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Embodied Surveillance and the Gendering of Punishment.docx

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Jennifer Carlson

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Embodied Surveillance and the Gendering of Punishment
Jill McCorkel
“Rather than signaling the decline of gendered organization, the equality with a
vengeance era marks shift in how gender is conceived and elaborated within the
criminal justice system”
This ethnography explores enactment of “get tough” politics in state prison for
women and considers whether implementation of supposedly gender-neutral
programs and policies implies that women’s prisons are no longer operating as
“gendered organizations”
Author demonstrates that even when women’s prisons try to mimic discipline
policies of men’s facilities, they modify disciplinary practices in response to
perceived differences in offending between men and women
Crucial medication is use of “embodied surveillance” that differs from Foucault’s
analysis of penal surveillance mechanisms
Research that focuses on men challenged criminology’s exclusive focus on male
prisoners and problematized conditions in womens prisons
Studies of womens prisons raise important questions regarding how gender
organizes structure of practice of punishment
Acker’s concept of gendered organizations- organizations not gender neutral
entities through which gendered bodies pass; argues that organizational structure
is fundamentally gendered (i.e. gender wage difference)
oAcker concludes that gender is “present in the organization’s processes,
practices, images, and ideologies, and distributions of power”
Britton’s research applied Acker’s concepts to prisons; her research explores
inmate supervision as form of work and considers how job of guarding female
inmates became feminized
Intent of this research to explore how gender is implicated in mechanisms of
surveillance and punishment and to examine why it figures so prominently in how
punishment is conceived at organizational level
McCorkel argues that punishment and surveillance are gendered concepts in sense
that they are enacted differently in mens and womens institutions and that
differences in penal practice are legitimated within prison organization by
conceptualizing female inmates as both “gender deviants” and “deviant criminals”
Foucault, Prison, and Gender
According to Foucault- the objective of modern disciplinary institutions and
surveillance mechanisms is to produce “docile and useful bodies”
oFoucault treats the body as if it were one- as if the bodily experiences of
men and women did not differ
Because organizations are not gender neutral, their policies and practices will both
activate and sustain differentiation on basis of gender
Historical studies find that the purpose of disciplining bodies of women in
reformatory system not for work in paid labor market (as it was for men) but for
reproductive labor in domestic sphere
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