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Edited by Sara Delamont
Chapter 15: Total Institutions and Qualitative Research
15. Total institutions and qualitative research Ghazala Bhatti The term ‘total institution’ was first used by Erving Goffman (1959). Total Institutions can be defined as places which individuals are unable to leave easily and where they are expected to abide by strict rules which govern their behaviour. Individuals may find that they are subordinated to formal and informal sanctions, which are implemented according to a particular code of conduct. In such institutions education has the power to transform lives. However, the way in which education is imparted and knowledge acquired is quite often implicit. As organizations, total institutions function by demanding and obtaining different degrees of compliance, and ensuring adherence to a form of conduct which seeks willing or unwilling obedience to rules. These rules are not made by the majority of people living inside total institutions, who may in fact not even be consulted about them. In other words, the rules may be interpreted as duty of care by those in charge of managing total institutions, but they may be experienced as impositions, interference or obligations by those on whom they are exercised. In total institutions, it is normally the case that a few people govern the conduct of many over a long period of time. The ratio is seldom one to one. Exceptions include homes for people with severe learning disabilities and care homes for the elderly, who may have a dedicated carer working exclusively with one person at a time. There are issues of differential power (Dowding,...
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