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|Children on the outside: the experience of mothering among female inmates
|Granja, Rafaela Patrícia Gonçalves
Cunha, Manuela Ivone P. da
|Granja, R.; Cunha, M. I. P.; Machado, H. (2012) Children on the outside : The experience of mothering among female inmates. 3rd Global Conference Experiencing Prison, 9 –11 Maio 2012 Praga, República Checa.
|This paper examines how the experience of female prison confinement, especially in relation to mothering, is shaped by women’s different trajectories. Results are drawn from interviews with 20 incarcerated mothers in a female prison in Portugal. We aim to explore issues of identity, representations and practices of inmate mothers in a prison context. Our purpose is to analyze motherhood as a dynamic and changing experience according to the contexts in which it unfolds. Primarily, we will focus on the biographical pathways of women prior to incarceration. Then, we will analyze how different trajectories are expressed in prison settings, and how they shape carceral experiences. We will highlight family changes, women’ strategies, and new forms of experiencing motherhood that emerge from the prison context. Finally, we will explore women’s future prospects regarding the relationship and involvement with their children after leaving prison. Our data suggest that traditional gender roles are reproduced insofar as mothering is given as a primary value of femininity. Nevertheless, motherhood in the prison context is affected by contradictions and tensions. While, on the one hand, there’s a discursive exaltation of maternal identity, on the other hand it is difficult to act upon it, since children on the outside are being taken care by others. Since mothering from prison doesn’t involve only mothers and their children, we also highlight how other elements are central in mediating relationships between mothers and their children, promoting or restricting the bonds between them: namely, relationships with caregivers and (re)configurations of mother-child emotional dynamics.
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