Public acts of self-criticism in Eastern Europe – a genre cultivated and extorted by the communist parties – did not disappear with the end of communism. In the young democracies of the region self-criticism has become an attempt to diagnose society’s ‘backward’ character and to develop ‘self-correction’ scenarios in order to participate in the Western modernising discourse. On the one hand, conservative and right-wing elites suppose that public acts of self-criticism (performed by politicians, artists or scholars) can endow the vetting procedures of the ancien régime with a sense of social catharsis and retroactive justice. On the other hand, liberal and left-wing intellectuals subject themselves to collective self-reckoning, not only with their choices made in the transition period, but also with the memory of WWII, in order to shape a civil society free of anti-Semitism and intolerance. An analysis based on the discourse-historical approach in critical discourse analysis, Reinhart Koselleck’s historical semantics and Michel Foucault’s notion of discourse, and carried out on the text corpus of selected acts of self-criticism in Poland, aims to diagnose the role these acts had in shaping public discourse on the troublesome past.
This study was supported by Bronisław Geremek Junior Visiting Fellowship, sponsored by the Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Warsaw, and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Warsaw.
Nowicka-Franczak, M. (2017), "Settling Accounts with the Troublesome Past: Self-Criticism in Poland and Eastern Europe", Karner, C. and Kopytowska, M. (Ed.) National Identity and Europe in Times of Crisis, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 259-283. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78714-513-920171012Download as .RIS
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