Czech Political Prisoners: Recovering Face

Czech Political Prisoners: Recovering Face

by Jana Kopelentova Rehak


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Czech Political Prisoners: Recovering Face is the story of men and women who survived Czechoslovakian concentration camps under the Communist regime. Men and women disappeared, were arrested, imprisoned, interrogated, tortured, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to forced labor camps. In 1948 in Czechoslovakia, political others became political prisoners.

New forms of political practices developed under the institution of the totalitarian Czechoslovakian communist state. This new regime of totalitarian political power produced culturally specific forms of organized political violence. Between 1948 and 1989 some citizens recognized by the state as political others were subjected to such ritualized political violence. The link between ritualized violence and state subjects' political passage laid the groundwork for the formation of new social identities.

In the post-totalitarian state, the political other from the socialist era remains other through distinct desires and acts of coming to terms with the experience of organized violence. Like other members of the Czech and Slovak states, former prisoners are now facing the post-totalitarian remaking of life. In contrast to society at large, the political prisoners' recovery from the totalitarian past has proven that the ethics of political life-individual and communal coming to terms with the past-is closely related and crucial to their efforts toward reconciliation.

Today, in the Czech Republic, as well as in other post-socialist countries, the desire to reconcile is not limited to survivors of camps, prisoners, and dissidents. People from the youngest generation are asking questions about crimes, punishment, and forgiveness related to the Communist regime in central and eastern Europe.

The purpose of this story is to expose individual and communal experience, subjectivity, and consciousness hidden in the ruins of memory of Socialism in Czechoslovakia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739176344
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 12/22/2012
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jana Kopelentova Rehak, PhD, is an assistant professor of anthropology at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and an affiliate faculty at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. She received her Doctoral degree from the Anthropology Department at American University in Washington, DC, her MFA from the University of Delaware in Newark and a BA from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, the Czech Republic.

Her research specializations include Central Eastern Europe as well as urban North America. In Central Eastern Europe her research is focused on political life, aging, migration, minorities, language, visual culture and ecology. In the United States she practices applied anthropology of urban life focused on housing, education, health, migration, environment and public art in Baltimore City. Her background in cultural anthropology and the visual arts has shaped her multidisciplinary perspective on the social sciences and humanities.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Foreword Part I. Losing Face Photos Chapter One: Owners Of Pain Chapter Two: Arrest Chapter Three: Interrogation Chapter Four: Trial Part II. Reconciliation Chapter Five: Recovering Lost Face Chapter Six: Beyond Ceremonial Sound Chapter Seven: Last Visit Conclusion References Index About the Author

What People are Saying About This

Susanna Trnka

"An in-depth, analytically rich, and emotionally moving account of the lives of Czech political prisoners, this book makes a rare contribution to post-socialist studies. Rehak's examination of how political oppression and recovery reshape subjectivity speaks to some key issues in contemporary scholarship on political violence, history, and memory.

Karen von Kunes

"A powerful testimony of the brutal era of Czech Communist supremacy. The author's personal remarks and compassion for victims—the political prisoners that she interviewed over the years—make this book the most knowledgeable and passionate read.

Gretchen Schafft

"Jana Rehak’s book is a combination of rich theoretical content and analysis with a heartfelt identification with former political prisoners in her Czech homeland. Her photo-ethnography is a “must read” for those concerned with power and identity. This little-known history of Cold War labor camps is told with conviction in the voices of those suffering the results of political oppression. It is an intelligent and moving testimony.

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