Issue 2011/1 (292) - Konteksty

Czesław Robotycki Anthropology of History in Poland 3

General introduction about the relation between history and anthropology in Poland by the end of the decade.

Jacek Kowalewski Daily Life – Local Qualities – Lifestyle. Comments on the Epistemological Premises of Historical Anthropology 6

The fundamental intention of this text is a presentation of the cognitive stand of historical anthropology from the vantage point of selected research premises in a current of Polish historiography known as the history of daily life. The text is composed of two basic parts, with the first encompassing, apart from introductory remarks on the origin and beginnings of historical studies on daily life, a characteristic of selected specific conceptual elements co-creating the historiographic category of daily life. In Polish historical narrations the category of daily life as a rule encompassed a conglomerate of the social conditions of existence, production and consumption, seen ”from below”. In other words, the history of daily life is the history of the family, women and children, the aged and the sick, the history of sexual life, birth, marriage and death, leisure, customs, beliefs and views and, finally, psychologically comprehended mentality. The praxis of historians is dominated by an objectivising description of people and their subjectivisation via a reconstructive and contextual reference to locally existing networks of meanings and cultural values. A thus understood category of daily life was contrasted with the idea of studying daily life built from the perspective of the epistemological assumptions of historical anthropology. In this case, references were made predominantly to the tradition of the phenomenological sociology of Alfred Schütz and Yuriy Lotman’s semiotics of culture as well as the correlated category of common knowledge and the conceit of the lifestyle. As seen by historical anthropology, daily life is an ideational stratum of reality, a sphere of the activity of cultural typisations expressed in local and historical forms of common knowledge. A comparison of those two significantly different perspectives shows, first, the current incommensurability of the strategy of research both into local history deciphered in the domain of the premises and cognitive objectives of historical anthropology; second, as a trend towards which historians of daily life interested in the anthropologisation of their research perspective should strive.

Zbigniew Libera History and Culture – the Problems of Cultural Anthropology and Historical Anthropology 21

Every socio-cultural order constructs history in its own way. Such history is always the outcome of a semiotic transformation of the past in texts of culture. Historical knowledge becomes rendered inedible in assorted ways and in multiple forms of culture. The latter is a form of an articulation of the world, but also a programme of conduct, a ”semiotic network” determining the sequence of events and their results in practical life. The recreation of culture, especially its maximum symbolic forms: the myth and the ritual, sets history into motion. The events, persons and things that constitute it must be treated as significant structures, referring to the model of the world binding in a given tradition (together with its assessment of time and space, chronology, casuistic, etc.) so that they could be regarded as sensible and purposeful. Are such theories of the history of culture acceptable for historians seeking in ethnology and socio-cultural anthropology solutions for their problems?

Marcin Brocki Nostalgia for People’s Poland. An Attempted Analysis 26

Nostalgia for the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) is a phenomenon whose causes, significance and social function have not as yet been satisfactorily interpreted. The author based himself on ethnographic material created as part of field studies in order to try to situate the memory of PRL within the communication order in which it is ”used”. By resorting to elements of the semiotic theory of the Tartu-Moscow school as regards research focused on memory, and the reflections of Erving Goffman on the permanence of the order of daily and ritualised forms of communication, the author formulated a thesis claiming that recollections of PRL serve as a point of departure for own interpretations of the present-day situation. While analyzing field material he concluded that after the turnabout of 1989, changing institutions of daily life were still interpreted within codes once binding in People’s Poland. Since there exists a divergence between those codes and a new way of acting, it became an incomprehensible “foreign tongue” that produced animosity towards the new and sentiment for the already familiar (nostalgia). Nostalgia should thus be deciphered as a sui generis interpretation of the present day from a communication perspective – nostalgia interprets changes within the range of communication forms and, primarily, changes of the number of interpersonal connections (building a feeling of a bond) and the possibility of realising ritualised forms of daily interactions.

