; Oshinsky 1997; Wacquant2000). One reading of the relationshipbetween the prison and the constructionof self (that is, the soul or mind that was considered absent in slaves) locates the intent to rewritethe "character" of prisonersin the earlier context of eighteenth-century literaryconventionsthat portraythe newly modem individual."Boththe realistnovel and the penitentiary pretendthat characteris autonomous, butin bothcases invisible authority... fostersthe illusion [of a] consciousness ... as free to shape circumstanceas to be shapedby it" (Bender this 1987, p. 212; cf. Foucault1979). Individual"freedomto shapecircumstance," of the historicalprison,continuesto be the most familiar foundational"pretense" defense of prison discipline and labor,masking both racially discontemporary incarceration and the use of inmateworkersin the global economy proportionate Alford et al 1996; cf. Cole 1999 Davis 1998b, 1999). Bennett 2000, (e.g. A pervasiverhetoricof reform is built into the modem prison from the outset (Foucault 1979; e.g. Bookspan 1991, Pisciotta 1994). Ignatieffends his grim account of Pentonvilleby hopefully suggesting that to "piercethroughthe rhetoric ... [of] carcerel power as 'reform"'is to prevent this "suffocatingvision of the past" from "adjust[ing]us to the cruelties of the future"(Ignatieff 1978). Instead, a new set of reforms was springing up even as he wrote, including a conservative"newrealism"thateschews utilitarian(rehabilitative) approachesin favor of incapacitation(e.g. Bennett et al 1996, Dilulio 1987). Today's supermaximumprisonsisolate inmatesmuch as Pentonvilledid, but have largely abandoned any gestures towardrehabilitation. Cohen noted in 1983 that in Orwell's the more to were dystopia "proles" subject segregationthanto thoughtcontrol.He we that be speculatedprophetically might headed for a similardivision between those subjectto normalization(throughvarious therapeuticstrategies)and those andpoliced (Cohen 1983, p. 121;cf. Hammet al 1994, Parenti simplyencapsulated 1999). Nevertheless,the penological and criminologicalliterature dependson proposals for change, and in makingthem critics are drawninto an inevitablerelationship to the rhetoricthey hope to "pierce."Cohen quotes Adoro's remarkthat to hate it properly" "Onemustbelong to a tradition (Cohen 1988, p. 5). Reflecting (from the perspectiveof 1985) on his careeras a critical criminologist,he writes that "EveryattemptI ever made to distance myself from the subject,to criticize it, even to question its very right to exist, has only got me more involved in its inner life" (Cohen 1988, p. 8). One consequenceof this ambivalenceon the part of criticaltheoristshas been a series of shifting identificationsof "where"power is. Is the enemy centralized authority,in which case "community"corrections and treatmentoffer a way out? Or is community itself a euphemism for intrusive surveillanceand normalization? (Cohen 1983, 1985; cf. Torrey1997). Such oppositions are enmeshed in a repetitivecycle of reform that seems to draw all



who enter-whether self-consciously or not-into the strategiesthroughwhich power/knowledgereconfiguresand disguises itself. Following the publication of Discipline and Punish, numerous historians weighed in with objections, though there seems to be general agreementabout the moment when the modem disciplinary apparatustook shape (Howe 1994, Ignatieff 1983, Megill 1987). Leaving this aside, however,both conventionaland critical histories of the prison show that "discipline"in prisons has in fact been erraticand temporary(Beaumont& de Tocqueville 1964[1833], pp. 162-163; cf. Hamm et al 1994, O'Brien 1982). We are misled about the implicationsfor theschemes for the prison and miss the ory if we take too seriously administrative extent and implications of slippage away from them (Ransom 1997, p. 33; cf. Alford 2000, Garland & Young 1983). The contemporary prisoncalls out for analysis along the lines suggested by the work of Ransom,Feldman,and others who ask how disciplinarypower has those gaps and openings suggestedby Foucault's commentson power's inevitablelink to resistance(Feldman1991, Ransom 1997; for a compelling recent example, see Jackson& Burke 1999). Studies of the historical prison lend depth to our understanding of the "deep struggle ... between discipline and its objects"(Bright 1996, p. 26) and suggest thatthe contemporary prison be seen not only as shapedbut also as hauntedby the past (Gordon 1997, pp. 3-28).


