Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Ghosts, Memories, and Mnemonics: The Theatre of Jewish Absence in Poland

Fri31  Mar12:30pm(20 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 356


Rachel Merrill Moss1
1 Boston University, United States


It is said that Jewish ghosts haunt Muranów, Warsaw’s formerly bustling, culturally rich pre-war Jewish quarter that today is marked by scattered wall markers and signage embedded into sidewalks. Zuzanna Dziuban recently referred to this phenomenon as “spectral” (2020), but it could just as well be “ghosting” in theatrical terms. This paper highlights the broad contours of what I’m calling the Theatre of Jewish Absence in Poland, which most prominently developed in the post-2004 EU accession era of “Europeanization.” In hashing out this performative category, I take the notions of both performance and Jewishness broadly, and consider theatrical performances alongside other concurrent public, phenomenological projects that invite audience engagement. This paper explores the intersection of performances such as Krzysztof Warlikowski’s (A)pollonia and Sylwia Chutnik’s Muranooo with performative memorial projects, such as Polin Museum’s annual Warsaw Ghetto Uprising commemorative action, Akcja Żonkile, and the Warsaw Ghetto border markers erected in 2008. What binds these varied performances together is that they hinge upon Jewish absence in Poland, and make use of that absence – making absence present – in order to achieve their diverse performative missions. Furthermore, I examine how such projects actively dialogue with other political modes of Polish memorialization and narrativization of history, revealing the ongoing ambiguities of Jewishness in a Polish context.