Previous forums

Our forum in Autumn term 2017:

Wednesday November 22, 3pm,Cornwallis NW, Seminar Room 3

Bad Beginnings? A Qualitative Study of Prison Mother and Baby Units

Discussion Introduction by Rose Mortimer, DPhil Candidate, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, and member of the BeGOOD Early Intervention Project

In recent years, early intervention (EI) has received growing policy attention within the UK. The Early Intervention Foundation describes EI as “taking action as soon as possible to tackle problems for children and families before they become more difficult to reverse” (EIF 2016); such problems include poor physical and mental health, ill-preparedness for school and work, poverty, unemployment, and crime. In practice, EI means identifying children who are at risk of being “poorly parented” (Loughton 2015, 3) and providing support through a range of services such as antenatal care and parenting classes.

Interestingly, the children of prisoners are notably absent from UK EI policy. However, there are six Mother and Baby Units within UK women’s prisons where babies and toddlers reside with their mothers for up to 18 months. Although the term ‘early intervention’ is seldom used in this context, in practice a large part of the work done within MBUs focuses on building parenting skills and generally providing women with the knowledge and confidence to become good mums – and by extension – to be and to raise good citizens, and in so doing, build a better society.

In this presentation I will discuss some of the preliminary findings from my qualitative research with mums and staff in the mother and baby unit within HMP Styal, a women’s prison in the North West of England. Through a combination of interviews, focus groups and participant observation I explore how the prison’s goal of rehabilitation is tied to the identities of these women as mothers, what it means to make a woman a ‘good mother’ in this context, and how prison programs and environments are designed to achieve this goal. A study of prison MBUs allows me to explore key ethical concepts such as autonomy, responsibility, care and justice.

Our Forums for Spring Term 2017 were:

Wednesday 1 February

‘War – a family affair. Anthropological perspectives on family life, parenting and gender in the light of military deployment’, introduced by Maj Hedegaard Heiselberg, visiting PhD student with CPCS

3pm, Cornwallis North West, Seminar Room 4


My presentation will first of all be an introduction to my PhD project which focuses on Danish soldiers and their families before, during and after military deployment. I will present some of my initial findings, including the article “Fighting for the Family: overcoming distances in time and space”, which will be one out of three analytical articles in my PhD thesis. Secondly, I wish to discuss the arguments of my second article, which I will be working on during my stay in the UK. The main aim of the article is to understand the struggles faced by women married to soldiers as they try to balance professional careers and family life during deployment. Based on ethnographic examples, I argue that the frustrations experienced by these women are something else and more than a sacrifice of time. The tasks of everyday family life are interwoven with notions of parenthood, gender and identity, and thus these women’s situation becomes an issue not only of gender equality and family life in the Danish military but also a reminder to empirically and analytically acknowledge the everyday.

About the speaker

I am a PhD Student at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen and the Danish Veteran Centre. My PhD Project focuses on Danish families going through military deployment. Based on ethnographic fieldwork before, during and after military deployment, I examine how soldiers’ spouses and younger children experience everyday family life when separated from their husband and father. From an analytical perspective, my project seeks to understand how expectations of intimacy and presence within family relations are challenged and negotiated by families attempts of staying in touch during deployment. By shedding light on the struggles faced by women married to soldiers, as they try to balance professional careers and family life, the study furthermore discusses norms and ideals about parenthood and gender in a Danish context. Finally, my project is a critical study of the Danish military and an attempt to understand processes of militarization by investigating the relationship between the two institutions – family and military. Prior to this PhD project I studied parenting and fatherhood among Danish fathers on paternity leave in Copenhagen as part of my MA in anthropology

You can watch Maj’s presentation here

Wednesday 15th March

Emergency Contraception in an era of ‘safe sex’

3pm, Cornwallis North West, Seminar Room 4

Verity Pooke ESRC Social Policy PhD Candidate SSPSSR, University of Kent

Women in 2017 have a greater choice in methods of contraception than ever before, with over 15 different methods available women have plenty to choose from when making a decision on contraception that suits their lifestyle. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest in recent years with an increase in ‘safe sex’ messages that health policy has introduced a new discourse on women’s autonomy on reproductive rights and sexual health. However, research has shown that the emergency contraceptive pill has become an anomaly in the contraceptive repertoire for a modern woman. Using the study of social problems as a form of an analysis, this research evaluates the social construct of the under used method of contraception, to understand the role of emergency contraception in a modern era of safe sex messages and initiatives. Using qualitative research methods; semi structure interviews and focus groups, this project aims to document the real-life experiences of women using and choosing methods of contraception. Equally, it examines the discourse that surrounds the emergency contraceptive pill product in the UK and evaluates whether these messages have been received by women who use the product. The purpose of this research that is contributing to a PhD thesis is to highlight the ongoing issue with women’s autonomy in health policy, whilst addressing various contemporary issues with women’s reproductive health and rights using social problem theory as an analysis.

POSTPONED: ‘The Generation Wars’, introduced by Jennie Bristow.

Details of Jennie’s book The Sociology of Generations here

Read more about the sociology of generations here

See also:

‘What is a Citizen?’ by Jennie Bristow

‘The Generation Wars’ by Jennie Bristow

2nd December 2015 featured a discussion of Berger and Berger’s The War Over the Family introduced by CPCS’s Dr Jan Macvarish. 

A recent forum included the launch of Jennie Bristow’s new book, Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict. Details are here.

CPCSForums@Kent Spring 2015

CPCSForums@Kent Summer 2014

CPCSForums@Kent Spring 2014

CPCSForums@Kent Autumn 2o13

CPCSForums@Kent Spring 2013

CPCSForums@Kent Autumn 2012

CPCSForums@Kent Summer 2012

CPCSForums@Kent Spring 2012

CPCSForums@Kent Autumn 2011

CPCSForums@Kent Spring 2011

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