Beginning in 1933, the Stateville Penitentiaryin Illinois had an official job title called sociologist-actuary.Although the academics who held it had "no impact whatever"on day-to-dayprison operation,it was symbolic of the decades-long relationshipbetween the prison and University of Chicago sociologists (Jacobs 1977, p. 19). Classic works by these scholarsconsideredthe prison of the 1930s and 1940s a "small society" or a "society of captives,"best understoodin terms of roles and hierarchies.This view was reinforcedby the isolated and relatively homogeneous characterof prison populationsat the time (Clemmer 1958, Sykes 1958; for a prisoner'saccountof this era at Stateville, see Leopold 1957). By the 1970s it hadbecome clearthatprisonswere in a stateof fluxandless atthe thanthese accountssuggest (Irwin 1988). Jacobs,a memberof the next "margins" of Chicagosociologists, approached Statevillethrough a combination of generation archivalresearchand participant observationwith inmates.Influencedby Rusche & Kirchheimer andRothman,as well as his Chicagomentors,he viewed the prison as it moved away from the rigidly authoritarian "developmentally" regime of the 1930s and 1940s (Jacobs 1977, cf. Erickson 1957). Irwin studied the prison in earlier(Irwin 1970, Soledad, California,where he had himself been incarcerated Both Jacobs and Irwin attributed the of decline the 1980). "Big House" prisons of the previousera to "penetration" social welfare, and gang influences. by legal, The old orderof authoritydecayed throughsuccessive periods of reformas links


RHODES to the civil rights movement,increased(cf. Cummins to the outside, particularly 1994). Both JacobsandIrwinpoint to some reasonswhy little additionalethnographic workhas been done in US prisons(cf. Tonry& Petersilia1999a,p. 10). The period of relativepermeabilityto academicshad subsidedby the early 1980s with the indescribedatits of prisonmanagement andrationalization creasedbureaucratization on inceptionby Jacobs(see also Irwin& Austin 1993). His appendix "participant recountshis unsuccessfulstruggleto avoid identifiobservationamongprisoners" cationwith anyparticular groupandthe threatsleveled againsthim when he failed (Jacobs 1977, pp. 215-229). Such an unpredictablesituationwould be avoided today (for exceptions see Fleisher 1989, Thomas by most prison administrators 1988, Owen 1998 and,forjournalism,Bergner1998). In addition,the sociologists entrantsinto the prisonsof the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and otherreform-minded reflexive were engaged in a "loop"in which theirperspectiveon humannaturefor prison"subcultures"andenthusiasm in rehabilitation belief their particularly the to experimentalprogramsthroughout country;these were largely contributed abandoned after the violent inmate uprisings of the 1970s and early 1980s (Unseem & Kimball 1989, Braswell et al. 1994; but for Canadaand GreatBritain see Duguid 2000 and Waldram1997). Some continuingsociological researchexploresthe socializationandrole adapofficers(guards), tationof correctional remindingus thatprisonworkersareworthy of study in theirown right (Crouch 1980, Philliber 1987, Zimmer 1989). One rebecamea guardin a Texasprison.His descriptionof his own socialization searcher and subsequentwitnessing of extremeviolence towardinmatessuggests both the difficulty of entering this world and the ethical hazardsencounteredonce in it accountby ajournalistsee Conover 1986;for anexcellentcontemporary (Marquart center of at the States is also Violence of Seige, which describes in detail 2000). the social dynamicsof prisonriots (Unseem & Kimball 1989). Anotherheir to the sociological traditionis the social psychologist Toch, who has developed an ecoand coping logical approachthatconsidersprisoners'lives in termsof adaptation Toch & Adams Morris also see Johnson 1998, 1994). 1987, styles (Toch 1977; Toch's perspectiveis helpful for its emphasison the interactiveaspects of prison work and developmentalorientationto the experienceof being imprisoned.


The anthropologicalwork that has been conductedin and about prisons is more self-conscious than the sociological perspectivesjust described,and reveals contradictionsperhapsless obvious in more accessible ethnographiccontexts. Analytic and criticalpossibilities thatemerge by virtueof the prison's "confinement" of resistance within a (presumably) observable space are fraught with difficulty in coming to know this resistance as an outsider (cf. Bright 1996, pp. 1-31). Not least of these difficultiesis that observationitself is what is being



