september, 2015

23sep14:40- 16:00Panel 3. Difficult HeritageRemembering and forgetting14:40 - 16:00 Jagiellońska 26, 03-719 WarszawaKino Praha

Event Details

Leder Andrzej, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Signes, Social Imaginaries and the Imperative of Empathy.

We have many examples that signs – the smallest ones as the one about which I will speak, and big ones, as buildings, monuments or entire cities – have different emotional values, different symbolic position for different national and cultural communities and groups. This empirical fact shows, that we are living in different social imaginaries, or symbolic universes. As in the case of the ‘spoon from Auschwitz’ – which will be my discussed example – the event can make this symbolic universes appear for a moment. We can then ask about the structural coherence of such social imaginaries, and try to make clear what makes them so resistant to any attempt of change. And this change is indispensable if we want to think about a European common social imaginary. I will try to show that the condition of possibility for any common European symbolic universe is the ‘imperative of empathy’.


Musalkova Johana, University of Oxford, Collective Amnesia as a Solution to Difficult Heritage: a Case Study of Politics of Commemoration in Czech Silesia.

The very recent response of the city council of Opava, the historical capital of Czech Silesia, to cede to populist opinion within the region has led to the refusal to grant dedication of a commemorative plaque to formerly expelled German populations. Spearheaded by the Silesian German Association, the response of Opava’s authorities and populous to the plaque was one of annoyance and disregard, relegating the prominently German character of pre-war Silesian language and culture once again to a silent memory. Drawing on a vast body of literature considering difficult heritage, cultural trauma and collective amnesia, through this case study I examine the dynamics of identity formation and commemoration politics in Opava. The situation in the city demonstrates both how cultural trauma affects a group of people which had previously achieved some degree of cohesion and the role of group agency in overcoming the collectively traumatic experience. I argue that the prevailing strategy emerging from this agency is a denial – which I theorize in terms of Collective Amnesia. Understanding of Collective Amnesia as a strategic response to collective trauma through this case study can aid both our understanding of the local context as well as how human groups adapt to the disintegration of their collective identities.


Jodlinski Leszek, Slezske zemske muzeum, Opava, The German Heritage – The Issue That Still Divides? Case Study of the Original Permanent Exhibition in Silesian Museum in Katowice.

The paper deals with German heritage in the Upper Silesia. The discussion and the rejection of the original scenario for permanent exhibition History of the Upper Silesia have proved that comprehensive interpretation of the past and its acceptance is sometimes difficult and almost impossible. I analyze the rejection of the German heritage as a result of two historical methodologies that presently exist in Poland and which influence our common perception of the history. One – centralist formulated history – speaks about the history of Poland from the perspective of a unitarian statehood.

According to this approach all Polish citizens share the same memory and accept the same facts in same / alike way. This concept already faced the failure when in-depth history of the Polish-Jewish relations was recently revealed (Jedwabne, ‘Ida’).

The other approach is defined as polycentric. It sees the history throughout the experience of (national, social) groups existing within the multicultural context. In praxis, polycentric (his)story-telling approach consists from the “histories” of such communities (Jews, Silesians, Poles transferred from the Eastern Borderlands of pre-war Poland etc.). They were not present (yet banned) within the official course of the Polish history. This legacy (on both intangible and material level) is voiced by them now with the expectations to be listened to.  The paper deals with the question why the project did go wrong. Whether we are prepared to resign from the heritage we once used to accept (but it turned out to be incomplete) and instead to explore a new one.

Paper tackles the problem museums have in presenting society the comprehensive though sometimes difficult heritage and how they transfer it into our collective memory. Does it enrich us? Difficult heritage might turn out to be different from the one we expected but it still means ours.


(Wednesday) 14:40 - 16:00


Kino Praha

Jagiellońska 26, 03-719 Warszawa

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