Mrvová, Marie (2019) Women Political Prisoners and Prison Culture in Czechoslovakia 1948–1968. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The experiences of women political prisoners in Communist Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1968 are still considerably under-represented in existing historiography. Moreover, researching on women’s narratives of political repression reveals phenomena of culture in prison which have not been thoroughly investigated so far. Prison culture involves not only prison relationships, values and lifestyle, but also culture in a more specific meaning. In prison, women secretly organised lectures and discussions, wrote poems and made various objects. Exploring women’s perspectives of political imprisonment including gendered violence and culture of the body, shows the differences and attitudes specific to women, who created a unique space to share, support each other and collectively resist brutality and the authorities. The methodology of this thesis is based on qualitative analysis of personal narratives obtained by both written and oral testimonies of incarcerated women, including memoirs, prison correspondence and particularly oral history interviews, which are compared with archival materials and secondary literature.

During my oral history interviews I conducted with former political prisoners, I collected photos of the objects women created and had the opportunity to discuss the meaning of culture in prison. Such objects are strongly connected to our cultural memory and identity. This study will argue that prison culture helped women to cope, unite and resist the cruel environment of imprisonment. Women’s ways of coping and resistance are investigated, such as the process of beautification, reclaiming embodiment, education and the creation of art and objects. Uncovering hidden histories of women’s experiences of political persecution can provide a better understanding of human behaviour under repressive regimes and allow us to reflect on the role of community, culture, knowledge and education in such circumstances.

FINAL THESIS - Mrvova.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (14MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email