Postcolonial or Post-colonial? Post(-)colonial perspectives on Habsburg Galicia

Klemens Kaps, Jan Surman 11 May 2014


... thick chronicles had been written about this land. Then a specific cult of Galicia emerged, largely untrue, fabricated, mythicised [...] all these apologists had created a world which, truly, sometimes infected others with its uniqueness, but seemed magical mainly to the writers themselves. The people enclosed in those poor small towns, where wealth contrasted with extreme poverty to the same degree as in the Wild West of the Old Continent, wrote about what they wished to see, not what they actually saw there. ...

You won't read about people from here in the pages of chronicles.

Łukasz Saturczak, Galicyjskość [Galicianness], Warszawa 2010.


In the abovequoted novel of Łukasz Saturczak Galicia, set between the area described by Andrukhovych and that of Stasiuk, becomes a palimpsest, a fusion of wanted and unwanted layers: the past times which have been suppressed or aggrandised, and the also unacceptable but omnipotent present times. The clash of memories held by children, parents, and grandparents, and the contemporary dilemmas of Poles and Ukrainians, who often find self-identification difficult, turn this rejected myth, brought back to memory by both people and buildings, into reality. Galicia according to Saturczak comprises (in random order) Ukrainians, Poles, Poles of Ukrainian nationality, Russians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians of Polish origin, Jews, Poles of Jewish belief, “converted” Jews, UPA members, AK members, Soviets, post-Soviets, Franz Joseph and Józef Piłsudski. Galicia is a strange myth which has to be left behind to reach reality, but this reality also explains why this present, trapped in the past, contains more mythical elements than its own cult.

Nevertheless, the Galicia through which Saturczak wanders is also the centre of mutual alienation, where people reject their neighbours and look down on others; this is a place of poverty, anti-Semitism, cultural exclusion, symbolic hegemonies and “internal nesting Orientalisms”.[1] There is a Pole-invader on one side, a Ukrainian from the UPA on the other side, and a Jew between them; this network of mutual accusations and conflicts is watched by the ever-present Franz Joseph.

Galicja, Galizien, Halychyna, Galitsie; this province, “invented”[2] by the Habsburg administration, now divided by borders and memories, has been an extremely popular subject both in literary and scientific circles for a number of years. Its mythical peaceful multiculturalism, its role as a universal Piedmont, or, more plainly, the emphasis on the difference between Cracow and Warsaw, and L’viv and Kyiv, is becoming a pillar of local cultural self-identification and a focal point for humanists interested in the formation of nationalities, the functioning of empires, ethnic and memory conflicts, borderland problems, and positive and negative attitudes relating to borderlands.

Galicias mythicised image as a peaceful and cultural place is intermingled with Galician poverty, turning into SS Galizien, and then Grzaniec Galicyjski or Krakowski Kredens: the Galician Tradition. Ironically, this memory holds scenes of pogroms and multiethnicity, the Jagiellonian University and the Shevchenko Society, Mykhailo Hrushevsky and Michał Bobrzyński. This is Galicia, which demands its postcoloniality free from its own myths and national “Piedmontisations”, but at the same time preserving its own diversity and the conflicts related to it.

Here, however, postcolonialism does not imply the “colonialism” typical of overseas empires, but a colonialism basing on the discourse analysis of cultural hegemonies as proposed by Foucault and Derrida[3] – relating to exclusions, orientalisation and subalternation. In Galicia, the situation in the nineteenth century is the post-annexation period, with the dominance of the German language, but also the domination of Poles, particularly after 1867. This is also the time when national identities were being established and solidified, which was associated with cross-cultural mediations and national/nationalistic projects. This is all interlinked with a broadly defined modernism – the beginning of socialist and feminist movements, changes in societal structure, and increasingly stronger competition on the labour market.

Galicia, as a part of the continental empire of the Habsburg Monarchy, is a perfect example of a multitude of hegemonic cultural and political dependencies. Political transformations: the annexation of the region during the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the incorporation of Cracow in 1846 into Austria, and the migration of the actual governing authorities from Vienna to L’viv in the second half of the 19th century without changes in territorial integrity, help to describe the changes and continuity of colonialisms within the system of four cultures (German, Polish, Ruthenian/Ukrainian and Jewish), in the sphere of both representations and everyday life. Special emphasis is placed here on the problem of cultural marginalization and the “colonial imaginary” – the perception of one’s own colonial position and the feeling of a “civilizing mission” as determinants of the cultural dependencies characteristic of each multicultural region – which is particularly clear in Galicia, a region in shadow of interlocked imperialisms.


From colonialism to postcolonialism


Michael Hechter, analyzing the case of Ireland as an internal British colony, proposed a definition of colonialism referring to early modern ages:

Typically this involves domination by a ‘racially’ and culturally different foreign conquering group, imposed in the name of a dogmatically asserted racial, ethnic, or cultural superiority, on a materially inferior indigenous people. There is contact between the different cultures. The dominated society is condemned to an instrumental role by the metropolis. Finally, there is recourse not only to force, to maintain political stability, but also to a complex of racial or cultural stereotypes, to legitimate metropolitan subordination. [4]

Here, the colonial development is based on a division of labour legitimized by cultural differences, then followed by differences in social stratification. The forms of employment associated with high status are restricted to representatives of the metropolis, while less prestigious and valued forms of labour or earning are performed by those classified as culturally low-value indigenous people. Hechter also includes here the mining of natural resources to be exported to metropolises or centres. The economic dependence becomes stronger through legal, political and military measures. Centres control trade and the money-lending system of the internal colony, where the service sector is underdeveloped, quality of life is low and social frustration higher (this is reflected, for example, by more widespread alcohol abuse). On top of these problems there is the national discrimination of language, religion and other aspects important to the culture.[5] Therefore, the sustenance of the cultural difference was also meant to sustain the spatial dichotomy between the periphery and the centre. Thus, the acculturation of peripheral actors to the culture of the centre was suppressed artificially.[6]

