Prisons in Africa: Experiences, Models, and Flows
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date_range Starts on March 5, 2020
event_note Ends on April 21, 2020
list 5 sequences
assignment Level : Introductory
chat_bubble_outline Language : English
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About the content

Largely dependent on media discourse, prisons in Africa are often reduced to images of overcrowded and dilapidated spaces, signs of "States in crisis". Simultaneously, they become one of the objects of state reform, at the intersection of the judicial, security and health fields. The prison issue then appears on certain political agendas, formulated on the occasion of local position statements, in national projects or in cooperation programmes.

The objective of this course is to help you put these speeches and actions into perspective. It thus proposes to offer an understanding of the prison dynamics of the African continent in their geographical diversity and in their plural historical regimes. It addresses the prison experience through field surveys. It will also discuss the challenges of prison policies and reforms, and the strategies of the actors involved. Alternating case studies, interviews and more theoretical reflections, this course should help you to strengthen your analytical and action capacities (actionresearch, advocacy, etc.).

This course combines theoretical reflection and empirical approaches to prison and offers a new perspective on prison in Africa.

For additional information about this course, you can watch the video presentation. To activate the english subtitles, when opening the video, choose in the « settings menu » (top right of the video screen) « subtitles » then « English ».

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No prerequisites are required to follow this MOOC.



  • Week 1: Locking Up in Africa
  • Week 2: History of prisons in Africa
  • Week 3: Illuminating experiences with theories
  • Week 4: Health and prison
  • Week 5: Reforming prison?


Marie Morelle, PhD
Geographer, Lecturer at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne (UMR Prodig, Ecoppaf programme). Marie Morelle's research focuses on public security and prison policies in Africa, particularly in Cameroon. She is particularly interested in the links between informality, penalty and city management, mainly in Africa and secondarily in Europe.

Christine Deslaurier, PhD
Historian, Research Fellow at the IRD of the Institute of African Worlds (IMAf), member of the Ecoppaf programme, assigned to the History Department of the University of Burundi. Christine Deslaurier's work focuses on the history of the late colonial state in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Burundi. Beyond decolonization, it addresses contemporary developments in Burundian society through a socio-history of political parties and disciplinary institutions (prison, army), modes of control and escapism of social bodies (domesticity) and processes of reconciliation and memorialization. 

Yasmine Bouagga, PhD
social sciences, research fellow at the CNRS at Triangle (UMR CNRS, ENS-Lyon, Lyon II, Sciences-Po Lyon) and member of the Ecoppaf programme. Yasmine Bouagga's research focuses on the sociology of law, criminal policy and incarceration. She has conducted investigations in France, the United States and currently in Tunisia on prison reforms.

Frédéric Le Marcis, PhD
Anthropologist, Professor of Social Anthropology at the ENS de Lyon (Triangle UMR 5206, Ecoppaf programme). Taking as an empirical entry health issues, mainly on the African continent, he questions through them the issues that cross contemporary societies. His work focuses on epidemics (HIV, Ebola) and health governance and care practices in prisons.


Content Designer

Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Pantheon-Sorbonne University (French: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), also known as "La Sorbonne" and "Paris I", is a public research university in Paris, France. It focuses on the areas of law, humanities, political science, social sciences, economics, logic and finance. It is the main inheritor of the world's second oldest academic institution, the University of Paris, shortly before the latter officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1970, as a consequence of the French cultural revolution of 1968, often referred to as "the French May".





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