Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, Qatar University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Shaping Oneness in the Borderlands: State Attempts to Construct National Community in Upper Silesia, 1919-50

This project is on state-coordinated attempts to construct and deconstruct homogeneous national identity in Upper Silesia between 1939 and 1950. It will cover the politics of the whole region, but will be focused on its two centers of government and culture, the cities of Katowice (Kattowitz) and Opole (Oppeln). I will deal with how two regimes seeking to build totalitarian states, first the Nazis (1934-45) and then the Polish Worker's Party-led state (PPR), sought to "solve" the "problem" of ethnic mixture in the region through acculturation, "ethno-demographic engineering" ("ethnic cleansing"), including expulsion and in the case of the Nazis also genocide, as well as the transfer of populations from other parts of the areas they ruled. My main concern here will be on how each regime sought to socialize the "new" populations into an imagined homogeneous national-community (Volksgemeinschaft in the Nazi-case, and Jednolity Front Narodowy or "homogeneous national front" in that of the PPR) of “Germans" or "Poles," that was essentially tied to its authority, power and legitimacy. Of particular interest here are the parallels between the efforts of the two, and how the policies of the postwar Polish state ran along nationalist lines. I am also interested with how the local population reacted to these policies. The project will be based on research in regional archives in Poland, as well as on newspapers, school-books, travel guides and other published primary materials. It will also draw from oral interviews. During my stay in Poland I will be affiliated with the University of Silesia (Katowice) and also with the Silesian Institute (Opole). The study will make an important contribution to rapidly growing interdisciplinary studies on the phenomenon of grandiose state-coordinated experiments to re-shape individual consciousness and identity, as well as to reconstruct and re-conceptualize territorial space, during the 20th century.