Signs: Special Issue: Women, Gender, and Prison: National and Global Perspectives

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Despite neoliberal commitments to cut back the state, during the last decades of the twentieth century, many states dramatically increased spending and infrastructure development on policing, imprisonment, and the military.  Initiatives designed to get tough on crime, wage war on drugs, suppress dissent, militarize borders, and criminalize migration contributed to major growth in the prison population.  In striking contrast to earlier eras, the growth rate for women’s incarceration has outstripped men’s. Since 1977, for example, the population of women in U.S. prisons has increased roughly 700 percent; in Britain, it has grown by 200 percent.  Ethnic minority women are drastically overrepresented in prison populations, as are women who have suffered physical and sexual abuse; behind bars they are vulnerable to further abuse.  Imprisonment poses unique challenges for women, particularly with respect to reproductive rights and freedoms, childbearing, and childrearing.  The exponential increase in women’s incarceration also coincided with the privatization of prisons and the emergence of new gendered divisions of prison labor.  The “war on terror” has fostered a “war on immigrants,” and increasing numbers of women have been held in detention without charge on suspicion of terrorist connections or immigration violations.

For this special issue, we invite submissions that address complex questions concerning women’s imprisonment and detention, including gendered carceral regimes, challenges to bodily integrity, reproductive freedom, and mothering in prison; the effects of imprisonment on families and communities; the relationship between the welfare state and the penal state; the social, economic, and political mechanisms that generate punishment of women; and the effects of race, ethnicity, class, nationality, sexual orientation, and transgender on experiences of imprisonment and practices of punishment.  We particularly seek innovative analyses that explore gendered incarceration in and across diverse geographic, cultural, and historical sites, as well as comparative approaches that consider colonial, postcolonial, state-socialist, democratic socialist, and neoliberal prison policies and practices and identify feminist alternatives to imprisonment.  We welcome interrogation of the criminalization of poverty and migration, the politicization of group membership, processes of racialization, gendered dimensions of the “war on drugs,” and other factors contributing to growing rates of incarceration among women. Submissions on all places, time, and contexts are welcome.

Please send submissions between May 1 and June 30, 2011. The issue is scheduled to appear in Winter 2013.

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