Dr Anton Symkovych1
1University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
Whilst the neoliberal turn in many ‘Western’ countries has weaponised the rehabilitative ideal, we know little about what people in the ‘global South’ make of rehabilitation rhetoric and programmes – where they are available at all. Analysing the narratives of the men and women living in medium-security correctional centres in South Africa, I argue that official rehabilitative discourse and available programmes constitute an important resource for prisoners. This is despite the grim realities of prison life in South Africa. Perhaps because of the collective memory of the brutal apartheid prison, the official rehabilitative turn resonated with many prisoners and provided a valuable resource for their identity conceptualisation and self-actualisation. Even so, as we know, structure conditions people’s narratives and limits individual creativity in (re)imagining the self. Nonetheless, I argue that the rehabilitative discourse and programmes that were present not only gave prisoners the hope and means to reactualise their lives, but also to critique prison conditions and their treatment.
Anton Symkovych is a Lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. Drawing on his semi-ethnographic research in Ukrainian, South African, and English prisons, Dr. Symkovych focuses on the dynamics and coherence of prison life and wider society, with a specific interest in power, order, coping, and identity.