University of Rochester


Looking Out and Looking In: Prison Communities Through the Prism of Film

Alison Griffiths

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Funded by the Humanities Center

Cinema has long served both to offer inmates glimpses of a changing world beyond prison walls and to give non-incarcerated audiences access to an often-mythologized and marginalized institution. Using New York’s Auburn and Sing Sing prisons as case studies, this talk examined how the history of film provides an entry point to the complex history of the relations between prisons and their local and regional communities, a history that adds immeasurably to our understanding of the legacy of mass incarceration.

Alison Griffiths is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at Baruch College, the City University of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. An early cinema historian and visual studies scholar, she is the author of the multiple award-winning Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture (Columbia, 2002), Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (Columbia, 2008), and Carceral Fantasies: Cinema and Prison in Early Twentieth-Century America. With the support of a Guggenheim, Huntington Library Fellowship, and an ACLS Project Development grant, she is finishing a book on expedition cinema and cultural geography from the interwar period.