Language, ethnicity and nationality in the German-Polish borderland / by Elizabeth Reneau Vann.
Fast of the fine that the victorious World War One allies drew as the western border of the “ethnically mixed” German-Polish borderland plebiscite area, but west of the border they drew after the plebiscite, and 300 km east of the German-Polish border drawn after the Second World War (the “Oder-Neisse Line”), there lives, in post-Communist Poland, a population descended from pre-Medieval Slavic inhabitants whose successive experience in the German and Polish states has rendered their society multi-lingual in the Silesian dialect of Polish, standard German, and standard Polish. The dissertation explores this multi-lingualism as a cultural phenomenon, focussing on how it relates to the construction of peoples sense of themselves as Silesian, German, Polish, or combinations of the above. The dissertation argues three main points: (1) In this situation, “culture” (focusing especially the culture of language) appears as both inextricably grounded in the experience of life between two states (as post-modernism would lead us to expect) and as “bounded,” insofar as patterns of behavior, meaning, thinking etc. define an autonomous culture shared within the group (in must the way we used to think about culture). (2) Identity statements of the type, “I consider myself to be Silesian,” “My family have always been Germans,” etc., and ascriptions of identity to others, are not references to group membership, but rather are fundamentally statements of moral position. They are informed by and summarize moral choices made in the face of dilemmas posed by Nazi and Stalinist politicization of identity. (3) The experience of the generation that came of age after the Second World War, especially, illustrates that identity is both historically and socially constructed and psychologically compelling and essential. It is the experience and social memory of the Soviet invasion which elucidates the especially strong and widespread German identity of this generation, which has been largely responsible for the group's politically and socially organized post-Communist self-presentation as “the German Minority in Poland.”
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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