Volume XXVII, No. 3
III Rzeczpospolita w odcinkach: kalendarium wydarzeń styczeń 1989-maj 2004 (Chronicle of the Third Republic, January 1989-May 2004), by Teresa Bochwic. Introduction by Jadwiga Staniszkis. Kraków: Arcana (www.arcana.pl), 2005. 289 pages. Index, photographs. ISBN 83-89243-23-7. Hardcover.
Źródła narodowości: powstanie i rozwój polskiej świadomości w II połowie XIX i na początku XX wieku (Genealogy of nationhood: the appearance and development of Polish consciousness in the second part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of twentieth century), by Nikodem Bończa Tomaszewski. Wrocław: Wrocław University Press (50-137 Wrocław, pl. Uniwersytecki 15, Poland), 2006. Monographs for Polish Scholarship, Humanities Series. ISBN 83-229-2757-6. 397 pages. Bibliography, index, numerous reproductions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Polish paintings, English summary. Hardcover. In Polish.
A fascinating book, highly original and striking in every respect. It offers a new theory of nationality in addition to reinterpreting a great deal of Polish literature and Polish visual arts. One can hardly think of a better candidate for translation in the Polish and Polish American Series of the Ohio University Press. The author is a young PhD in history from the University of Warsaw. His book received an Excellence Award from the Foundation for Polish Scholarship. A review of this book appeared in Europa on 2 June 2007, at
Euro-Orientalism: Liberal Ideology and the Image of Russia in France (c. 1740-1880), by Ezequiel Adamovsky. Oxford-Bern: Peter Lang, 2007. 358 pages. Index. ISBN 3-03910-516-7. Paper.
The author, a PhD from the University College in London, teaches Russian history at the University of Buenos Aires. His book picks up Edward Said’s notion of Orientalism and argues that the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberal bourgeois ideology in France (and in other Western European countries) has “reduced” Russia to an “oriental” country, in a way similar to the “reduction” that took place as a result of the Western monopoly on “Oriental” studies initiated in the nineteenth century. This “Euro-Orientalism” was an Orientalism avant la lettre, and in the author’s view it continues to the present day.
Adamovsky argues that the notion of “Eastern Europe” as a research category appeared in France around 1840, and similar notions arose in Germany and Great Britain. In this vein, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies continues the category of “Orientalization” of Russia and Central/Eastern Europe. It is hard not to applaud Adamovsky for pointing this out. However, Adamovsky conflates Russia and the countries situated between Germany and Russia, calling all of them “Eastern Europe.” He is entirely oblivious to the fundamental European division into Eastern and Western Christianity, and thus sees no fundamental cultural difference between Russia on the one hand, and Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, and Estonia on the other. He also ignores the fact that Russia has created its own discourse that has successfully competed and won over the process of “orientalization.” As Ewa Thompson argued in Imperial Knowledge, Russia imposed its discourse on the West while the West was still laboring under the illusion of enmeshing Russia in its own discourse.
Thus Adamovsky’s thesis is incorrect with regard to Russia, but he has a point with regard to the countries situated between Germany and Russia. They have been squeezed into the category of “Eastern Europe” even though, properly speaking, they should have been subdivided into Central Europe (countries with Latin cultural roots) and Eastern Europe proper (countries with Byzantine cultural roots). However, Slavicists are not interested in that part of the world. They are interested in Russia, and here Adamovsky is, again, confused and confusing. While some scholars in the West (quoted by Adamovsky) may have believed that they “contained” Russia in their orientalizing texts, the Russian side managed to sidestep that obstacle and imposed on the West an image of Russia as an “enigma inside a mystery,” a country that has invented is own philosophy of history.
The unstated premise of Adamovsky’s book is that the liberal discourse of the West has little validity and that Western epistemology (based on Aristotelian logic) is just one of the many epistemologies of equal value in the world. Thus epistemologically incoherent Russian ideologues, who have not been able to create a universally valid argument for the alleged unique value system of their country (from Danilevsky to present-day Russophiles), are implicitly regarded as being on par with those thinkers who have attempted to articulate the kind of reasoning that is valid for all of humankind. Interestingly, Russia took the technological part of the Aristotelian legacy from the West as a matter of course, but it has resisted the humanistic part of the legacy and has claimed a system of thinking all its own. I am afraid that Adamovsky’s book, in spite of the many penetrating points it makes, endorses such illogical ravings rather than contributing to their deconstruction. (Sally Boss)
Glaukopis: pismo społeczno-historyczne (www.glaukopis.pl). Edited by Wojciech Jerzy Muszyński (email@example.com) et al. Nos. 7-8 (2007). Numerous photographs. 436 pages. In Polish.
