Thesis title: Negotiating the Past: the Idea of Silesia
I am interested in how collective identity is negotiated by various social actors; how it is constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed. During my ethnographic fieldwork in Opavan Silesia, the Czech Republic, it became clear to me that cultural heritage, memory, and history play a significant role in such negotiations. Together with memory studies scholarship, I draw on the notion of ‘the presentation of self in everyday life’, and believe that social actors (individuals, groups and institutions) often make an active effort to attribute particular social meanings in harmony with their self-image. At the same time, while social actors try to represent themselves in the approved fashion but also in accordance with their self-perceptions, social interactions are ambivalent and contested as social actors’ identities are often temporal, fluid and ever challenged. Silesian identity, for example, is particularly interesting for its fluctuations and the number of ambivalent social meanings ascribed to it. Therefore, I focus on the dynamics of how Silesian identity is being negotiated in the Silesian borderlands.