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Agency at Work

Ethnographies in/of Late Industrialism


Edited By Monika Baer

Rooted in anthropological and ethnological traditions, this volume offers analytical insights into the workings of agency in late industrialism revealed in interactions between a coal power plant and a local community in Opole Silesia, in southwestern Poland. In this context, the authors show by the use of the ethnographic method, how variables and forces of various scales shape political events centered around the power plant; grassroots economic dynamics and entrepreneurship; the local semiosphere uniting the divided social group; affective dimensions of a social protest; (un)doing gender in the industrial workplace; and the mobile livelihoods of migrant industrial workers. By doing so, they concretize in different ways both the concept of late modernity and agency.

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Revival of Local Identity Under Political Pressure: German Minority in Southwestern Poland (Marcin Brocki)


Marcin Brocki1

Abstract: This article discusses ethnic divisions in the Dobrzeń Wielki commune as a part of political dispute over changing commune’s administrative borders which triggered a social crisis. A small and ethnically diversified local community was struggling to build unity when it had to face a politically inspired attack from the national government with purpose of deciding on local issues from a position of strength. While the government tried to fit its narrative into the ethnically framed “us” vs. “them” division, at the time of the crisis this provoked a sense of unity across the existing divide and endowed local community with new signs of identity rooted in common agency.

Keywords: German minority, ethnicity, local community, politics, social conflict.

This article will address the results of ethnographic research on the revival of ethnic divisions discourse in southwestern Poland, near the city of Opole, in the Dobrzeń Wielki commune. It is important to notice that the area belonged to Germany until 1945. Today about 60 percent of the local population are indigenous residents of Silesia (Silesians, German-Silesians), and within this number about 20 percent admit its German descent (Lis 2016: 186), although they were unable to manifest their separate identity until the beginning of 1990s and post-socialist Poland. Only one of the villages in the commune was settled in by Poles from the former ←77 | 78→Polish eastern borderland territories (Ukraine nowadays), who admit their cultural differences with the indigenous population.


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