resisted.Feldman'saccountof political violence in NorthernIrelandrelies on former prisoners' descriptionsof extremes of brutalityand resistance, a context in was an and"informer" which the usually submergedkinshipbetween"informant" obserexplicit danger.Feldmannotes thatin "acultureof surveillance,participant vationis... a formof complicitywith those outsiderswho surveil"(Feldman1991, p. 12). He chose insteadto gatheroralhistoriesthatdescribehow largerstructures of authorityand dominationare both expressedin and resistedby political action at the level of the body. This move gives him compelling access to the prisoner's bodily relationto the prison, while offering some protectionfrom (retrospective) the political implicationsof telling and listening. has come to standfor the possibilThe now-classic StanfordPrisonExperiment ity thatthe individualswho makeup the prisonare susceptibleto being "madeup" of domination(Haney et al 1981; by it accordingto their positions in a structure writcf. Butler 1990, Hacking1986, Morris1995). Two ethnographic monographs to this dynamic. ten in the 1980s suggest the susceptibilityof the anthropologist In strikingcontrastto Feldman's approach,Fleischer enlisted the supportof the Bureauof Prisons to become a correctionalofficer at the FederalPenitentiaryat Lompoc,California.He describesa periodin which "Ibeganto thinkof myself as a correctionalworker... I was becominglost... whathacks [guards]did was right, what convicts did was wrong" (Fleisher 1989, p. 112). The result, Warehousing of violence. Violence, is a vividly realist account supportingthe "warehousing" Fleischer contends that the "profit-making can, maximum-security penitentiary" undergood management,become a "peaceful"solution to violence by hard-core offenders. Thomas, whose participantobservationin a prison drew him toward what he came to see as a slippery slope of identificationwith inmates, describes the pull in the opposite direction."Inten years of research,many informantsbecame close friends... therewas a dangerthatI mightbegin to romanticize[them]" (Thomas 1993, p. 46). His decision to write on topics "less vulnerableto distorresultedin an ethnography centeredon the studied tion by emotionalattachment" resistanceof jailhouse lawyering(Thomas 1993, p. 47; Thomas 1988). are acutely aware of how their subjects are poBoth of these ethnographers sitioned and show how the formationof self and "others"proceeds at multiple levels within the hierarchicalstructureof the prison. They do not, however, see how these positions entail a cumulativeinvestmentin performancesthat must be repeatedlydeveloped and asserted in practice. Thus, they describe the bedrock driveto legitimatethe institutionthroughrepetitiveacts of dominationbut tend to of either inmatesor staff. Feldmanis helpattribute the results to the "character" ful here because, though he does not observe these interactions,he groundshis of lawful in the body with the aim of "fractur[ing] the appearance understanding of centers of and local acts domination" between (Feldman continuity legitimation 1991, p. 2). Thoughthe accountsof FleischerandThomasarerich in an awareness of "local acts," they do not engage the tension underlying"lawfulcontinuity"as it emerges in both the effort of legitimation and the need to conceal its fundamentalinstability(cf. Benjamin1986[1920], Santner1996). Withoutthis element,


RHODES with however,it is difficultto situatethe prisonbeyondits internalpreoccupations who has power and why, and to ask, instead,how they have it and what supports and legitimatesits expression(Rhodes 1998; LA Rhodes in preparation).

The majorityof prison studies describe male inmates without reflecting on the implicationsof this depictionor the languagein which it is framed(Howe 1994). Feministwriterspoint to a doubleinvisibilityhere thatappliesto both women and men. Women prisonershave been largely ignored by historicaland sociological work, though a rather scant gender-sensitiveliteratureruns parallel to the approachesdiscussedthusfar.The criticalhistoryand sociology of womenprisoners neglectedandsubjectedto specificallyinsuggestthattheymay be simultaneously trusiveandabusiveformsof discipline(Belknap2000; Carlen1983, 1998; Dobash et al 1986; Freedman1981; Rafter1985; Zedner1998; for an anthologyof writing by womenprisonerssee Scheffler1986). Manyobserversnote thatnormsof female domesticityinfluencethe discipline imposed on women and intensify the pain of fromfamilies (Howe 1994), so thateven in when they are separated imprisonment prisonthereis "noplace where(women)... can be consideredas family-immune" (Carlen 1998, p. 86). Several contemporaryscholars and journalistsexplore the and life storiesof women prisoners,connectionsbetween women's imprisonment and the social dynamicsof women's prisons the generalincreasein incarceration, (Girshick 1999, Owen 1998, Rierden 1997, Watterson& Chesney-Lind 1996). feminist with this effort to bring attentionto women's imprisonment, Concurrent a norscholarshave also become increasinglyawareof the dangerof reproducing mative category of "women"and "repeat[ing]criminology's 'will to truth"'in relationto it (Howe 1994, p. 214). The second invisibility pertainsto the fact that the maleness of prisons is so taken for grantedin penal history and contemporary criminology.This suggests than looking at men as prisonerswe might look at prisonersas men" that "rather (Sim 1994, p. 101;cf. Howe 1994, Naffine 1996). Such a perspective,so farbarely visible in the expanseof prisonliterature, opensup questionsof theprison'svarious displays of masculinepower, men as victims of violence in prison, the influence of crime and prisons, and the explorationof of genderedpopularrepresentations unconsciousgenderassumptionsin criminologyandpenology (Naffine 1996, Sim 1994).