The definition of colonialism proposed by Hechter, strongly based on economic differences, did not play a vital role for early postcolonial theorists such as Frantz Fanon[7] or Edward Said[8], and is staunchly rejected by Larry Wolff[9] as inadequate for Central Europe. This opinion is supported by Jürgen Osterhammel, a historian from the University of Konstanz, who classified diverse colonial economic forms. The colonies of Latin America and Africa served both as suppliers of natural resources for the European metropolises and as sales markets for finished products. This was associated with brutal economic, environmental and socially wasteful management, which was largely based on racist categories. A different situation was observed in Asia, where European colonial countries did not inhibit industrialization, but did not support it either. At the same time brutal Japanese colonialism created important conditions for the economic rise of Korea, Taiwan and a part of China. As was standard for all colonial dependencies, the tax system, exports and currency were taken over by strangers. The markets of the colonies were opened up and operated to satisfy the interests and needs of the metropolises. However, the results of colonial policy could not have been more diverse.[10]

Therefore, Osterhammel himself proposed a new definition of colonialism, based not on economic criteria, but focused on the potential offered by political, social and cultural sciences, and defined colonialism as:

a relationship between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population, the colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule.[11]

Thus, this change of perspective enables an approximation of theories on colonialism and postcolonialism, despite its roots being well-set in the sociological and historical/political definition of colonialism.

The first generation of postcolonial thinkers interpreted the central points in the operation of colonialism in a different way, namely the polarized superiority and inferiority in the 'civilized' colonizer and colonized 'barbarian'. The characteristic aspect of this dichotomy is that the colonizer creates the colonized.[12] Many authors have made references to this approach, interpreting colonialism as a symbolic-discursive system of perception and interpretation leading to the dichotomies of superiority and inferiority.[13] For this reason, postcolonial theories emphasize the significance of stereotypes as elements of the construct and representation of otherness (othering, orientalisation), both within and outside of Europe.[14]

Said defined Orientalism as “a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”[15] , which is (re)produced through the discursive “orientalisation” process.[16] This is associated with a shift, in terminology also, from the sociological definition of colonialism towards the categories of difference characteristic for the theory of discourse and (hegemonic) mental mapping.

Such an approach to postcolonialism helps us to adequately understand and describe polycentric domination relationships in the multicultural societies of Central and Eastern Europe. As emphasized by Clemens Ruthner, the classical sociological definition of colonialism in the case of the Habsburg Monarchy can be applied to Bosnia-Herzegovina, whereas the perspective proposed by the cultural studies allows us to perceive the relationships of domination and subalternation inside the monarchy at a single symbolic level, covering the cultural imagination but also the images of the Self and the Other.[17]

After this change of perspective, the definition can also be successfully used outside the Habsburg Monarchy. This was confirmed by Hubert Orłowski in his studies on the position of Poland in the German discourse since the early modern era – a prerequisite for the “colonial policy” of the German Reich in the Province of Posen in the late 19th century.[18] A similar view is expressed by Izabela Surynt on the narrative strategies used for Poland in German-language literature in the nineteenth century. Germans continued to attribute to themselves the role of a cultural institution, and legitimized their special civilizing mission to shape an inferior society.[19] Another example is the analysis of determinants for Prussian forestry in two regions of Pomerelia: the Tuchel Heath (Tucheler Heide/ Bory Tucholskie) and Kashubia (Kassubei / Kaszuby) presented by Jeffrey Wilson.[20] He points out that it was not the centrally-controlled reorganization and management of forests that resulted in cultural dichotomies and introduced the elements of orientalistic discourse referred to by Said, but the symbolic and discursive context of the process.

In this sense, the postcolonial perspective can be used to analyze “civilizing missions”, which were the practice not only in colonies outside Europe, but also structured the modernisation discourses within Europe and legitimized political power. In view of the dichotomic dissonance between Barbarian and Civilized societies created by the Enlightenment discourse, adjustment to the perceived superior sociocultural order was postulated, and this was enforced by various policies and institutions, established by both the state and civil society. [21]

Another aspect of the postcolonial change of perspective lies in the rejection of statically used cultural and social categories construed in essentialistic terms. With respect to this, postcolonial studies perceive hybridization, described also as Creolization or syncretism, as the ability to deconstruct, or at least make relative, binary categories by focusing on mutual dependencies, because the subordinated actors assimilate the practices of the rulers and in this way oppose the colonial governors in power. This also enables the linking of the postcolonial project with the history of transfer, ‘entangled history’ or ‘histoire croisée’. The hierarchy can also influence through the involvement of secondary actors in dominant discourses. Unlike the approach represented by Hechter, colonial power is thus reproduced not by the stabilization of dichotomies, but through their partial dissolution. Both cases, however, make us convey the mutual interactions between the colonizer and the conquered.[22] Elleke Boehmer compared anticolonial strategies, and also pointed out that many concepts migrated as translations between colonial and anticolonial discourses, but also between the anticolonial discourses themselves.[23] “Cross-boundary interdiscursivity” was possible not only through migration, but also through the common use of the English language as a form of communication, making it possible in the first place.


From the theory of dependency to the theory of culture


One of the criticisms of the Saidian concept of the Orient, and also of the version of postcolonialism derived from it, was its self-determination as a colonial tool. Jennifer Robertson pointed out that in Said’s concept the Orient again remains mute:

Critical reappraisals of Orientalism presented in the guise of Western self-critique [...] both further privilege Euro-American intellectual and theoretical trends as universal and obfuscate and neutralize the histories and legacies of non-Western imperialism and associated „othering” practices.[24]

This criticism is associated with the notion of “internal Orientalism” which negates/denounces othering practices in the societies where the West imposed them, deconstructing through this the East-West duality as a construct invented by the colonizer, and replacing it with a variety of dependencies/Orientalisms/colonialisms. In this case, it would also be adequate to differentiate “internal” and “external” colonialism. The first refers to colonisation of the local/indigenous other within one society (which may, but need not necessarily, come from outside), while the second colonialism is the classical form, i.e. the ruling of one country by another. However, it is problematic to formulate a precise relationship between these two concepts to answer the question of how both forms of othering interact.