Wojciech Piasek The Historiography of the People’s Republic of Poland in an Anthropological Perspective of Historical-Methodological Studies 34

Similarly to contemporary Polish historiography, its post-war predecessor – usually described as the historiography of the People’s Republic of Poland – was just as variegated. Noticing this variety calls for an approach that will not only make it possible to perceive this feature but, primarily, to evaluate it positively by treating it as “natural” within the range of scientific praxis. It is exactly the absence of the possibility of such a treatment of differences within the universally accepted perspective of research that makes it impossible to disclose its great variety. The consequence assumes the form not only of an inferior image of the historiography of the Peoples’ Poland period but also a restriction of comprehending the research praxis of the historians of that time. More, it makes it difficult to ponder such historiography and to discover an answer to the question: what was the historiography of People’s Poland like, and what should be our attitude towards it?

The titular anthropological perspective of historiography – methodological research, which treats distinctness within scientific thought as its “natural” state, opens up a totally different path towards studying and understanding the historiography of the People’s Poland era. Here, the objective is to reach the historiosophic-methodological differences of such historiography, to follow its variety by means of a “thick description” and to formulate diagnoses pertaining to the cultural frames of cognition.

Czesław Robotycki Folk and Amateur Historical Writings 40

The social functioning of history demonstrates that it is not merely a science, but sui generis proof of the sense of existence. This is the meaning possessed from the very onset by folk historical writings. A text describing rural tradition as well as personal history or that of a region comprises an interesting aspect of culture that distinctly shows the mechanism and structure of collective memory. Peasant historical writings should be perceived from the viewpoint of prime values since they constitute a symptom of the folk world outlook. They are by no means an historical source, but evidence of the cultural invention of cultural meanings. Pertinent analyses of the phenomenon in question roughly distinguish three possible vantage points: literary – which creates the past in the form of a legend, folkloristic – which seeks historical facts in folklore, and axiological – which views the folk pursuit of history as an act of testifying to values.

Marta Kurkowska-Budzan “Autogenic” History: Narrations about the Post-war Armed Underground in the Voivodeship of coma 45

The author tackled the question of the post-war anti-communist armed Underground movement in Poland, which up to now has been the domain of studies conducted mainly by experts on political history operating with traditional methodology. After the introduction, which develops the methodological motif, the author went on to present historiographic narrations collected during several research projects (with different themes) conducted in 2001–2008 in north-eastern Mazovia and the Podlasie region. The article considers history stemming both from individual experiences of the past and a historical and contemporary cultural, social and political context. “Autogenic history ” is analysed by referring to communication genres and narration strategies, applied by the narrators of historical categories, and the properties, which they ascribe to history and its protagonists. The author asks about the impact of present-day and past public discourses upon such folk narrations (by way of example, communist propaganda, the language of the contemporary media, etc.).

Barbara Klich-Kluczewska, Dobrochna Kałwa “Peripheral Daily Life”. Memory of People’s Poland among the Inhabitants of Ustronie – a Case Study 57

The article presents a micro-historical interpretation of daily life in the People’s Republic of Poland comprehended as peripheral research space contrasted with macro social historiography. The source basis is composed of oral accounts possessing the features of biographical narrations, collected at the time of research carried out in Ustronie, a frontier locality in Cieszyn Silesia. The text includes two divergent case studies of the experiences of a “woman from here” and an “alien” in Ustronie. The first instance makes it possible to analyse daily life and the role it plays in the construction and shaping of local identity. In the second case, the centre of attention is focused on the process of building and the functions fulfilled by apocryphal memory. A comparative analysis of the interviews indicates a genuine need for embarking in Poland upon micro-historical studies of the epoch as well as a redefinition of daily life, up to now described in historiography with the assistance of traditional sociological methods that reduce a person to a number and a statistical variable. In the context of contemporary historiography, the protagonists of history – people and places – are subjected to multiple marginalisation. First, the local experiences of the epoch of the People’s Republic of Poland are recorded via the adaptation of a model devised by political history on a macro scale. Secondly, the protagonists undergo a double marginalisation – as the inhabitants of geographical peripheries and as individuals.

