Sławomir Kapralski

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Social Anthropology
Professor of Sociology, Pedagogical University of Kraków

Research project

Memory of/in Difficult Times: Jews and the Holocaust in the Social Memory of Poland in the 1990s Transition Period


The aim of this project is to study the reception of the globalized, cosmopolitan discourse of the Holocaust in the Eastern Europe of the 1990s with particular focus on Poland—the country on the territory of which the Holocaust was largely carried out, the country with a strong tradition of popular and institutionalized antisemitism and the country that after the fall of the Iron Curtain has seriously engaged in the re-examination of its past.


The academic context of the proposed study is formed by a thesis advocated by Levy and Sznaider (2006), according to which in the 1990s the cosmopolitanized memories of the Holocaust have started to serve as a means of reorganization of the value-consensus in Western Europe after the collapse of communism and as a normative standard set up for the former communist countries that struggled to be included in the European system. This project however argues that the discourse of the Holocaust has not turned into a reference for the constructing, perceiving, and representing the imagined European community. Especially in Eastern Europe, the Holocaust as the event and as the frame of historical perception, has not found the way to the collective memories and is largely confined in the elitist discourse and institutional rituals of remembrance. The study intends to find out more about the reasons of this failure (i) in the peculiarities of social memory in the countries of Eastern Europe and (ii) in the deficiencies of the Holocaust discourse, especially in its popular and politicized form.


The main task is a thorough analysis of the unique evidence that consists of more than two hundred in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted in 1989-1993 among the Polish inhabitants of small towns and villages in Southern Poland, who at the time of the interview were old enough to have their own living memories of the time before and during the Holocaust.


The project offers (i) an insight into the evolution of the Holocaust discourse in the East European context, (ii) an anthropological reflection on antisemitism as a synthesis of the everyday life practices of identity-maintenance and the influence of the master narratives of identity (state nationalism, Catholic Church’s anti-Judaism etc.), (iii) an interpretive model of the way social memory operates in the period of transformation. The final result of the project will be a monograph under the working title "From Memory of Violence to Violence of Memory: The Non-Jewish Poles Confront Their Memories of the Holocaust".




Sławomir Kapralski is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Pedagogical University of Kraków. He holds a Ph.D in Sociology from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His research focuses on nationalism, ethnicity and identity, collective memory, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and the Roma communities in Europe. He is a member of the Gypsy Lore Society, the European Association for Holocaust Studies, and the European Academic Network on Romani Studies.


Selected publications


'The Evolution of Anti-Gypsyism in Poland: From Ritual Scapegoat to Surrogate Victims to Racial Hate Speech', Polish Sociological Review, vol. 1, no. 193, 2016, pp. 101-117.


'Amnesia, Nostalgia, and Reconstruction: Shifting Modes of Memory in Poland’s Jewish Spaces', in E. Lehrer & M. Meng (eds), Jewish Space in Contemporary Poland, Indiana University Press, Bloomington/Indianapolis, 2015, pp. 149-169.


'Memory, Identity, and Roma Transnational Nationalism', in C. De Cesari & A. Rigney (eds), Transnational Memory. Circulation, Articulation, Scales, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, 2014, pp. 195-218.


'The Role Played by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Public Discourse and the Evolving Consciousness of the Holocaust in Polish Society', in F. Tych & M. Adamczyk-Garbowska (eds), Jewish Presence in Absence: The Aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland 1944-2010, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2014, pp. 605-634.


A Nation from the Ashes. The Memory of Genocide and Roma Identity, Scholar, Warszawa, 2012. [in Polish]



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Linguistics
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS)
discipline Comparative Studies