Lisa BiggsJan 18, 2023
The Healing Stage
Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation
Ohio State University Press 2022
Over the last five decades, Black women have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the global prison population, thanks to changes in policies that mandate incarceration for nonviolent offenses and criminalize what women do to survive interpersonal and state violence. In The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation (Ohio State UP, 2022), Lisa Biggs reveals how four ensembles of currently and formerly incarcerated women and their collaborating artists use theater and performance to challenge harmful policies and popular discourses that justify locking up "bad" women.
Focusing on prison-based arts programs in the US and South Africa, Biggs illustrates how Black feminist cultural traditions--theater, dance, storytelling, poetry, humor, and protest--enable women to investigate the root causes of crime and refute dominant narratives about incarcerated women. In doing so, the arts initiatives that she writes about encourage individual and collective healing, a process of repair that exceeds state definitions of rehabilitation. These case studies offer powerful examples of how the labor of incarcerated Black women artists--some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society--radically extends our knowledge of prison arts programs and our understanding of what is required to resolve human conflicts and protect women's lives.