Book Review: Women, Incarcerated: Narratives from India by Mahuya Bandyopadhyay and Rimple Mehta (eds)

Published date01 November 2023
AuthorKaran Tripathi
Date01 November 2023
Subject MatterBook Reviews
this East African country. In particular, she places a strong emphasis on the inf‌luence of
presidents in shaping punitive policies in the post-colonial Uganda, and puts forward a
punishment marked by a hyper-rigid verticality of power (Atenga, 2007: 9). Although
this analysis is highly relevant to the understanding of the institutional history of
states, it does not give us enough details about the agency of inmates. It does not tell
us about the relational prison and the porous prison (Martin and Jefferson, 2019), the
degrees of permeability (Schneider, 2020) that allow prisoners to adapt, circumvent
the rules of punishment, or to forge links with their executioners in order to take advan-
tage from their stay in prison. Such a micro-analysis of incarceration is not given enough
prominence, despite the authors desire to quote and interpret prisonersself-writings.
Moreover, the author states from the outset that she wants to produce an analysis that
adopts a different approach, moving away from reformist prescriptions or sensationa-
lized stories of brutality to instead focus on how incarceration was conceptualized,
enacted, experienced, and contested in postcolonial Uganda(p. 17). It is diff‌icult to
develop such a ref‌lection on prisons in the age of sensory criminology without highlight-
ing a sensational story that triggers emotions. The political brutality described in his book
is itself part spectacle, part theatre of violence. This spectacle and this theatricality of vio-
lence convey emotions that readers may interpret as sensational stories. It was therefore
diff‌icult, even for the author, to develop a historical analysis of prisons in authoritarian
regimes without causing a sensation, so to speak.
Atenga T (2007) Cameroun, Gabon, la presse en suris. Paris: Muntu.
Bernault F (1999) Enfermement, prison et châtiments en Afrique, du XIXème siècle à nos jours.
Khartala: Paris.
Martin T and Jefferson A (2019) Prison ethnography in Africa: ref‌lections on a maturing f‌ield.
Politique Africaine 155: 131152.
Schneider LT (2020) Degrees of permeability: conf‌inement, power and resistance in Freetowns
central prison. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 38(1): 88104.
Mahuya Bandyopadhyay and Rimple Mehta (eds), Women,Incarcerated: Narratives from India , Orient
Blackswan: India, 2022; 342 pp.: 9780301066608, £30.30 (pbk)
Reviewed by: Karan Tripathi, School of Law, University of Sheff‌ield, UK
According to the latest off‌icial statistics, there are 22,918 women prisoners in India
(NCRB, 2022). In total, 78% are undertrials, of them, most belong to oppressed or back-
ward caste or a tribal community. Although women constitute only 4.1% of the total
prison population in India (NCRB, 2022), their rate of incarceration has consistently
increased in recent years (20162021). However, little is known about the lived experi-
ence of women prisoners, both within and outside of prison. Womens incarceration has
been severely neglected in policies, practices and academic work on prisons. Seen as
correctional afterthoughts(Ross and Fabiano, 1986), womens deviance and carceral
trajectories have remained largely invisible, ignored or misrepresented (Pollack, 2012).
678 Theoretical Criminology 27(4)

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