The authors of Orientalism and the Jews, Ivan Kalmar and Derek Penslar,expressed a similar criticism referring to and also extending Said’s concept. On the one hand, they pointed out the orientalisation of the Jews over the centuries, while on the other they drew attention to the role of Jews as active subjects in the orientalisation process. Kalmar and Penslar have analyzed both stereotypic representations of the Jews, their image as a single uniform group (as an element of the cultural colonization and transfer of concepts), and also the Jewish concept of the Orient. The latter is not just the othering of Jews against Muslims, or “internal Orientalism” (Ostjudentum, Ashkenazi), but also the denial and deconstruction of the East-West dichotomy as it moved Jews dangerously close to the East.[25]

Another variant of Orientalism was labelled as “reverse Orientalism”, according to which the social criticism created in the eyes of the “West” was accepted and transcoded into a positive value used for the foundation of a cultural policy. As has been pointed out many times, this very concept has not only close links with the nationalistic project, but also denies cultural diversity, covering it with the screen of an essentializing view of the dominant Other.[26]

Although Orientalism and imperialism are typically considered to be products of the Enlightenment, several authors have also emphasized the ‘postcolonial aspects’ of Medieval culture. This, however, does not acknowledge the Middle Ages as postcolonial, but is rather a contestation of the established periods, emphasizing its hybridization, or the chronological differences between cultures, pointing out elements of orientalising continuity and, to the same extent, searching to 'discover the Middle Ages' in nation-building processes[27] .

Several concepts for defining otherness in non-classic colonial environments have been developed. One of them refers to language as the determinant of otherness, as emphasized by Mykola Riabchuk in his analyses.[28] Bakic-Hayden, in her analysis of the Balkans, proposed the concept of “nesting Orientalism”, or “gradation of the orients” as another approach to the problem. She expressed the cultural relativism (and also the anti-dominant view) that every ‘orient’ has ‘its own orient’, not only depending on hegemonic discourse, but also separately determined by its own cultural values. This approach was also followed by Maria Todorova, who departed from the use of Orientalism and criticised it as a normative category, while the East and West in her Imagining the Balkansare interweaving, and switch positions.[29]

However, Andre Gingrich, an anthropologist from Vienna, drew attention to the constant presence of the Muslim Other in Central European culture, and defined the specificity of myths and metaphors related to religious and cultural otherness rooted in folk and public cultures by the antemurale-connected concept of “frontier Orientalism”, linked with past contacts and interactions.[30] This problem concerns the essentialistic others, “the Turks”, in a particular way, and has recently contributed to a postcolonially oriented comparative research project focused on material memories of “the Turks” in Central Europe, as well as repercussions associated with the recurring image (stereotype) established in times when the triumph of Christianity over the ‘other beliefs’ was declared.[31]

Thus, the emphasis on the diversity of definitions of the Other opens the door to postcolonialism as a criticism of culture, somewhat different from the idea of “writing back” or the criticism of speechless postcolonial societies, pointing out their internal diversification and the existence of subordinated groups, thus making reference to the instruments of subaltern studies.[32] Their central part is formed around questions on how the Otherness is perceived, defined, (re)coded and put into practice by modern societies. This concerns both the sociology of post-colonial countries, and modern Europe, where societies also struggle to address the question of how to bring together otherness (cultural, sexual, religious) within national unity. On this backdrop, for example, the idea of incorporating postcolonial methodology into the context of social sciences and sociology emerged, as these share interest areas and problems (like migration, diaspora, subject, society, modernization, etc.) with postcolonial theory, but are separated by the model of ‘dominant anthropologizing’ culture versus the ‘deconstructing’ model. Provincionalising Sociology, as it was teasingly defined by Julia Reuter and Paula-Irene Villa, is a new concept of social criticism founded on sociology and postcolonialism.[33]

Tomasz Zarycki also linked postcolonial theory to the dilemmas of modern society in an interesting way. He analysed the roles of stereotypes, financial redistribution and cultural otherness in the regional policy of Poland, and pointed out that ‘decolonisation’ after 1989 also meant decolonisation of the regions. This analysis, focused on the search for self-identity, seems very promising from the standpoint of postcolonial theory.[34]

These examples draw attention to the shift of postcolonial theory from a focus on building the identity of a postcolonial society towards a general theory of cultural heterogeneity based on deconstruction of the dominant discourses. In this sense, Dipesh Chakrabarty remarked that “the project of provincializing Europe cannot be a nationalist, nativist or atavist project”, because nationalism, like Marxism is entwined in the same imperial brutal continuum of universalistic epistemologies[35] (importantly, the English term ‘nationalism’ does not mean the same as the Polish pejorative ‘nacjonalizm’, but the process of stabilizing a national narrative accompanying the building of nationality[36]). Writing-back and deconstruction of the European narrative of the modern and modernity is used by Chakrabarty not only to draw attention to the ambivalence or force employed in this project, to diversify the narrative and point out its heterogeneity, but it will fail without a symmetric critical analysis of the ‘India’ concept. The essentializing nationalism, traditionalism, affirmation and magnification of their culture present among both (former) ‘colonizers’ and ‘colonized’ has been criticised by the majority of postcolonial critics[37]. Nationalism may have short-term positive effects in a post-colonial context (as particularly emphasized by Said), but it is not in line with the main principles of postcolonial theory, becoming yet another ‘narcissism of small differences’.[38] However, this does not put the emphasis on hybridized nationality as an imposed concept covering (or sometimes denying in geographic aspects) other forms of identity, but also pointing out the role and giving full rights to any otherness and subalteration (like gender, sexual orientation, or religious or regional identity); the constitutions of culture as ambivalence.

