Containment beyond Prison: Confined Freedoms in Nicaragua
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper discusses the “(trans)carceral grip” of prison in Nicaragua at the hand of a gendered exploration of containment both within and beyond the prison compound.
Paper long abstract:
This paper follows a Nicaraguan youth as he leaves prison and becomes part of society again - only to be re-imprisoned. Through his encounters with the carceral state it explores gendered practices of social exclusion and containment, discussing the ideal of “social reinsertion” in light of both uneven carceral expansion and former prisoners’ own practices of freedom and self-censorship. The way in which this youth’s life is entangled with both drug-related crime and its intervention, and his relentless search for freedom and social valorisation allows for an examination of both the gendered politics of containment and prison’s transcarceral grip. Where the police and prison system project the moral high ground in the nation’s fight against “the corruption of our youth” (through their alleged involvement with drugs), these institutions simulteaneously hide their highly ambiguous relationship to both punishment and illegality – a relationship that is expressed both in gendered and extralegal daily practices. After all, drugs circulate widely inside prison and keep an equilibrium of powers in place. Drawing on extensive ethnographic prisons research (2009-2016) conducted in two medium-sized Nicaraguan prisons and sustained contact with former prisoners, including specifically this youth’s life trajectory, this paper explores why particular youth are confined to prison, how they are contained, and what meanings both freedom and containment acquire in their lives.
Containment and excess: techniques for the pacing of mobility, idioms and forms of resistance