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Biography and National Identity (Zbigniew Bokszański’s research from 1992–1994)

The purpose of the study was to try and identify the relationships between the experiences of Polish nationals in the time of World War II and those aspects of their social identity that relate to their past and contemporary (i.e. 1990s) sense of national identity, and ways of defining and communicating their own and others’ national identity. Based on the research report, the Department of Sociology of Culture at the University of Łódź published Biografia a tożsamość narodowa [Biography and National Identity] (Łódź, 1996), which consists of a series of articles and studies that reflect on the team’s research techniques and presents a set of categories and analytical directions that emerged during seminars and workshops focused on the empirical material.

The collected narratives can serve as a valuable source for biographical work on the past in the discourse of three living generations (war and post-war generations and the grandchildren), which continues to be dominated by the wartime memories. Additionally, it should be noted that the generation of carriers of communication memory about the war is gradually dwindling. The interviews recorded in the project are a collection of semantic resources, where ‘that time’ is reconstructed by the narrators within the narrative ‘present’. From this point of view, the biographical memory of collective historical experiences reflected in the narratives can be interpreted in terms of how a specific vision of the past is being constructed and why.

The fieldwork was conducted between 1992 and 1994. The collection contains 57 interviews. The project was funded by the Scientific Research Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences and was part of international research into the collective aspects of the biographical experiences of the war, conducted and coordinated by Prof. Fritz Schütze (Kassel-Magdeburg).

In 2016, an extended version of the book Biografia a tożsamość narodowa [Biography and National Identity] was published under the title of Biografia i wojna. Metoda biograficzna w badaniu procesów społecznych [Biography and War. The Biographical Method in the Study of Social Processes]. The latter book was edited by Katarzyna Waniek and Renata Dopierała.

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