A Short History of Prison Noise: The 1902 Brygidki Unrest and the Agency of Criminal Prisoners in Habsburg Lemberg

Tuesday, 23 February 2021, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, Online

Brygidki prison in 1863
(Photograph: Josef Eder, Publisher “Centr Europy“, Lviv Center for Urban History Digital Archiv ID 943 © Lviv Historical Museum)

Noise can be understood as sonic violence and analysed as a central means of communication during the recurring prison riots in the early 20th-century Habsburg Empire. For both prison administrators and state-appointed public prosecutors, silence was synonymous with discipline and order. This definition gave criminal prisoners an opportunity to bargain silence in exchange for legally slight yet routine-revising changes within the regime of incarceration. Noise wielded such powerful leverage because it spread inmates’ demands from inside the prison to nearby streets – in this case, those of the Habsburg city of Lemberg. Inmates were able to use their prison buildings as a space of resonance – in both physical and symbolic ways.

Felix Ackermann is Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute Warsaw. He is the author of Palimpsest Grodno. Nationalisierung, Nivellierung und Sowjetisierung einer mitteleuropäischen Stadt (Harrassowitz Verlag Wiesbaden, 2010) and is currently working on a book about the history of incarceration in partitioned Poland and Lithuania. He regularly contributes to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung on the Belarusian crisis. His experience as as visiting DAAD associate professor at European Humanities University in Vilnius is covered in Mein Litauischer Führerschein. Ausflüge zum Ende der Europäischen Union (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2017). A part of his research on the Lviv Brygidki prison was published in Ukrainian by Ukraina Moderna https://uamoderna.com/md/ackermann-brygidky. – In February and March 2021 he is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comment by
Iryna Vushko is an Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University, USA. She is the author of the Politics of Cultural Retreat: Imperial Bureaucracy in Austrian Galicia, 1772-1848 (Yale University Press, 2015) and is currently working on a book about the history of the political prison in Eastern Europe between the seventeenth and the early twentieth centuries.

Moderation by
Timothy Snyder (IWM Permanent Fellow; Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University)

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