oa SA Crime Quarterly - Looking through the lens of prison abolitionism : decolonising incarcerated women’s identities - research

Volume 2019 Number 68
  • ISSN : 1991-3877



Criminological discourses among people of African descent globally continue to suffer from a crisis of application of Western explanatory frameworks with gross implications for the development of African-centred epistemologies and frameworks. One of the central arguments in this paper is that criminological discourses, specifically on class-specific, racialised-gendered identities of incarcerated women, are not free of the colonial matrices of power that underpin imperialism. What will emerge in this article is that incarcerated women’s identities should be reconstructed as women’s criminalisation continues to be framed and presented in monolithic law-and-order ways. A focus on reconstruction is important to decolonise women’s imprisonment by imperialist, white supremacist patriarchy, particularly focusing on how their pluralistic identities, which often collude and collide, shape their trajectories in unpredictable and criss-crossing ways to subject them to criminalisation. An analysis of case studies presented in this article will reveal how Black women’s experiences of womanhood in the criminal justice system are shaped by race, gender and class, which produce different forms of subjectivities and embodied selves. The underlying question therefore is: how can incarcerated women’s identities be reconstructed to challenge the hegemony of the western canon in criminology?

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