Stories of/in Transformation

Schreibtisch von Jacek Kuroń, Europejskie Centrum Solidarności / Europäisches Zentrum der Solidarität (ECS), Gdańsk [Ausstellungsstück, 2019, Foto: M. Baran-Szołtys].

Literary Narratives of Transformation and Inequality in Post-Socialist Poland


Projektleitung und -durchführung: Mag.a Mag.a Magdalena Baran-Szołtys
Mitanstragstellerin: Mag.a Claudia Kraft
Finanzierung: FWF – Hertha Firnberg-Programm (Projektnummer T-1139)
Laufzeit: 01.03.2021 bis 28.02.2026



Wider Research Context

The aim of the project is to tell the complex history of post-socialist transformation based on the study of literary narratives about transformation and inequality. It overviews the existing economic and political inequality and transformation studies to break new ground by providing a study on inequality that analyzes literary texts, including their reception in the context of political-economic transformation.





My hypothesis is that the renegotiation of inequalities plays a special role in introduction of new social structures within the framework of political-economic transformation processes. We may examine them particularly well in literature, which I regard to be a seismograph of social change. Literature combines the negotiation of inequality with the negotiation of identity, while these themes always refer to inequality debates and identity politics of public discourse. The project links transformation with the socio-cultural changes related to inequalities and its performance in the corresponding literary narratives. My hypothesis is that these narratives, which address and renegotiate inequality after 1989, play an important role in the emergence of dominant political discourses, thus in the search for self-positioning in post-socialism.


The study combines interdisciplinary methodological approaches from literary studies, culture and gender studies, social anthropology, and history, using especially the method of anthropologically oriented discourse analysis. To investigate the specific research object, I use also methods of New Historicism, the history of knowledge, and intersectionality, offering an innovative theoretical approach.
I focus on texts from the mid-1980s to the most current publications. My emphasis lays on fiction, but includes also non-fiction and publicist articles. The narratives are examined in three categories: social, gender, and ethnic inequality.


The analysis brings new aspects in the study of transformation processes of East-Central Europe because it does not simply focus on the literature of transformation and political discourses, or sociological surveys about inequality, but it shows their interrelations performed through literature and its reception. I introduce this approach by including the reception of literature in public discourse as a research question. Awards for a literary work, its importance in public discourse, and controversies will reveal the interactions between the above spheres.