Calls from Beyond the Walls: prison cellphone recordings during the pandemic in Lebanon.

Najem CT

Media Cult Soc 45 (3) 668-681 [2023-04-00; online 2023-01-13]

Forcibly confined in a precarious and overcrowded space amidst the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, prisoners in Lebanon resorted to their smuggled cellphones. They produced and circulated images, videos, and sound bites documenting the dire experiences of living under a failing infrastructure. This article addresses this phenomenon by examining a corpus of 'prison cellphone recordings' mediated on social media platforms and Lebanese local news. I adopt the media as practice theory to claim that such fragmentary amateur cellphone media messages are the product of strategic and hybrid prison media practices. In addition, I employ the conceptual notions of hybrid media activism and media witnessing to investigate the political and testimonial function of prisoners' illicit engagement with digital technologies. I propose a typology of the mediated prison cellphone recordings and argue that these representations serve to mobilize support and relay visual evidence of prisoners lived experiences during the pandemic. Finally, I attempt with this article to instigate an approach to the examination of media from the prison; an approach that prioritizes illicit media practices behind bars and their 'traces' in the media.

Category: Other

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Type: Journal article

PubMed 38603374

DOI 10.1177/01634437221146889

Crossref 10.1177/01634437221146889

pmc: PMC9841203
pii: 10.1177_01634437221146889

Publications 9.5.0