Leaving behind the ‘total institution’? Teeth, transcarceral spaces and (re)inscription of the formerly incarcerated body

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  • University of Helsinki


This paper contests Goffmann’s (1961) interpretation of the prison as a ‘total institution’, echoing critiques which draw attention to its spatial porosity and permeability, and drawing attention to the experience of incarceration and reintegration as inherently embodied. It suggests that ‘transcarceral’ spaces, in which released prisoners experience processes of re-confinement, extend the reach of the prison beyond its apparent physical boundaries. Drawing on scholarship within feminist geography which demonstrates the ways in which embodied subjectivities and identities are bound up with assumptions about gender and class, and are place-contingent, it conceptualises the lived experience of incarceration as inherently embodied, and argues that these transcarceral spaces exist not just as physical locales, but also through the ‘inscription’ of incarceration upon the body. Inscriptions of incarceration thus become corporeal markers of imprisonment, blurring the boundary between ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ the prison and extending carceral control through the stigmatisation of ex-inmates. In this context, it presents empirical data generated through qualitative research with female ex-inmates in the Russian Federation, describing how incarceration is inscribed on their bodies in a way which encourages stigmatisation, and which intersects with multiple facets of discrimination to create damaging and limiting power relations, extending the experience of incarceration into ‘free’ life’ by restricting mainstream social interaction and the likelihood of successful reintegration post-release.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-51
Number of pages16
JournalGender Place and Culture A Journal of Feminist Geography
Issue number1
Early online date19 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • embodied, corporeal, carceral geography, stigma, prisoner, reintegration, Russia