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A culture of minority – foreign element or part of Polish culture?

In October Association took part in Congress of Culture (Kongres Kultury). Czulent signed up to the program, and was moderating a debate on “Minority culture – an alien element, or part of Polish culture?”. We invited representatives of the Roma and Lemko communities to the discussion.

In October Association took part in Congress of Culture (Kongres Kultury), discussing values, cultural autonomy, cultural policy and economy of culture. Issues such as: public media, libraries and cultural centers, art and its audience, the role of creators and cultural animators, and cultural education were discussed. Czulent signed up to the program, and was moderating a debate on “Minority culture – an alien element, or part of Polish culture?”. We invited representatives of the Roma and Lemko communities to the discussion.

The starting point of our discussion was a mutual understanding that historical heritage of our country as well as it’s present culture is not homogeneous. It is
not a product of only one nation, too. We can be proud of Mikołaj Kopernik’s discoveries, research of Ludwik Hirszfeld, inventions of Karol Pollak or Holywood career of Pola Negri. The culture of minorities in Poland attracts a lot of attention – there are many festivals and events organized, the number of organizations that prepare workshops on different cultures and traditions is increasing. It becomes popular among young people to get involved in projects revitalizing the memory of „the other”. The problematic aspect of this is the fact that it is the majority group that does it, about the minority groups – the excluding group about the excluded. Most of those activities rather interpret the culture and heritage of the minorities than share objective knowledge. Narration usually concentrates on colorful and „foreign” minority culture, not on this culture as being part of Polish heritage.

Words such as Jew and Gypsy are considered „abstract negative symbol” in Poland, kind of pejorative word, used to convey aggressive message. Recently other words gained the same negative weight: gender, multiculti and multiculturalism. One of the well-known Polish politician said that 2016 Nice attack is a consequence of multiculti policies. As D. LaCapra says, an experience is one of the most crucial matters in studies on minorities, but there is a real danger that it will become an empty phrase and will lead to reclaiming the lost voices through „projection of identification and dubbing”.

Is Polish society mature enough to treat minorities as an integral part of the cultural landscape of the country? Or maybe it is still like in the publication made by Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with Institute of National Remembrance issued for International Youth Days titled „1050 years. Guidebook to Polish history 966-2016″, in which we read:”numerous national minorities were one of the most crucial problems of Rzeczpospolita”?

Congress took place in Warsaw, on 7-9th October, in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

photo © Renata Zawadzka-Ben Dor

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Żydowskie Stowarzyszenie Czulent