Natalie Smolenski

Nathalie Smolenski

Ph.D. pre-candidate in Anthropology and History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Józef Tischner Junior Visiting Fellow
(July – December 2013)


“Christian Europe”: The Legacy of John Paul II’s National-European Political Theology in Contemporary Poland

My research investigates the legacy of John Paul II’s political theology of nation and Europe in early 21st century Poland. I refer in particular to the late pope’s theology treated in this project as “National-European-Theology,” as it connects his understandings of sanctity with geographic territory as well as national and European identity. I explore how the embodied experience of sanctity pertains to this nationalist project.


God in History:
Collapsing Divine and Human Agency in John Paul II’s Memory and Identity

The late John Paul II’s theology of history involves some collapse of the agency of divine objects and of human beings. A close reading of his last book, Memory and Identity, shows that John Paul’s divine objects are multiple and that he describes them most frequently using metaphors of close kinship, particularly parents and children. For this reason, it is useful to read his work with psychoanalytic theories of “self-objects,” which are objects (primarily caregivers) used by small children to develop a sense of self. In addition, given the collective nature of John Paul’s divine objects, I draw on anthropological theories about collective participation in imaginal phenomena to move the focus to the larger scale of the Polish nation-state. I show that the theologico-political claims in Memory and Identity reflect a troubling exclusivist grandiosity which must be addressed by Catholic thinkers interested in shaping the moral work of a global Church.
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What Do Ideas Do?

The theme of this year’s Junior Fellows’ Conference, held in December of 2013, was “Reflections on the Role of Ideas and Agency in Europe.” This is an important time to bring to the fore the interplay between human thought and human action, given the inadequacy of the great ideological systems which have remade (and continue …
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