Like the Bulletins of the Institute of National Memory (see p. 1343), this periodical is dedicated to de-communization of Polish and world memory concerning Soviet-occupied Poland and its neighbors. The issue under review contains materials unknown to Western and even Polish historians, as well as a number of articles on topics virtually ignored by Western historians such as the view of Stalin in the Polish press in 1936-1939 or an essay on the possible genealogy of the Sarmatian myth in seventeenth-century Polish historiography. Much more striking is the section of the journal dedicated to the analysis of documents of the political police in Poland, “Za kulisami warszawskiej bezpieki” by Bogusław Kopka; an article criticizing the declared comprehensiveness of research concerning the Kielce pogram (“Postanowienie IPN w sprawie ‘pogromu kieleckiego’”) by Jacek Žurek; an interview with Marek Jan Chodakiewicz on Jan Tomasz Gross’s “cut and paste” method of writing history (“O Polakach i Žydach bez retuszu”); documents concerning Wojciech Jaruzelski’s request for Moscow‘s help in suppressing Solidarity; and several excellent reviews of books authored by Ewa Kurek, Robert Blobaum, Michel Foucault, Filip Musiał, and others.
The mantra of “no serious student of Polish history. . .” suggests itself here, however futile its invocation. American historians of Poland seem blind and deaf to the new primary materials coming from Poland concerning the Second World War and the Soviet occupation, the materials that radically contradict recent work of American professors of history. It will take time for this blindness and deafness to be put aside. There is little doubt it will be put aside: the Polish voices are too numerous to be shouted down in ways that have recently been used in regard to tiny Estonia.
Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians, by Timothy J. Cooley. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005. 293 pages. Illustrations, photographs, maps, glossary, indices. CD (46 tracks). ISBN 0-253-34489-1.
Awarded the 2006 AAASS/Orbis Books Prize for Polish Studies, Cooley’s publication on the traditional music of the Podhale region of the Tatra Mountains (as well as related communities in North America) presents an exhaustive musical description and also offers insight into the highlanders’ history and culture. Given the traditional stereotype of the góral as taciturn and suspicious when confronted by outsiders and lowlanders, Cooley has accomplished a remarkable piece of fieldwork. His musical descriptions are supplemented by a narrative of personal interaction with highlanders, first as a folklorist employed by the Illinois Arts Council and later as a researcher in Podhale. After developing a network of personal contacts among highlanders, Cooley was privileged to observe aspects of their community life such as weddings, and funerals. Cooley was finally adopted into the community, something not often experienced by a ceper (pejorative name for “lowlander”), where he performed on violin with local ensembles and interpreted the culture for English-speaking tourists. One particularly valuable aspect of this work is Cooley’s perspective; he is familiar with highlander communities in both North America and Poland.
The text with detailed musical transcriptions is illustrated with the author’s photographs of many of the performances described here. It is accompanied by a CD with forty-seven tracks. Many of the musical transcriptions are accompanied by lyrics in dialect and English translation. There is a detailed index of the audio materials, providing background information on the performers as well as notes on the genres. The CD confirms the observation that the highlander traditionally expresses his true feelings not with flowers or love letters, but through music and dance. Accompanied by the background sounds of conversation at wedding celebrations, church bells, the movement of a horse-drawn cortege down a highland lane, and dirt being shoveled onto a wooden coffin, the CD emotively witnesses the role of music in the highlanders’ daily lives. The major focus here is on a description of the music (including one attempt to fuse traditional góral music with Anglo-Jamaican reggae). Cooley also discusses issues relevant to anthropologists and ethnographers: music as ritual, the definition of “authentic” folk music and culture, and musical responses to globalization.
The szlachta was responsible for the displacement of much of Poland’s native folk culture and its replacement with models from the West. Podhale remains a bastion of archaic music in Poland, although the exact origins of that music remain unclear. There are some gaps in Cooley’s history of the “imagining” of góral identity; e.g., Stanisław Witkiewicz is mentioned only briefly. An examination of the role of music in historically significant religious pilgrimages, ethnographic exhibitions, and nationalist manifestations could shed some light here on modern perceptions of traditional music. Cooley does not discuss the postwar professional folk ensembles Mazowsze and Śląsk, influences significant in shaping contemporary attitudes toward folk music and culture. Only brief references mention Krywań, a popular group performing traditional music primarily on electric instruments, and the controversial musical genre of Disco-Polo. Cooley’s field research preceded the rise to popularity of the Golec Brothers, folk-pop musicians who are not, in fact, from Podhale but from the Beskids near Žywiec. There is no mention of the growing popularity in Podhale of the cimbalom ([hammered] dulcimer), a defining feature of traditional music in Slovakia, Moravia, and Hungary. All of these influences have relevance, if perhaps not so much for the traditions of Podhale then at least for the manner in which Poles today, both highlanders and lowlanders, are defining traditional music.
