I am a cultural historian and sociologist. My fields of interest include: contemporary Polish and Belarusian history, nationalism and national symbols, Jewish heritage and popular culture, Jewish/non-Jewish relations, music and identity, and memory studies.
I studied literature, cultural studies and sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and Högskolan Dalarna in Sweden. I obtained my PhD from the European University Institute in Florence (Department of History and Civilization) in 2009. I was a Humboldt Fellow at the Free University in Berlin (2011-2013) and assistant professor of Eastern European History and Culture at the University of Bremen (2013-2020). I have published extensively on Jewish culture, Jewish-non-Jewish relations and nationalism. My first book, Klezmer’s Afterlife: An Ethnography of the Jewish Music Revival in Poland and Germany, appeared with Oxford University Press in 2013. My current book project concerns the history of the symbol of the cross in the Polish political imagination. Other research projects I am presently pursuing include a study of Holocaust motifs in Polish vernacular art and a post-1945 history of the shtetl in the Polish-Belarusian-Ukrainian borderlands.
Holocaust-themed folk art from Poland constitutes an important and as-yet-unexamined source that offers a unique perspective on the “dispersed” Holocaust that took place outside of the death camps, in full view of local “bystander” populations Created throughout the postwar decades, carvings and paintings of Holocaust scenes by Polish vernacular artists, who remembered pre-war Jews and witnessed the atrocities against them, have been largely forgotten in the holdings of Polish ethnographic museums or reside in private (mostly German) collections, without ever having been systematically examined as a source of knowledge about post-traumatic memory processes.
This project, funded by the DFG and NCN’s joint initiative “Beethoven,” focuses on such vernacular representations of the Shoah, and their impacts and instrumentalizations in East, West, and reunited Germany from 1945 until today, examining their role in Polish and German memory cultures. The study seeks, further, to determine to what extent German collectors stimulated memory of the Holocaust among Polish artists, and whether Germany’s “orientalist” gaze on Poland influenced the way this art was produced and received in the German states. Finally, the project will yield insights into the ways that Poles and Germans have negotiated their respective collective statuses as victim, witness, and perpetrator.
The project is carried out jointly with Roma Sendyka (Jagiellonian University in Kraków) and Erica Lehrer (Concordia University Montreal).
Mapping the Archipelago of Lost Towns: Post-Holocaust Urban Lacunae in the Polish-Belarusian-Ukrainian Borderlands (financed by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, 2020-2023)
While urban centers across East-Central Europe suffered unprecedented damage and population losses during WWII, with some of them entirely wiped out and many others depopulated, it was the archipelago of smaller towns often with a substantial Jewish majority—the shtelts—that faced a complete demise. This project, funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, looks at the long-term consequences of systematic population exchange at the epicenter of the so-called “Holocaust by bullets,” in the “lost towns” of the Polish-Belarusian-Ukrainian borderlands. It examines both the strategies of obliterating or adopting (and adapting) “disinherited heritage” after 1945, applying both historical and anthropological methods. In focus are three interrelated phenomena of: overwriting, “displaced memories,” and the revival of Jewish heritage after 1989/1991. By mapping the fate of “lost towns” across state borders, the project offers a contribution to our understanding of not only the economic, social and cultural ramifications of the process of appropriation and repopulation of vacated spaces, but also of long-term effects of genocide on “communities of implication” and their space-related practices of remembering and forgetting.
More on our project on Jewish Heritage Europe: “In Search of the Lost Shtetl“
2013: Klezmer’s Afterlife. An Ethnography of the Jewish Music Revival in Poland and Germany, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reviews: Slavic Review (2014), New Eastern Europe (2014), Association for Jewish Studies Review (2014), Music and Letters (2014), East European Jewish Affairs (2014), H-Net (2015), Yearbook for Traditional Music (2015)
2019: (with Simon Lewis) Special Issue of East European Politics and Societies and Cultures “Poland’s Wars of Symbols” vol. 33, no 2, May 2019.
2018: (with Tara Kohn) Jewish Translation/Translating Jewishness (Berlin: DeGruyter).
2014: Żydowskość w przekładzie / Jewishness in Translation: Theme Issue of the Polish Journal of Literary Translation: Przekładaniec: A Journal of Translation Studies, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego.
2013: Music Longing and Belonging. Articulations of the Self and the Other in the Musical Realm, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
2010: (with Sophie Wagenhofer) Cultural Representations of Jewishness at the Turn of the 21st Century, EUI Working Papers, Florence: European University Press.
