Zamith de Passos J & Miranda D (2014) 'I’m not a number, I’m a free man': Configurations of identity in real and fictional prisons. 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology – EUROCRIM 2014, Charles University, Prague, 10.09.2014-13.09.2014. http://www.esc-eurocrim.org/index.php/conferences/previous-conferences
Literature fuels research in the social sciences by allowing us to understand, by comparison, fictional representations, or perspectives, and reality. This paper explores how the book “La Cárcel” (Jail), by Colombian author Jesús Zárate, deals with the subject of life in prison. In this piece of fiction, prison is treated as
a metaphor, or an allegory, that allows the author to deal with themes as varied as freedom, personal and collective identity, authority and basic human nature. The literary treatment of prison, when associated with an empirically based sociological study allows us to understand how an idealized and imagined representation connects to reality. Questions such as the utilization of numbers as identifiers, the erosion of the name, the importance of inmate/guard interactions, clothing options and regulations, and a variety of other forms in which authority deals with identity, will be compared, between a fictional Colombian prison of the mid nineties and a case study, developed in three contemporary Portuguese prisons. The intention is to realize not only the differences or similarities between an artist’s perspective and those of people actually involved in the penitentiary world, but also to understand how the weight and sense attributed by literature to these practices can help us frame them in a real world context.
Prison; literature; identity;