Environmental Memory and Migration

Małgorzata Praczyk in conversation with Adam Izdebski

PoSoCoMeS online seminar series: session #3.

6 September, 5.30 pm CET.

Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84402534805

Małgorzata Praczyk’s work marries environmental memory with the memory of migration in innovative ways. Her book Environmental Memory in Memoirs of Polish Settlers in the Face of Polish Post-war Border Shifting, published in Polish in 2018 (Pamięć środowiskowa we wspomnieniach osadników na Ziemiach Odzyskanych”) tells the story of Polish migrants who settled in the western territories of Poland, which became part of Poland after the Second World War. It is an analysis of the ways in which migrants’ memories captured an image of the relations between themselves and the natural environment.

The book draws on memoirs submitted to memoir contests held in Poland between 1948 and 1998. Małgorzata Praczyk analyzed 1,250 texts, 150 of them in detail. Based on this wide range of sources she identifies a broad spectrum of ways in which the authors described the relations between people and the environment. She analyzes the role that nature played in the descriptions through the notion of ‘function’. This term denotes the mutual dependence between people and other elements of the natural environment. However, it also brings out a specific aspect of this dependency, based on the reciprocal conditioning of individual elements located inside the natural environment—the social-natural system. Both humans and other elements of the natural environment play active roles. Both participants in the relationship affect each other.

The book analyzes the history of the human—non-human relationship through the three main stages of the migratory experience, devoting one chapter to each: losing one’s home and familiar environment (Lost Nature); the journey to the so called “Recovered territories” (Nature along the Way); and inhabiting the new territories (Settled Nature). It also conceptualizes and specifies the concept of environmental memory in ways that can be made productive in describing different relations between people and other elements of different natural environments.

In this seminar, Małgorzata Praczyk will present the different parts of her book and discuss her approach in conversation with Adam Izdebski and the audience.

Małgorzata Praczyk is a historian and associate professor at the Faculty of History of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań (Poland). In addition to the book she will present, she is also the author of Reading Monuments. A Comparative Study of Monuments in Poznań and Strasbourg from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (published in Polish in 2015, and in English in 2020). She has also co-edited multiple collective works, including: The Memorial in the Age of the Anthropocene (published in Polish in 2017) and Education—Migration. Intercultural Education in the Context of the Migration Crisis from the Perspective of the V4 Countries (published in Polish in 2016). She is the author of numerous articles on environmental history, post-humanism and memory studies. Her book Environmental Memory was awarded the 2018 prize for the best Polish book in the field of memory studies by the MSA Poland and received the Adam Mickiewicz University Rector Award for excellent scientific achievement.

Adam Izdebski is an interdisciplinary environmental historian working on the Late Holocene, leading projects on different time periods and regions of Western Eurasia, himself specialising in the ancient and medieval Eastern Mediterranean. His research aims to integrate scientific, archaeological, and textual evidence. He is Independent Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, and Associate Professor at the Institute of History, Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His recent publications include a review article in Nature on past impacts of climate on historical societies (www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03190-2), a study tracing the emergence of market integration in Archaic Greece in paleoecological data (academic.oup.com/ej/article-abstract/130/632/2596/5766224), and a multi-disciplinary project on how climatic change played out in miracle stories in Italy at the end of Antiquity (link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-021-03043-x).