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Durham e-Theses
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Women’s Imprisonment, Self-Harm and Emancipatory Research: Developing a Framework for Transformative Research in a Women’s Prison

WARD, JAMES,CHRISTOPHER (2014) Women’s Imprisonment, Self-Harm and Emancipatory Research: Developing a Framework for Transformative Research in a Women’s Prison. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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For many women in prison self-harm is a significant feature of daily life. The research into self-harm in prison has largely mirrored that of community based research, in the search of evidencing interventions that are effective in preventing or stopping self-harming behaviour. The prevailing medical discourse around self-harm, and the sometimes poor or damaging treatment that people who self-harm receive, has been challenged by a coherent, feminist informed, community based survivor movement. This however has not been realised in prisons and examination of the literature reveals a lack of feminist research or service user involvement in prison research in general, and particularly in the case of self-harm. This is likely to be due to the challenges that the prison environment creates in conducting research based upon emancipatory principles, such as equality in relationships and the empowerment of participants.

This research explores whether emancipatory research within a prison environment is possible with the aim of developing such a framework for future research in prisons. This was tested by women in prison, and prison staff, engaging in research to produce transformative change in the care for self-harm. The research utilised the theoretical framework of both feminist participatory action research, and service user involvement to achieve practical results within the constraints of the prison environment – a process which the thesis refers to as ‘achieving praxis . The triangulation of mixed methods in information collection reveals dialectics between women, staff and procedures in the care for women who self-harm in prison. The extent to which emancipatory research is possible is explored in relation to institutional change, the experiences of women involved in the project, and the degree of consciousness raising achieved through involvement.

I conclude that, whilst compromises have to be made, emancipatory research using feminist and service user involvement is possible within a prison environment. This thesis therefore sets out the framework with which future transformative research can be conducted in secure settings.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Feminism" "Participatory Action Research" "Women" "Self-Harm" "Self-injury" "Prison" "Service User Involvement"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Mar 2014 10:45

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