2022: (with Ina Sorkina) “The Second Life of Jewish Belongings: Jewish Personal Objects and their Afterlives in the Polish and Belarusian post-Holocaust Shtetls” Holocaust Studies, published online 17 March 2022, DOI: 10.1080/17504902.2022.2047292
2022: (with Ina Sorkina) “Rückkehr nach Hause oder ´Repatriierung´? Beweggründe für die Migration bei Holocausüberlebenden in Belarus nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg: Eine vergleichende Betrachtung” Münchner Beiträge zur Jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur, Heft 1/2022, 65-82.
2020: “The Klezmer Revival in Poland as a Contact Zone”, in: POLIN: Studies in Polish Jewry, vol. 32, 461-476.
2019: “On the Genealogy of the Symbol of the Cross in the Polish Political Imagination”, in: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, vol. 33, 2, 497-521.
2019: (with Simon Lewis) “Poland’s Wars of Symbols”, in: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, vol. 33, 2, 423-434.2019: „Stettin, Szczecin und der ‚dritte Raum‘ – Erinnerung im deutsch-polnisch-jüdischen Grenzland“, in: Totalitarismus und Demokratie, vol. 16, 1, 39-59.2018: “Remembering the Holocaust on the Fault Lines of East and West-European Memorial Cultures: The New Memorial Complex in Trastsianets, Belarus”, in: Holocaust Studies vol. 24, 3, 329-353. [Annual Article Prize of Holocaust Studies]2018: “Памяць пра халакост на лініях разломаў паміж усходне- і заходнееўрапейскай мемарыяльнымі культурамі: новы мемарыяльны комплекс у Трасцянцы”, in: Arche, vol. 3, 80-96.2015: “Jewish Heritage and the New Belarusian National Identity Project”, in: East European Politics and Societies, 20, 10, 1-28.2014: “Healing by Haunting: Jewish Ghosts in Contemporary Polish Literature”, in: Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History 34, 207-231.
2014: “Przekład żydowski/ żydowskość w przekładzie”, in: Przekładaniec: A Journal of Translation Studies, vol. 29, 7-19.
2014: “The Framing of the Jew. Paradigms of Incorporation and Difference in the Jewish Heritage Revival in Poland”, in: Jewish Cultural Studies, vol. 4, 313-31.
2013: [with Erica Lehrer] “Cur(at)ing History. New Genre Art Interventions and the Polish-Jewish Past”, in: East European Politics and Societies, 3, August, 507-540. DOI: 10.1177/0888325412467055.
2013: “The Jewish-Style Whodunit in Contemporary Poland and Germany”, in: East European Jewish Affairs, vol 43, 2, 143-161. DOI:10.1080/13501674.2013.813129.
2008: “Fiddler as a Fig Leaf. The Politicisation of Klezmer in Poland”, in: Manfred Sapper et al, eds., Osteuropa. Impulses for Europe. Tradition and Modernity in East European Jewry, Berlin: Osteuropa, 2008, 227-38.
2008: “Der Fiedler als Feigenblatt. Die Politisierung des Klezmers in Polen”, in: Osteuropa, Bd. 58, 8-10, 395-407.
2006: [with Steven Saxonberg] “Klezmer in Kraków: Kitsch, or Catharsis for Poles?”, in: Ethnomusicology, vol. 50, 3, 433-51.
2005: “A Goy Fiddler on the Roof. How the Non-Jewish Participants of the Klezmer Revival in Kraków Negotiate Their Polish Identity in a Confrontation with Jewishness”, in: Polish Sociological Review, vol. 4, 150, 367-82.
2019: “Healing by Haunting: On Jewish Ghosts, Symbolic Exorcism and Traumatic Surrealism”, in: Zuzanna Dziuban, The “Spectral Turn”: Jewish Ghosts in the Polish Post-Holocaust Imaginaire, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 107-130.
2018: (with Tara Kohn) “Jewish Translation / Translating Jewishness”, in: Waligórska, Magdalena und Tara Kohn (Ed.). Jewish Translation/Translating Jewishness, Berlin: DeGruyter, 1-14.
2018: “The Boundaries of Translation: Polish-Jewish-German Literary Borderlands”, in: Waligórska, Magdalena und Tara Kohn (Ed.) Jewish Translation/Translating Jewishness, Berlin: DeGruyter, 303-309.
