Anton Symkovych

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Social Anthropology
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sociology Department, University of Johannesburg

Research project

Inside the Walls, Across Borders: Power and Human Agency in British, Ukrainian, and South African Prisons


Whilst universally places of deprivation, prisons are not created equal, nor do people within them experience and manage their lives, or daily work in the case of prison staff, uniformly. Prisons offer an opportunity to study the interconnectedness of social structure and human agency. Although generally constraining in prison, structure nonetheless can assist, if not encourage, prisoners and officers to exercise, assert, and augment their agency. Prisoners and officers as autonomous, moral agents engage with structure differently and for myriad reasons and purposes. They reproduce, challenge, and alter structure whilst preserving or, conversely, reinventing their identity.


I will spend my time at the IAS analysing and writing up the data from the case studies I conducted in medium-security prisons in England, Ukraine, and South Africa. Using this material, I will explore how societal transformation and the reorganisation of state governance and penal policies cohere with daily life in prisons. In particular, I plan to focus on change, together with resilience and endurance – of individuals, but also that of penal sensibilities and prison practices. My aim is to contribute to the theories surrounding prison governance and human adaptation and resistance. Expanding the focus to non-‘Western’ contexts is critical if we are to ascertain whether what we currently understand about power, order, and identity in prisons is merely region specific or is valid in different socio-economic, legal, organisational, and cultural settings.




Anton Symkovych is a Research Associate at the Sociology Department, University of Johannesburg. He holds a Ph.D. in Criminology from the University of Cambridge. Drawing on his semi-ethnographic research in English, South African, and Ukrainian prisons, Anton Symkovych focuses on the dynamics and coherence of prison life and wider society, with a specific interest in power, order, coping, and identity.


Selected publications


‘Do men in prison have nothing to lose but their manhood? Masculinities of prisoners and officers in a Ukrainian correctional colony’, Men and Masculinities, vol. 21, no. 5, 2018, pp. 665-686.


'Compromised Power and Negotiated Order in a Ukrainian Prison', British Journal of Criminology, vol. 58, no. 1, 2018, pp. 200-217.


'The ‘Inmate Code’ in Flux: A Normative System and Extralegal Governance in a Ukrainian Prison', Current Sociology, vol. 66, no. 7, 2018, pp. 1087-1105.


'The Ukrainian Response to Sykes: Prisoner Hierarchy and Self-rule—power, Legitimacy, and Dynamics', British Journal of Criminology, vol. 58, no. 5, 2018, 1087-1106.


‘Negative visibility and ‘the defences of the weak’: The interplay of a managerial culture and prisoner resistance’, Theoretical Criminology [online first], doi: 10.1177/1362480618779404, published 22 June 2018.


'Sex in Prisoner Power Relations: Attitudes and Practices in a Ukrainian Correctional Colony for Men', The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, vol. 56, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-18.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Philosophy
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Sociology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Humanities and Social Sciences