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Sharing sociological stories: reflections on teaching sociology in prison

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This paper reflects on an education programme aimed at addressing aspects of the diverse and disrupted educational backgrounds of women in a local prison. The programme, which has been primarily sociological in content, is designed to give participants some idea of what university education involves, but without any of its formal requirements. It has not run altogether smoothly. The problems encountered have prompted this reflection on the storytelling nature of the interaction between educator and participants, that is, on the narrative nature of both the lectures being given and the women's responses to them. This is explored in terms of Tennant's (1998) notion of the situated self in adult education. It is argued that, where prison education is commonly a site of conflict between educational models aimed, at one limit, at correcting individual pathology and, at the other, at analysing oppressive social structures, the narrative approach adopted in this programme offers participants a middle way--an opportunity to reflect on the self in a way that locates their own experiences within wider social structures. The approach rests, however, on the ability of participants to construct narratives of their lives in relation to wider public narratives. It is argued that the different responses of young and older women to the programme (resistant and enthusiastic, respectively) may have arisen, at least in part, from their differential abilities to craft life stories in the context of the programme.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Canterbury New Zealand

Publication date: May 1, 2004

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