Michał Januszkiewicz The Ethics of Authenticity as a Postulated Lifestyle Glossa on Ethical Critique by Stanisław Barańczak 65

The theoretical stratum of this sketch deals with the relative autonomy of the literary work. This feature consists of the fact that literary texts are not only language-oriented but also wish to speak about the world around us. The thematic stratum is concerned with questions that proved to be significant for representatives of the so-called Generation ’68. The attitude of the representatives of the New Wave appears to pertain to issues associated with poetics and various ways of thinking about literature (poetry). It became obvious, however, that the controversy concerning the character of literature is not a problem resolved simply by those who write poems but goes much further. It relates, above all, to questions concerning our nature, objectives and definitions of the world of values. Responses to such questions delineated fundamentally the lifestyle of the citizens of People’s Poland: should society support so-called small stabilisation by ignoring the mechanisms of the state and socio-political reality or, as the existentialists would say, the unauthentic lifestyle? Or, on the contrary, should people desire an authentic life, a life immersed in truth? Questions of this sort occupy central place in the literary critique of Stanisław Barańczak (predominantly, his two volumes of essays: Nieufni i zadufani and Etyka i poetyka).

Krzysztof Piątkowski The Aesthetics of the People’s Republic of Poland – Folklore Qualities and the Grotesque 70

The article considers the aesthetics of the People’s Republic of Poland and proposes certain interpretations from the perspective of the anthropology of culture. Accepting that the code of culture at the time included two functioning “circulations”: official and unofficial, there must have occurred a certain duality of thinking. Assorted artistic undertakings were granted a suitable framework (i. e. a convention making it possible to distinguish certain contents, associated with daily reality). Folklore qualities and the grotesque, comprehended as sui generis cultural categories (not solely aesthetic), modelled ways of thinking, behavior and artistic expression in both circulations.

Krystyna Piątkowska The Aesthetics of the People’s Republic of Poland – Visual Texts and Signs in Propaganda 75

In the totalitarian system propaganda creates a cohesive, mendacious world, easily controlled. A unification of the visual language codes facilitates capturing differences – subjugation renders ”invisible” while non-adaptation or rejection of the established pattern produces the effect of disclosure. Particular fragments of existence in People’s Poland contain two discernible categories used for the introduction of order, which comprised the foundation of propaganda and originally were the foundation of the success of totalitarian authorities and then contributed to their downfall. Both in some way belong to each other: myth and hero, the cultural hero. Images of leaders were the constructs of mental portrayals whose realizations assumed an arbitrary and canonical character. The formula of such texts produces the impression of texts “encoded” in folk-type culture. The hieratic nature of portraits is particularly exasperating within the context of public ceremonies, and visual texts are modeled by, for all practical purpose, the only formal directive characteristic for the religious iconographic theme in its most perfect version, i. e. The Last Supper: a long table, the presidium rostrum, with a charismatic protagonist performing the gesture of a greeting and the party apostles gazing at the deity. A further part of the text analyses illustrations of state visits and “semi-private” likenesses, with wives or informal circumstances. The indolence of the propaganda of People’s Poland, incapable of creating a single meaningful sign, a pictogram that would be universally recognisable and stir emotions, offers much food for thought. While striving towards symbolization, propaganda concentrated on the natural language, ignoring visual metaphoric, which once again refers us to the folklore type of culture.

Ewa Nowina-Sroczyńska Aristocrats of All Countries – Unite! A Sketch to an Anthropological Story of “Łodź Kaliska” 81

In the cultural landscape of Łódź, the already thirty-years old avant-garde Łodź Kaliska group remains an exceptional phenomenon transcending the framework of critical refection on art. The group’s paradigm was always contestation aimed against trends nobilitated in art, ideologies, cultural norms and fashions, habits of social thought, conformistic behavior in life and art, or the social compulsion of productivity; in doing so, the group used assorted forms of laughter, an approach that was extremely difficult considering that the first years of the activity of Łodź Kaliska coincided with the martial law period. The text discusses the first decade, accepting as an interpretation strategy the cultural categories of the carnival and carnivalisation, present in the reflections of M. Bakhtin and those of his later exegetes and polemicists. Although Łodź Kaliska described itself as apolitical, reality rendered this feature impossible. In a society that during the marital law years recalled Romantic myths, biographies, symbols and gestures, the carnivalisation of life and art was a hazardous undertaking. Already in the early 1980s ŁodźKaliska proposed new forms of participation in public life – neither heroic nor conformist – that called for the courage to “be funny”.

