Cities East and West: New Maps for Research Hosted by the Hejna Chairs in the History of Poland and in Polish Language and Literature, University of Illinois in Chicago

Taking into consideration the ways in which the city can be approached as a polyvalent cultural text, the organizers of Cities East and West: New Maps for Research invite proposals for papers on all aspects of city life, with a focus on cities in the Polish historical space. The goal of the conference is to examine urban enclaves not as monolithic areas of habitation but rather as places of intersection, collision, coexistence, and exchange between classes, races, ideologies, ethnic groups, artistic styles, and private modes of everyday living.


Contact Anna Szawara for information and reservation -

04/13/15 - 04/14/15


Cities and urban environments in general are privileged sites of cultural interaction. As such, they reflect tensions and, sometimes violent, interplays between their inhabitants, and demonstrate the existence of a unique spatial order. The dynamic of social and cultural clashes found in cities consists in playing out centers against margins, open spaces against closed ones, or public areas against private ones. As the loci of symbolic display and aggressive propaganda, cities openly confront disparate ideologies and require political engagement from their citizens. As metaphors for social exchange, they reveal a plethora of contradicting interests and desires. They are far from being neutral spaces for living and should rather be seen as stages on which forced social performances, determined by institutions, meet individual urges. As historically built palimpsests, cities reveal multiple layers of the past buried in living and artificial memories. The dialectics between memories that cities carry within themselves and accumulate in the course of history and, on the other hand, the force of forgetting necessary for cities to develop is one of the most fascinating cultural processes we find in all urban settings. As Walter Benjamin once noted, “What has been forgotten […] is never something purely individual.” More research needs to be done on the process of burying and unearthing the experiences shared, lost, and recuperated by members of urban communities, or between antagonized groups within them.  Equally interesting is the construction and deconstruction of the mythical dimensions of cities that, due to historical circumstances, moved from one culture to another (Breslau or Danzig on the one hand, Lviv and Vilnius on the other). One of the most recent examples of the last process is the ingenious display of the joint exhibition The Myth of Galicia, by The International Culture Center in Kraków and The Vienna Museum. There are, of course, many other samples of these constructive/deconstructive urban strategies in contemporary art, which is one of the most sensitive agents of change in our social and critical imagination.

Taking into consideration the ways in which the city can be approached as a polyvalent cultural text, the organizers of Cities East and West: New Maps for Research invite proposals for papers on all aspects of city life, with a focus on cities in the Polish historical space. The goal of the conference is to examine urban enclaves not as monolithic areas of habitation but rather as places of intersection, collision, coexistence, and exchange between classes, races, ideologies, ethnic groups, artistic styles, and private modes of everyday living. We are interested in the large panoramas of various cities, seen from vast sociological or historical perspectives, as well as in small, detailed, idiosyncratic accounts, created from microscopic viewpoints. We welcome papers and comments about migrations between cities, or between villages and cities, but also look for narratives of meandering through large and small cities in the past and present. Our goal is to examine the urban symbolic energy at the intersection of literary and historical studies.

The conference is a part of a broader series of Polish Studies meetings at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As such, the organizers are most interested in examinations of Central European cities (Polish in the first place, but also Austrian, Czech, , German, , Hungarian, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian, etc., whose development was once in the orbit of Polish culture). No city in the region was immune to external influences and we are especially keen to consider cultural exchange between East and West, or North and South. We invite participants to draw new maps of seemingly well-charted territories. Organizers welcome papers written from different perspectives, using different methods and media. Our aim is to create a space for academic exchange that does justice to the rich, multifaceted urban experience of both past and present.

The conference will take place in Chicago at the Chopin Theater, Monday, April 13 and Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Monday April 13th

9a - Breakfast

10a - Conference Opening Remarks - Colleen McQuillen, Associate Director, School of Literatures, Cultural Studies and Linguistics

10a - Keynote: Darius Staliunas, "Who does Vilnius belong to?  Lithuanian, Polish, Jewish, Belarusian, and Russian strategies of symbolic appropriation of a multi-ethnic city"

Since 2000 Darius Staliunas has been a deputy director at Lithuanian Institute of History. Staliunas is a member of editorial board of “Ab Imperio”, “Lithuanian Historical Studies,” “Central and East European review, “Lietuvos istorijos metraštis“, „Lietuvos istorijos studijos“, „Nordost-Archiv. Zeitschrift für Regionalgeschichte“, „Prace Historyczne“, „Studia z Dziejów Rosji i Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej“. He is the author of “Making Russians. Meaning and Practice of Russification in Lithuania and Belarus after 1863.” Amsterdam/New York, NY: Rodopi, 2007. His book “Enemies for a Day: Antisemitism and Anti-jewish Violence in Lithuanuian under Tsars” is due to be published by CEU Press in 2015. His research interests include issues of Russian nationality policy in the so-called Northwestern Region (Lithuania and Belorussia), ethnic conflicts as well as problems of historiography and places of memory in Lithuania.

