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Dr. Aleksandra Szczepan

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin (Projektstelle, Leibniz Gemeinschaft)



                        Am Neuen Palais 10
                        Haus 11, Raum 127
                        14469 Potsdam

                        Mail: aleksandra.szczepanuni-potsdamde

About the project

Dr. Aleksandra Szczepan works as a post-doc researcher on the project You will never walk alone? Civil and military imageries of Polish popular culture since the 1980s, within the research project Adjustment and Radicalization: Dynamics in Popular Culture(s) in Pre-War Eastern Europe, a joint initiative of the Professorship for Slavic Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Potsdam, Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL), the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), and the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZFF).
Her project “You will never walk alone? Civil and military imageries of Polish popular culture since the 1980s” analyzes various forms of Polish popular culture through the lens of two complementary modes of Polish collective memory and identity, namely “military” and “civil”. The military mode denotes forms of community that are patriarchal, hierarchical, exclusively nationalistic, and based on the logic of ownership and conflict. It is omnipresent in Polish mainstream collective imagination, grounded in traditions of national uprisings, military rebellions, or male-dominated political opposition movements during the communist era, and epitomized by the nationalistic Independence March held annually in Warsaw. Whereas the “civil” mode stands for such “unspectacular” forms of social interaction as empathy, civility, and horizontal solidarity. It has been present in Polish collective imagery in much more discrete and peripheral ways but emerged fully during the women’s protests in Poland that erupted in October 2020, in response to the decision of the Constitutional Court to ban almost all abortions. These protests, profuse and topographically ubiquitous, used the Polish national canon and means of popular culture creatively to advocate for inclusive patterns of building community, expressed aptly by the main slogan of the Strike: “You will never walk alone.” The project proposes thus to trace these two modes of “Polishness” in popular culture since the 1980s and to examine their genealogy, class, gender, and geographical conditions, as well as their constant symbolic exchanges.


About the person

Aleksandra Szczepan holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Her PhD investigates how Polish post-war literature may be interpreted through the lens of traumatic realism. Szczepan’s research interests include Holocaust literature and memory; decoloniality with regard to East-Central Europe; oral history; and intersections between popular culture and populism. She has received scholarships from various institutions, including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure, and the Polish National Science Centre. She has also worked as a researcher and interviewer on oral history projects undertaken by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Poland, Spain, and Kazakhstan. She is currently preparing two books: one on maps as testimonies in Holocaust research and another on forms of solidarity in Polish culture from the 19th century until now.