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Accepted Paper:

What postcolonial lenses tell us about the realities of future cultural making in Polisz Spisz  
Janusz Baranski (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

The form and content of the cultural revival of the Polish Spisz region is to some extent shaped by external experts. In the light of postcolonial studies, one can claim that it is a form of the colonial nature of their activity in cultural policy. This type of symbolic violence meets with resistance “from below” of some activists and inhabitants of the region.

Paper long abstract:

Polish Spisz is a multicultural border region characterized primarily by Polishness, but with Slovak, Hungarian, German, Ruthenian, Romani and Jewish elements. This is related to the long history of the region, dating back to the Middle Ages, which until 1918 was part of the Habsburg Monarchy. Since the beginning of the political changes of the end of the 20th century, the region has been experiencing a cultural revival, inspired by local social elites (teachers, officials, activists, the business world), but also by external experts (ethnographers, historians, musicologists, choreographers). In this cultural borderland, it also leads to disputes about heritage, its resources or ways of using them for the benefit of the region. The aforementioned experts play an important role, in particular ethnographers, ethnologists, and folklorists, who act as arbitrators deciding on the value and usefulness of specific cultural content, products and practices. Their influence often means imposing choices from the resources of the regional cultural heritage. In the light of postcolonial studies, it is possible to indicate the colonial nature of their activity in the field of cultural policy, simply showing the ways of practicing the regional culture. Moreover, some local elites (activists, animators) are involved in this process. This type of symbolic violence meets with resistance “from below” of some region’s activists and inhabitants who do not accept the values, forms and cultural content arranged by professionals into the form of classical kastom. They reject treating their own heritage in the form of an unchanging, staged fossil and promote an attitude of creativity, independence, agency of local cultural practices and forms of creativity not constrained by an oppressive kastom scenario.

Panel P084a
Between promise and desire: what postcolonial and postsocialist lenses tell us about the realities of future-making I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -