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“ ‘O Prison Darkness … Lions in the Cage’; The ‘Exceptional’ Prison Narratives of Guantanamo Bay”

Metcalf, Jo


Dr Jo Metcalf
Senior Lecturer in American History and Culture


Prison memoirs often consider the author’s life of crime prior to incarceration and reflect on the behaviors (e.g., greed) or structural violence (e.g., poverty, racism) that led them to the prison. But what happens then, when as in the case of Guantanamo Bay memoirs, there is no “traditional” life of crime, and incarceration is often unfounded? What happens to the prison narrative when the author remains in solitary confinement with their only humane relationships with those in power? It is of little surprise that such memoirs activate provocative and penetrating reading experiences. While Moazzam Begg’s memoir Enemy Combatant (2006) has received some scholarly attention, in part because he featured in lawyer Mark Falkoff’s edited collection Poems from Guantanamo (2007), there has been no scholarly attention to Murat Kurnaz’s Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo (2008), Ahmed Errachidi’s The General (2013), and Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantánamo Diary (2015). This chapter will further engage with study groups I conducted with (ex) prisoners in the UK, discussing Falkoff’s collection, to consider how one of the most controversial penal institutions in the post-9/11 world has produced peculiarly intense understandings, conceptualizations, and experiences of incarceration in the form of first-person poetry and prose.

Publication Date 2020
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Pages 67-87
Book Title The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Media
ISBN 9783030360580
APA6 Citation Metcalf, J. (2020). “ ‘O Prison Darkness … Lions in the Cage’; The ‘Exceptional’ Prison Narratives of Guantanamo Bay”. In The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Media. , (67-87). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
Additional Information Marcus K. Harmes, Meredith A. Harmes, Barbara Harmes (eds.)