Doing Marginalized Motherhood: Identities and Practices among Incarcerated Women in Mexico


This study examines the mothering practices and identities of incarcerated women in Mexico. Data gathered from repeated life-story interviews with 12 women, were analyzed to describe mothering practices in the different phases of incarcerated women’s’ lives. We argue that knowledge of the Latin American context is crucial to understand their experiences of motherhood. In a society based on familism and marianismo identities that suffers from a lack of welfare institutions, motherhood provided a way for socially and economically excluded women to escape destructive family environments and gain autonomy. Motherhood also provided a way to cope with the stigma of delinquency. Using the framework of Southern Criminology, we explore the importance of marginalized motherhood in this tradition. The results reveal the tragic paradox of motherhood for incarcerated women and the importance of studying marginalized mothering beyond the Global North.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-03-01
Pages:15 to 29
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How to Cite
Sandberg, S., Agoff, C. and Fondevila, G. (2021) “Doing Marginalized Motherhood: Identities and Practices among Incarcerated Women in Mexico”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(1), pp. 15-29. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v10i1.1538.

Author Biographies

University of Oslo

Sveinung Sandberg is professor of Criminology at the University of Oslo. He holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Bergen, Norway. He has written the book Street Capital (2011, Policy Press with Willy Pedersen) and several journal articles on street culture and crime with a Bourdieusian approach. Sandberg is also co-founder of Narrative Criminology (e.g. Presser and Sandberg 2015) and has worked to integrate narrative and discourse analytical approaches in criminology. His research focuses on processes of marginalization, violence, illegal drugs, social movements and political and religious extremism.

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico

María Carolina Agoff is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She has a degree in Psychology from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and a PhD in Psychology from the Free University of Berlin, Germany (2001). In Germany, in addition to her doctoral work, she studied political theory and sociology, as well as a specialization in qualitative research methods in the social sciences (1997-1998). Her field of research is intimate partner violence and gender violence, as well as the study on undocumented migration in the United States and the formation of new family groups.

Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE), Mexico

Gustavo Fondevila is a professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City. He holds a PhD in law from the Buenos Aires University and a Magister Artium in political sciences from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany). He is author of: Political Models of Social Integration (München: Utz, 2002), Institutions, Legality and the Rule of Law (México: Fontamara, 2005), and Criminal Profile (México: CIDE, 2013) (with Carlos Vilalta), and several articles in Mexican and international academic journals.