Prisons and women in the age of post-truth. Who will save us from the media?

Post-truth is a worldwide and transdisciplinary concept, while prisons are by nature closed spaces of clear silencing. Perhaps that is why prisons are often fertile ground for post-truth to grow, while being advocated by the various prison and media stakeholders.

The symptom of post-truth is related to Nietzsche’s hermeneutics, as he states that instead of facts there are only subjective versions and narratives born of empirical experiences. The search for the alleged truth is then relegated to second place, giving way to Foucault’s perspectivism as well as to self-perception and cognitive dissonance theories.

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries elected ‘post-truth’ as word of the year in the English language. According to this historical authority on the English language, the term ‘post-truth’ was used for the first time in 1992 by playwright Steve Tesich. This neologism refers to the situation in which, at the time of creating – and intending to shape – public opinion, the objective factuality loses influence whereas emotions and personal beliefs emerge as absolute truths for media narrative.

Post-truth disregards detail and reiterates a narrative in which facts are ignored. It therefore differs from falsification of the truth, considering it less important. In other words, it is the idea that something posing as truth is more important than truth itself, masked behind the politically correct concept of ‘post-truth’. This term has a hidden agenda: discrediting a factual truth while replacing it with a truth recreated from objective facts.

Although the term has been persistently employed since the first decade of our millennium, post-truth reached the peak of its use with the growth of the mass media. In 2017, strengthened by the dawn of a new time for the presidency of the United States, the post-truth era is definitely consolidated in global media discourse.

Our goal with this paper is to present the results of a quantitative and qualitative legal and empirical research based on an ethnography of female prisoners in a Portuguese prison. Our research aims at discovering the impact of post-truth in the re-entry process of these women, starting from the media narrative towards the internal participating discourse.


Post-truth, media, prisons, women, ethnography


Nombre Adscripcion Procedencia
Marco Ribeiro Henriques FDUNL/FCT Portugal