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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies

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Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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Toward a Diasporic Poland/Polin: Zeitlin, Sutzkever, and the Ghost Dance with Jewish Poland

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Peretz: You are wandering…Mickiewicz: Like you. Poland’s night is driving me out as well.

– Aaron Zeitlin, Esterke

Since the unveiling of the POLIN Museum’s core exhibition in October of 2014, both the term “Polin” and Polin as a geographical and cultural concept have reentered public discourse. Beyond its immediate function as a name for the Warsaw Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and a term that evokes the centuries-long Jewish history and culture of Poland, what is the significance of the reemergence of the narrative trope “Polin,” and why specifically now? What conceptual turns or narrative shifts within Jewish and Polish communal discourses may be suggested by this linguistic doubling of Poland – this public act of translation or linguistic displacement; and this allusion to and recovery of prewar Jewish narratives of Poland? While the term “Polin” is most immediately associated with narratives of Jewish belonging in Poland, and inextricably tied to the Polin legend of origin commemorated in the POLIN Museum’s opening gallery, in the present discussion I explore the term’s potential to signal not only connection to but also distance from, and difference from, Poland. Specifically, I consider the potential of this term to facilitate the development of alternate, diasporist and non-nationalist narratives within both Jewish and Polish contemporary discourse.

The term “Polin” can be seen to carry a “diasporic” valence in both Jewish and Polish contemporary communal narratives. In the first case, I will consider how the term...

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