Fields of study

The Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations investigates the cultural variety of institutional, expressive and communicational forms as manifested by the representatives of particular civilisational circles. The research carried out by the Centre is characterised by its inter-cultural, comparative and interdisciplinary framework. This includes various methodologies typical for socio-cultural anthropology, philosophy of culture, philology (particularly Oriental languages), ethnology, archeology and culture studies. The scope of research covers both ancient and modern civilisations.

Europe

» Yoga in Poland – Interpretations and Adaptations

Yoga has been present in Poland for more than 100 years now. Its contemporary form – the role in an individual's life, location in the public sphere, functions and reception – is very different to that of yoga as practiced in the Western world which has been acquainted with it for much longer time. The import and adaptation of Western cultural patterns stems from the early 2000's, which witnessed the growth of yoga's popularity in Poland. Its earlier Polish history, particularly the period between the turn of the XIX and XX centuries and the outbreak of the first world war, is when the specifically Polish adaptations and interpretations of yoga emerge. These in turn were determined by the political situation of Poland and as such try to answer the pro-reform challenges of the time and place. This is the research subject of Agata Świerzowska, who is interested in the history of yoga in Poland particularly in its earliest stages. These analyses go beyond the simple historical description of the phenomena and aim at reconstructing the anthropology and social thought underlying "Polish yoga".

» The Metamorphoses of Body. Dance and Community

Wojciech Klimczyk deals with the social role of dancing and the scope of his research covers the history of dancing up until the most recent times. His analyses address the development of the kinetic world view of a given era, the role of the moving body in human consciousness and the practical consequences of the social perception of dancing. Wojciech Klimczyk is first and foremost interested in contemporary stage dance. He presents it as an activity that is entangled in complicated cultural games and social transformations and at the same time engaged in the dialogue with other domains of art. Wojciech Klimczyk studies the nuances of the creative process – particularly the critical movement strategies utilised by the artists such as no motion, slow motion and arrhythmic motion that resort to the aesthetics of excess. In addition, he searches for the role it has played in the European civilisation in developing various communities of local, national and over-national nature. This in turn leads to the question of the relation between dance and politics. So far, this research has resulted in two publications: Anthropology of Contemporary Dance Theater. Dynamics of Artistic Practice (Ph.D. thesis) and The Body Visionaries. The Panorama of Contemporary Dance Theater (Krakow 2010).

» The Transcultural Identity and Flamenco

The main field of interest of Jadwiga Romanowska is the culture of flamenco. In her analyses she focuses primarily on one of its basic manifestations – dance. She is currently writing her Ph.D. thesis which addresses the problem of negotiating/construing a transcultural identity as exemplified by the foreign professional or aspiring dancers who currently dwell in Seville.

» The Esoteric Traditions in the Western Culture

The esoteric traditions are a very important aspect of Western culture whereas their roots can be traced back to the ancient Gnostic conceptions. As such, they have always constituted an alternative current in the history of the Western spirituality that generally opposed the "mainstream" Christian beliefs. The issue of esoteric ideas is addressed by Izabela Trzcińska and Karolina M. Kotkowska-Hess.

The academic interests of Izabela Trzcińska include the esoteric traditions as manifested in modern and post-modern European culture. Getting to grips with these issues helps to reconstruct the Western cultural image of man and the world and to approach it from a fresh perspective.

The main interest of Karolina M. Kotkowska-Hess is the specificity of esoteric circles in the XIX and XX centuries, the activity of the Theosophical Society in Poland and the methodology of studying Western esoterism. Her analyses include the history of ideas (intellectual history), esoteric studies, the symbolical anthropology of V. Turner, the interpretative anthropology of C. Geertz and the categories worked out by B. Latour. She also conducts comparative studies.

» The Celtic Culture in the Past and Today

The research of Bożena Gierek concentrates on the ancient Celtic culture in a broad sense, its manifold manifestation and influence on various areas of life, including its present aspects. Her research comprises: the organisation of the Celtic social system, the position and role of the druids, women and men in the society, mythology and beliefs, the locations important for the cult, the calendar of their festivals, eschatology, the Celtic heroes, Celtic art (literature, decorative elements, including architecture, and their symbolism), the influence of the Celtic culture on the Arthurian tradition, the influence of the Celtic culture on Christianity (Celtic Christianity), traces of the Celtic culture in Poland and the manifestation of the Celtic culture in contemporary European cultures (for example, in pop-culture).

» Socio-historical-economic Background of the Irish Language

Bożena Gierek is also interested in the Irish language. Her research relies on the sociolinguistic approach, including a historical perspective, as well as the influence of economic factors. The consideration of the historical perspective is necessary in order to follow the development of the English (later British) colonial policy (that employed economic instruments) applied in Ireland and its influence on the Irish language. It is impossible to omit contemporary trends of economic development and the related global processes that shape the language policy in the 21st century. The language as a (cultural) product of society is always in the centre of the social life, hence the research of the language has to begin with an analysis of the aspects of that life, looking at the language as a product of the culture, but also as a culture-creating element, as well as by looking at the place and role of the language in shaping national identity.