Cooley assumes correctly (p. 113) that at góral wedding receptions today the basic melodies associated with the “unveiling” of the bride (cepowiny) are not from Podhale. In fact, similar melodies (though not sung in góral dialect) can be heard at wedding celebrations elsewhere in Poland. Cooley notes that the adoption of these tunes requires further study, although there is a simple explanation: while it represents an ancient Slavic wedding custom, the “unveiling” ceremony today represents a major carnivalesque entertainment of the wedding reception, involving playful bartering, the exchange of money, and antics steeped in sexual innuendo. Very much a choreographed entertainment, the contemporary ceremony was borrowed, along with its basic melodies, from the Polish lowlands.
Yet this reviewer would not prefer another version of this work in which the details of the musical description were reduced; one hopes that Cooley will continue researching and writing about this music, but perhaps from a more comparative approach. While Cooley notes that, culturally and musically, Podhale represents a continuum linking the other regions of the Carpathians, his readers could benefit from more detailed explanation of that continuum. The great value of Cooley’s study is in the detailed description of the music of Podhale. Cooley also helps to explain some of the contradictions of góral culture. In certain respects such as cultivation of folk costume and culture as well as traditional social and religious attitudes, the highlanders represent Poland’s most conservative regional culture. On the other hand, those same highlanders have also been Poland’s most “rootless” population, periodically willing to pull up stakes and move on to new territories. Cooley points out the strong ties that are maintained, often across generations, not just between blood relations in Podhale and North America but also between unrelated families there with roots in the same highland village. Impressive community centers such as those on the South Side of Chicago, built and maintained by highlanders with roots in the same Podhale village, represent just the latest stage in the historical process of migration and acculturation that began long ago somewhere in the Balkan highlands. It is a tenacious folk that would maintain those traditions and their sense of community across so many generations, and this characteristic suggests that góral music, in one variety or another, will be with us for a long time. Cooley has made an important contribution to our understanding of that phenomenon. (Kevin Hannan)
From Sovietology to Postcoloniality: Poland and Ukraine from a Postcolonial Perspective, edited by Janusz Korek. Stockholm: Södertörn Academic Studies 32, 2007. 272 pages. Bibliography. ISBN: 978-91-89315-72-3. Paper.
An innovative book that replaces the outdated terminology of Soviet and post-Soviet studies with the new terminology of colonialism in Europe. A review to follow.
Other Books Received
Gombrowicz emigrantów, edited by Mirosław A. Supruniuk. Toruń: Nicholas Copernicus University Press (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2006. Vol. XXVI of the Emigration Archives Series. 191 pages. ISBN 83-231-2040-4. Paper. In Polish.
The volume consists of several dozen short essays on Witold Gombrowicz [1904-69], a Polish émigré writer, written by other Polish émigrés. The essays consist of answers to questions originally asked by a Polish émigré editor in London. The title may seem appropriate, but the word “émigré” turned out to have a short half-life. It belongs to the previous century; cyberspace has made it obsolete. Still, some of the essays are quite interesting and they say a great deal about their authors.
“Civilizational Aspects of the Eastern Boundaries of Europe,” by Jan Kieniewicz. In The State and Development in Africa and Other Regions: Past and Present. Studies and essays in honor of Professor Jan J. Milewski (Warsaw, 2007).
An excellent argument for the specificity of European civilization in the East. To understand and appreciate this profound argument, one has to accept the idea that European civilization was sui generis and that it produced two models, East and West. The argument goes against the vision of Eastern Europe promoted by Russia (and, occasionally, Germany and national minorities in the area) and widely accepted in American scholarship.
Jak narody porozumiewają się ze sobą w komunikacji międzykulturowej i komunikowaniu medialnym, by Jerzy Mikułowski-Pomorski. Kraków: Universitas, 2006. 404 pages. Index. ISBN 83-242-0445-8. Paper.
“Christmas Eve as a Polish National Metaphor,” by Jerzy Mikułowski-Pomorski. In Argumenta Oeconomica Cracoviensia, no. 4 (2005), 93-120.
As the title says. An interesting attempt at cultural communication.
Idei v Rossii-Ideas in Russia-Idee w Rosji: Leksykon rosyjsko-polsko-angielski, vol. 6, edited by Justyna Kurczak. Łódź: University of Łódź Press (email@example.com), 2007. 410 pages. ISBN 83-88679-63-6. Paper.
A consecutive volume of a trilingual encyclopedic dictionary of terms relevant to the cultures of Russians and Poles.
Russian Poetry Reader, by Maria Swiecicka-Ziemianek. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing (P.O. Box 369, Newburyport, MA 01950), 2007. 131 pages. Paper. ISBN 978-1-58510-251-8.
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The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 9/21/07