Accepted paper:

The politicization of post-industrial spaces in contemporary Poland

Author:

Jaro Stacul (Acadia University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the current reconfigurations of the post-industrial landscape of the Gdańsk shipyard in northern Poland. It seeks to pursue the argument that turning a post-industrial space into a space of consumption is functional to the legitimation of the power of the post-Socialist state.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the current uses and reconfigurations of post-industrial spaces in contemporary Poland. The post-industrial city is becoming a unit for the efficient maximization of consumption, yet the issue of how far the production of spaces of consumption entails their depoliticization needs to be properly investigated. Drawing upon ethnographic information collected in the city of Gdańsk, on the Baltic Sea, the paper discusses the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard that was the cradle of Solidarity (Solidarność), the mass social movement that questioned the legitimacy of the Socialist state in the 1980s. It illustrates the ways in which the location where Socialist ideology was contested is turned into an area for living, leisure and business through the construction of luxury apartments, office space, and a shopping mall. However, the paper also shows that the transformation of a site of resistance to the Socialist state into a space for consumption also involves rewriting the history of the events that had led to the downfall of state Socialism. Rewriting this history, in turn, also means casting the shipyard as the location where the new, capitalist Poland was born, and entails removing both the material traces of Socialism and the working-class history that certain buildings embody. The paper sets out to pursue the argument that producing spaces of consumption does not necessarily result in their depoliticization. If anything, this may be an integral part of the process whereby the post-Socialist state attempts to assert and legitimate itself.

panel P097
Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes