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Out of Order: The Political Imprisonment of Women in Northern Ireland 1972-1998

NCJ Number
Mary Corcoran
Date Published
279 pages
This book examines the dynamics of punishment and resistance that occurred in Northern Ireland in the course of the campaign by Loyalist and Republican women prisoners for political status during the “Troubles”--a term used to describe two periods of violence in Ireland during the twentieth century, from 1972 to 1998.
In the course of first-hand accounts and interviews with former prisoners, staff, and senior prison managers, former prisoners frequently talk about doing their time “right” which references different and contradictory aspects of their self-awareness. Narratives of resistance alternated between their positions as penal subjects and resisting agents, as perpetrators of violence or intimidation and as victims, as agents of collective transformation and as individual survivors. The struggle by women political prisoners in Northern Ireland is seen as closer to Marxist transition in consciousness, where groups move from acting “of themselves” while embedded in common subordination, to acting “for themselves” in transforming their suppressive conditions. Although 1 in 20 prisoners detained during the “Troubles” (1972–1998) in Northern Ireland was a woman, the nature of the regimes in which they were confined has been addressed in a limited manner in the academic literature. This book addresses the historical deficit in accounting for women’s role in the campaign of resistance by prisoners in Northern Ireland from the internment of women in 1972 to the release of the last female prisoner under the terms of the Belfast Agreement in November 1998. The book accounts for women as political prisoners, accounts for political prisoners as women in prison, and accounts for the gendered and political dimensions of prison punishment. Appendixes I-II and references