AUP graduation ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

Monthly Seminar

Figuring Memory: Social Practices and Collective Transformation with Joanna Wawrzyniak

Virtual event via Zoom
Tuesday, March 15, 2022 - 17:00 to 19:00

The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention invites you to join session 6 of the research seminar Figuring Memory: Social Practices and Collective Transformation, organized in partnership with the CNRS, the ENS Paris-Saclay, Paris Nanterre University and Sciences Po. Please register using the form at the bottom of this page.

Session 6: “The Memories of Socio-economic Transformation and the Challenges of the Witnesses' Accounts”

Speaker: Joanna Wawrzyniak, University of Warsaw

In my talk I would like to bring together some aspects of the studies of neoliberalism, memory studies, and postsocialist studies. Through examining how the economic transformation of the 1990s has been remembered in Poland, I want to address three interconnected issues. In the first place, the talk responds to the more and more frequently advocated postulate to bring “economy” into “memory studies”, a field largely dominated by matters related to wars and mass violence. To this end, I will explore the different scales of memory of the most profound change of the late twentieth century: the institutionalization of neoliberalism as hegemonic economic and political discourse. While the impact of the globalization, fiscal austerity measures, deindustrialization, privatization processes, and the growing relevance of foreign direct investment over domestic economies have been a world-wide experience, they were particularly sudden and acute in the so-called transition economies of East-Central Europe. I will comment on how this experience has been filtered, reframed and repressed in political discourses (political memory) as well as at various heritage spaces (cultural memory) of Poland. Second, by focusing on the results of an oral history project of over 130 biographical interviews, I will unveil a multi-dimensional picture of how those processes have been represented in vernacular memory of the witnesses of transformation: diverse agents of industry sector, chief executives, managers, trade union representatives, administrative staff, and shop floor workers. Third, by reflecting on the approach of this project that have connected university students (interviewers) and witnesses (interviewees) in an attempt to give a voice to the biographical experience of transformation, I will ponder the question of public use and potential of such an approach against the background of political memories and institutionalized cultural heritage.

Joanna Wawrzyniak is sociologist and historian, associate professor and Director of the Center for Research on Social Memory at the Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw. Joanna specializes in East-Central European memory processes. Her current projects include research on memories of socialism, neoliberal transformation, and deindustrialization in Poland and contributions to collaborative research on cultural heritage and memory processes in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and East and South Asia. Joanna has long standing expertise in oral history and museum research. Among her publications are co-edited special issues for Contemporary European History; East European Politics and Societies; Polish Sociological Review, and books Memory and Change in Europe: Eastern Perspectives (2016); The Enemy on Display: The Second World War in Eastern European Museums (2015); Veterans, Victims and Memory: The Politics of the Second World War in Communist Poland (2015). Her most recent co-authored book in Polish Cięcia. Mówiona historia transformacji (Cuts: Oral History of Post-Socialism, Wyd. Krytyka Polityczna 2020) won several nominations for the best historical book of 2020 in Poland. Her work was supported by grants of the European Commission, national agencies, and fellowships at several European universities, including European University Institute, Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena, Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, and Herder Institute in Marburg. Joanna has been the leader of Work Packages in Horizon 2020 projects, ECHOES and DisTerrMem; and member of the Executive Committee of the Memory Studies Association (2019-2022).

Discussant: Constance Pâris de Bollardière, Assistant Director of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention, AUP

As a historian, Constance contributes to the scientific agenda of the Center. She defended her Ph.D. in History at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in 2017. Her research, entitled “The Everlastingness of our People": An American Jewish Socialist Aid in the Yiddish Diaspora, the Jewish Labor Committee in Postwar France (1944-1948)", focuses on the transnational relation between Yiddish speaking Socialists -mainly Bundists and left wing Zionists- in America and France in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust and deals with social work, displacement and migration of Holocaust survivors, Yiddish culture, identity reconstruction, Holocaust memory, French politics and labor movements during the early Cold War. Her current research concerns are Holocaust memory in Yiddish and the use of testimonies in historical research on mass violence.

This virtual event will take place via Zoom. Registered guests will receive a Zoom link prior to this event.


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