Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Heritage, Jewish History, Memory, National Identity, Nationalism
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, Polish society has undergone a significant ‘mnemonic awakening’; rediscovering traces of past Jewish presence in that country, critically examining the process of eradication of Jewish life and its subsequent erasure from collective memory, and attempting to recover some aspects of the Polish-Jewish past. Based on archival and ethnographic data, this article analyzes different modes of mnemonic practices that directly engage with Jewish absence. I show that for Jewish absence to even be noticed by contemporary Poles and potentially experienced by them as a void that deserves to be (re)filled, past Jewish presence is being brought back to life. I argue that this mnemonic creation of absence is part of a broader political project to expand Polish national identity beyond the narrow confines of Catholicism.
Religion, Religious Tradition, and Nationalism: Jewish Revival in Poland and “Religious Heritage” in Québec
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Culture, Jewish Heritage, Jewish Revival, Nationalism, Diversity, Pluralism
Abstract: This article uses and develops Martin Riesebrodt's distinction between religion and religious tradition to shed light on the making of various articulations of religious identities and political projects. Based on extensive research on the Polish and Québécois cases, I show how social and state actors in these societies reactivate past religious traditions to respond to current social transformations and articulate societal projects and advance political agendas in the present. In both cases, religion and religious tradition are juxtaposed to articulate new national identities or fortify older ones, and to respond more specifically to the challenges posed by “pluralism.” I suggest that sociologists who work at the intersection of religion and politics can contribute to our understanding of the various registers through which religion, religious action, and religious tradition are rendered meaningful to social actors, used for different goals (religious and not) and transformed in the process.
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Culture, Jewish Heritage, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Klezmer
Abstract: This article analyzes the growing interest in Jews and all things Jewish in contemporary Poland—from the spectacular popularity of festivals of Jewish culture to the opening of Judaica bookstores and Jewish cuisine restaurants; from the development of Jewish studies programs at various universities and the creation of several museums to artists’ and public intellectuals’ engagements with Poland's Jewish past and Polish-Jewish relations more broadly. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, over sixty formal interviews with Jewish and non-Jewish activists, and informal conversations with participants in various Jewish-centered initiatives, I argue that this cultural phenomenon is related to the attempt by specific political and social groups to build a pluralistic society in an ethnically and denominationally homogenous nation-state. I build on the literature on nationalism and symbolic boundaries by showing that bringing back Jewish culture and “resurrecting the Jew” is a way to soften, stretch, and reshape the symbolic boundaries of the nation that the Right wants to harden and shrink using Catholicism as its main tool.