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The paradoxes of the Polish cultural identity (Representations of "West" and "East" in the polish literature in exile after the end of World War II).

The over-all aim of the project is to study cultural identity discourses in Polish exile literature after 1945 using M. Foucault’s discourse theory and a post-colonial perspective on cultural identity (S. Hall, F. Fanon, H. Bhabha). The project will examine the Polish identity discourses by analysing Polish exile writers’ and essayists’ attitudes to the formative events of post-war Europe (among them the cultural crisis, the rebuilding of a unified Western Europe, the consolidation of the Eastern bloc, the “cold war”). The project will also analyse the cultural, aesthetic and ideological dialogue these writers and essayists maintained both with the “West” and the “East”. Focusing on Polish exile literature, the project assumes there was a deep rift within the prevailing discourse of the time, which had a significant impact on its cultural identity, to the extent of still affecting Polish self-consciousness today (it is estimated there were 1.5 million Polish emigrants in Western Europe in 1945). The mechanisms of the discourse (that will be counted, analysed and described against their historical background) on the one hand referred the Polish identity to the West (considered a relatable cultural heritage and stronghold for democracy) while it at the same time stopped its users from identifying with the West (since the West was considered not vital enough and “morally rotten”). Equally strong and ambivalent were the mechanisms that made the Polish identity look to the East, while at the same denying its “Eastern” roots, considering them to be of lesser value and “uncivilised”. In this type of dynamic, postcolonial theories could be useful. The confrontation of the Eastern European in exile with the Western cultural environment triggered a process among the émigrés of questioning identity, making it less firm. The position of the Polish writers within exile discourse is reminiscent of the situation of the colonized: “When the colonized man begins to describe himself in the language of the colonizer, and looks at himself with his gaze, he also adopts the desire of the colonizer. Thus also the colonized man stops desiring himself and instead begins a flight from his former self […]” (Fanon). Among its aims, the project wants to describe this flight and answer the question: what has happened during the course of the journey, what kind of identity has taken shape and what discursive mechanisms helped produce the new identity discourses.

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Project start: 2013
Project end: 2016

Financier: Östersjöstiftelsen

Research linked to the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: Yes

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