Author:Agnieszka Halemba (Polish Academy of Science)
Paper short abstract:
It is often assumed that national identities are what matter most in the Polish-German border region. This paper challenges this assumption, showing that at least for some people what matters is change, challenge, opportunities and movement.
Paper long abstract:
Polish-German relations are usually seen as especially arduous because of persisting negative stereotypes as well as cultural and communicative memories that are assumed to focus on mutual grievances and historical antagonisms. Do such approaches however correspond to the main concerns of people living, leaving and settling in the Polish-German border region? Are the questions of German and Polish identity important for people's decision making? On the basis of on-going ethnographic research conducted in the area 20-40 kilometers south of Szczecin (Stettin) on both sides of the Polish-German state border, we present an alternative approach to studying this region. The main focus of this paper will be on Polish citizens, for whom movement and change form threads that run through their biographical narratives, those concerning their lives as well as those of their parents and grandparents. In this context, it is not surprising that their decision to buy a house on the German side, as it often happens in the recent years, is neither equivalent to a decision to move the center of their life to Germany, nor it is necessarily accompanied with struggles over identity and stereotypes. To the contrary, it can be seen as a continuation of generations-long practice of movement and searching for change, where being located somewhere in particular is, at least for some people, of limited value.
The roads most travelled: ethnographic approaches to buffer zones, crossroads and spaces in-between