The increasingimpact of prisons on growing numbersof people is a compelling attentionto these institutions.Manyissues have reasonfor turninganthropological arisen or become more acute in the years of expansion and are in need of fresh insight and analysis. Prominentamong them are racism in the criminaljustice



system, including the prison (Cole 1999, Davis 1998b, Donziger 1996, Walker et al 2000); the increasing numbers and long sentences of women in prison (Donziger 1996);increasingnumbersof mentallyill inmates(Kupers1999, Torrey 1997), including those in supermaxprisons (Lovell et al 2000); an expansion of policing that overlapsthe operationof the prison (Parenti1999); economic globalization and changes in employment patternsthat affect both prison staff and prisoners(Gilmore 1998/1999); high-techforms of solitaryconfinement(Dowker & Good 1995, Parenti 1999); and the impact of imprisonmenton families and 2000). AlthoughI have indicatedsome neighborhoods(Gilmore 1998, Wacquant of the availableanalysesof these issues, few includeeithergeneralanthropological or specificallyethnographic perspectives. The most pressingneed for the study of prisonsis to challenge the termsof the discourse that frames and supportsthem. One possibility I have mentionedis to extend to contemporary prisons the kinds of questions that have been applied to their history. For example, Foucault queried the productionand "utility"of the discourse on the "dangerousindividual"as the object of new nineteenth-century forms of policing and confinement(Foucault 1980, p. 47, 1988). This discourse has since multiplied exponentially (see, e.g. Hare 1993, Meloy 1997), and its currentversion figuresheavily in prison management.Antidotescan be found in recent works that explore the developmentof classificatorysystems within and outside institutionsin the late nineteenthand early twentiethcenturies(Donzelot 1997, Kittler 1990, Leps 1992) and in the criticalunpackingof the contemporary classificatoryand criminologicalimpulse (Knox 1998, Lesser 1993, Seltzer 1998, Tithecott 1997). These authorssuggest avenues for exploringthe constructionof criminality and madness in the practices of prisons and in the criminaljustice system more generally.What effect does classification have on those classified and on those doing the classifying? How does the productivityof classification intersect with other practices, such as prison industry(labor) and education, in institutionsbased on principlesof transparency and rationality?(cf. Carlen 1983; Nuckolls Rhodes 1998; 1998, 2001; Sloop 1996). Hacking 1986; A second possible challenge to the prevailing discourse centers on the link between transparency (surveillance)and subjection.It is possible to simply crithe tique contemporaryprison as a site of visual power, but doing so produces a ratherstatic and functionalistargumentthat fails to take into account the play of visibility and opacity in these settings (cf. Alford 2000). Morehelpful is to take Foucault'scritiqueof vision beyond its use as a metaphorfor reflexivity.Ransom (1997) suggests that power/knowledgeoffers the possibility of interception,a fluid and sometimes fragile overlappingand disjunction.This perspectivecan be used, for example, to understandthe complex dynamics of the relationshipbetween psychiatry,"treatment," and the prison(Carlen1998; Duguid 2000; Kupers 1999; Lunbeck 1994; Rhodes 1998, 2000). We can thus discover a less automatically reflexive, more complex site for resistance in the form of unexpected subjective, interpersonal and/or bodily identifications (Bright 1996, Rhodes 1998).


