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FWO-Project Islam in Belgian prisons in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. An ethnographic study on Islam, prison policies, experiences and masculinities

PhD Researcher: Ellen Vermet

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Iman Lechkar (Department of Political Science, VUB)

Co-promotor: Dr. An-Sofie Vanhouche (Department of Criminology, VUB)

After the terrorist attacks in France (2015) and Belgium (2016), radicalisation in Belgian prisons gained tremendous international attention in the public and political debate. However, academic research on the topic is limited. The aim of this ethnographic research is to explore how the radicalisation discourse impacts current policies, experiences and interactions in prison by focusing on (1) the changing role of religion and Islam in particular in current prison policies (macro-level); (2) how Islam is regulated and experienced by prison actors (prison officers, governors, social service actors and Muslim chaplains) (meso-level) and (3) how Islam is experienced by Muslim prisoners (micro-level). Prison and Muslim masculinity frameworks are used in order to understand how masculinity impacts above mentioned policies, experiences and interactions.

This research project combines traditional qualitative methods (anthropological participant observation and semi-structured interviews) with innovative and ground-breaking arts-based methods such as digital storytelling. Moreover, the multidisciplinary approach will enrich different research strands within anthropology, criminology, political science, gender and minority studies.