This event is part of CIDRAL's Work, Leisure, Culture strand.
Co-hosted by the Russia and Eastern European Studies Seminar.
Wiktor Marzec (University of Warsaw) will deliver a public lecture entitled 'From Cotton and Smoke: Lodz – the Industrial City and Discourses of Ansynchronous Modernity'.
In my lecture I will attempt to forge a practical approach for researching and analysing multi-layered settings of debates about being modern in the cities of the Global East. The insights are grounded in a larger, “longitudinal” research project conducted in recent years with a team of historians, sociologists and cultural theorists. Our initial case study has been focussed on a particular location, a textile industrial hub, the city of Lódz in today’s central Poland. The project examined local press debates during four pivotal periods, each of which stimulated self-reflection on the idea of the modern city: Rapid industrial growth in the tsarist borderlands; State crafting after the First World War; Socialist restructuring after 1945; Transition and deindustrialization after 1989. Together these insights constitute a multifaceted portrait of twentieth-century urban experience beyond the metropolis, in different historical contexts.
The urban debates are marked by a constant urge to become “truly modern” - whatever that meant in each particular context. This motive, perpetually surfacing in different historical moments, fanned the desire for the urban self-assertion of the local elites, despite the fact that the actual “modernity” of the examined city was simultaneously the reason of its wide-spread rejection among Polish symbolic elites. Against this background, asynchronous modernity appears as a deeply historicizing description of attitudes of the local actors, who in their practical knowledge and vernacular theorizing positioned themselves in the heterogenous modern world. What I want to stress is their own, self-imposed feeling of inadequacy, will to improve, and problematic position toward the present state of affairs – an attempt to be modern according to their own changing and contested imaginations. In this way, the asynchronous status of Eastern modernity is deeply historicized, as a category of practice employed by the historical actors themselves. This allows us to maintain the sensitivity for local specificities resulting from the global positionality of the region, with the wide-spread feeling of inferiority, lack and oppression, having tangible consequences. Yet, it is no longer a top-bottom gesture of placement on any hierarchy of modernity and progress. It is a locally and contextually imagined modernity, which perpetuates progress, no longer a teleological one, but always unfolding from within a particular historical moment instead.
Wiktor Marzec was educated at the Central European University, Budapest. He is an Assistant Professor and project leader in The Robert Zajonc Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland. He is the author of Rising Subjects. The 1905 Revolution and the Origins of Modern Polish Politics (forthcoming with Pittsburgh UP) and several articles on Poland within the Russian Empire focusing on labor history and history of concepts. Currently he runs a comparative project on political trajectories of the late tsarist borderlands.
From Cotton and Smoke: Lodz – Industrial City and Discourses of Asynchronous Modernity, 1897–1994, eds. Agata Zysiak, Kamil ?miechowski, Kamil Piska?a, Wiktor Marzec, Kaja Ka?mierska, and Jacek Burski, was recently published by Jagiellonian University Press.