This diagnosis, mainly referring to India, can also be applied to domination and subordination relationships within Europe and other countries. For example, Ulrich Bestes, during a conference held in Freiburg in November 2006, pointed to interactions between nationalistic and imperialistic discourses. He said that the first become a reaction to the latter, although they create themselves as a-national, as in fact they imply national claims for hegemony.[39] Following a similar approach, Heidemarie Uhl, an Austrian historian, noted that the postcolonial perspective used for the Habsburg Monarchy “should not lead to a reduction of the complexity of ethnic and national conflict positions and of the development of consensual concepts to a dichotomic pattern of a hierarchic difference between the hegemonic culture of the elite and ‘colonized’ ethnias or nationalities”. Moreover, a question is emerging as to whether this very dichotomy “generates a representation of the homogenous ‘other’ in the form of colonized cultures.” [40]

This ambivalence between the theoretical discourse of postcolonial studies and their practical aspect has been pointed out by Eóin Flanner in his analysis of postcolonial Ireland. Despite a deconstructive approach, postcolonial studies are also used for tracing cultural ‘authenticity’, binary demarcations, and ‘anticolonial nationalism’. However, the general criticism of postcolonial studies on Ireland as nationalistic is usually expressed by scientists representing classical disciplines, who operate with concepts irrelevant to postcolonial theory.[41]

Thus, it was rightfully claimed by John MacLeod that postcolonial studies is a theoretical proposal originating from geographical and political colonialism, which has the potential to assemble “new communities and networks of people who are joined by the common political and ethnical commitment to challenging and questioning the practices and consequences of domination and subordination,”[42] as such going far beyond the primary context of discovery. The question of how and to what extent these approaches will give incentive to cultural self-reflection and a new policy towards minorities/marginalized groups, a “critical intervention”[43] and not just an “intellectual curiosity,”[44] remains one of the key problems currently being discussed.[45]


Habsburg postcolonial?


As for the context of the Habsburg Monarchy, its imperialism and ‘colonialism’ has been marked out many times in recent years, particularly in social studies analyzing the polarity of empire and nationality,[46] but also in processes/attempts at classical colonization and active participation in overseas colonial projects.[47] “Internal colonialism” refers in particular to the classical case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, annexed in the late 19th century. Here a classical orientalistic discourse can be traced,[48] but various postcolonial methods have been used in the cases of other cultures/clashes/hierarchies. Ursula Prutsch used the notion of “soft colonialism”, German cultural domination.[49] Hans-Christian Maner traced features of a colonial project in the annexation of Galicia, in the ideas, declared at that time, of a civilizing mission and (asymmetrical) knowledge transfer,[50] while Pieter Judson pointed out the intensification of colonial fantasies about the Monarchy in the discourse of German-language nationalists of the fin de siécle period.[51] With reference to the latter opinion, it can also be noted that after 1867, due to the growing sense of lost political hegemony by the Monarchy, especially as perceived by German nationalists and supporters of the Christian Social ideology founded by Karl Lueger, the intensified subalternity of German-language speaking people in legislative processes and financial redistribution was emphasized.[52] Anna Veronika Wendland has recently expressed criticism on the transfer of postcolonial theory to the Habsburg Empire: while postcolonial instruments have been standard in studies on nationalism and empires for an extended period, the metaphor used by historians and their concentration on “(post)colonial symptoms” restricts the research ground by focusing on selected phenomena. “The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was a European Sonderkolonialismus full of ambivalences,” and thus postcolonial studies – if devoid of self-reflexion - do not explain this complicated issue, which corresponds more to the postimperial approach based on postcolonial methodology.[53]

Nevertheless, referring to this claim we can point out that postimperial studies making use of postcolonial methods – presented, for example, in journals such as Ab Imperio or Kakanien revisited – are still in their initial phase and have no stable theoretical background. An emphasis on the imperial ‘inherent’, rather than ‘imported’, colonial identity of Central-European projects would seem, however, to be very promising.

Leaving aside the debate on whether and how the Habsburg Monarchy was colonial in general, we can draw attention to the mobilisation of the postcolonial instruments used in studies of its cultures and the mutual dependencies between them. The problem of the “colonial” context in this aspect was noted by Brigitte Fuchs in her study on the constructs of categories of race, nation and gender in German-language (particularly Austrian) discourse. Here, we are dealing not only with strongly evaluating concepts, discursive combinations of cultural subordination represented by overseas colonies and non-German provinces of the Monarchy, but also with similarities in the discourse on “exclusion” due to racial/ethnic/cultural reasons and gender differences between both projects.[54]

In general, anthropology and “colonial” sciences have also been a subject in Wissenschaft und Kolonialismus [Science and Colonialism], a volume edited by Marianne Klemun.[55] Christian Marchetti drew attention to an informal hierarchy in the Monarchy, resulting in the stratification of possible ethnographic descriptions according to political-hegemonic determinants. In contrast to Brigitte Fuchs, Johann Schimanski and Ulrike Spring described arctic colonizing missions, and stressed that along with colonization the “white page” of the arctic regions covered with snow and ice was used to emphasize the non-aggressive civilizing mission of the German-language elites, that is, to extend the internal colonial discourse of the Habsburg Monarchy with a projection screen to again emphasize and medialize the hegemonic discourse. On the other hand, Jan Surman pointed out that hegemonic arguments on the scientific superiority of the German-language environment are reflected in the emancipating cultures of the Monarchy. Writing-back and emphasis on identity provide not only a more intensified cultural production, but also alternative philosophical concepts underlining the particular role of language in the generation of knowledge, in contrast to German-language ideology which accentuates its key role in the dissemination of science.

The question about postcolonial linguistic dependencies was also raised in the context of Galicia by Alois Woldan and Stefan Simonek, Slavist scholars from Vienna.[56] Simonek pointed out that the concept of hybridity elaborated by Homi Bhabha can only in part be used for Galician authors. Hybridic authors found themselves in an increasing conflict between the Empire and the Nation, which led Tadeusz Rittner, for example, to the lost identity and to marginalization in both discourses. Woldan and Simonek also focused on Ruthenian authors from Galicia, as those being subordinated to a dual, Polish and German, hegemony, emphasizing the apparently emancipatory role of the German language. As noted by Woldan, the choice of language is not merely a change of medium, but is reflected by topics other than those addressed in Ukrainian-language texts. For example, social and critical trends are less accentuated, which raises a question not only about the “neutrality” of language, but also about the hybridity of the authors who consciously matched the content with the medium.

