Please join the Harriman Institute and the East Central European Center for a talk by Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer about her book Reshaping Poland’s Community after Communism: Ordinary Celebrations (Palgrave, 2018) in conversation with Małgorzata Mazurek (Department of History, Columbia University) and Eliza Cushman Rose (Slavic Department, Columbia University).
Harnessing a cultural sociological approach to explore transformations in key social spheres in post-1989 Poland, Chmielewska-Szlajfer illuminates shifts in religiosity, sympathy towards others, and civic activity in post-Communist Poland in the light of Western influence over elements of Polish life. Reshaping Poland’s Community after Communism focuses on three major cases, largely ignored in Polish scholarship: (1) a hugely popular, faux-baroque Catholic shrine, which illustrates new strategies adopted by the Polish Catholic Church to attract believers; (2) Woodstock Station, a widely known free charity music festival, demonstrating new practices of sympathy towards strangers; and (3) the emergence of national internet pro-voting campaigns and small-town watchdog websites, which uncover changes in practical uses of civic engagement. In exploring grass-roots, everyday negotiations of religiosity, charity, and civic engagement in contemporary Poland, Chmielewska-Szlajfer demonstrates how a country’s cultural changes can suggest wider, dramatic democratic transformation.
Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the New School of Social Research. She is currently an assistant professor at Kozminski University and Visiting Fellow in the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU.