Course descriptions

Witt in Poland, May 15 – June 10, 2018

POLI 217R Ideology and Identity in Polish Culture

Dr. Heather Hadar Wright

Often referred to as “God’s Playground” because of its persistent history of foreign invasion, occupation, violence and suffering, Poland occupies a unique place in European politics. Rarely an independent nation in modernity, Poles have lived under the sway of a variety of political ideologies, including imperialism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, “communism,” and democracy. Given this confusing reality, how have Poles retained a national identity? How have “Polishness” and Polish culture been shaped by occupation, resistance, and collaboration, and both the historical presence and current absence of religious and ethnic minorities? What is the role of Catholicism in Polish civil society? How does gender ideology play into present political discourse? Traversing the landscape from Krakow and Zakopane to Gdansk, exploring everything from traditional Folk culture to contemporary popular culture, Poland’s ongoing political transition and ideological complexity will provide us with the ultimate political theory text, ripe for analysis.

(Fulfills Religious and Philosophical Inquiry General Education Learning Goal)




PSYC 217S The Psychology of the Holocaust

Dr. Michael Anes

We learn about Polish history in an attempt to understand the country as it once was; strikingly multicultural if segregated. A major part of the field study entails visiting important religious sites for the history of Jews, Catholics, and Tatar Muslims in Poland. This experiential knowledge supports comprehension of our readings and enables fruitful discussion among students while traveling and in our meetings with Polish scholars and activists. Students come to understand the social psychology of the holocaust, that is, basic ideas about how personal and situational variables affected behavior in perpetrators, bystanders and heroic helpers. We also learn that boundaries between these roles were not always distinct.

At the same time we try to understand contemporary Poland, where minority or disenfranchised groups define, redefine and/or revitalize themselves. Jews, muslims and LGBTQIA people face fundamentally different challenges in relation to Polish attitudes and approaches toward them, which range from celebration to fear and dehumanization. In the course we broadly consider research in social psychology and social science history aimed at understanding prior events and search for evidence of psychological principles governing present-day Polish societal attitudes toward minority groups.

(Fulfills Social Institutions and Processes General Education Learning Goal)

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