Tim Beasley-Murray also noted that the German-language literature of the Monarchy can be described through the ambivalences of Slavic culture, being both “strange and familiar”. However, he emphasized that this approach, relating to postcolonial concepts, is not based on Orientalism, but on Balkanism, introduced by Todorova, which is more appropriate for Central Europe. This is because the cultural and historical determinants make the distinction between the centre and the periphery in the Habsburg Monarchy uneasy, particularly if we refer to the late 19th century.[57]

Moritz Csáky has also recently expressed criticism of the “internal” German “colonialism” of the Habsburg Monarchy with respect to urban space. On the one hand, he points out the “colonial attitudes” of the German-language speaking people of Vienna towards many other groups, especially Slavic, which formed the cultural framework of towns and cities. On the other, he notes a current historiographic discourse linked to this problem, drawing attention to the products of German culture found in unusual places, while the cultural reminiscences of Czech or Polish minorities is almost entirely marginalized in Vienna. Moreover, Csáky admonishes the divergence from (historically) destructive national paradigms, and points out the hybrid spaces or ‘in-between’ locations, but also the urban milieu (Bratislava, Budapest, Chernivtsi, Vienna, etc.), which, apart from a clear political role, from a closer perspective become the meeting point of the ‘centre’ and the ‘periphery’, due to intensified migration, and as such offer an opportunity to deconstruct the national and historic paradigm of cultural unity.[58]


Poland and postcolonialism: between the (im)possible project anda new perspective


According to Irmina Wawrzyczek, due to the difficulty of historicalpositioning within the concept of ‘colonialism’, postcolonial criticism in Poland (and also in Ukraine) is a practice taken up mainly by experts in literature and by cultural researchers.[59] It is difficult to argue with her point of view, but we can also mention two historians who have, in some way, established the foundations for historical discourse. Jan Kieniewicz points out the “colonial situation” in the region under Russian annexation, and defines it in terms of the relations between power structures and mental attitudes under the circumstances of differences in civilization that hinder assimilation. This very point is an obstacle for which Kieniewicz has difficulties with positioning colonialism in the regions under Prussian or Habsburg annexation, where we see subordination that cannot be analysed in colonial categories.[60] From another, partially opposite, point of view, was colonialism perceived by Daniel Beauvouis, who emphasized the participation of the Polish nobility and aristocracy in the cultural and economic processes marked with colonial features (exploitation based on ethnic categories, suppression of Ukrainian culture) that were observed in lands annexed by Russia. Through this he also emphasized the ambivalence of the Polish victim discourse/annexation discourse.[61]

The detection of a dual “colonized-colonizer” position has become, in some sense, one of the characteristic features of postcolonialism made in Poland, by its reference to specific Central-European multiculturalism and interlaced hegemonic discourses, which is worth emphasizing, particularly in the case of criticism towards the transfer of the postcolonialist concept. This is where Aleksander Fiut sees the potential of postcolonial studies transposed onto Polish culture – they provide an opportunity to increase the distance from the historiographic topos of Poland as Victim through emphasis on “Polish colonial discourse”.[62] A similar approach was also indicated by Maria Janion. She pointed out that in the history and culture of Poland features of both colonized and colonizer can be found, and relevant studies often bring surprising results.[63] The diversity of ‘colonial’ experience was also emphasized by the authors of a volume edited by Irmina Wawrzyczek, which contains papers dealing with experiences related to colonialism, colonisation (Polish discourse on Orient/Africa), transcultural relations, mythologized memory, and the claims of the ‘conquered’ against the colonizer as expressed in literature. However, postcolonialism as a form of criticism was most clearly defined by Ewa Domańska:

“traditional national and nationalistic approaches to studies on history, literature and art, with their black-and-white representation of ‘us’ and ‘other’, prove to be insufficient in showing the ambivalent relationships between the colonizer and the colonized, and in studies on hybridic, diasporic cultures and the trans-national texts, artistic representations and historical narratives associated with them.”[64]

One of the problems most eagerly discussed, and not just in Poland, is the potential extension of postcolonialism as a definition to cover the period 1945-1989.[65] This problem has been addressed by Janusz Korek[66], Dariusz Skórczewski and Ewa Thompson, among others, who accepted the project of “(post)colonial Poland”, although their findings were inconclusive.[67] Importantly, Ewa Thompson proposed a definition of colonialism for any “outer” power, thus covering very different periods of time characterized by different figurative, cultural and typological aspects.[68] As indicated by most authors commenting on this issue, there is a considerable difference in experience (also internal and chronological) relating to annexation, sovietism and colonisation. This particularly concerns civilizing contacts, othering, the intensity of discourse on subordination, and problems with giving a definition of hegemonic otherness. For example, Ewa Domańska and Hanna Gosk have diverged from the strictly post-colonial comprehension of Polish history. They set out a very promising cultural analysis project based on the context proposed by postcolonial studies, but at the same time following the ideas of writing-back and emphasis on their nature and specific to Central Europe.[69] Domańska stressed that the use of postcolonial theory without criticism “can only prejudice both the theory and the material, as it can lead to grotesque interpretations.”[70] Gosk, emphasizing the importance of the postcolonially elaborated approach, also suggests changing the timeframes to strengthen their historical independence into “post-annexation” and “post-dependency”, instead of referring to the more and more fuzzy “post(-)colonialism”.[71] Thus, as in the previously mentioned criticism of transposing the postcolonial concept onto Austria-Hungary in Wendland, here we are dealing with postcolonialism’s dual role in contemporary studies. On the one hand it is an approach or theory, but on the other it is a way of attributing social/political status. This ambivalence is an inherent part of the post(-)colonial discourse, but we still have to answer the question of how, in certain cases, it can be solved, considering the growing criticism of adding the attribute “post(-)colonial” to everything marked by the presence of cultural/political hegemony, and, on the other hand, the popularity of post(-)colonialism as a theory and, related to this, cultural self-identification.[72]

In addition, it is clear that the definition of postcolonialism is often used in political reasoning with reference to the Third Polish Republic, to derogate its rulers/elites and draw attention to the need for thorough reform.[73] Without intending to take part in this political debate, we can see their ideological connotations, associated with the New Historical Policy (Nowa Polityka Historyczna) and the split historical memory concerning the epoch before 1989,[74] which may influence the perception of postcolonial theory itself by attributing it to a single political stream. Politicization is obviously nothing new in postcolonialism, particularly in subaltern studies,which isa version of it close to postmodernismandreferring to Marxism. However, it is interesting to observe that postcolonialism in the specific post-Soviet style is found both in political constructive and cultural-deconstructive versions.

