The Spoiled Drama of Emancipation: Conflicting Narratives
 
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2010-01-05
 
Polish Sociological Review 2009;168(4):539–554
 
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ABSTRACT
This paper focuses on the negative narratives of the transformation in Poland, which describe the Round Table talks in 1989 as having been an act, showing at least the domination of the communist leaders, if not the betrayal by the opposition leaders. This is continued in the institutionalized procedures of lustration, in searching for secret police agents amongst others. The persistence of the topic as the foremost in the post-1989 political life of democratic Poland is explained by reference to the dramaturgical structure of the transformation as an emancipation that should have led to a cathartic culmination. In fact, in Poland the social drama (Turner 1974 ) had started much earlier, witnessed by the summer strikes of 1980 and the establishment of Solidarność but was spoiled by martial law which was introduced by the communists on January 13th, 1981. Thus the freezing stage followed instead, while the emancipation was effected ten years later from above as a result of negotiated compromise. Apart from that emancipation, this meant the introduction of a capitalist economy while political freedom and democracy were the only elements kept on the publicly agreed upon agenda of the anti-communist movement. The negative narratives result from frustration, which in turn leads to symbolic lustration attempts at scapegoating the opposition leader(s).
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