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Séminaire européen Sciences sociales et santé mentale

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Rationalizing the ‘Total Institution’
Mark Freestone (University of Durham, UK)

27 mars 2007

Discutants: Olivier Doron & Fabrice Fernandez
In late 2004, I was granted funding by the UK Department of Health to conduct an ethnographic investigation of the new maximum-security Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD) Units in the UK – recently described as ‘psychiatric manifestations of the “risk society”’ – together with some equivalent institutions in the EU. Loïc Wacquant (2002) lamented the recent ‘demise of prison ethnography’, and this study contributes at once to its resurrection whilst also acknowledging that these facilities are far removed from the ‘asylums’ depicted by Erving Goffman in the 1960s. Drawing on structured observations homologous to Goffman’s study but updated by George Marcus’ notion of ‘multi-sited’ ethnography, and utilizing a theoretical framework for the functioning of the institution based upon the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this paper will depict some of the practical and conceptual difficulties encountered in conducting fieldwork in contemporary high-security facilities. I will present an ethnographic description of institutions whose stated intention is not simply to own, but also to transform, the lifeworlds of the inmates within them through a combination of psychological, psycho-social and pharmacological interventions, effecting a total mortification and subsequent recreation of the self.

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Non disponible Mark Freestone (University of Durham, UK)
Honorary Research Fellow in Sociology/Criminology in the School of Applied Social Sciences