Postmodernism was conceived largely by the Left as a safeguard against totalizing ideologies. Yet today, it has been appropriated on behalf of an encroaching neo-totalitarianism of the Right. Is French literary theory to blame? And can a philosophy of dissent developed in communist eastern Europe offer an antidote?
is associate professor of history at Yale University. She is the translator of Michał Głowiński’s The Black Seasons and the author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918–1968 and The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe. Her book about the 2013–2014 revolution in Ukraine, The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution, is forthcoming from Yale University Press; she is also at work on a longer book project titled Phenomenological Encounters: Scenes from Central Europe. Her recent essays include ‘Surreal Love in Prague’ (TLS); ‘Out of the Desert: A Heidegger for Poland’ (TLS); ‘Rescuing the Yiddish Ukraine’ (New York Review of Books); ‘Rachelka’s Tablecloth: Poles and Jews, Intimacy and Fragility “on the Periphery of the Holocaust”’, (Tr@nsit Online); ‘Can We See Ideas? On Evocation, Experience, and Empathy’ (Modern European Intellectual History); ‘Entscheidung am Majdan: Eine Phänomenologie der Ukrainischen Revolution’ (Lettre International); ‘Reading Tony Judt in Wartime Ukraine’ (The New Yorker); and ‘The Bard of Eastern Ukraine, Where Things are Falling Apart’ (The New Yorker).
Scenes from post-communist Poland
For young Polish Jews, the historical injury of the Holocaust is often complicated by their grandparents’ participation in the communist project. Many of the twenty-somethings interviewed by Marci Shore reappropriated their Jewish identity after 1989, and grapple deeply with questions of inner-Jewish politics and their relations with non-Jewish Poles. Affection, hostility, passion… one thing emerges above all: contradiction.