Free Lecture: Discipline and Publish: Radical Prison Journalism and the Making of a Penal Print Culture

Co-sponsored by the Jail Library Group and the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. Presented by Sarita Alami, PhD Candidate, Emory University

Monday, December 3
12-1 p.m., SLIS Commons (4207 Helen C. White Hall)

Before the rise of mass incarceration in the late 1970s, many prisoners had the freedom to write and publish newspapers. Despite operating under circumstances that were heavily censored and highly constrained, inmate-journalists discussed national and international politics, engaged each other and the public, and reflected a dynamic, oppressive, and often-controversial penal culture. The product of a collective endeavor, these documents provide a novel method for tracing the history of institutional culture from the inside out. This talk focuses on the radical feminist and black power prison newspapers held at the Wisconsin Historical Society, examining how inmates created a vibrant inter-prison news network despite geographic isolation and significant censorship. Methodologically, this talk discusses how digital tools like text mining and topic modeling can offer novel ways to discover patterns in newspapers and other large bodies of text.

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