Memory and Diverse Belongings NUBS 4.08
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.16. Between Hope and Agency: The Memory of Emotions in Poland after World War II

The memory of the Polish People's Republic seems not to have a common denominator: in the West, the communist period of Polish history is remembered through the lens of grayness and misery, often employing more pervasive tropes of eastern backwardness (Wolff 1997; Murawska-Muthesius 2021). In Poland, the collective memory of these times remains a battleground for various political agendas that build their narratives often on resentment and fear (Mrozik and Holubec 2018; Chmielewska, Mrozik and Wołowiec 2021). Yet, a close look at the archives of this period allows to draw a different picture: namely, of socialist Poland as a site of upward social mobility and emancipation, an arena of change and hope. For, as Rebecca Solnit put it, hope means "broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act" (Solnit 2016). For many underprivileged citizens, such as women, peasants, Roma people, the socialist state offered a possibility of agency.The proposed panel is an endeavor to look closely at the instances of hope in the various archives of the Polish People's Republic and to theorize hope as a concept in the context of memory studies. We would like to investigate how hope may be remembered and commemorated, what the rhetoric, visual and narrative figures and poetics of hope might be, whether the memory of hope may be multidirectional memory and whether it may embody political agency.The participants of the panel focus on examples from both the times in the direct aftermath of the Second World War and the later period, as well as the contemporary institutional ways of commemorating this history. Kinga Siewior investigates the emotions-oriented memory politics focused on the category of hope in the immediate post-war period; Aleksandra Szcz ...

NUBS 4.08 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The memory of the Polish People's Republic seems not to have a common denominator: in the West, the communist period of Polish history is remembered through the lens of grayness and misery, often employing more pervasive tropes of eastern backwardness (Wolff 1997; Murawska-Muthesius 2021). In Poland, the collective memory of these times remains a battleground for various political agendas that build their narratives often on resentment and fear (Mrozik and Holubec 2018; Chmielewska, Mrozik and Wołowiec 2021). Yet, a close look at the archives of this period allows to draw a different picture: namely, of socialist Poland as a site of upward social mobility and emancipation, an arena of change and hope. For, as Rebecca Solnit put it, hope means "broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act" (Solnit 2016). For many underprivileged citizens, such as women, peasants, Roma people, the socialist state offered a possibility of agency.
The proposed panel is an endeavor to look closely at the instances of hope in the various archives of the Polish People's Republic and to theorize hope as a concept in the context of memory studies. We would like to investigate how hope may be remembered and commemorated, what the rhetoric, visual and narrative figures and poetics of hope might be, whether the memory of hope may be multidirectional memory and whether it may embody political agency.
The participants of the panel focus on examples from both the times in the direct aftermath of the Second World War and the later period, as well as the contemporary institutional ways of commemorating this history. Kinga Siewior investigates the emotions-oriented memory politics focused on the category of hope in the immediate post-war period; Aleksandra Szczepan focuses on a forgotten chapter of Polish history, namely the involvement of the Roma in building the new industrial district of Kraków, Nowa Huta, in the 1950s; Katarzyna Chmielewska analyzes the memoirs of migrants to the so-called Recovered Territories, i.e. the former German territories that became part of Poland after the Potsdam Conference in 1945; Antonina Tosiek examines diaries of peasant women from the 1960s and 1970s as records of an emancipation processes; Maria Kobielska scrutinizes the mnemonic potential of hope in the context of historical exhibitions about the PPR created in recent years.



Kinga Siewior

Memory of Hope in Post-war Poland (1945-1956)

The aim of the speech is to present the emotions-oriented memory politics focused on the category of hope. The immediate post-war period in Poland went by under the sign of recovery from the traumas of World War II; on the other hand - under the sign of reconstruction and the introduction of a new political and cultural order (communism). The present cultural memory of the period is dominated by the "negative" emotional undertones associated with the systemic violence (fear, uncertainty, anxiety, grief, etc.). In my paper, however, I want to focus on the "positive" aspects of both the official politics of memory (i.e. socrealist narrative) and the communicative memory of the period (i.e. memoirs). What the role of hope in both official and unofficial discourse was? What were the objects of hope? What traditions were invoked, and what traditions were invented at the time, to enhance the sense of hope?


Katarzyna Chmielewska

Habitus and memoirs in the context of the "Recovered Territory"

The material of the presented research consists of memoirs of post-peasants, emancipated workers and migrants, written between 1945 and 1956 in Polish. These texts were written in relation to the so-called Recovered Territory, the former German territories that became part of Poland on the strength of the Potsdam Conference in 1945. For the most part, these are texts by people who participated in the migration processes or people related with them. I will present how the relationship between the narratives of the emancipated and the politics of history is built, how the emotional-habitual field resonates with the narratives of the politics of memory and the politics of history, with a particular focus on social anxiety, agency and participation in the emancipation process.


Maria Kobielska

The narrative of hope: exhibiting Polish People's Republic in new historical museums

As numerous examples show, there is a great potential in framing the history and memory of the Polish People's Republic in terms of actions taken in the hope for development and change. What is particularly important in the context of the martyrdom dominant Polish master narrative, this draws the possibility of a "positive" version of memory, more concerned with agency than with trauma. In my research I explore the 21st century museum boom in Poland, assuming that flourishing new historical museums can reveal prevalent tendencies in contemporary memory culture, but also unveil complications and counter-trends. The material provided by Polish museum culture can be used to test the hypothesis concerning the mnemonic potential of hope – and indeed, hope turns out to be one of leitmotifs or keywords of historical exhibitions about the PPR created in recent years. It is generally reserved for stories of resistance against authoritarian power and associated with the Solidarity movement – what is immediately visible in exhibition sections on the years 1980 1981, such as "Solidarity and Hope" in the European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk or "The Birth of Hope" in the Dialogue Center Upheavals in Szczecin. On the basis of my research, I will develop visual, rhetoric, spatial, and narrative analysis of "exhibiting hope" in new Polish historical museums. I will show how museums frame the memory of the PPR in terms of the narrative of hope – which, significantly, does not concern the utopia of communist project, but anti-communist resistance, and sometimes also the transition of 1989. At the same time, my interpretation of the exhibitions will reveal limitations of this narrative in Polish memory: the ways in which hope is constructed, distributed, associated with specific figures, ideologies, and discourses, especially religious (to an effect of "Catholicisation of hope"). Ultimately, this may undermine or limit the memory of hope in its pluralising and multidirectional potential. In the context of contemporary Polish museum landscape hope turns out, synchronously, a persuasive mnemonic frame and a tool of mnemonic ideologisation.

 

dr
,
Faculty of Polish Studies, Jagiellonian University
assistant professor
,
Instytut Badań Literackich PAN / Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences
Dr.
,
Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Researcher
,
The Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences
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