Privacy in penal space : women’s imprisonment in Russia

Dominique Moran, Judith Pallot, Laura Piacentini

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper deploys a theoretical engagement with the concepts of ‘public’ and ‘private’ to explore the experience of surveilled penal space by incarcerated individuals, and in so doing further advances the new field of carceral geography. Foucault’s description of self-surveillance as the mechanism through which disciplinary power or biopower operates to produce ‘docile’ bodies has been challenged by those who argue for the significance of prisoner agency and the importance of penal space; that socialisation mitigates the effect of biopower, and that prisoners ‘perform’ docility rather than interiorising it. Drawing on extensive empirical evidence gathered during interviews with women prisoners and prison staff in Russia, the paper discusses the ways in which prisoners negotiate and engage with penal spaces. It finds that even though prisoners describe penal space as ‘public’, they find ways of deploying agency to utilise and subvert public space to construct the ‘private’, and argues that a consideration of the contested binary of public/private may be a useful way of investigating prisoners’ agency amidst Foucauldian disciplinary power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-146
Number of pages9
Early online date29 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Prison
  • biopower
  • privacy
  • space
  • agency
  • Russia
  • carceral geography


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