Prison Space, Social Control and Relationships in a Post-Soviet Women’s Prison
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This thesis attempts to capture, at the macro, meso and micro levels, the ideological rupture, which has emerged after the breakdown of the Soviet project in Latvia, and in particular its effect on penality and women’s imprisonment. This rupture has been conceptualized as a ‘clash of the titans’, which is the ongoing struggle between a Soviet legacy that refuses to die and an increasingly dominant neoliberal regime. While the breakdown of Soviet hegemonic power signaled a victory for democracy and market economics, the spread of western liberal democracies has been a challenge for post-Soviet societies. While democratic traditions took centuries to evolve in western societies, the democratisation and establishment of neoliberalism in post-Soviet Latvia has been an abrupt process over a few short years. This forced time frame has brought societal problems, which have yet to be worked through. This thesis will argue that for Latvians the collapse of the Soviet project meant not only transforming the socio-political economy, but has also led to the re-emergence of non-Soviet cultural traditions. The new political narratives tend to embrace a nationalistic and masculinized approach. Some sections of society have become increasingly excluded from influence, for example Russian-speakers. There is also a tendency for women to be excluded from equal influence. These cultural narratives, together with the growth of neoliberalism, has pushed Soviet influence and ideology away from mainstream Latvian society, and out to the most secluded and isolated places. Hence prisons are a last battle-ground for the two ideologically opposed ‘titans’ and a site of resistance to the new dominant culture.