The Banalization and the Contestation of Memory in Post-Communist Poland

19 May 2010, 17:00 - 19:00

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

Professor Barbara Misztal (University of Leicester, UK)

The paper will argue that in postcommunist Poland, despite the present political elite’s attempts to introduce issue of the communist wrongdoings into the political arena, the memory of the communist past is perceived as rather a banal issue. Because of the ambiguity and complexity of  the problem and because  it presents a threat to societal self-respects, as well as because of  a  lack of acceptable  criteria to evaluate the communist past, the  memory of that period  does not  engage people’s emotions and interests. It is the issue of the Polish-Jewish relations, not the communist past, that is the subject of political contestation. The past of the Polish-Jewish relations, which is no longer taboo, imposes itself  on  the collective memory because it touches on central symbols  in the collective past and the  nation’s relationship to the past and as such needs to be disputed and negotiated in the interest of the redefining  the nation’s present day identity. 

Barbara A. Misztal is  Professor of  Sociology at the Department of Sociology, the Leicester University. She received her  PhD from the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). She held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California before returning to work at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of PAN, Warsaw. She also worked at Griffith University, Australia.  She is the author of Public Intellectuals and the Public Good. Creativity and Courage (CUP, 2007), Theories of Social Remembering (Open UP, 2003), Informality. Social Theory and Contemporary Practice ( Routledge 2000), Trust in Modern Society (Polity, 1996) , and co-editor of Action on AIDS  (Greenwood Press, 1990). Her  interest in memory is reflected in her articles: Memory and democracy;  American Behavioural Scientist , 2005 ,  48, (1), The sacralization of memory, European Journal of Social Theory, 7(1) , 2004, Durkheim and Memory, Journal of  Classical Sociology,.3,( 2) , 2003, Collective memory in a global age; learning how and what to remember, Current Sociology, 2009, volume  58, no  1, pp2-22.  Her current writing projects include a book which aims to enhance sociological understanding of the concept of vulnerability by mapping conditions of human vulnerability and discussing ways in which people cope with vulnerability.


Part of the East European Memory Studies Research Group seminar series.

Open all. No registration required.

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