Tension and Release: Exploring the role of Music in the Daily Life of a Men’s Local Prison

Christopher Waller

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This is thesis is about the ways that prisoners and staff in a category B local prison used music to manage the various pains and insecurities that characterise the experience of imprisonment in late modernity. Based on nine months of quasi-ethnographic study, the thesis explores the way in which music is constituted in the daily life of the prison by investigating the situated practices of prisoners and staff. This is an exploratory study which seeks to account for the lack of research exploring the topic of music within this area of prison life. Existing research has tended to focus on the therapeutic and rehabilitative capabilities of music in carceral settings and has thus overlooked the social and cultural dimensions of music in the daily life.
Drawing on the work of DeNora (2000, 2013) this thesis examines how music intersects with various aspects of daily life including its sensory, affective, and institutional dimensions, in addition to the social and cultural life of the prison. In conditions of profound and persistent uncertainty which characterise local prisons, this thesis highlights the ways that music is used to create forms of stability (and contrast) across various dimensions of daily life.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Wright, Serena, Supervisor
  • Denney, David, Supervisor
  • Smith, Richard, Supervisor
Award date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020


  • Prison
  • Music
  • self
  • Objects
  • materiality
  • radio
  • CD
  • adaptation

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