Paper prisons: morality and ethics in contexts of incarceration

Principal researcher: Afonso de Castro Bento

Research group: Governance, Policies and Livelihoods


Ethics | Moral world | Prison

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)






Prison is one of the few contexts where individuals are forced to engage with abstract moral categories such as punishment, guilt or harm in order to give meaning to their experiences. Indeed, through a diverse set of documents produced by the justice system - such as court ruling transcriptions or psychological reports - the biographies of incarcerated individuals are objectified and transformed in light of such categories. This process challenges the tendency of contemporary anthropological theory of underplaying ethical self-construction that draws upon abstract moral codes.  This project aims to understand the conditions which inform ethical thinking in contexts of incarceration by analyzing prison as a moral world, where different individuals and groups - such as prison guards, reeducation officers and inmates - appropriate the categories and meanings it offers.


Full members

Catarina Frois

Governance, Policies and Livelihoods