Doran Larson, the Walcott-Bartlett Chair of Ethics and Christian Evidences and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing, presented “Prison Witness: A Working Introduction to The American Prison Writing Archive” at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities in Ottawa.
Larson discussed the evolution and growth of the American Prison Writing Archive (APWA), describing it as a “digital platform for non-fiction essays by incarcerated people writing about their experience inside” that “seeks to disaggregate this population into singular minds and ideas.”
The presentation also included a hands-on lesson on searching the archive in which participants executed a search and then discussed their findings. Larson also provided insight on “ways to curate and make critical use of prison witness more generally.”
The APWA evolved from a book project for which Larson gathered essays from the incarcerated and prison workers. When essays continued to flow in after the submission deadline, Larson continued compiling the writings and, with the help of the Digital Humanities Initiative, created the APWA. The book, Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America, was published in 2014.
Today the APWA contains approximately 2,000 essays from more than 700 contributors and continues to grow. Nearly 500 prisons in 47 states are currently represented.