Another aspect worth emphasizing is the topos of postcolonial literature in Polish-language discourse on Kresy (the Eastern Borderland). Daniel Beauvouis and Bogusław Bakuła pondered how this category introduces the discourse on the dominant/colonizer, emphasizing the political aspects of the term and the orientalising, nationalistic and mythological notions associated with it.[75] The phenomenon of Kresy in the (post)colonial perspective has been addressed many times with varying results, and some researchers have suggested a positive role for it as an emancipating category for Poland.[76] An interesting question here concerns not so much political correctness, but rather how cultural connotations are used in historical discourse on a multinational space, for example, the dispute about West Prussia, a province located paradoxically east from Prussia, German-language Mitteleuropa, or “invented” Galicia. In each of these cases, terminology carries questions about the cultural identity of regions, and national/political/cultural continuity or changes, but is also a part of the hegemonic constructs of space. Further, it is the carrier of a myth (negative or positive, depending on its positioning) whose trajectories are also interconnected with dependency relationships. Kresy and the revival of Galicia (as well as Galicia Felix) can be attributed to those post-dependency categories, and opinions suppressed in the period of “real socialism”.[77]Mitteleuropa, as a (negative) myth, substituted by the greatly mythologizing and de jure positive term Zentraleuropa, or the emphasis on the multicultural past of the north-eastern regions of Poland, also indicate the mediation of the past with the history of a place, which is another de-hegemonialisation process. Finally, it is worth pointing out that Kresy and Galicia are not shared myths. Kresy as a term covers the historical connotations of culture and civilization limes, emphasizing a cultural hegemony. The myth of Galicia, if not found in a version idealising the diversity and equality of cultures, is also present in Polish and Ukrainian versions, strengthening the historical role of the region as the Piedmont of their own culture.

[1] Milica Bakic-Hayden, “Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia”, Slavic Review, Vol. 54, No. 4, pp. 917-931.

[2] Larry Wolff, The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture, Stanford 2010.

[3] Cf. Doris Bachmann-Medick, Cultural Turns. Neuorientierungen in den Kulturwissenschaften. 3rd ed.Reinbek 2009, pp. 184-237.

[4] Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism. The Celtic Fringe in British National Development, 1536-1966, Berkeley 1975, p. 30.

[5] Hechter, Internal Colonialism, pp. 31-34.

[6] Hechter, Internal Colonialism, pp. 37, 40.

[7] Frantz Fanon, Schwarze Haut, weiße Masken, Frankfurt a.M. 1985 [orig. 1952].

[8] Edward W. Said, Orientalism – Western Conceptions of the Orient, London 2003.

[9] Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. The map of civilization on the mind of the Enlightenment, Stanford 1995, pp. 8-9.

[10] Jürgen Osterhammel, Kolonialismus. Geschichte, Formen, Folgen, München 2003, 4th edition, pp. 78-88.

[11] Osterhammel, Kolonialismus, p. 21. [quoted after Jürgen Osterhammel, Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview. trans. Shelley Frisch. Princeton 2005, pp. 16-17]

[12] Fanon, Schwarze Haut, pp. 63, 68.

[13] Brigitte Kossek, Herausforderungen des Postkolonialismus für die feministische Geschichtsforschung, Beiträge zur historischen Sozialkunde, Sondernummer 2000: Geschlecht und Kultur, pp. 14-21, here p. 14.

[14] Kossek, Herausforderung, p. 17.

[15] Said, Orientalism, p. 3.

[16] Said, Orientalism, pp. 49-73.

[17] Clemens Ruthner, K.u.k. Kolonialismus als Befund, Befindlichkeit und Metapher: Versuch einer weiteren Klärung, in: J. Feichtinger, U. Prutsch, M. Csáky (ed.), Habsburg postcolonial. Machtstrukturen und kollektives Gedächtnis, Innsbruck 2003, pp . 111-128, here pp. 114, 116-117.

[18] Hubert Orłowski, Z modernizacją w tle. Wokół rodowodu nowoczesnych niemieckich wyobrażeń o Polsce i o Polakach, Poznań 2002. About the policy of the German Reich in Province of Posen see: John J. Kulczycki, German cultural imperialism in Prussian Poland, 1871-1914, in: D. K. Rowney, E. G. Orchard (ed.), Russian and Slavic History, Columbus, Ohio 1977, pp. 105-122; Philipp Ther, Deutsche Geschichte als imperiale Geschichte. Polen, slawophone Minderheiten und das Kaiserreich als kontinentales Empire, in: S. Conrad, J. Osterhammel, (ed.), Das Kaiserreich transnational. Deutschland und die Welt 1871-1914, Göttingen 2004, pp. 129-148.

[19] Izabela Surynt, Postęp, kultura i kolonializm. Polska a niemiecki projekt europejskiego Wschodu w dyskursach publicznych XIX wieku, Wrocław 2006; cf. also Eadem., Postcolonial Studies and the ‘Second World’: Twentieth-Century German Nationalist-Colonial Constructs, "Werwinkel" 3(1) 2008, pp. 61-87.

[20] Jeffrey K. Wilson, Environmental Chauvinism in the Prussian East: Forestry as a Civilizing Mission on the Ethnic Frontier, 1871-1914, "Central European History" 41 (2008), pp. 27-70.

[21] Boris Barth, Jürgen Osterhammel(ed.), Zivilisierungsmissionen. Imperiale Weltverbesserung seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, Konstanz 2005.

