Religion and the Creation of Normal Appearance

Findings from a Philippine Prison

In: Social Sciences and Missions
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  • 1 University of Chicago, Department of Comparative Human Development, Chicago, USA
  • | 2 Ateneo de Manila University, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Quezon City, Philippines

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Religions in prison often help individuals with their internal coping with prison life and with external benefits from participation in religious groups. However, less is known about religion’s role that extend beyond the individual and affect the whole of prison society. Through in-depth interviews in a Philippine prison, the research finds that religious groups have both a normative and a normalizing function. In a sense, these Christian groups help inmates create expectations with each other and provide a semblance of normal life in a constrained prison. The article suggests that the appearance of normality, rather than the fact of normality, happens as Christian groups provide inmates with forms of self-determination and continuance of their life from outside.

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