Monika Milewska Holy Stalinist Icons 93

A presentation of the different ways of portraying Stalin during the period of the greatest intensification of his cult. Portraits played an essential part due to the fact that the leader of the Soviet state, totally devoid of natural charisma, was unwilling to made public appearances. His omnipresence was guaranteed by icons, through whose intermediary the nation remained in a constant and almost mystical contact with its Leader. Stalinist icons possess multiple features of Orthodox icons, and were the object of a truly religious cult best evidenced in accounts about the mourning after Stalin’s death, when, in the one hand, special altars were erected while, on the other hand, his portraits became the target of intentional profanation. The author also considers the complicated history of photographs, whose purpose was to falsify Stalin’s appearance and biography, as well as monuments and the history of their erection and toppling.

Dorota Majkowska-Szajer Souvenirs from Atlantis. A Contribution to Studies on “Yugo-nostalgia” 102

The text considers ”Yugonostalgia” – a longing for Tito’s dictatorship in communist Yugoslavia. In the former territories of this county postwar trauma has produced an ideal image of the communist past. The author stresses that sometimes it constitutes the only element of shared memories in the culturally, politically and religiously differentiated terrains of former Yugoslavia.

Antoni Kroh Happy Halleluiah, People’s Poland! 112

Socialist realism was proclaimed in 1949 as the binding and sole correct programme intended for all domains of culture, and although several years later it ceased being officially in force, it never died. Ridiculed, it was recalled as resolutely as it had been previously announced. The post-1970s inaugurated a strange time for folk art. In the wake of the Gomułkaera drabness, which ended with the bloody events along the Baltic littoral, the authorities were compelled to offer the people something in return: Coca-cola, the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Fiat family car, prefabricated housing estates, an opportunity to travel to the West. Supporting folk art fitted the reconstruction of society performed in a new spirit, and thus assumed the rank of a state issue and part of the cultural policy.

Łukasz Kossowski ”Wonder Years”. Music. Poetry. Painting. The ‘70s and ‘80s. 120

An Exhibition at the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature in Warsaw, April-August 2009 The protagonists of this exhibition are not celebrated figures or representatives of elites, but anonymous inhabitants of villages and small towns, accidental passers-by, workers, peasants and young hippies. It was they who in the 1980s rose up from their knees, claimed their dignity and successfully struggled for freedom. Over a hundred photograms on display capture their lives: banal, dramatic, happy or nostalgic, suspended between conformism and heroism. We discover the same faces at weddings, dances, pilgrimages, May Holy Mass services, bus stops, on grey winter city streets, among people queuing up in mud to buy sausages and marching in a May Day parade or in crowds facing ZOMO (Motorized Militia) units in clouds of tear gas. The photograms correspond to more than 200 works of art: paintings, examples of the graphic arts and sculptures, which in an artistic abbreviation show the difficult two last decades of People’s Poland. This image of the “wonder years” would be incomplete without the accompanying sound track prepared by Marek Gaszyński and composed of the powerful rock music and blues of the 1970s and 1980s. For the young generation of the period, such music was a sui generis enclave of freedom and hope as well as friendship and cultural identification. It still resounds with youthful nonchalance and courage and, predominantly, with an immortal wish for constructing yet another republic of dreams, contrary to common sense and the depressing daily life of the “wonder years”.

Dariusz Kosiński They Marched Crying: Poland, Poland! 128

The article expands a thesis formulated by the author of the book Teatra polskie. Historie, published in 2010 and maintaining that Poland, comprehended as an ideological-cultural construct, exists as, and continues to be a drama-spectacle. This thesis has been transferred and used for analysing two contemporary forms of experiencing and depicting the national community: a series of socio-political rites and ceremonies, comprising a reaction to, and a consequence of the crash of the airplane carrying the President of Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński in April 2010, and the behaviour of fans of national sports teams. The first group is shown as a series of activities reviving the traditional national Romantic symbolic associating Polishness with sacrifice and death, with its simultaneous application as a tool for distinguishing “genuine” Polishness, loyal to traditional paradigms, and its radical separation from social groups rejecting that model. Consequently, collective experiences of mourning became an instrument of permanent division. The second group, discussed predominantly upon the example of the activity of fans of national netball and ski jumping teams, is a contradiction of the former and presents an inclusive and joyful experiencing of Poland not as a victim but as a power. The activities in question possess the features of fun, close to carnival festivities that reverse the order dominating in political-ceremonious solemnity. Thanks to the employment of the mechanisms of popular culture and mass communication they appear to exert a much larger impact on moulding stances and attitudes towards the national community than the centralised spectacles of the first variety.

