"Faithful Highlanders": Constructinos of Peasant Masculinity and Citizenship in Modern Polish Popular and Academic History.

by Alicja W. Kusiak-Brownstein

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: History
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Polish history; modern European history; gender history; Polish literature; History (General); Humanities
Record ID: 2058208
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111453


My dissertation argues that in nineteenth-century Poland, the way male citizenship was imagined shifted from a class-based definition, in which Polishness was regarded as social capital, to a democratized construction, where Polishness was regarded as symbolic capital, a quality which could be earned by participation in the national political struggle, and which was also embodied in folk/ethnic characteristics, with the important consequence that was the reconstruction of national memory. I argue that the reconstruction of Polish peasant masculinity around the turn of the nineteenth century was inspired by various modernization processes while at the same time this masculinity was also built on a transformed version of the earlier notions of Polish national identity. The final outcome presented a combination of both, but with an unresolved ambivalence in political and cultural perceptions of modern Polish civic peasant identities that has continued to the present. The process of this reconstruction was twofold: it encompassed the construction of peasant historical national memory, but also the reconstruction of the elite???s national memory with representations of peasants as respectable compatriots. I argue that the reconstruction of a peasant masculinity endowed with national identity was possible only if memories of the humiliations of serfdom were silenced, and the racial justifications for the feudal social hierarchy were disguised. The concept of inclusion into the Polish nation in terms of symbolic ennoblement resulted in marginalizing the folk culture within the national culture, diminished the role of peasantry as the actual core of modern Polish society, and transformed the nobility???s culture into the national one. One of the consequences of symbolic ennoblement in turn of the century debates was an ideological discrimination in the quality of Polish national citizenship. That discrimination continues, not only in contemporary Polish society, where it shapes the political language with which Polish citizens relate to each other as members of the nation-state, but also in Poles??? relationship with neighboring nations, which were regarded as originating in the peasantry. I focus my analysis on a group of north Carpathian highlanders (g??ral), particularly on the highlanders of the Podhale and Tatra Mountains.