“Distant” wives and prisoners in Russia: care in the careless state
This article explores the phenomenon of the care provision which ‘distant wives’ and partners offer to their imprisoned intimate friends. Prisoners in Russia are one of the most marginalized groups and are at the periphery of social care system in crisis. It focuses on the young women, who, in the Russian context, are known as ‘zaochnitsy’. These women are part of a network centred on prison communication and become acquainted with men via the Internet or telephone. They become voluntarily involved with individual prisoners, in contrast to wives of men who married them before imprisonment. The article is based on qualitative data gathered during sociological research into women support networks for prisoners. The research framework covers the regimes of waiting and practices of care that are characteristics of the everyday lives of wives, mothers and girlfriends maintaining (continuous and temporary) communication with relatives or partners in Russian colonies. Based on the gender analyses of the care regimes, the article demonstrates that becoming prisoner's partner means for women the production of their own femininity, moral image and getting emotional and sometimes material care.