Neoliberal Feminised Governmentality: The Role and Function of a Post Corston Report (2007) Women’s Centre in the North-West of England

Published 25/02/2021
Type Article
Author(s) Helen Elfleet
Corresponding Authors

The article examines the role and function of one voluntary sector gender specific service, The Women’s Centre (TWC),[1] which opened following the publication of the highly influential Corston Report (2007) in the North-West of England, for ‘offending’ women and those at risk of offending. The analysis presented in this article is derived from qualitative data,[2] from 16 semi-structured interviews with TWC staff, and from participant observation of procedures and interactions within the centre.[3] It therefore adopts a case study approach.[4] Drawing on the work of Foucauldian feminist and governmentality scholars (Hannah-Moffat, 2000; 2001; 2010; Goodkind, 2009; Rottenberg, 2014), the article evidences three key findings concerning the role and function of TWC. First, that empowerment rhetoric was mobilised as a vehicle to transform its clients into independent, self-sufficient, responsible neoliberal subjects. Second, that through a variety of practices and partnerships with statutory and voluntary agencies, TWC aims and objectives were aligned with those of the state and were concerned with the prevention of recidivism and initial offending, thus calculating women’s needs as criminogenic risk factors (Hannah-Moffat, 2010). Third, that little resistance was evident in terms of TWC’s acceptance of and adherence to neoliberal agendas. Instead, marketised models were generally embraced as inevitable and economically necessary for its financial survival. The article therefore concurs with pessimistic accounts on the role of the third sector in crime control (See Corcoran, 2009; 2011a; 2011b) and contends that TWC could be considered as an extension of transcarceral surveillance and control of the most marginalised women in society (Carlen & Tombs, 2006; Carlton & Segrave, 2013; 2016).