Young Men's Experiences of Long‐Term Imprisonment: Living Life R.R. Tynan. Abingdon: Routledge (2019) 186pp. £120.00hb, £36.99pb ISBN 9781315208299

Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
The Howard Journal Vol59 No 4. December 2020 DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12399
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 531–545
Book Reviews
Embodying Punishment: Emotions, Identities, and Lived Experiences in Women’sPrisons A. Cham-
berlen. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2018) 288pp. £70.00hb ISBN 9780198749240
Prison’s ‘pains’ are the pains of the body. (p.187)
Embodying Punishment, winner of the British Society of Criminology 2019 book prize,
is a rich and fully-theorised account of women’s bodily experience of imprisonment
within England and Wales, adopting a refreshingly forthright commitment to an ex-
plicitly feminist exploration of punishment at the hands of the (inherently patriarchal)
State. Throughout this volume, Dr Anastasia Chamberlen explores with sensitivity and
passion the ways in which women’s experiences of carceral placement and treatment are
embodied, paying close attention to the subjective ways in which penal power is inflicted
on, felt through, and inscribed upon, the body.
This phenomenological study, which privileges women’s subjective experiences of
prison life, is grounded in data primarily generated through face-to-face interviews
with former prisoners, supplemented with ‘long-answer questionnaires’ from women
incarcerated at HMP Bronzefield. The methodological details of the study, based on
Chamberlen’s experiences as a doctoral researcher, should prove instructive for post-
graduate or novice prison researchers, particularly in terms of the challenges of gaining
access (or not) and realising an explicitly feminist and phenomenological research de-
sign. In fact, these methodological considerations and experiences are so valuable that it
seems a shame to have consigned them to the book’s appendices.
The opening chapters of Embodying Punishment (Introduction and Chapter 1) seek
to theoretically frame and historically contextualise the empirical research and findings
detailed by Chamberlen across the central matter of the book. Through a historical reflec-
tion on the punishment-body relation, Chapter 1 explores the ways in which the criminal
justice system has long functioned as a site of regulation, oppression, and resistance for
troublesome bodies, making a clear case for the value of embodiment as a critical lens
within carceral studies. Indeed, the contents of Chapter 1 serve as a timely reminder
(were one needed) that 21st-Century ‘justice’ systems are rooted in deeply oppressive
and colonial methods of dominating others. Here, Chamberlen lays bare the ways in
which ‘civilised’ society has long sought to identify, brand, enslave, and remove – both
temporarily and irrevocably – gendered, racialised, and otherwise criminalised bodies.
The remainder of the book (Chapters 2 to 6) seeks to locate and extend these ideas
through exploring the lived experiences of women in prison. In doing so, Chamberlen
constructs a powerful and legitimate challenge to persisting post-Sykesian claims that
contemporary penal punishment is directed more towards the mind and soul than the
body.Indeed, the bulk of Embodying Punishment acts to systematically dismantle the ‘mind-
body dualism’ which has plagued much penological research (including, on reflection,
some of my own), which tends to overlook the role of corporeality in creating the ‘pains
of imprisonment’.
Adopting the lens of embodiment makes space for Chamberlen to construct
a uniquely somatic insight into women’s embodied perceptions of imprisonment.
2020 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK

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