Human security in prison: perspectives, subjectivities and experiences - a contribution to the anthropology of security

Principal researcher: Catarina Frois

Research group: Governance, Policies and Livelihoods


Prison | Incarceration | Human security

Funding Institution

Gerda-Henkel Stiftung



Start date


End date



AZ 07/KF/15


Prison, by its nature and function, is a place where security-related issues assume a central role. This pervasiveness, however, does not dispel the ambiguity that characterizes the very concept of security. Incuded in the Human Security and Public Administration challenge, throughout 12 months of fieldwork in 11 Portuguese prisons (of a total of 49), this project aims to set side by side different perspectives, subjective perceptions and experiences revolving around the wider sphere of human security which can be found within a prison environment, namely those concerning: 1) differences in perceptions of security in confined and open spaces; 2) strategies of security and protection within walls and beyond them; 3) notions of civil rights, justice and citizenship; 4) perceptions of security in everyday personal and family relationships; ontological security in terms of well-being, care, and access to occupational activities; the impact of outside general conditions on everyday life within walls. This project will consider different stakeholders involved - inmates, guards, technicians, directors - equating the multiplicity of issues raised by this emerging area of anthropology, the anthropology of security. Its contribution therefore is to address the concept of security per se, in its meanings, in how it is understood and interpreted by very specific actors: those who are directly involved and subject to security policies and practices.


PhD students Full members

Afonso de Castro Bento

Governance, Policies and Livelihoods