[22] Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton – Oxfordshire 2005, pp. 40-42; Michael Rössner, Das leere (zentraleuropäische) Zentrum und die lebendige Peripherie – Gedanken zu Musils „Kakanien“-Kapitel im Mann ohne Eigenschaften in einem lateinamerikanischen Kontext, in: J. Feichtinger et al. (ed.), Schauplatz Kultur – Zentraleuropa. Transdisziplinäre Annäherungen, Innsbruck 2006, pp. 269-277, here pp. 272-273, 276.

[23] Elleke Boehmer, Empire, the national, and the postcolonial, 1890 - 1920: resistance in interaction, New York 2002.

[24] Jennifer Robertson, mon Japon: the revue theater as a technology of Japanese imperialism. "American Ethnologist", 22 (1995), pp. 970–993, here p. 973.

[25] I. D. Kalmar, D. Penslar (ed.), Orientalism and the Jews, Waltham/MA 2004.

[26] Michael Hill, ‘Asian values’ as reverse Orientalism: “Singapore. Asia Pacific Viewpoint”, 41 (2000), pp. 177–190; Gholam Khiabany, De-Westernizing media theory, or reverse Orientalism: ‘Islamic communication’ as theorized by Hamid Mowlana, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 25 (2003), pp. 415–422; Yuko Kikuchi, Japanese Modernisation and Mingei Theory: Cultural Nationalism and Oriental Orientalism, Curzon 2004.

[27] A. J. Kabir, D. Williams (ed.), Postcolonial Approaches to the European Middle Ages: Translating Cultures, Cambridge 2005.

[28] Микола Рябчук, ВідМалоросіїдоУкраїни: парадоксизапізнілогонацієтворення. Київ 2000.

[29] Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans, New York 1997.

[30] Andre Gingrich, Frontier Orientalism: The Muslim World in public and popular cultures of the Central Europe, in: B. Baskar, B. Brumen (ed.), MESS. Mediterranean ethnological Summer School, vol. II.. Ljubljana 1998, pp. 99-127.

[31] Both projects are carried out in an international cooperation at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Cultural Studies and History of Theatre: (Orientalisms in Comparison:; Shifting Memories – Manifest Monuments. Memories of the Turks and Other Enemies:

[32] Paradigmatically Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? in: C. Nelson, L. Grossberg (ed.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Urbana 1988: 271-313.

[33] J. Reuter, P.-I. Villa (ed.), Postkoloniale Soziologie. Empirische Befunde, theoretische Anschlüsse, politische Intervention, Bielefeld 2010.

[34] Tomasz Zarycki, Peryferie. Nowe ujęcia symbolicznych zależności centro-peryferyjnych, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warszawa 2009, especially pp. 191-211.

[35] Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe, p. 43.

[36] On the difference between notions cf. introduction to Brian Porter, When nationalism began to hate: imagining modern politics in nineteenth century Poland, New York 2000.

[37] Cf. A. McClintock, (ed.), Dangerous liaisons : gender, nation, and postcolonial perspectives, Minneapolis 2004, 4th edition; paradigmatically Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton 1993.

[38] This concept is used by Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 1994.

[39] Irma Kreiten, ”Postcolonial Sudies und die Osteuropawissenschaften“, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 25.11. 2006,

[40] Heidemarie Uhl, Zwischen Habsburgischem Mythos und (Post-)Kolonialismus. Zentraleuropa als Paradigma für Identitätskonstruktionen in der (Post-)Moderne, in: Feichtinger, Prutsch, Csáky, Habsburg postcolonial, pp. 45-54, here p. 51-52.

[41] Eóin Flannery, Ireland and postcolonial studies : theory, discourse, utopia, London 2009.

[42] John MacLeod, Introduction, in: Ibid. (ed.),The Routledge Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Routledge 2007, pp. 1-18, here p. 6.

[43] María Do Mar Castro Varela – Nikita Dhawan, Postkoloniale Theorie - Eine kritische Einführung, Bielefeld 2005, p. 138.

[44] Magdalena Nowicka, Rzeczpospolita postkolonialna, "Wiedza i Życie" 9 (2007), pp. 42-45, here p. 45.

[45] The effects of postcolonial theory on education have recently been much discussed cf. e.g. Roland Sintos Coloma (ed.), Postcolonial Challenges in Education, Frankfurt a.M. etc. 2009; in Poland this problem has been taken up many times by Tomasz Szkudlarek.

[46] Cf. discussions in Pieter M. Judson, L'Autriche-Hongrie était-elle un empire?, "Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales" 63 (3) 2008, pp. 563-596.

[47] W. Sauer (ed.), K. u. k. kolonial. Habsburgermonarchie und europäische Herrschaft in Afrika. Wien – Köln – Weimar 2002.

[48] Clemens Ruthner, Habsburg’s Little Orient. A Post/Colonial Reading of Austrian and German Cultural Narratives on Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878–1918, in: Kakanien Revisited ">, 22.5.2008.

[49] Ursula Prutsch (2003), ‘Habsburg postcolonial’, in: Feichtinger, Prutsch, Csáky (ed.), Habsburg postcolonial, pp. 33–43, here p. 36.

[50] Hans-Christian Maner Galizien. Eine Grenzregion im Kalkül der Donaumonarchie im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, München 2007, p. 49.

[51] Pieter Judson, “Inventing Germans: Class, Nationality, and Colonial Fantasy at the Margins of the Hapsburg Monarchy.” Nations, Colonies, and Metropoles, in: D. A. Segal, R. Handler (ed.), "Social Analysis" 33 (1993), pp. 47–67.

[52] Cf. Adolf Gürtler, Deutsche Hochschulnot in Österreich. Referat erstattet in der Monatsversammlung der Vereinigung deutscher Hochschullehrer in Graz am 12. Februar 1913, Graz 1913. A sense of marginalization can also be traced in texts calling for the return of lands controlled by Slavs to retain power in other regions, see James Shedel, Austria and its Polish subjects, 1866-1914: A Relationship of Interests, in: “Austrian History Yearbook” 30 (1999), pp.23-41.

