Some Ethical Intricacies of Collecting Angola Penitentiary Records

Nathalie Rech, UQAM

This paper explores the question of anonymity in prison archival material. Social historians seek to reveal the historical contributions from actors who are often left behind in national narratives: laborers, women, people of color, Indigenous people, immigrants, etc. Bringing those lives into light can be positive and meaningful, but is it necessary to disclose subjects’ identity to rehabilitate them as subjects of history? Should historians of the prisons think differently considering the stigma stemming from incarceration that transcends generations? This paper will bring ethical reflections from other social sciences such as such as sociology, psychology or social work, where scholars are concerned by the confidentiality and anonymity of the living individuals who are their main source of information. It will examine the ethical dilemma facing historians working with prison archives using the case example of a research conducted on African American women incarcerated in Louisiana 60 to 100 years ago; most of whom have descendants in this state.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 30. Archival Prison Data and Its Complexities