“It Was Normal”: Environmental Contamination in the Collective Memory of the Inhabitants of Szopienice
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University of Silesia
Submission date: 2023-09-12
Acceptance date: 2023-12-27
Publication date: 2024-03-12
Polish Sociological Review 2024;225(1):49-68
This paper presents the findings of research aimed at verifying Peter H. Kahn Jr.’s thesis on environmental generational amnesia. It was conducted in 2022 in a local community affected by environmental contamination. The settlement in Szopienice contained a non-ferrous metals plant, which operated for several decades and had negative impacts on the surrounding area. The consequences were particularly severe for local children, who suffered from lead poisoning. To verify Kahn’s thesis, the researchers conducted 17 in-depth interviews with the inhabitants of Szopienice. During analysis of the interviews, the authors were mainly interested in the strategies the interviewees used to reduce the cognitive dissonance between the state of environmental contamination in Szopienice, as they remember it, and today’s knowledge of the magnitude of environmental contamination. The theoretical framework for this analysis was the study of collective memory, with particular emphasis on exploring the concept of normality and with reference to the concepts of Alfred Schütz.
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