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This article is based on our first experiences visiting prisons, and being surprised by the ways in which the inside and outside often seemed indistinct. One of our narratives comes from England, the other from Norway. Our analysis emerges from a recognition that, despite visiting prisons for different research projects in different countries, our experiences in prison spaces shared striking similarities. We had each expected prisons to have clear and demarcated boundaries between inside and outside, consistent with Goffman's binary distinctions in the total institution model. However, this model was not a good fit with our view of prisons, since it did not capture the importance of indistinction. The inside and outside were often entangled and fused with one another, having both distinctions and indistinctions simultaneously. The seemingly incompatible juxtapositions between inside and outside were consistent with the Foucauldian concept of heterotopia, as a better fit with our ideas. Our observations improve our understanding of confinement as a dynamic and often contradictory state of be-tweenness. After exploring our personal narratives from visiting prisons, some theoretical implications of the concept of heter-otopia within institutional research are discussed and contrasted to that of total institution.
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Keywords: England; Norway; Prisons; confinement; heterotopia; total institution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Social Work, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana and Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, United Kingdom., Email: [email protected] 2: Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies, University of Bergen, Nygårdsgaten 5, N-5015 Bergen, Norway., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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