1115a - Panel 1: For and Against Modernization

Moderator: Beth Holgrem
Michał Paweł Markowski, UIC, Life and the City: Polish Modernist Literature Against Modernization
Keely Stauter-Halsted, UIC, The Intimate Zones of Urban Life: Sex in the fin-de-siecle Bourgeois Home
Michał Wilczewski, UIC, ‘What Happens When an Urbanite Tries to Chop Wood?': Humor, Romanticism, and the Image of the City in the Rural Imagination, 1914-1939

1p - Lunch

2p - Panel 2: Warsaw in Time and Space (@ upstairs Chopin Main Stage)
Moderator: Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
Roma Sendyka, Jagiellonian University (Poland), Affecting Bodies, Affected City: Warsaw and Sites that Haunt
Elżbieta Janicka, (Poland), Festung Warschau: Symbolic Topography of the Former Warsaw Ghetto
Karen Underhill, UIC, The Reemergence of Spectral Polin: Reading Sutzkever’s Tzu Poyln at Warsaw’a Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Kerry Wigham, New York University, Feeling the Past: A Walk through the World War II Memorials of Berlin

2p - Panel 3: Łódź (@ downstairs Studio Theatre)
Moderator: Sofia Dyak
Winson Chu, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Łódź and the Women Workers’ Strikes in 1971.
Agata Zysiak, University of Łódź (Poland)/University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, New Socialist City Divided.  Working class vs intelligentsia struggles over urban identity, democratization of higher education and socialistic university in postwar Łódź.
Wiktor Marzec, Central European University (Hungary), Orientalizing Capitalism: City of Łódź as a Discursive Object in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Polish Modernization Debates

415p - Panel 4: Re-engineering Jewish Landscape
Moderator: Karen Underhill
Kamil Kijek, University of Wrocław (Poland), The last Polish shtetl? Jewish communal life and Polish-Jewish relations in Dzierżoniów 1945-1950
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Northwestern University, Russification and the Transformation/Urbanization of the Polish Town
Hanna Kozińska-Witt, Martin Luther University in Halle/Saale (Germany), Center and periphery as an argumnet in discussions about Jewish status in the cities: Cracow and Warsaw in the interwar period

6p - Dinner Reception

730p - Film Screening: The Promised Land/Ziemia obiecana (1975) dir. Andrzej Wajda

Tuesday April 14th

9a - Breakfast

10a - Keynote: Kris Van Heuckelom - Kris Van Heuckelom teaches Polish language, literature, and culture at KU Leuven (Belgium). His research interests include modern Polish literature, translation studies, visual culture, and film. He co-edited (together with Dieter De Bruyn) the volume (Un)masking Bruno Schulz. New Combinations, Further Fragmentations, Ultimate Reintegrations (New York – Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009) and has recently contributed to the multi-authored volume Polish Literature in Transformation (edited by Ursula Phillips with the assistance of Knut Andreas Grimstad & Kris Van Heuckelom, Berlin – Münster: LIT Verlag, 2013). He is the co-editor (together with Leen Engelen) of European Cinema after the Wall. Screening East-West Mobility (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

1115a - Panel 5: Spectral Cities, Memorial Interventions (@ upstairs Chopin Main Stage)
Moderator: Colleen McQuillen
Sara Feldman, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Yiddish Opera, Russian Culture, and the Jerusalem of Lithuania
Sofia Dyak, Center for Urban History of East Central Europe (Ukraine), Moving Objects from Lviv to Wroclaw
Karolina Szymaniak, Poland, On Yiddish culture in Lviv/Lemberg

1115a - Panel 6: UrbaNation (@ downstairs Chopin Studio Theatre)
Moderator: Keely Stauter-Halsted
Kathryn Ciancia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Polish Cities, Jewish Cities? Volhynian Urban Spaces and the Construction of the Modern Polish Nation
Melissa Hibbard, UIC, Urban Children, Rural Spaces: Child Rescue and the Cultural Politics of Integration, 1915-1920
Robert Blobaum, West Virginia University, Warsaw’s Food Catastrophe during the First World War

1p - Lunch

2p - Panel 7: Beyond Cosmopolitan (@ upstairs Chopin Main Stage)
Moderator: Marina Mogilner
Nawojka Lesinski, UIC, Warsaw as Multidimensional Space: Local Activism and the Global LGBT Movement
Karolina May-Chu, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Visions of Cosmopolitan in the German-Polish Borderland: The Making of the City of Słubfurt
Michael Young, Indiana University, The City Life of Village Music:  Encountering Polish heritage and world music at the 2014 “Rzeczpospolita Kolberga” Wszystkie Mazurki wiata Festival

2p - Panel 8: A View from the Margin (@ downstairs Chopin Studio Theatre)
Moderator: Michał Paweł Markowski
Jan Balbierz, Jagiellonian University (Poland), The Chronotopes of the City and the Small Town in Wojciech Has’ Visual Narratives
Joanna Trzeciak, Kent State University, Mapping the Geography of Witness: A View from the Bench
Dag “Sasha” Lindskog, UIC, The Spaces of Insatiability: On the Correlation  between the Urban and the Intoxicatory in Witkacy’s Novel
Grażyna Kubica, Jagiellonian University (Poland), Cities–anthropological “non-places”, as reflected upon in the literary texts of Polish anthropologists

415p - Panel 9: Haunted Identities
Moderator: Małogrzata Fidelis
Beth Holmgren, Duke University, Warsaw in Print and Performance during World War II
Kinga Kosmala, The University of Chicago, “Lady Jane” in Warsaw–Communism Brought Down by Rock’n’roll

6p - Closing Reception

730p - Film Screening: Warsaw/Warszawa (2003) dir. Dariusz Gajewski

Michal Pawel Markowski, Keely Stauter-Halsted

Colleen McQuillen, Darius Staliunas; Kris van Heuckelom; Michał Paweł Markowski; Keely Stauter-Halsted; Michał Wilczewski; Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern; Elzbieta Janicka; Karen Underhill; Kerry Wigham; Sofia Dyak; Winson Chu; Agata Zysiak; Wiktor Marzec; Kamil Kijek; Hanna Kozińska-Witt; Sara Feldman; Karolina Szymaniak; Kathryn Ciancia; Melissa Hibbard; Robert Blobaum; Marina Mogilner; Nawojka Lesinski; Karolina May-Chu; Jan Balbierz; Joanna Trzeciak; Dag

Tags: Literary, Polish, , 2015