Getting at the Experience of Confinement in Detention
Amir B. Marvasti
Jaber F. Gubrium
Summary, in English
A distinguishing feature of youth detention homes—and any other prisonlike institution—is the fact that inmates cannot just leave. They might escape, and there are ways to be transferred, enjoy an excursion, and get permission for home visits, but typically the young people in this case are supposed to remain within their given institution. I have been eager to not only depict this feature of field sites but also acutely aware of the difficulties of doing so since few of my own living condition resemble those of the young people. I have always, of course, personally been able to just leave. In this chapter, I identify a couple of ways in which I still have tried to come close to the experience of confinement, including (a) getting bored, (b) tasting “light paranoia,” and (c) fiddling with my “identity kit” inside detention homes. By this I mean experiences of having nothing to do and longing to get out, experiences of imagined being controlled, watched, and filmed by the staff, and efforts to uphold integrity by the symbolic use of private belongings. I argue that these and similar ways—together with an equivalent interest when interacting with inmates—can help ethnographers to reach some insight into being caged within institutions, while still enjoying the privilege of freedom.