Aberrance, agency and social constructions of women offenders

Quadrelli, Carol A. (2003) Aberrance, agency and social constructions of women offenders. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Traditionally offending women are framed through essentialist discourses of pathologisation and the family. Hence, good women are constructed as passive, compliant, vulnerable to victimisation, and nurturers. Offending women are constructed within criminal justice processes as disordered, physiologically and psychologically flawed. Censure or sympathy dispensed to women within the system is contingent on a number of key factors: the type of offence, the category of women involved, and the way in which women interact and negotiate the discourses used to construct their aberrance. The focus of this thesis is offending women and how they are socially constructed through legal and penal discourses within the court and the prison. However this thesis rejects the essentialist framework which positions women as passive recipients of an omnipotent patriarchal criminal justice system and thus having no agency. Nor is this thesis about creating a new entity to encompass all offending women. Instead an anti- essentialist approach is adopted that allows the body, power, and women's agency to be theorised. This approach provides a more complex and detailed account of women's aberrance that acknowledges the diverse range of women, their experiences and negotiations of criminal justice processes. The combination of real women's lived experiences and an alternative theoretical framework provides a very different perspective in which to understand female offending.

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ID Code: 15849
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Carpenter, Belinda
Keywords: Aberrance, agency, essentialism, resistance, criminal justice system, female offenders, women's prisons, women's experiences of the criminal justice system
Department: Law
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Carol Ann Quadrelli
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:51
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:39

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