Five women: An Autoethnographic Reflection on Working in Prisons

Dr. Rachel Marie-Crane Williams
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The purpose of this paper is to share qualitative evidence of how art and narrative can be used to help women in prison reconfigure their personal identity. This data is gathered from my experience as an artist/educator/researcher in various prison settings over the past ten years. This paper will analyze specific case studies related to self-portraiture, autobiographical writing, and storytelling.The theoretical underpinning of this work stems from the fields of visual culture/literacy, public health, social activism, art education, women's studies, and feminist ethnography. The results of this work illuminate the complex ethical experience of teaching women and girls in oppressive settings, grappling with moral issues surrounding prison education/research, as well as the use of art, storytelling, literature, and creative writing as tools for reconstructing personal narratives and identity.

Keywords: Identity, Prisons, Women, Narrative, Portraiture
Stream: Art in Communities, Arts Education, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Five Women

Dr. Rachel Marie-Crane Williams

Associate Professor, School of Art and Art History
College of Education, University of Iowa


Rachel Williams holds and MFA in Studio Art and a Ph.D. in Art Education. She is an Associate Professor of Art Education at the University of Iowa. Several journals have published her research including the Journal of Arts Management Law and Society, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, and Visual Arts Research. She is also the author of Teaching the Arts Behind Bars (Northeastern U. Press, 2003). For over a decade she has worked as an art educator/researcher with incarcerated populations including juveniles around the US. She is particularly interested in ethnography, visual culture, community based art education, women's studies, and program evaluation. Recently she completed a series of large ceramic murals as part of a percent-for-art grant at the Montana State Prison through the Montana Arts Council. The murals were based on workshops she facilitated with the inmates.

Ref: A06P0018