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If These Walls Could Speak: A Visual Ethnography of Graffiti at Boggo Road Gaol

  • Belinda Costanzo, Melissa Bull (a1) and Catrin Smith

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When analysed in context, prison graffiti can provide valuable insight into the lived experiences of incarcerated individuals. This study uses Brisbane's Boggo Road Gaol as a case study site to evaluate the importance of historical, social and political context in the interpretation of prison graffiti. Visual ethnographic methodology was employed to allow the triangulation of various contextualising resources: newspaper articles, government reports, biographies and institutional records, and the graffiti. We discuss the theme of resistance as an example to demonstrate the value of the contextual analysis of images. By locating the graffiti within the historical, social and political context that it was produced, the significance of the graffiti is identified, and the ambiguity associated with the interpretation of images potentially is reduced. A contextualised analysis of prison graffiti provides a narrative of prison life, allowing the independent expression of prisoners to be ‘heard’.

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If These Walls Could Speak: A Visual Ethnography of Graffiti at Boggo Road Gaol

  • Belinda Costanzo, Melissa Bull (a1) and Catrin Smith

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