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The Missing Second World: On Poland (and Eastern Europe) and Postcolonial Studies


November 12, 2018
3:45pm - 5:45pm
Robinson Hall, 35 Quincy Street, Lower Library
November 12, 2018
3:45pm - 5:45pm
Robinson Hall, 35 Quincy Street, Lower Library

When approaching the topic of postcolonial studies from the perspective of a country such as Poland – an Eastern European country of the so-called “Second World” – one soon notices a certain gap. This gap is identified by David Chioni Moore (2001, 115–16); he shows it using an example of the article “Notes on the ‘Post-Colonial’” by Ella Shohat (1992). By listing all the countries, regions and ethnic groups mentioned by Shohat in her article, Moore concurrently shows what is not mentioned there: the whole of the former Eastern bloc. The omission is not only Shohat’s, but a more general characteristic of postcolonial studies: analyzing extensively and in various aspects the First World’s exploitation of the Third, and the Third World’s ways of opposing and contesting the First’s domination, they leave a blank space in place of that which comes between the first and the third: the Second World. It thus becomes, in a way, an elephant in the room.

This essay is an attempt to address the existence of this elephant and determine, at least partly, its shape. More precisely, its aim is to place the part of the Second World that is Poland within the field of postcolonial studies, in its ambiguous capacity as both victim and perpetrator. By this, it is also a call to fill the gaps in postcolonial studies that would help us to understand European colonialism and imperialism in a more comprehensive way, and the various ways in which European nations have been complicit in them.

About

This graduate-faculty research seminar is designed to bring together interested faculty and students on a continuing basis to cover topics on global history. It is part of History 2950A, Approaches to Global History, and includes both reading sessions designed for graduate students and research sessions open to the interested public during which students and faculty participants will present current research. Faculty participants will be drawn from a number of schools, and, most especially, from the group of fellows in global history who are spending the academic year 2018/19 at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History. Discussions will be moderated by Professors Sven Beckert, Charles S. Maier, and Sugata Bose.

Papers will be pre-circulated and are available by request to jbarnard@fas.harvard.edu one week ahead of time.

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