[53] Anna Veronika Wendland, Imperiale, koloniale und postkoloniale Blicke auf die Peripherien des Habsburgerreiches, in: C. Kraft, A. Lüdtke (ed.), Kolonialgeschichten. Regionale Perspektiven auf ein globales Phänomen, Frankfurt/M. 2010, pp. 215-235.

[54] Brigitte Fuchs, "Rasse", "Volk", Geschlecht: anthropologische Diskurse in Österreich 1850 – 1960, Frankfurt a.M. 2003.

[55] Marianne Klemun (ed.), Wissenschaft und Kolonialismus, "Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit" 9/2 (2009).

[56] Both in Feichtinger, Prutsch, Csáky (ed.), Habsburg postcolonial.

[57] Tim Beasley-Murray, German-language culture and the Slav stranger within, “Central Europe”, 4 (2), 2006, pp. 131-145.

[58] Moritz Csáky, Das Gedächtnis der Städte. Kulturelle Verflechtungen – Wien und die urbanen Milieus in Zentraleuropa, Wien – Köln – Weimar 2010.

[59] Irmina Wawrzyczek, Badanie kultury polskiej w perspektywie światowych studiów postkolonialnych, in: K. Stępnik, D. Trześniowski (ed.), Studia postkolonialne nad kulturą i cywilizacją polską, Lublin 2010, pp. 11-19, here p. 18.

[60] Jan Kieniewicz, Polski los w Imperium Rosyjskim jako sytuacja Kolonialna, in: Ibid. (ed.), Ekspansja, kolonializm, cywilizacja, Warszawa: 2008, pp. 244-262.

[61] Daniel Beauvois, Trójkąt Ukraiński. Szlachta, carat i lud na Wołyniu, Podolu i Kijowszczyźnie 1793-1914, Lublin 2005. However, Beauvois noted that the comparison with colonialism is “historically untrue but looked as such in fact”. See: Trójkąt ukraiński. Między kolonizacją a patriotyzmem. Z prof. Danielem Beauvois rozmawia Jagienka Wilczak, "Polityka. Pomocnik Historyczny" 2(7) 2007, pp. 14-17, here p. 14.

[62] Aleksander Fiut, Polonizacja? Kolonizacja?, "Teksty drugie" 6, 2003, pp. 150-156.

[63] Maria Janion, Niesamowita słowiańszczyzna, Kraków 2006.

[64] Ewa Domańska, Badania postkolonialne, in: L. Gandhi (ed.), Teoria postkolonialna: wprowadzenie krytyczne, transl. Jacek Serwański. Poznań 2008, pp.157-164, here pp. 163-164.

[65] For example, see Микола Рябчук, Пoстколоніальнийсиндром. Спостереження, Київ 2011 and his other publications; V. Kelertas (ed.) Baltic Postcolonialism: On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom and Moral Imagination in the Baltics, Amsterdam – New York, 2006.

[66] Janusz Korek, Central and Eastern Europe from a Postcolonial Perspective, in: J. Korek (ed.) From Sovietology to Postcoloniality. Poland and Ukraine from a Postcolonial Perspective, Stockholm 2007, pp.5-20.

[67] For example see Dariusz Skórczewski, Postmodernizm, dekolonizacja i europocentryzm. O niektórych problemach teorii postkolonialnej i jej polskich perspektywach, "Teksty drugie" 1/2, 2008.

[68] Ewa Thompson, Postkolonialne refleksje. Na marginesie pracy zbiorowej From Sovietology to Postcoloniality. Poland and Ukraine from Postcolonial Perspective pod redakcją Janusza Korka, "Porównania", vol. 5(2008), pp. 113–126, here p. 118.

[69] Ewa Domańska, ”Obrazy PRL-u w perspektywie postkolonialnej”, in: K. Brzechczyn (ed.), Obrazy PRL-u, Poznań 2008.

[70] Domańska, Badania postkolonialne, p. 164.

[71] Hanna Gosk, Opowieści skolonizowanego/kolonizatora. W kręgu studiów postzależnościowych nad literaturą polską XX i XXI wieku, Kraków 2010, p. 18.

[72] See Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin, The post-colonial studies reader , p. XV.

[73] See interview with the former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński of 03.04.2007, IV RP to powrót do normalności,,IV-RP-to-powrot-do-normalnosci (access on 30.3.2011); the “post-colonialism” of Poland was also pointed out by politicians from other parties and Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Demokracja peryferii, Gdańsk 2003.

[74] On this topic see discussions published in a volume of Pamięć i polityka historyczna. Doświadczenia Polski i jej sąsiadów, Ed.: S. M. Nowinowski, J. Pomorski and R. Stobiecki, Łódź 2008, particularly comments by Marek Czyżewski on the split between history and memory.

[75] Bogusław Bakuła, Kolonialne i postkolonialne aspekty polskiego dyskursu kresoznawczego (zarys problematyki), "Teksty Drugie" 6 (2006), pp. 11-33. Daniel Beauvois, Mit "kresów wschodnich" czyli jak mu położyć kres, in: W. Wrzesiński (ed.), Polskie mity polityczne XIX i XX wieku, Wrocław 1994, pp. 93-105; German Ritz, Kresy polskie w perspektywie postkolonialnej, in: H. Gosk, B. Karwowska (ed.), (Nie)obecność. Pominięcia i przemilczenia w narracjach XX wieku, Warszawa 2008, pp. 115-132.

[76] Dorota Wojda, Schulzowskie reprezentacje pogranicza kulturowego w perspektywie postkolonialnej, "Teksty Drugie" 4 / 2007, pp. 233-247.

[77] Gosk, Opowieści, pp. 51-93; see also Alois Woldan, Mit Austrii w literaturze polskiej, Kraków 2002; Василь Расевич, Історія міфу Галичини, (online: )


This is the main part of the Introduction, which was published in the 42 issue of periodical “Historyka” edited by Klemens Kaps and Jan Surman: “Historyka. Studia Metodologiczne”, Polish Academy of Science, Cracow Branch, T. XLII, 2012, pp. 7-35.