Embedded Encounters: "Lived Experiences" in Prison Documentaries

Friday, January 4, 2019: 11:10 AM
Boulevard C (Hilton Chicago)
Alan Gevinson, Library of Congress
Documentaries shot in prisons and jails throughout the U.S. have been broadcast over public television since the late 1950s. The programs originally offered a public service to interested viewers, documenting, as they did, spaces, conditions, operations, interactions, cultures, stories, and opinions of those living and working in the institutions. The documentaries remain resources that presently could convey to us, in the words of the AHA History Discipline Core, “the particularity of the past” and help “develop empathy toward people in the context of their distinctive historical moments.” This paper will present case studies of documentaries made in facilities that also were studied by scholars in written texts to ascertain how a variety of narrative strategies employed in the programs work to create types of knowledge that may be absent from text-based studies.
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