Politicized Memory and Populist Citizenship

Friday, March 30, 2018
Cordova (InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile)
Kate Korycki , Political Science, University of Toronto, Canada
This work traces how the past is politicized in post-transition spaces, how it enters the political language, and how it is implicated in the recent European populist moment. Relying on and expanding the framework of collective memory and anchoring the story in Poland, I argue that the narratives of past communism structure political competition and affect the present-day imaginary of common belonging - that is, they determine political positions of players and they reveal who is included and excluded from the conception of the ‘we.’ First, I develop the concept of mnemonic capital - a politically productive symbolic resource that accrues to political players based on their turn to, and judgment of, the past - and demonstrate how the distribution of that capital results in sharply differentiated political identities. (I identify four positions generalizable to other post-transition settings.) Second, I trace how narratives of the past constitute the boundary of the ‘we’. I find that in their approaches and judgments of communism, the current political elites conflate communism and Jewishness. In doing so, they elevate the nation and narrow is meaning to ascriptive, religion-inflected, ethnicity. I finish by drawing wider conclusions on the populism and its understanding of citizenship.
  • Korycki - politicized memory - CES 2018.pdf (260.0 kB)