Enrollment is closed
  • End of Registration
  • Registration closed
  • Classes Start
  • mar 05 2020
  • Classes End
  • may 05 2020
  • Estimated Effort
  • 2 h/week
  • Language
  • English

About the course

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 ».

The partners

This MOOC is proposed and carried out in partnership with the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, with the scientific contribution of the programme "Economics of Sentence and Prison in Africa" funded by the National Research Agency (ANR), UMR 8586 PRODIG (CNRS, Paris 1, AgroParisTech, Paris Sorbonne University, IRD, Paris Diderot), IMAF (CNRS - UMR 8171 - IRD - UMR 243,EHESS, EPHE, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and AMU) and Triangle (UMR 5206- CNRS, ENS Lyon, Lyon 2, Sciences Po Lyon).

The themes addressed

  • The geography of African prisons
  • The history of the prison system in Africa
  • Governance and reform of African prisons (health, justice)
  • The experience of imprisonment in Africa

Who is this MOOC for?

This course is intended for anyone who wishes to discover and deepen his/her knowledge of prison issues in Africa.

More specifically:

  • State officials involved in the judicial, prison, health and penal fields
  • people involved in prison issues (human, health, governance)
  • students and lecturers in social sciences (sociology, political science, anthropology, geography, history)


No prerequisites are required to follow this MOOC.

The objectives

  • Describe the diversity of prisons in Africa: typologies of institutions, architectures, statutes
  • Know the categories of prisoners, and their experience of incarceration 
  • Identify the different actors in the prison (prisoners, staff, external stakeholders) and understand their relationships 
  • Characterize criminal and prison policies, their genesis and contemporary transformations
  • Understand international interventions in prisons in Africa (health, conditions of detention...)
  • Identify reliable sources and know how to analyze them from a research or action perspective.

The teachers

Marie Morelle

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

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

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.

Frederic Le Marcis

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.

Course outline

  • 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?

Evaluation and certification

A successful follow-up certificate will be issued to participants who have successfully completed the proposed quizzes and completed a case study.

Terms and conditions of use

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