Engagement relationnel et bénévolat en milieu carcéral : du don et de la reconnaissance en institution totalisante

Abstract : The “Total Institution”, as a body closed in on itself, isolated from the outside world, does not exist, either as an absolute or as a standard ideal to which, for instance, the penal institution would be compared. There are always human, material and temporal interfaces between the different social spaces, even though they are delimited by walls and barbed wire. In order to understand the prison world, the one in which we are detained and on which we focus our research, the term “all-encompassing” institution is best suited insofar as permanent conflict takes place between formal and material rationalities, along with a powerful conflict of socialization and a reconfiguration of the behaviours and subjectivities of the actors. Our detention center provides an example of these conflicts between a normalized and repressive universe and another, filled with pragmatic strategies of survival or re-socialization. The complexity that results is the same as the one we can find in the entire society and in the permanent relation between individuals and their institutions.Enriched by ours previous research, this study endeavours to tackle two important questions: Gift Paradigm and the Theory of Recognition, and to link them up with the theme of voluntary work in prisons. First of all, we want to show that many aspects of the Gift Paradigm and of the Theory of Recognition are also to be found in jail. But these aspects have one particular consequence: they maintain the life of the institution closed on itself.The Gift Paradigm, through benevolent commitment, leads to the reconsideration of the prison space as a space of fully-fledged socialization and of eminent interaction with the outside world. It is precisely because it is in constant relation with society that the “all-encompassing” institution requires voluntary work and voluntary commitment. Within the benevolent relational act, as it is viewed in the Gift Paradigm framework, the convicts are in the situation of being responsible for their exchanges with the outside world. Then, in terms of rationalization, seen as a meaning given by the actors to their actions and to their needs of relationships, the aims are at the same time pragmatic, utilitarian, and altruistic. The convicts redefine themselves within the scope of reciprocity, return and offer, rather than that of debt, stigmatization and punishment.The social link is at the basis of the “voluntary/gift”. It is beneficial to all prisoners in terms of reinsertion, and in terms of struggle against stigma for some of their role in society (outside mercantile or professional roles) for others. In the same way it is beneficial to the volunteers. In a case of “positive mutual indebting”, it is socialization itself that is expressed.
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Bernard Petitgas. Engagement relationnel et bénévolat en milieu carcéral : du don et de la reconnaissance en institution totalisante. Sociologie. Normandie Université, 2017. Français. ⟨NNT : 2017NORMC011⟩. ⟨tel-01699425⟩

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