Gender and Behaviour

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Breaking bread with female ‘criminals’: towards generation of testimonial knowledge on female criminality in South Africa

Nontyatyambo Pearl Dastile


Breaking bread with incarcerated women incarcerated in prisons is a decolonising methodological framework which aims to bring the voices of an otherwise silenced population into the mainstream criminological discourse. In throwing their voices, women were able to single out what was and still is significant in their lives rather than responding to a research led agenda that would have been narrow and dehumanising. Breaking bread with women revealed multi-faceted predicaments and entanglements in the life worlds and lived experiences of women. Through Dani Wadada Nabudere’s Afrikology and African centered open–ended hermeneutical discourse it became evident that a decolonising, African culturally-gender sensitive approach would be necessary to unmask women’s multicentric ways of knowing and being but also to enable the women to plan their post-incarceration lives. Interestingly, by “putting the pieces of puzzle” together, we were able to grapple not only with the pre-incarceration lived circumstance of a woman, but also to identify individual strengths that would mitigate against the “temptation” to revert to a criminal world. For criminalized women, the journeys were different. Testimonial knowledge from women in prison revealed epistemic injustices of the colonial, apartheid era, the dichotomies between adversarial versus restorative justice, the dichotomies between group rights and individual rights, the dichotomy between modern and traditional worldviews and traditional versus civil wrongs.

AJOL African Journals Online