Alain Bouillet What Is Art Brut? 141

Art Brut basically opposes all accepted categories as well as all normative descriptions. It is possible to define what it is not, but it is extremely difficult to say what it is and even harder – what it will be like in the future. Its essential feature is not to fit into accepted categories. Dubuffet was of the opinion that Art Brut is simply art, primary art, “genuine” art… Art Brut as an act of resistance? Resistance towards that which splits, divides, disintegrates and fragmentises the subject. An attempt made each morning to establish contact with the world and oneself, to mentally and physically get prepared, to survive through another day, to build a fragile integrity, constantly threatened by the turbulent inner world, in which it lives, but also by the chaos of the outer world, which it attacks and de-concentrates.

Alain Bouillet Adam Nidzgorski – a Contemporary Polish “Primitive Artist”? 153

Text written upon the occasion of an exhibition held at the BTL Gallery in Białystok (2008), featuring Adam Nidzgorski, a Polish-French Art Brut artist.

Lorraine Daston Intelligences: Angelic, Animal, Human 161

The article is a fascinating attempt at understanding and assessing contemporary forms of anthropomorphism in reference to animals. The author is not concerned with unambiguous criticism or with a holistic rejection of the discussed stand. On the one hand, she is interested in comprehending the unfazed force of its attraction in our reflections and, on the other hand, with describing the methodological taboo which renders it undesirable in the world of science. The delineations of mediaeval angelologists and post-Darwinian comparative psychologists correspond to this double objective owing to the intentional ambivalence present in both cases: anthropomorphism was practiced by desperate men aware of its threats and limitations but, at the same time, convinced that such a cognitive strategy is meaningful.

Małgorzata Kitowska-Łysiak Scenes from Dodoland. Footnotes to the Imaginarium of Bruno Schulz 175

The article draws attention to extensive ornithological interests and knowledge of Bruno Schulz, who disclosed excellent insight concerning the appearance, customs, etc. of assorted species and, in this context, was particularly intrigued by the dodo. Schulz did not delve into the concrete, but sought the original sources and elementary beginnings. From this vantage point the historical fact is only an element–intermediary between the past and that which emerges /will emerge from the present. The writer was interested in the “underpinning of things” and their “hatching” and not their histories. The bird-oriented plot with the dodo as the lead protagonist appears to confirm this concept.

Agata Skała The Faces of the Faun 189

The mythological faun embodies primitive joie de vivre, excessive erotic animation, a love of wine and musical passion. Modernism portrayed a considerably altered Faun: literature and art at the turn of the nineteenth century confirm an exceptional interest in this character, which up to then, and in assorted presentations, held a marginal and, at time, outright decorative place. Modernism enhanced the heretofore iconographic model with values whose sources are to be found in philosophy and the atmosphere of the epoch. A gallery of new likenesses opens with a poem by S. Mallarmé: L'apres-midi d'un faune (1876). In the imagination of the French poet the faun turns into a contemporary melancholic. A considerably complicated personality is disclosed by the faun from J. Kasprowicz’s drama Marchołt (1920) – here, the deity plays the part of a mentor. Just as interesting is the faun created by Maria Konopnicka in her triptych (composed of Faun tańczy / The Dancing Faun /, Faun pijany / The Drunken Faun / and Faun śpiący /The Sleeping Faun/) from the volume entitled Italia (1901), and by L. Staff in the poem Faun podstarzały / The Aged Faun /. Both in these works and in Śmierć Fauna (The Death of a Faun) by Tytus Czyżewski the woodland deity appears to be a highly emotional creature, exceptionally sensitive and aware of the meaning of existence and his place within the space of culture. Modernist portrayals of the faun seem to be particularly interesting when they constitute an emanation of human features and are the carriers of human frailties and passions. Amidst all the mythological beings, the faun appears to resemble man the most, and is a portrait of all of man’s complicated conditions and extremities. In his capacity as a mask, the faun presents an embodied unity of antinomy: nature and culture, material qualities and spirituality, the earthly and the divine, the human and the animal, good and evil, freedom and determinism, instinct and the intellect, the sacrum and the profanum.

Remigiusz Mazur-Hanaj The Board and the Glass, or on Dance 198

The text is an ethnographic analysis of Polish folk dances.

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