An Unrecognized Classic of Ethnographic Fiction, and Critic of American Culture, Alicja Iwańska

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
6:30 pm
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 IAB, 420 West 118th St.)
Please join the East Central European Center, Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology, the Department of Sociology at the New School for Social Research for a discussion with Grażyna Kubica, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Kościuszko Foundation Fellow at Columbia and Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research, on the work of Alicja Iwańska.
A philosophy student, a poetess and an activist belonging to the Polish resistance during World War II, Alicja Iwańska arrived to America as a political refugee. She studied sociology under Robert Merton at Columbia, and completed her Ph.D. thesis in 1957. Later she collaborated with a famous Chicago anthropologist, Sol Tax. She conducted fieldwork among farmers in the Northwest, and among Mazahua Indians in Mexico. While publishing scholarly works in English, she also published literary fiction in Polish. Her prizewinning ethnographic novel Translated World (1968), fictionalized reflections about her fieldwork experience, attracted the attention of Polish émigré literary circles. Among other works, she also published a satire on American academia titled American Dream (1988).
Her work provides a good occasion to discuss some key questions: Why have ethnographers indulged themselves (and are still indulging) in literary projects: novels, travelogues or diaries? Why has academic discourse not sufficed?
Grażyna Kubica, a social anthropologist from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, now a Kościuszko Foundation Fellow at Columbia, the author of Polish books about women: Malinowski's Sisters or Modern Women at the beginning of the XX cent. (2006), and Maria Czaplicka: Gender, Shamanism and Race. An Anthropological Biography (2015). Kubica is researching Alicja Iwanska's papers in American archives and carrying out her project concerning literary production of ethnographers.
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research, author of numerous books, including most recently, Reinventing Political Culture, and the founding editor of an electronic journal "Public Seminar". He is committed to linking his theoretical endeavors to practical action in supporting free public life. For his public and intellectual work in Central Europe, Goldfarb was awarded the Solidarity Medal from the Polish government, presented by former President Lech Wałęsa. Alicja Iwańska was the beloved teacher of Goldfarb, leading him to study things Polish.
Alan Timberlake, Director of the East Central European Center, will read a fragment of Alicja Iwańska's novel Translated World (in English).
The event will be moderated by Małgorzata Mazurek, Associate Professor of Polish Studies, Department of History, Columbia University.