The Socialist University

Wednesday, 21 June 2017, 2:00pm - 3:30pm, IWM library
In Eastern Europe postwar changes paved the way for the building of a socialistic university, something seen as one of many possible solutions to a rising need for university reform and education for the working classes. My research does not only address how we think about a particular university, or even universities in general in communist-ruled Poland within their historical and sociological contexts. It contributes to our broader sense of the place of universities in social change–especially in the 20th century–and how we understand intellectuals and academics in their own fields of power and competition. My argument challenges the totalitarian interpretation of postwar history. In general, it disagrees with the Sovietization notion and claims that the postwar reforms did not solely mean a ruthless convergence of Eastern Europe with the USSR model. I examine university reforms as a try to open higher education for working classes and trace its results, that is upward mobility and educational trajectories in postwar Poland. Finally, I claim that the narrative about the political field’s domination of the research and science field is challenged by tracing the reproduction of a prewar traditions and structures. If one considers state socialism as a modernizing system, with all contradictions and difficulties, then one might also gain a better understanding of the intended aims of the postwar reality.

Agata Zysiak, PhD, a sociologist of culture and urban activist, works at the Institute for Social Studies at University of Warsaw, is involved in several research projects concerning industrial cities, socialist academia and modernity. She also served as a visiting scholar at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Wayne State University in Detroit and Free University in Berlin. Her postdoctoral research is a comparative study of working class in Detroit and Lodz.

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