Ethnic Identities, Faith, and the Dynamics of Multicultural Con-Viviality

Coretta Phillips

in The Multicultural Prison

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697229
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191760556 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Studies in Criminology

Ethnic Identities, Faith, and the Dynamics of Multicultural Con-Viviality

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This chapter examines the relationship between prisoners' identities, both ‘indigenous’ and ‘imported’, and their impact on prisoner solidarity and social relations in Rochester and Maidstone prisons. Based on interviews with British white, black, Asian, mixed race and foreign national prisoners, the chapter examines their variable investment in ethnic, religious, national and cultural identities, and how they assist survival during their incarceration. Using case studies, interviews, observational fieldnotes, and biographical reflections, the chapter considers the way in which ethnic identities are reconstituted within the confines of the prison, operating in ways which are negotiated and strategic. Black cultural symbols and practices have become influential in prison social relations, but are nevertheless constrained by relations of power within the prison and outside it. The tensions and compromises involved in engaging with and negotiating ethnic difference within the emotionally fraught prison in what Amin (2002) calls ‘prosaic encounters’ — during association, exercise, and at the servery hatch, for example — reveal a ‘multicultural conviviality’ (Gilroy 2004) but also wary, unstable, racialized social relations.

Keywords: multicultural conviviality; cultural practices; religious observance; con/reversions to Islam; food; hair styles; slang; racialized tensions

Chapter.  19740 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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