A Feminist Ethnography of Secure Wards for Women with Learning Disabilities : Locked Away book cover
1st Edition

A Feminist Ethnography of Secure Wards for Women with Learning Disabilities
Locked Away

ISBN 9780367338947
Published May 23, 2019 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

What is life like for women with learning disabilities detained in a secure unit? This book presents a unique ethnographic study conducted in a contemporary institution in England.

Rebecca Fish takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on both the social model of disability and intersectional feminist methodology, to explore the reasons why the women were placed in the unit, as well their experiences of day-to-day life as played out through relationships with staff and other residents. She raises important questions about the purpose of such units and the services they offer.

Through making the women’s voices heard, this book presents their experiences and unique perspectives on topics such as seclusion, restraint, and resistance. Exploring how the ever present power disparity works to regulate women’s behaviour, the book shows how institutional responses replicate women’s bad experiences from the past, and how women’s responses are seen as pathological. It demonstrates that women are not passive recipients of care, but shape their own identity and futures, sometimes by resisting the norms expected of them (within allowed limits) and sometimes by transgressing the rules.  These insights thus challenge traditional institutional accounts of gender, learning disability and deviance and highlight areas for reform in policy, practice, methodology, and social theory.

This ground-breaking book will be of interest to scholars, students, policymakers and advocates working in the fields of learning disability and disability studies more widely, gender studies and sociology.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: One Year, One Unit

Chapter 2: Learning Disabled Women in Secure Services

Chapter 3: Life on the Unit

Chapter 4: Relationships on the Locked Ward

Chapter 5: Difficult Women?

Chapter 6: Moving On: Progression Through Services

Chapter 7: Intersections – Making Conclusions


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Rebecca Fish has been working with people with learning disabilities since 1997. Her early work explored the meaning of self-harm for people with learning disabilities and the staff who work with them. This work informed policy and practice in the UK. She completed her PhD in 2015 and works as a researcher for the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University.