Forum on 15 - Narrative Shock and Polish Memory Remaking in the Twenty-First Century  Add To Calendar

  • Date(s): Thursday, 10/16 4:00 PM to Thursday, 10/16 6:00 PM
  • Campus Address: 1501 UH

Narrative Shock and Polish Memory Remaking in the Twenty-First Century


Genevieve Zubrzycki

Associate Professor, Sociology 
University of Michigan

This talk will examine different modes of memory-making, un-making, and remaking in present-day Poland, as it relates specifically to its Jewish past. In memory studies, much has been written on trauma and denial on the one hand, and mythology and nostalgia on the other. Zubrzycki investigates the relationship between these memory modes by analyzing three distinct memorial projects: the postwar creation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and its post-1989 narrative revision; the Jedwabne massacre memorial and counter-memorial; and the commemorative projects of artist/memory activist Rafal Betlejewski “I Miss You, Jew” and “Burning Barn.” By analyzing   national   institutions, state-sponsored memorial monuments, and “bottom-up” citizens’ commemorative initiatives, her discussion aims not only to uncover a typology of memory-making practices and projects, but also to highlight how these form discrete links in a complex mnemonic chain reaction. She shows that postwar socialist memorialization of the Second World War, which downplayed  the Holocaust and emphasized Polish victimhood, reinforced a long-standing national martyrological myth. As that mythology was seriously questioned after 1989, it sent Poles into a state of “narrative shock,” bringing about