Research Seminar: 14 April 2015, Natalia Krzyżanowska on Transnational Citizenship

Natalia Krzyżanowska (Örebro University, Sweden) will be presenting her paper, Dis/Placing Women in the Public Sphere: Rethinking Citizenship, Critical Art and Motherhood in Light of the Social Theory of Hannah Arendt, at 6:00 pm, Tuesday 14 April 2015. The seminar will take place at the City Campus of the University of Wolverhampton in MK045.


The public sphere is one of the key concepts of modern social theory, where it is often seen as a discursive space that guarantees critical public discussion between citizens on matters of general interest (Habermas 1989; McCarthy 1989). Hannah Arendt, in her theorisation of the public sphere, focuses inter alia on the agonistic and associational public sphere or on the related concept of immortality. The latter is strictly linked to Arendt’s perspective of an agonistic (i.e. dissent-based) public sphere and describes a possibility of both acting (praxis) and speaking (lexis) that are the cornerstones of Arendt’s larger vision of the human condition. But Arendt also points to the need for creating an associative (or consent-based) public sphere as an alternative to its agonistic counterpart. It appears when people – citizens – act together (Benhabib 2003) for a common purpose. It is tied to the expression and articulation of views within speech acts, including an aspect of performativity (Matynia 2008).

In my analysis, I apply Arendt’s perspective/s on the public sphere, and the role(s), possibility(ies), and meaning(s) of fe/male agency and related striving for the aforementioned immortality.  I focus on Polish (female) critical artists, in particular Joanna Rajkowska’s ‘A Letter to Rosa’ (2012) and ‘Rosa’s Passage’ (2014), as examples of public expressions of individual reflexivity and agency in the context of motherhood. Rajkowska’s works link Polish (collective) history and identity with the individual narrations (her-story) of motherhood. Through performing narrative of the self in public contexts – by means of linguistic and visual statements directed by Rajkowska to her new-born daughter in the public spaces of Lodz (Poland) and Berlin (Germany) – the role of women and the political character of birth-giving become synergetic and legitimise women’s presence in the post national public sphere/s. A new type of (displaced) transnational citizenship is thereby also performed and connected with the (localised) classic idea of the city-state, reconstructed by Arendt as an ideal locus of the public sphere and articulation of citizenship.

About the Speaker:

NataliaDr Natalia Krzyżanowska is a Senior Research Fellow in Gender Studies and Feminist Social Research at Örebro University, Sweden. She also remains affiliated to the Chair of Sociology and Philosophy of the Poznań University of Economics where she until recently headed a “Gender in Contemporary Society” research group. Her research focuses on gender and women’s studies in the context of social, political and economic transformation in democratic and post-totalitarian contexts. In 2012, she published an acclaimed monograph ‘Kobiety w (polskiej) sferze publicznej [Women in the (Polish) Public Sphere]’ that presents a multilevel analysis of challenges to the dynamics of gender equality in Polish post-1989 society. She currently leads two research projects: “The Commodification of Motherhood” which examines consumerism-based constructions of motherhood in traditional and new media discourses in Sweden, France, Poland and the UK; and “The Social Constructions of Motherhood in the Polish Public Sphere” that analyses descriptive and normative visions of mothering in the Polish post-1989 media.

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