Dan Berger is an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell and an adjunct affiliate associate professor of history at the University of Washington Seattle. His books include Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (2014), which won the OAH James A. Rawley Prize and explores the central role that prisoners played in the civil rights and Black Power movements. He is most recently a coeditor, with Emily Hobson, of Remaking Radicalism: A Grassroots Documentary Reader of the United States, 1973-2001. Berger publishes regularly in Black Perspectives, Dissent, Salon, the Seattle Times, and Truthout, among other publications. He coordinates the Washington Prison History Project, a multimedia digital archive of regional history. An expert on the carceral state and twentieth-century American social movements, he is currently writing Stayed on Freedom: One Family's Journey in the Black Freedom Struggle, and Prison: An American History, both under contract with Basic Books.
Prison is more than a place of punishment: it is also a site of knowledge production. From sentencing reports and parole files to lawsuits, the prison is constantly producing artifacts. It is, in other words, an archive. The archive is shaped both by the government, which oversees prisons, and by incarcerated people themselves. This talk explores how prisons constitute an archive. Focusing especially on the creative projects of currently and formerly incarcerated people have created, Berger shows how prisoners have turned their conditions of confinement into a space to imagine freedom--a speculative archive. This talk draws from an emerging digital project of prisoner activism in the 1970s and 1980s.