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Phantoms of colonialism: Polish–Haitian connections in today’s media and culture

ABSTRACT This essay focuses on the question of Polish engagement in modern colonial projects and how contemporary Polish political discourse denies this uncomfortable legacy. Poland’s colonial aspirations first arose in the aftermath of World War I. Even though colonialism was never directly supported by the interwar Polish government, the influence of the Maritime and Colonial League – an organization advocating colonial expansion – grew gradually until 1939, when it had around a million members. The author argues that colonialism in interwar Poland functioned as a marker of modernity, and that the failure to acquire colonies overseas defined the state as insufficiently modern. The author claims that, in political discourse today, the Polish–Haitian connection – a curious legacy of Napoleonic times – is often used as a smokescreen to cover the fact that Poland once actively sought opportunities to acquire colonies overseas. The myth of heroic Polish participation in the Haitian Revolution now serves to rebut accusations of racist prejudice in Poland or to resist political recognition of social diversity persistent in Polish politics. Additionally, the article discusses how contemporary media and art represent Haiti and Haitian Poles and how some works set an example of ethical engagement with postcolonial studies in the Polish context.

Against academic “resourcification”: collaboration as delinking from extractivist “area studies” paradigms

ABSTRACT This article engages Asia Bazdyrieva’s idea of the “resourcification” of Ukraine – that is, the reduction of Ukraine in Soviet and Western geopolitical imaginations to a mere extraction resource – to develop and criticize the idea of “academic resourcification.” The author argues that Western researchers have often treated Ukrainian (and other non-Western) subjects as extraction resources, mining their expertise and knowledge, without acknowledging their agency or contributions in their work. The article argues for the decolonization of Western academic practice in the form of “delinking” from such exploitative and extractivist paradigms of knowledge production and instead aspiring, in the words of the decolonial scholar Walter Mignolo, to “thinking and doing otherwise.” Asking what it means to decolonize academia, the article turns for inspiration to Ukrainian decolonial researcher-artist-activists, considering the ways in which these individuals are modelling more equitable and ethical forms of knowledge production. The article ends by advocating collaborative methods – that is, the co-production of knowledge with local thinkers, rather than about them – as a productive model for Western scholars in their efforts to decolonize their research.

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