1st Edition

Confinement, Punishment and Prisons in Africa

    262 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    262 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This interdisciplinary volume presents a nuanced critique of the prison experience in diverse detention facilities across Africa.

    The book stresses the contingent, porous nature of African prisons, across both time and space. It draws on original long-term ethnographic research undertaken in both Francophone and Anglophone settings, which are grouped in four parts. The first part examines how the prison has imprinted itself on wider political and social imaginaries and, in turn, how structures of imprisonment carry the imprint of political action of various times. The second part stresses how particular forms of ordering emerge in African prisons. It is held that while these often involve coercion and neglect, they are better understood as the product of on-going negotiations and the search for meaning and value on the part of a multitude of actors. The third part is concerned with how prison life percolates beyond its physical perimeters into its urban and rural surroundings, and vice versa. It deals with the popular and contested nature of what prisons are about and what they do, especially in regard to bringing about moral subjects. The fourth and final part of the book examines how efforts of reforming and resisting the prison take shape at the intersection of globally circulating models of good governance and levels of self-organisation by prisoners.

    The book will be an essential reference for students, academics and policy-makers in Law, Criminology, Sociology and Politics.


    Introduction: thinking with prisons in Africa (Julia Hornberger, Frédéric Le Marcis and Marie Morelle)

    The carceral imprint

    1. Words, walls, and hierarchies: on some colonial legacies in the Burundian prison (Christine Deslaurier)
    2. Improving daily life? Senegalese prisoners’ use of letters as an attempt to reform colonial prison (1930s) (Romain Tiquet)
    3. Confinement and development in Ethiopia: the uses of prison in public policies (Sabine Planel)
    4. Mass expulsion as internal exclusion: police raids and the imprisonment of West African immigrants in Ghana, 1969–1972 (Nana Quarshie)
    5. Economies of value

    6. ‘As if they can squeeze you to death’: recollections of post-arrest journeys towards and into prison in South Africa (Sasha Gear)
    7. The carceral impasse seen from the perspective of street youth in Burkina Faso (Muriel Champy)
    8. The value of prison in South Africa: performing the prison experience beyond the prison (Julia Hornberger)
    9. Tension within the dispensation of justice

    10. ‘I don’t steal, I don’t lie, I cut!’ The paradoxes of the imprisonment of women for female genital mutilation in Burkina Faso (Frédéric Le Marcis)
    11. In search of justice in an uncertain world (South Africa) (Musa Risimati)
    12. A justice that dare not speak its name? Amicable settlements in the commune of Abobo (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire) (Sirius Epron)
    13. Transforming the prison

    14. The languages of prison reform: how to speak about punishment in a period of political transition (Tunisia, 2011–2019) (Yasmine Bouagga).
    15. Claiming rights in Yaoundé Central Prison (Marie Morelle)
    16. The uses of pre-trial detention: a case study at the Maison Centrale in Conakry (Maud Angliviel)
    17. Prison and the politics of the ‘redemption script’: a view from Johannesburg, South Africa (Kathy Rawlings)
    18. ‘Mother, you can’t leave us here’: thinking about incarcerated homosexuality. Interview with Ms Alice Nkom, Esq., lawyer at the Cameroon Bar (Marie Morelle)


    Marie Morelle is Professor at Lyon 2 University, France.

    Frédéric Le Marcis is a professor of social anthropology at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France.

    Julia Hornberger is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.