Social Theory & Health

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 57–74 | Cite as

Feminism and bourdieusian social theory in a sexual health empowerment project with incarcerated and recently released women

  • Amanda M. EmersonEmail author
  • Joi Wickliffe
  • Patricia J. Kelly
  • Megha Ramaswamy
Original Article


Theory is often downplayed or omitted in the research and scholarly literature around public health interventions in carceral settings. Our sexual health empowerment (SHE) project was an education intervention and ethnographic study that aimed to reduce cervical cancer risk among women with histories of incarceration. In this article, we describe our application of concepts from feminist theory and bourdieusian social theory to the design, planning, and delivery of SHE. We outline how theory-driven practice both underscored and helped us meet challenges in implementation in three urban jails over a 2-year period, 2014–2016. Our approach provides a model for others who wish to bring critical theory and research practice together in health interventions with populations that are marginalized in multiple ways.


Feminist theory Bourdieu Trauma Incarceration Reproductive health 



This work was supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01 CA181047, (PI: M. Ramaswamy).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda M. Emerson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joi Wickliffe
    • 2
  • Patricia J. Kelly
    • 1
  • Megha Ramaswamy
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Nursing and Health StudiesUniversity of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Preventive Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA

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