Captive Memories: Alcatraz Island and the Cultural Work of Prison Tourism

  • Judson BarberEmail author


Alcatraz Island exists as a site of public memory—a location for which understanding is formed and persists from the shared experiences of many individuals. As with most sites of public memory and monuments of public history, the privileging of certain information and neglect of others in the construction of historical narrative is a necessary, if regrettable, part of the process. With Alcatraz, however, that omission is not only detrimental to a complete understanding of the varied and layered significance of the place, but also acts to dispossess Native Americans of the importance of Alcatraz Island in their history and ongoing struggle for civil and sovereign rights. Since the 1973 opening of Alcatraz Island to tourists, the allure of dark tourism has worked to perform a historical erasure at this site, sublimating a narrative that runs counter to dominant cultural ideologies of government righteousness, in favor of the spectacle of suffering that many endured, and few tried to escape.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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