• 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)
    • 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)
    • Untold stories and the construction of identity in narratives of ethnic conflict on the Polish–German border

      Galasinski, Dariusz; Galasinska, Aleksandra (Walter de Gruyter, 2005)
      In this paper we are interested in the use of ‘untold stories’: parts of narratives which are implied rather than explicitly told by speakers. More specifically, we demonstrate how Polish informants from the towns of Gubin and Zgorzelec on the Polish–German border use untold stories as a means of situating themselves or other Poles in a position of advantage in conflictual situations between Poles and Germans. We demonstrate that our informants end the explicit parts of their narratives with markedly ambiguous utterances in order to imply a further part of the story with two interrelated goals: constructing the speakers (or other Poles) as direct ‘winners’ of the conflictual situation and positioning them as having the high moral ground in it. This, furthermore, had the global aim of positive self-presentation of their ethnic group (Poles) and negative presentation of the other ethnic group (Germans). Finally, we argue that the use of the untold stories is related to the particular social and political setting in which they occur, one in which our informants consistently positioned themselves as a ‘losing’, or ‘non-elite’ group being under political and economic ‘attack’ from their German neighbours. (Walter de Gruyter)