Trapped between in and out
The post-institutional liminality of ex-prisoners in East Berlin
Drawing on wide-ranging empirical material collected as a participant observer in East Berlin in 2006 and 2007, the author offers an ethnographic account of ex-prisoners’ fi rst weeks and months in a rehabilitation programme. The analysis shows that the social boundaries stemming from their long-term imprisonment and from stigmatisation processes developing in the outside society prevent them from fully reintegrating into society. A prisonised habitus continues to shape ex-inmates’ behaviour; the values and views that were dominant during their imprisonment still orient much of their social interactions. Ex-inmates’ relation to space, time and to a free environment is built up anew with the more or less successful help of social workers. The author proposes conceptualising their often frustrating experience as liminal, using Victor Turner’s perspective of liminality as a subjective state and therefore as a state that can be perpetuated by ex-inmates trapped between the inside and the outside.