• Border ethnography and post-communist discourses of nationality in Poland

      Galasinska, Aleksandra (Sage Publications, 2006)
      In this article I shall explore discursive constructions of ethnicity, and in particular notions of ‘Polishness’, among members of three-generation families living in the Polish town of Zgorzelec, on the border with Germany. The data come from a Europe-wide ethnographic project studying communities living on the borders between the EU and its ascendant nations, funded by the European Commission’s 5th Framework Programme (www.borderidentities.com). The most characteristic feature of the data concerning ethnicity is a clash between my informants’ declared identity (mainly constructed in terms of Polishness) and the constructions of Polishness. Even though the latter is usually described in negative terms, almost all interviewees choose to describe themselves in ethnic terms from the spectrum of labels they have been given. Drawing upon Billig et al.’s (1988) concept of ideological dilemma, I shall argue that the apparent contradiction in my informants’ discourse of identity is a result of two different ideological bases underpinning it: the lived ideology accomplished in their discourse clashes with the intellectual ideology explicitly adopted in their declarations of identity. Finally, I shall discuss this shift in terms of the particular place of residence of the members of Polish community right of the national border. I shall also explore the role of the interviewer in my informants’ discourses of ethnic identity. ‘Insiderness’ and ‘outsiderness’ of the researcher in relation to the community under investigation was perceived as a challenge to a coherence of the narratives and resulted in constant discursive negotiations of my interlocutors’ ‘stories of Polishness’. (Sage Publications)
    • Discoursive strategies for coping with sensitive topics of the Other

      Galasinska, Aleksandra; Galasinski, Dariusz (London, Routledge (Taylor & Francis), 2003)
      This paper explores border residents' strategies for coping with topics which they perceive as difficult or sensitive in their discourses about people living in such European border locations. Thus we are concerned with the way in which people negotiate accounts of implicit or explicit ethnic conflict, prejudice or negative stereotyping of 'the Other'. We indicate two types of such strategies. First, the strategy of mitigation, in which informants attempt to soften or licence their stereotypical views. Second, we shall discuss a strategy in which mitigation is replaced by the practice of 'oracular reasoning' in our informants' constructions of the ethnic Other; this occurs in those instances when a basic premise is confronted with contradictory evidence, but the evidence is ignored or rejected. The data for our analysis come from 12 border communities in which informants talk about the Other from either across the border, or, in the case of multi-ethnic communities, from within the community itself. We focus upon constructions that purport to give a universal answer to questions of 'what they are like'. Specifically, we explore those constructions where informants have to deal with conflictual voices (either explicit or implicit in the informants' discourse) which question their accounts or contradict the claims they make. Finally, we see the strategies for coping with conflictual accounts of the Other as indicative of the tension between the discursively postulated social/ethnic separation of the border communities and the constructed threat from the Other on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the new and changing public discourse of the Other and the politics underpinning it which goes counter to those more private discourses. (Routledge)
    • Looking across the river: German-Polish border communities and the construction of the Other

      Galasinski, Dariusz; Meinhof, Ulrike Hanna (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2002)
      The paper reports results of an ongoing ESRC-funded project into constructions of identity in German and Polish border communities. We are interested here in how our informants from different generations position themselves and their communities with regard to those on the other side of the river. The data come from a set of semi-structured interviews conducted in the towns of Guben (Germany) and Gubin (Poland) separated by the river Neisse, with some reference to the data elicited in the similarly split communities on the former East West German border on the Saale. For the people living in our target communities, the official narratives of the nation were re-written not just once, but in the case of the older generation at least three times. This meant a challenge of how to construct their own cultural identity in response to official changes and in relation to oppositional constructions of the nation on the other side of the border literally by ‘looking across’ at the Other in their every-day lives. In this paper we discuss how members of the oldest generation living on both sides of the river Neisse in the respective German and Polish towns of Guben and Gubin construct each other in their discourses. We show that the discourses of the Other are ridden by a mismatch in the constructions of the ownership of the past and the present. While the Polish narratives construct the German neighbours in terms of threat to the present status quo of the town, the German narratives position Gubin mostly in terms of the nostalgic past. (John Benjamins)
    • Shopping for a New Identity: Constructions of the Polish–German border in a Polish Border community

      Galasinska, Aleksandra; Galasinski, Dariusz (Sage Publications, 2005)
      This article aims to show the varying constructions of the Polish–German border in the Polish border town of Zgorzelec. We are interested in how informants from three generations discursively position the frontier itself and the two towns on its either side: Polish Zgorzelec and German Görlitz. The data comes from a Europe-wide ethnographic project studying communities living on the borders between the European Union (EU) and its ascendant nations, funded by the European Commission's Fifth Framework Programme. We suggest that the inhabitants of Zgorzelec construct the border on two planes: public and private. In the public sphere, the border is constructed as a means of identifying ‘us Poles’ against all those living on the other side. In those nationalized terms, the border is also constructed as protecting Poland and Zgorzelec's (Polish) community. On the other hand, in the private sphere, the border is represented as virtually invisible allowing the individual to cross it for shopping or entertainment. The border becomes a gateway in which the individual becomes a customer, a shopper with his or her national identity pushed to the background. We also show that the two spheres intersect, creating spaces in which the two orders of discourse are made to co-exist and the discursive mechanisms of separation run next to the mechanisms of inclusion. We explore our informants’ discourses as mediated by the historical context of common experience (eviction, displacement, communism) pertaining mostly to the older generation and by the cultural-economic context (shopping, entertainment) largely in the case of our younger informants. (Sage Publications)
    • Temporal shifts in photo-elicited narratives in a Polish border town

      Galasinska, Aleksandra (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2003)