I'm thrilled to announce the winners of the Polish Studies Association’s 2015 Aquila Polonica Prize for the best article in Polish Studies. We have three winners this year, and I’m including below the text of the award citation for each author. If you click on the article title, you can download this prize-winning scholarship.
Piotr Kosicki, “Masters in their Own Home or Defenders of the Human Person? Wojciech Korfanty, Antisemitism, and Polish Christian Democracy’s Illiberal Human Rights Talk.” Modern Intellectual History (June/July 2015).
Piotr Kosicki’s article clearly demonstrates that the author is a master in the discipline of history and a defender of a publicly engaged scholarly work. Piotr’s carefully researched, beautifully written and extremely gripping article explores the historical trajectory of the discourse of the Polish Catholic right and its contemporary implications. In so doing, it situates a fascinating Polish case in a broader context, tracing connections between the Polish Christian ideology and political and philosophical movements in other European countries, shading a new light on the ideological underpinnings of Polish Antisemitism, and questioning some widespread assumptions regarding the role of Catholic politicians and intellectuals in prewar and postwar Poland. Strongly grounded in history, it forces the reader to reflect on contemporary Polish scene. And it simply does what an exemplary article on Poland should do: going beyond the narrative of Polish “specificity,” it shows that a specific Polish case study helps us understand more general and widespread phenomena.
The committee was very impressed with Jakelski’s well-written, historiographically significant, and analytically sophisticated article on an original topic—the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music. Jakelski sought out and analyzed original archival sources in order to present a highly nuanced argument about Cold War mobility, the nature of borders, and the complex set of relations—both within the Soviet Bloc and between Poland and “the West”—during the globalized 1960s. Particularly important is Jakelski’s dual focus on how cross-border connections could be both “top-down”—i.e. orchestrated by those working in an official capacity for the state—and “bottom-up”—i.e. consisting of the informal networks of people who circulated ideas about modernist music. Overall, Jakelski shows us that studying music does not simply provide a way to talk about the breaking down or the erecting of borders during the Cold War, tropes that can often be polemical and over-simplistic. Rather, this nuanced study of the constantly changing reconfigurations of metaphorical and literal borders makes her work relevant to those working beyond the field of Polish Studies. At the same time, however, Poland—a country that, she argues, was of particular significance “in cementing cultural ties between Eastern and Western Europe”—remains the central point of analysis.
Pasieka challenges our understanding of a trope that most people caught up in the debates over Jan Gross’s work took completely for granted: neighbors and neighborliness. She draws on critical literature far beyond Poland to show that the paradigm of neighborliness as harmonious ethnic coexistence hinges on an idealized multicultural past. Pasieka uses her own fieldwork conducted in Southern Poland to present the Polish-Lemko relationship as a foil to get us past the binarism of Polish-Jewish identity issues. In her close analysis of narratives of conflict such as the Jedwabne debates, she finds contradictory patterns of neighborliness that can accommodate both the embrace of the other as “family” and the preservation of intergroup boundaries between “us” and “them.” There is a danger in romanticizing the neighborhood as a unit of measure, Pasieka argues, and her article successfully compels us to think through these difficult issues on a different scale.