Accepted Paper:

History under renewal: urban 'reconstruction' in post-socialist Poland  


Jaro Stacul (Acadia University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the proposed redevelopment of the Gdańsk shipyard that was the cradle of the Solidarity movement in the 1980s, and the ways former shipyard workers contest the legitimacy of this and other urban renewal projects advocated by the Polish state.

Paper long abstract:

Several studies in Anthropology and cognate disciplines have illustrated the ways in which urban renewal results in forms of social exclusion. Yet the issue of how interventions in the socio-spatial and economic dimensions of people's lives may be an integral part of the process of national history rewriting requires further exploration. Drawing upon research conducted in the Polish city of Gdańsk, this paper examines the redevelopment of the shipyard that was the cradle of Solidarity, the mass social movement that contributed to the downfall of the Socialist state in the 1980s. In official and popular discourses, the shipyard represents a monument to Polish freedom and a symbolic terrain where Poles articulate their relationship to the state and national history. However, despite the shipyard's significance in official discourses, most of the buildings associated with the history of the Solidarity movement are likely to be knocked down to make way for the construction of apartments and office space. In illustrating how former shipyard workers who have become the victims of the economic reforms introduced by the neoliberal state contest the legitimacy of this and other urban renewal projects, the paper highlights the contradictions with which the redevelopment of the shipyard site is rife: it pursues the argument that while 'building', as a discursive practice, is often a metaphor for positive change and participation in national history, as a material process it may create new 'landscapes of power' from which a politics that is class-based is removed.

Panel WIM-WHF05
Making and remaking the city / Faire et refaire la ville