Leverhulme Fellowship Success for Fabienne Emmerich

"‘Swimming against the current’: women, prison reform and resistance.”

This is wonderful news for Fabienne, and continues the School of Law’s strong success in getting these fellowships - the 4th in this REF cycle. It also attests to the fantastic support Fabienne (and others) received from the faculty research office, in particular Sheena Bateman, and from colleagues, in particular Professor Marie-Andrée Jacob, Professor Tsachi Keren-Paz and Dr Mary Corcoran.

Fabienne’s project makes visible the struggle of women working to transform the prison system through the work of Helga Einsele, a German criminologist, prison governor, reformer and activist of the left. This study moves beyond exposing a woman’s voice to questions of prison reform and penal governance. It contributes to penal sociology with a critical analysis of women reformers' resistance practices to break out of both prison as punishment and male dominated discourse of penal reform. It situates this analysis within a complex web of power relations that enable the prison to appropriate change and co-opt reformative agendas (Carlen, 2002).

In her role as prison governor (1947-1975) Helga Einsele pioneered progressive reforms. She is most well-known for the creation of the first mother-child unit in Germany. She was also a member of the Prison Reform Committee that produced the draft of 1976 Prison Act (Maelicke, 2005). At the core of her work lay a feminist approach to prisoners that built on the recognition of prisoners’ rights but expanded it to the nurturing of positive relationships (Maelicke, 2005). In the penology literature her work is subsumed in the wider male-centred, gender neutral rights’ discourse.

The study addresses a gap in the literature to make visible the struggles of women reformers working within the system (Hannah-Moffat and Shaw, 2000). It builds on studies that analyse complex gendered power relations that produce governable and ungovernable prisoner subjects (Hannah-Moffat, 2001; Corcoran; 2006; Emmerich, under contract). It also draws on work that has exposed the ways in which prisoners subvert or appropriate normative constructions of gender, race, class, sexuality and age (Bosworth, 1999; Stanley and Smith, 2011).

In short the project explores a feminist struggle to transform incarceration within the prison’s capacity to co-opt and appropriate well-intentioned, progressive reform ideas and ideals.

Fabienne’s fellowship will commence in May 2019. She is will spend 5 months in Frankfurt/Main in Germany to conduct research at the German National Library and the Institut für Stadtgeschichte, the archive that contains Helga Einsele’s personal collection.‌