Tactical Bodies

A10 4

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  • Title: Tactical Bodies: Resistance as Agency among Prisoners
  • Author(s): Natasha Carrington
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review
  • Keywords: Agency, Tactics, Prisoner Resistance, Subjectivity as Protest, Art Justice, Advocacy Art, Body Politics
  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2010
  • ISSN: 1833-1866 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2473-5809 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v05i04/35897
  • Citation: Carrington, Natasha. 2010. "Tactical Bodies: Resistance as Agency among Prisoners." The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review 5 (4): 199-206. doi:10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v05i04/35897.
  • Extent: 8 pages


Relationships in the administration of power in the prison setting have been widely addressed by social theorists. Most notably Michel Foucault has provided a powerful account of the formation of the subject through the discourse of punishment. For Foucault there is little space for agency and resistance. Instead he sees the prisoner as a passive subject of disciplinary authority. Foucault admits nonetheless, that where there is power there is the possibility of resistance. This paper considers the notion of resistance as agency within the prison setting. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork to bring to light the types of behavior that attempt to subvert the correctional model. This includes informal interviews with twelve prisoners undergoing sentences at Barwon Prison, in Victoria. Taking an empirical approach allows us to consider the experience of incarceration from the inside out, and to gain a more informed understanding of its efficacy. By giving prisoners a voice and by filming their interviews, the nature of power and its relationship to identity, and the body, can also be contemplated.