Interview with Anaïs Ogrizek

The next few months we’ll be highlighting authors who have published in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Anaïs Ogrizek is a psychiatrist, M.D, Ph.D and Fellow in Child an Adolescent Psychiatry at the Cohin Hospital in Paris, France. She received her MD at Paris V University and did her residency in Psychiatry at the University Hospitals of French West Indies, and holds a Master’s degree in Transcultural Psychology from Paris XIII University. She focuses her research on often overlooked communities of vulnerable populations in order to raise the scientific community’s concern on their condition and suggest ways to improve them.

What is your article “The Cultural Hybridization of Mothering in French Prison Nurseries: A Qualitative Study about?

My article is about how women incarcerated during pregnancy or along with their babies in French prison nurseries are being deprived from their original cultural environment. They go through a process close to creolization regarding their maternal cultural habits, with in the end the emergence of a specific hybrid culture around motherhood, even though they gather multiple factors of vulnerability for full prisonization, as a form of forced assimilation to prison culture. The results originate from a qualitative study led in 13 different prison nurseries in France: 25 mothers and 5 pregnant women were interviewed and interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to explore the data.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your research interests.

Passionate about traveling, I became interested in transcultural psychiatry early on in my career. After a successful education some of which was spent in London and New York, I decided to pursue my medical studies at Paris V Descartes University in France. During my six years of study there I completed internships in both India and Canada, as well as a one-year Erasmus exchange in Hungary. After completing my general medical curriculum, I decided to specialize in psychiatry and travelled to French overseas territories to complete my residency. In French Guyana I took part in child psychiatric missions in Amerindian villages and worked in general psychiatry in Martinique.

Following my return to Paris, I achieved a master’s degree in transcultural psychology before completing a PhD research in psychology on the theme of the “motherhood in prison”, with a specific focus on cultural traditions around motherhood. Since then, I have been taking on a fellowship training program in Child and Adolescent psychiatry at the Maison de Solenn, Cochin Hospital in Paris, known worldwide as a place of expertise in transcultural psychiatry.

I am currently working on mothers that have left prison with their children after spending some time with them in prison nurseries, in order to explore how they readjust to their lives as free mothers on every level (on personal and domestic ones as well as social and cultural ones of course). On cultural aspects, our main hypothesis based on our prior results is that the cultural gap created by prison between these women and their outside community regarding traditions around motherhood could lead, at their release, to issues similar to those faced by migrant mothers: they might become migrant mothers from an inner to an outside prison world.

Based on my prior results of motherhood in prison nurseries, I am also working on a new and more general concept of “the baby function” – as a parallel to the term of “maternal function” commonly used – in the sense of what the baby can offer to his mother, or at contrariwise what he fails to offer. I intend to develop this innovative concept in a future article.

What drew you to this project?

I have always found the carceral environment very intriguing, with often multiple entanglements with psychiatric problematics, regarding the endorsement of responsibility for one’s personal action but also regarding institutional organization that have been put forward by the emblematic Goffman in his book “Asylums”. When I randomly discovered that babies were born and raised by their mothers in such an institution I immediately wanted to know more about these mothers’ experience as it aroused so many questions regarding so many different fields of research: personal, domestic, social, cultural, judicial, and ethical.

What was one of the most interesting findings?

The most interesting finding was to observe that no matter where in France these mothers were incarcerated (Metropolitan France or French oversea territory), they all seemed to show a similar cultural hybridization to some kind of ‘‘motherhood prison culture’’ regarding motherhood habits.

I am currently reading the thrilling work by Orna Donarth “Regretting Motherhood: a study” I recently watched and loved “Woman” a film by Anastasia Mikova, and Yann Arthus-Bertrand. I also very much enjoyed Yann Arthus-Bertand’s previous film “Human”.

What are you reading, listening to, and/or watching right now?

I am currently re-reading ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ by David Guterson which takes place on the islands neighbouring Vancouver and UBC. It is an excellent book but a harrowing story about the Japanese internment camps during World War II. This is also an often overlooked part of Canadian history.

If there was one takeaway or action point you hope people will get from your work, what would it be?

I would say that this work shows once again how culture is a fundamental need for every human being, and how no matter how hard an ethnic group is oppressed, he will put all its strength in making some of its culture survive in some way or another.

Thank you for your time!


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