The literature on male imprisonment consistently reveals a particular form of hegemonic masculinity based on competition, dominance and violence, actual or threatened. This article seeks to examine this standard view via the experience of republican politically motivated prisoners in Northern Ireland. It finds evidence of elements of hegemonic masculinity as in other prisons, but alongside this there was an alternative form of hegemonic masculinity, one based on the ability to endure rather than inflict violence. The article also examines the way in which homosociality – male fraternity without homosexual desire – was an integral part of the prison experience and was enhanced by the solidarity among the prisoners; this solidarity was based on both initial political ideology and the collective resistance against the prison system’s attempts to break their solidarity. Finally, it also examines the space for emotions and emotional support in the difficult circumstances of violence inflicted by prison officers, an extended “blanket protest” and a harrowing hunger strike.
- political imprisonment