In this inverted garden: Masculinities in Canadian prison writing

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Few places are more closely associated with masculinity than prison. From the bank robber to the political dissident, the convict in North America is typically gendered male. This masculine association is curious given that the prison emasculates as a form of punishment, depriving the prisoner of independence, agency, money, and heterosexual activity - that is, many of the typical means of male expression in the outside world. Although the prison is typically thought of as a hyper-masculine space characterized by the adage 'might is right', the literature that comes out of it attests to more intricate, complex, and fluid male identities performed and improvised in this space. These prison masculinities both invert and reflect gender constructions of outside society. Drawing on recent life writing by Canadian prisoners, this paper examines how masculinity is reconstituted in the prison and what these prison masculinities may contribute to theoretical discussions of gender.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-89
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Canada
  • gender studies
  • life writing
  • masculinity
  • prison literature
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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