Connectivity and porosity – prisoners’ contact with the outside world in Myanmar
Open lecture with Tomas Max Martin and Andrew M. Jefferson (DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture)
Our presentation will focus on the background and rationale for our study of Legacies of Detention in Myanmar (2016-21) exploring why prisons are an ideal empirical and analytic site for generating knowledge about the changing relationship between state and citizen in Myanmar. We will also share ethnographic insights from the project’s initial case study on prisoners’ contact with the outside world. Our paper proposes the concept of ‘connectivity’ as a more meaningful articulation of the way prisoners and their relatives in Myanmar make sense of their efforts to sustain relationships during incarceration. By examining how people connect in situations of chaos, control and surveillance; how they manage under circumstances of not-knowing; and how they develop and sustain caring and protecting connections, we illustrate the utility of the concept of connectivity particularly with reference to how it creates space for critical analysis of the societal and fundamentally relational practice of imprisonment.
Based at the Danish Institute Against Torture, Dr. Andrew M. Jefferson and Dr. Tomas Max Martin both specialize in the ethnographic study of prisons and prison reform processes in the global south with particular focus on countries undergoing transition. Until recently they focused mostly on the understudied field of prisons in Africa, founding the Global Prisons Research Network, designed to bring together researchers involved in field-based studies of prisons in the south. Thanks to a grant from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs they have now turned their attention to Myanmar, a paradigmatic case for studying prisons and reform processes in historical and contemporary context.