A report from CRUSEV Poland’s seminar with Dorota Hall, discussing her ethnographic research with LGBT Christians and discourses around homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderism in the Roman Catholic Church
The fifth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Our guest was Dr. Dorota Hall.
Dorota Hall discussed her extended study of LGBT Christians, encompassing an ethnographic study of a church-based Wiara i Tecza (Faith and Rainbow) group, interviews with members of the group and with other LGBT Christians, and an analysis of public discourse, including some teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Although she spoke about Christians of different denominations, Roman Catholics are by far the most numerous in Poland and most of her subjects were Roman Catholic. Moreover, most Protestant churches in Poland have avoided addressing LGBT issues, falling in line with the country’s deep-seated conservatism without offering a clear alternative to religiously inclined LGBT subjects.
Hall argued that during the 1970s the Roman Catholic Church in Poland was relatively silent on the issue of homosexuality and almost entirely silent on bisexuality and transgenderism despite pastoral documents such as Persona Humana (1975). While many LGBT subjects may have internalized the proscription of same-sex activities and desires, these points were rarely addressed in sermons or in other public contexts. The 1970s and the early 1980s thus saw an erasure of homosexuality from the Church’s preaching in a way that reflected a larger erasure of homosexuality in other areas of public discourse.
The silence began to lift with the arrival of HIV/AIDS and of more outspoken LGBT politics. Brochures warning boys about being seduced by older men were circulated in some parishes in the late 1980s. But a more radical shift occurred only post-2000, as Poland was preparing for EU accession, when the perceived threat of LGBT rights being recognized proved deeply polarizing. In 2002, the Roman Catholic Church in Poland went through its first public sexual scandal with Juliusz Paetz, the archbishop of Poznan, being accused of molesting some young clerics. Homosexuality was thus out of the closet also within the Church.
Hall addressed some ways in which the pastoral care of LGBT Christians overlapped with reparative therapy advocated by some would-be progressive Catholics. Despite the method’s discredited premises and doubtful effectiveness, these forms of therapy may have helped some queer subjects recognize and address their sexuality, especially as other forms of therapy were not available to them.
The fourth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team, with Prof Joanna Nizynska discussing the writing of Miron Bialoszewski, was held at the University of Warsaw on Thursday 11 January 2018.
The fourth public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Thursday, January 11 2018. Our guest was Joanna Nizynska, Associate Professor of Polish Literature and Culture at the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures in Indiana University, Bloomington USA. Prof. Nizynska presented excerpts from her upcoming book, a Polish translation of her study “The Kingdom of Insignificance: Miron Bialoszewski and the Quotidian, the Traumatic, and the Queer” (Northwestern UP, 2013) dedicated to the work of Miron Bialoszewski, one of the most influential Polish poets and writers of the 20th century. During her lecture, she discussed the different approaches to the use of queer theory in analyzing Polish literature, emphasizing the active role of any act of queering – perceiving “queer” not as a noun, but a verb. Nizynska closely analyzed several fragments from Miron Bialoszewski’s prose published in the 1970s, focusing on the depictions of homoerotic tensions, acts of subverting the normative, as well as the intertextual connections with more recent literary works – most importantly, Michal Witkowski’s “Lubiewo” (2005) – which form a dialogue with Bialoszewski’s early queer writing. The seminar was a chance to reflect on the complicated positioning of Polish writers within Western queer theory, the possible adaption and/or translation of queer frameworks to national literature. The ensuing discussion focused on how to overcome or challenge some of the theoretical problems facing queer-oriented scholars in their studies of Polish queer culture and history.
Report from CRUSEV Poland’s seminar on the role of women’s stories and interviews in the process of creating feminist narratives of the past in Poland, with Dr Dobrochna Kalwa, held at the University of Warsaw.
The third public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Friday, November 24 2017. Our guest was Dr Dobrochna Kalwa, a historian from the Institute of History at the University of Warsaw. Dr Kalwa gave a lecture about the history of development of women-oriented oral history research in Poland. She discussed a number of important feminist history projects conducted in recent years by Polish historians, providing a critical framework that was needed for the later introduction of the concept of “oral herstories.” The lecture also covered several issues concerning the methodological and ethical problems facing “oral historians” in their studies of women’s biographies, including the problematic nature of a “witness of history,” differences between memory and history, or the many rhetoric strategies that can be adopted by the interviewees. Further points about the application of this methodology to study “hidden” LGBTQ narratives were raised during the discussion, as well as the need to continue oral herstory research among non-normative witnesses of the recent past.
A brief report from CRUSEV Poland’s seminar featuring Joanna Mizielinska, Justyna Struzik and Agnieszka Krol from the “Families of Choice in Poland” research project
The second public seminar organized by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Wednesday, October 25. Our guests were Dr Joanna Mizielinska, Dr Justyna Struzik and Agnieszka Krol, researchers from the “Families of Choice in Poland” research project (2013-2016). They began with presenting a general overview of their sociological study which was centered around the contemporary reality of non-normative families living in Polish cities, before moving to address the specific issue of senior LGBT+ members and their outlook on queer life today and in the past. Some of the points that were raised during the seminar included the different approaches to (and evaluations of) coming-out as they were discussed by respondents aged 55+; the gendered differences in constructing autobiographical narratives; and the various strategies adopted by respondents in order to position themselves within both the wider LGBT+ community, as well as the entire Polish society. The meeting was attended by academics and students from the University of Warsaw and the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, as well as some participants of the research.
Report from CRUSEV Poland’s first public seminar, including remarks from Dr Blazej Warkocki
The first public seminar held by the Polish CRUSEV team was held at the University of Warsaw on Wednesday, September 27. Dr Blazej Warkocki, CRUSEV Researcher, offered remarks on preoccupation with the queer past in recent Polish literature. He argued that the tendency to investigate and narrate the past is evident in comparison with an earlier emphasis on representations of queer positionality here and now. In his lecture, Warkocki described the 1970s as a pre-political period, prior to all forms of organized queer activism. He gave examples of relatively unknown queer writers from the 1970s and the early 1980s, such as Grzegorz Musiol and Malgorzata Lavergne, and he discussed some popular films and novels that feature cross-dressing or include overt reference to queers. A lively discussion ensued, focusing especially on the real-socialist decades, including the Seventies. The meeting was attended by academics and students from the University of Warsaw, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the Polish Academy of Sciences.