2015: “Stettin, Szczecin, and the ‘Third Space.’ Urban Nostalgia in the German/Polish/Jewish Borderlands”, in: Lehrer, Erica und Michael Meng (Ed.), Constructing Pluralism: Space, Nostalgia, and the Transnational Future of the Jewish Past in Poland, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 90-114.
2015: “In the Cellars and Attics of Memory: Mapping Jewish and non-Jewish Spaces in Contemporary Poland”, in: Gromova, Alina et al. (Ed.), Jewish and Non-Jewish Spaces in the Urban Context. Berlin: Neofelis, 243-258.
2015: [with Erica Lehrer] “A Picnic Underpinned with Unease: Spring in Warsaw and New Genre Polish-Jewish Memory Work”, in: Popescu, Diana und Tanja Schult (Ed.), Revisiting Holocaust Representation in the Post-Witness Era, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 149-162.
2014: “‘Darkness at the Beginning.’ Holocaust in Contemporary German Crime Fiction”, in: Herzog, Todd und Lynn Kutch (Ed.), Tatort Germany: The Curious Case of German Crime Fiction, Rochester: Camden House, 101-119.
2013: „Darstellungen des Jüdischen in der polnischen und deutschen Klezmer-Szene“, in: Nemtzov, Jascha (Ed.), Jüdische Musik. Studien und Quellen zur jüdischen Musikkultur, Bd. 11. Harrassowitz Verlag, 219-242.
2013: “Introduction: Music and the Boundaries of (Non)Belonging”, in: Waligórska, Magdalena (Ed.), Music, Longing and Belonging. Articulations of the Self and the Other in the Musical Realm, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 1-10.
2012: “Performing Jewish History in a Museum. Three Models of Enactment and Visitor Participation”, in: Bala, Elisabeth, Gudrun Cyprian und Gaby Franger (Ed.), Sehen und gesehen werden, Frauen in der Einen Welt: Nürnberg, 98-103.
2009: “Spotlight on the Unseen: the Rediscovery of Little Jerusalems”, in: Murzyn-Kupisz, Monika und Jacek Purchla (Ed.), Reclaiming Memory. Urban Regeneration in the Historic Jewish Quarters in Central Europe, International Cultural Centre: Kraków, 99-116.
2008: “Reflektorem w zapomniane: odkrywanie małych Jerozolim”, in: Murzyn-Kupisz, Monika und Jacek Purchla (Ed.), Przywracanie pamięci. Rewitalizacja zabytkowych dzielnic żydowskich w miastach Europy Środkowej, International Cultural Centre, Kraków, 99-116.
2007: “Jewish Heritage Production and Historical Jewish Spaces: A Case Study of Kraków and Berlin”, in: Siauciunaite, Jurgita und Larisa Lempertiene (Ed.), Jewish Space in Central and Eastern Europe. Day-to-Day History, Manchester: Oxford Scholars Publishing, 225-50.
Reviews and other texts
2017: “Vilnius/Vilne/Wilno/Vilna: A Short History of Overwriting”, H-Nationalism: H-Net Reviews, February 2017.
2017: “Review of Warsaw: The Jewish Metropolis, eds. Dynner/Guesnet“, Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 2017.
2016: „Gardening the Nation: The Curious Case of Belarusian Nationalism Review of Rudling, Per Anders, The Rise and Fall of Belarusian Nationalism, 1906-1931. H-Nationalism, H-Net Reviews. August, 2016.
2015: “Kriegssocken: Biografien aus dem Krieg“, In: Gaby Franger Kriegssocken und Peacemakerinnen (Nürnberg: Frauen in der einen Welt, 2015), 58-59.
2014: “Ben-Yehudah – the Belorusian Hero”, in: AJS Perspectives, Spring 2014.
2014: “Review of Małgorzata Pakier’s The Construction of European Holocaust Memory: German and Polish Cinema After 1989”, in: Nord-Ost-Archiv 23, 245-247.
2014: “Review of ‘In Search of Polin: Chasing Jewish Ghosts in Today’s Poland by Gary S. Schiff”, in: East European Jewish Affairs, May,134-136.
2013: “Granice przekładu: druga skóra pamięci”/ „Die Grenzen der Übersetzung: die zweite Haut der Erinnerung”, in: Magazin Deutschland und Polen, Goethe-Institut Polen, 2013.
2012: “Zbawczy kosmopolityzm. Michael Meng: Shattered Spaces: Encountering Jewish Ruins in Postwar Germany and Poland, Harvard University Press, 2012” Borussia: Kultura, Historia, Literatura, vol. 52, 232-37.