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    The panopticon looms: a gendered narrative of the interlocking powers of welfare intervention and criminalization

    Clarke, Becky and Leah (2023) The panopticon looms: a gendered narrative of the interlocking powers of welfare intervention and criminalization. Child and Family Social Work. ISSN 1356-7500

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    Abstract

    This paper presents a case study narrative of one woman. Drawing on her storied recollections, from infancy into childhood through young motherhood into adulthood, we trace the interlocking relationship between policies and practices intended to offer welfare support facilitating her criminalization. A collaborative approach to producing knowledge, representing 8 years of narrative, dialogue and reflection surfaces a looming panopticon. The gendered power of the state to intervene across the life course is revealed, as is the failed and harmful nature of this panopticon. Three distinct themes emerge from the analysis: the power to define and the fixing nature of gendered policy and practice narratives; the gendered control strategies that reproduce harms in women's lives; and the lifelong nature of the panopticon for some girls and women. Cutting across these experiences are processes of silencing and ultimately resistance, strategies for surviving the enduring forms of institutional surveillance and intervention. The paper closes with clear implications for the hegemonic trio of social science research and social work and criminal justice policy and practice. We must confront and dismantle our complicity in the silent silencing and gendered harms of the panopticon.

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