Taming the Small Fatherland: Urban Space and Local Identity in Lódz, Poland, 1939-2009


Dissertation Fellowships in East European Studies




This project examines the politics of place and the process of urbanization in Poland from 1939 to 2009, conceptualized as the 'taming' (oswajanie) of cities and the creation of 'small fatherlands' (male ojczyzny) within urban space unsettled by ethnic cleansing and socioeconomic transformation. The focus is a case study of Lodz, a nineteenth-century multiethnic industrial boomtown whose problematic twentieth-century transformations are examined in terms of key trends in the urbanization of Poland and the broader region. Emphasis is placed on the 1960s and 70s, when overlapping processes of urban renewal and post-industrial decay prompted conflicting mobilizations of the city's past and local identity. The roots of postcommunist deindustrialization, gentrification, and the contemporary embrace of multiculturalism and stubborn persistence of anti-Semitism are traced to this era of 'normalization,' marked by the (re)emergence of globalized capitalism and the search for 'civic' identity after the Nazi and Stalinist eras.