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  • 14

    Statehood, religion and incarceration: Vilna’s Łukiszki prison as historical infrastructure

    Advanced seminar arranged by the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University.

    Speaker: Felix Ackermann, the German Historical Institute (Warsaw, Poland).
    Chair: Maria Brock, Södertörn University.
    Discussant: Andrej Kotljarchuk, Södertörn University.

    When the Lithuanian metropolis of Vilna came under Russian power in the late 18th century, prisoners were held in a wooden loch in the mainly Tatar suburb of Łukiszki. In this lecture, Dr. Ackermann looks into a century of planning, building and managing new infrastructures for the incarceration of prisoners in Vilna. He understands new prisons as facilities for new practices of punishment and physical representations of Russian imperial statehood.

    At the same time, the multiethnic and -religious character of the city was echoed by the spatial organization of the prison. As religious teaching was at the core of reformist ideas, the Russian state already in the 1820s built Catholic religious spaces and allowed Jews to practice reading and praying inside the prison walls. Jews were able to self-organize kashrut as the Russian state provided Jewish prisoners with a separate kitchen for kosher food. When new legal regulations and a growing number of inmates put pressure on the erection of a new facility in Łukiszki, the Tsarist authorities moved the prison to a former Dominican monastery in the old town of Vilna.

    The history of the new function of a Catholic religious urban space provides evidence, that the Russian state looked into prisons as state infrastructures in a rather pragmatic way. The related decisions were not only shaped by the need of surveillance and representation, but were the outcome of a political economy of infrastructuring. For many decades it was more efficient to reuse the existing Dominican cells than to build a new prison. Only in 1890s plans for a new Łukiszki prison according to the Pentonville model established in new Tsarist prisons in St. Petersburg und Riga materialized in Vilna’s former suburb. It again included multiple religious spaces, provided by the Russian state to allow prisoners to practice Roman-Catholic and Jewish religious activities within the prison. Following the argument about prisons as state infrastructures, Dr. Ackermann explains, why the Imperial state invested vast sums to provide criminal offenders with ventilation, heating, WC, work- and health facilities, not available for most of the subjects to the Tsar.

    Felix Ackermann is a historian and anthropologist trained in cultural and political studies at European University Viadrina and London School of Economics and Political Science. In Frankfurt (Oder) he defended in 2008 a PhD about ethnicity and urban space in Hrodna. Between 2011–2016, he has been DAAD associate professor for Applied Humanities at European Humanities University in Vilnius. Co-Editor of a Mapping Post-Socialist Urban Spaces book series published by the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism at Vilnius Art Academy. Since 2016 he is research fellow at the German Historical Institute Warsaw.

    Time and place

    When: 14/11/17 at 13:00-14:30

    What: Higher seminar

    Where: Room ME 556, on the fifth floor in the E-wing, main building, Södertörn University, Campus Flemingsberg

    Organiser: The Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University

    Event language: English