RHODES These possibilities must be seen, however, in relation to the specifics of the currentpolitical economy and the hauntingof the Americanprison by slavery,as well as in light of the use of force in contemporary prisons(Davis 1998a,b;Gilmore 1998/1999; Kerness 1998; Reiman 1998; Wacquant2000). Power/knowledgeis not, as Foucaulthimself noted, intendedto encompass conditions more closely resembling slavery or torture,both of which can also be found in (some) US prisons (Hammet al 1994, Kerness 1998). Thus, we need to ask, not only about the "fit" of power, knowledge, and the prison, but about those areas in which other forms of dominationneed to be addressed.The close connection between and policing, the use of electronic weapons and restraints,and the incarceration withinprisonsall point to hybrid preventivedetentionof reputed"gangmembers" forms of power with particularly problematicimplicationsin light of the current of people of color (Parenti1999). massive incarceration The entanglementof the prison with the intellectualhistory of the West also to those andoralhistoryapproaches calls out for explorationthroughethnographic involved as families of correctional workers,adminprisoners, directly prisoners, of much and manufacturers. The istrators,architects, analysis of prison premise certain elements of practice that internal contradictions and is paradoxical history Those in "the system"strugglewith can be discoveredin institutionalstructures. the terms of these contradictionsand may have something to tell us about how this struggle unfolds. If argumentsabout prisons are happeningin prisons and expressedin daily practice,then we might expect them to shed some light on how such discoursesbecome so hardto dislodge.

"traditional" A few of the prison researchersdescribedhere have approximated andwithouttheirworkwe wouldknow less aboutprisonsthanwe do. ethnography, in the situationof can "participate" however,no outsider/observer Fundamentally, the prisoner.Prison workersare well aware that this is the case for all visitors, often offering enthusiastictours of their facilities that reveal and conceal in the same gesture.The ethnographer may get past the tourto an extent,butprisonsare opacitythatthwartseven those who govern,manage, pervadedby an interpersonal or live in them (cf. Bergner 1998, Conover2000). To forget one's position as an troubleof variouskindsbut, outsideris to be in danger,not only frominterpersonal Herethe fromalarming emotionalandintellectualidentifications. moreenduringly, but nonetheless fantasized desire for compelling)alignment (perhaps ethnographic with one's subject(s) must be relinquishedor at least bracketed(Daniel 1985, p. 246). Nor can one discountthe element of coercion thatdogs the acquisitionof of relationsinside in this setting (cf. Homblum 1998). The structure "knowledge" the prison should disabuse us of the hope-often held in spite of ourselvescan trumppower/knowledgeitself (Feldman thatknowledgeof power/knowledge



This undermining of ethnographic identificationis counterbalanced by the potentialfor ananthropology of prisonsto engageus in otherways. Althoughthe inacdifficult,they do not necescessibility andopacityof the prisonmakeethnography sarilyprecludeit. In a thoughtfuldiscussionof whatshe calls "quasi-ethnography" in a women's prison,Owen points out thatthe necessity for restraint on her partfor example, her recognitionthatprisonersmay have too little privacyto tolerate the intrusionof a researcher-also deepenedherunderstanding of the situationshe was studying(Owen 1998). Restraintsimposedon researchby prisonstaff may be comes to apprecisimilarlyfolded into the processthroughwhichthe ethnographer atethe largerdynamicsof restraint (cf. Waldram 1998). governingtheseinstitutions This kind of work, so obviously partialand so inescapablypart of the historical context it aims to illuminate(Feldman1991), forces an awarenessof the paradoxical entanglementsthat snag us in the very categoriesand problemswe set out to study. we are Althoughno single work of anthropologywill resolve this conundrum, increasinglyawarethatsocial suffering-in wars,illness, andas a resultof a myriad of formsof social injustice-raises the issue of how we might speakto andagainst culturalanesthesiawithoutcontributing to its perpetuation (Daniel 1998, Feldman 1994, Kleinman & Kleinman 1997, Scheper-Hughes 1995). The dramatically bounded space of that "othercountry"of prisoners (Baca 1998) demands that we engage the hauntedand saturatedquality of specific routines of domination while not losing sight of the "prisonnation"in which they occur (Hallinan2001). We may hope that an anthropologythus groundedcan offer some resistance to the historical undertowof compulsive repetition.The task of steering between abstractand fetishized representation is delicate, but it containsthe possibility of a necessary confrontationwith the brutefacts of dominationas they play out in institutionsthathavebecome ubiquitous,if partiallyveiled, featuresof ourcultural and political landscape. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am gratefulto Michelle Barryfor herassistanceandto DavidAllen, DavidLovell, KristinCloyes, CherylCooke, and Val Daniel for theircomments. Visit the Annual Reviewshome page at www.AnnualReviews.org LITERATURE CITED
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