This area of research begins with the question of what, when, and where Poland and all things Polish have been in the past and are today. As it is our aim to think of Poland in these plural terms, we do not speak of a single Poland or Polish language, but especially look into constellations in which Polishness (polskość) had been and continues to be construed in all of its facets.
Polishness can, for example, be expressed beyond the borders of the Polish state in various forms of emigration. It can also be discussed in terms of the communications, within the particular historical borders of Poland, among different social, religious, and ethnic groups, as in the competition among views of law in the Early Modern Era and the 19th century.
The following interconnected areas of focus have emerged from these considerations:
- ethnic-religious diversity
- multilingualism and language contacts
- legal pluralism and competing views of law
Conceiving of Poland in plural terms requires a plurality of methodology itself. We therefore strive to integrate methodological approaches and modes of thinking from a variety of disciplines and to explore these topics in interdisciplinary collaboration.
The geographical and political areas in which Polish history has unfolded in the course of over a thousand years have often varied: There were phases of considerable expansion of the state and its influence during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era. This culminated in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonweath, which, with its Lithuanian, Belorussian, and Ukrainian parts, combined, for a time, to be the largest areal state in Europe. By the end of the 18th century, by contrast, Poland ceased to exist as a sovereign state for over 100 years. Through the 1980s, Poland's political sovereignty, within borders that shifted after both world wars, remained precarious.
Polish history cannot therefore simply be portrayed as a national history within more or less stable borders. It has also always been the history of linguistically and/or ethnically non-Polish communities, which were an integrative part of Poland regardless of their particular differences. Within our Configurations and Reconfigurations area of research, we take an interdisciplinary look into the question of what has constituted and now constitutes Polish society: How has it reconfigured itself in the aftermath of political upheavals, border shifts, and periods of migration?
What other social, political, economic, religious, and linguistic alternatives emerge in this regard? Local and regional communities serve well as a reflection of these issues, and we can use their example to investigate, with great depth and clarity, reconfigurations of the populace, social structure, culture, and language. This approach differs fundamentally from the analysis of state systems and of individual ethnic communities. Our interest lies in the changing spaces, contexts, and orientations seen in Polish history and culture from the perspective of social interaction, and in the different forms of community-building and socialization in particular.
The reflection on and integration of different main narrative categories such as class, gender, religion, and nation is also of importance to this end.
The historical and current position of Poland in the middle of Europe and phenomena such as migration and economic-communicative globalization pose new challenges for researchers, including the necessity to expand the well-established investigation of bilateral German-Polish relations to include research into Poland's diverse European and international dimensions throughout history and today.
Whereas Poland nowadays undoubtedly looks towards the "West", academic research into Russian-Polish interrelationships is difficult due to both historical conflicts and current political tensions. It is one goal of the Aleksander Brückner Center to contextualize both Polish-Russian and the German-Polish relations from a broader perspective, preferably in international research groups. How, for example, can we best analyze, in European comparison, the phenomenon of forced migration and resettlement after World War II? The "view to the East" applies to Poland's other eastern neighbors as well, and Ukraine, Lithuania, and Belarus in particular, whose intensive historical, cultural, and linguistic interaction with Poland continues to be evident in many ways to this day. The Polish diaspora in its varied historical and present forms is of particular interest to us as a classical area of cultural entanglement.