Presentation by Elisa-Maria Hiemer, ASEEES Convention, November 10, 2022, Chicago
Panel: Entangled Modernizations in Polish and Ukrainian Histories and Cultures (Late 19th–Mid-20th Century), I: Life-reform and Biopolitical Projects
Chair: Jagoda Wierzejska, University of Warsaw (Poland)
Julia Malitska, Södertörn University (Sweden): „Vegetarianizing Bodies, Saving Souls: Pastoral Power and the Quest for Life-Reform in the Late Russian Empire“
Martin Rohde, University of Halle-Wittenberg (Germany): „Between Morality and Biopolitics: Temperance and the Ukrainian Project in Galicia, 1860s–1930s“
Elisa-Maria Hiemer, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe (Germany): „An Era of Hypocrisy? Rethinking the Notion of the ‚Polish Family‘ in the Interwar Period“
Abstract: After regaining independence in 1918, Poland underwent a variety of social transformation processes, including the so-called moral reform (reforma obyczajowa), which challenged the traditional image of family, marriage and sexuality. Unlike the rest of Europe, the country faced an extraordinary population growth in the 1920s and 1930s, which led to the emergence of the conscious motherhood movement. In addition, there was a lively debate among experts and in the media about the right to make pregnancy a matter of choice rather than fate. This also influenced jurisdiction: The codification of Polish law became one of the most important steps to increase people’s confidence in the Polish authorities, indeed a lot of measures were aimed in particular at strengthening the position of women in marriage. In 1932, Poland passed the most liberal law on abortion in Europe. However, my court records dealing with abortion trials, as well as the media, reveal a biased attitude and a traditional approach to issues of sexuality and non-normative relationships. In my presentation, I will shed light on the gap between the increasing liberalization in experts’ discourse and the conservative notion of a „normal family“ that prevails in everyday life. By comparing the legal and administrative framework with the life experiences of individuals, I want to show the actual intertwining of political, social and private spheres and to which extent these spheres were part of the moral modernization process.
Discussant: Natalia Otrishchenko, Center for Urban History of East Central Europe (Ukraine)
Panel Description: In the planned panel, we would like to discuss the paradoxes and complex paths of various modernizations in the Polish and Ukrainian histories and cultures from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. Our attention is focused on transcultural entanglements in and around Polish and Ukrainian spaces, from contact to cooperation and from delineation to conflicts, as they were reflected in cultural images of modernization projects. The selected case studies focus on life reform projects on different organizational levels, from individual initiatives to state-based projects, discussing biopolitics from “above” as well as from “below”. Life reform discourses were closely entangled with related modernization practices as well as ideological movements. Therefore, we are going to examine various aspects of modernization projects in (1) the subjective field (progressions of social and moral, cultural, and identity-oriented character; projects of emancipation, collective and individual development, self-modernizations); (2) the subjective and objective field (new models of power, new forms of educational policy, reflexivity of scholarly discourses); and (3) the institutional field (the role of various institutions in the interpretation and valuation of modernization processes). In doing so, we assume that there are parallels and points of contact between political, social, cultural, and artistic modernizations, as well as modernization projects were entangled with various ideologies.