» The Ritualisation in the Religious and Non-Religious Sphere

Bożena Gierek studies the rituals, their meaning and function they have both in traditional and contemporary societies and in the religious and secular spheres. Special attention is paid to the old rituals that are carried out in contemporary societies, but also to their penetration into the religious and secular spheres, or to the transfer (use) of the rituals from one sphere (mainly religious) to another, which is seen as one of the symptoms of the desacralisation of the old rituals.

The Mediterranean Cultures and North-Eastern Africa

» The Iconography of the Antique Gems

Grażyna Bąkowska-Czerner's studies the gems originating from the Roman period. Previously, she researched the iconography of magical gems and the results of her inquiries were presented in her PhD thesis. Iconography in general reflects the dominant religious, cultural and philosophical trends. Some gems were in fact amulets involving mysterious cults and magic while the inscriptions contained therein very often refer to magical papyri. Grażyna Bąkowska-Czerner is currently participating in the International Interdisciplinary Archeological Expedition "Novae", a joint venture between the University of Adam Mickiewicz (Poznań, Poland) and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The project has so far resulted in discovering several gems at a dig-site in Novae (Svishtov, Bulgaria). The preliminary conclusions were presented during the XII International Limes Congress in Ruse.

» The Roman Baths in Marian El-Alamein (Egypt)

In 2008 a Hellenistic-Roman dig site was established in Marina El-Alamein, where these Roman baths have been found and secured. The site is attended by the Polish-Egyptian Conservation Mission including Grażyna Bąkowska-Czerner. These baths are one of the few so well preserved remnants of this type in Egypt. The baths were discovered in the city centre and the preliminary examination proved that they had been rebuilt several times. Their prolonged usage is furthermore corroborated by the numerous layers of murals. The baths were not particularly large, but elegant nevertheless: the floors were covered with mosaics or marble slabs whereas the place itself is full of architectural details and fragments of polychromy being the remnants of once rich decorations. Additional artefacts such as ceramics, glass and coins found in situ have helped to estimate the accurate age of the baths.

The main purpose of the ongoing research is to uncover the whole complex of baths, determine the functional system and estimate the date of origin. The preliminary conclusions have been presented at various conferences (including international ones) and academic journals.
 

» The Meroitic Ceramics

Grażyna Bąkowska-Czerner has been studying the Meroitic ceramics found at Gebel Barkal/Napata (Sudan) since 2004. This research is a part of the Italian Archaeological Mission of Ca'Foscari University in Venice. During the last several years, two palaces (Natkamani and B2400) and a structure known as B2200 have been partially uncovered. The ceramics originating from this period are of high quality; many vessels were painted and decorated. The imagery is influenced by the religion of Egypt as well as by the Hellenistic culture and local traditions. These vessels were utilised for various purposes, mainly for storing food and cooking, while some served as tableware and others played ritualistic roles. These bear the marks of various manufacturing techniques and as such help to establish the dates of other artefacts.

The main purpose of this research is to construe a database, a typology and iconography of the vessels. Not much is known about the Meroitic layer of Gebel Barkal/Napata and the present study will be helpful in estimating the age of the excavated buildings while the interpretation of the iconography will give insight into the syncretic culture and religion of the period. The subsequent discoveries are presented during various conferences and in numerous academic journals. The whole enterprise will be summarised in a forthcoming monograph.
 

Near East

» Syrian Christian Communities in the Near East

The years 1998-2000 witnessed an expansion of the fieldwork conducted by the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations (department of the Institute of Sociology) in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Israel. The purpose of the research was to create a comprehensive documentation of the Syrian historical sites and communities that inhabit these regions. According to tradition, the Syrian Christian groups were established by the apostles: Peter, Paul, Jacob and Thomas. These communities struggle with their neighbours' hostility and lack of schools and cultural institutions yet still preserve and cherish the ancient traditions, faith as well as the Aramaic language – similar to that in which Jesus Christ presented his teachings to the world. Discrimination, repression and the lack of prospects are the reasons for the subsequent waves of emigrations to Europe and United States. Each successive month sees the gradual depopulation of these villages that have been Christian since times immemorial. The cultural heritage of the Syrian churches is perishing at an alarmingly fast pace.

The research was carried out in 4 stages:

  • July-September 1998 in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon
  • March-April 1999 in Iran
  • June-August 1999 in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq
  • December 1999-January 2000 in Israel


The product of these studies is the book: A. Flis, B. Kowalska, The Forgotten Brothers. Dying World of the Near Eastern Christians (Krakow 2003, Polish title: Zapomniani Bracia. Ginący świat chrześcijan Bliskiego Wschodu). It contains 164 colour photographs and exemplifies the methodological principles of visual sociology.

» The Zarathustrian Minority in Contemporary Iran

In 2008 Paulina Niechciał conducted some fieldwork in Iran devoted to studying the modern Zarathustrian (Zoroastrian) religious minority with an emphasis on the community of Teheran. The original conceptions of Iranian religion have influenced the religious thought of the Near and Middle East as far as India: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Gnosticism and Buddhism. Zoroastrianism of pre-Muslim Iran was the cradle of the Persian tradition and identity until the 7th century. During Islamic expansion and conquest in the Near East, the Zoroastrian community drastically decreased in number and was relegated to the margins of the Muslim-dominated society.

The research project was a part of a research internship funded by the Bureau for Academic Recognition and International Cooperation. Its main purpose was to answer the so far neglected question of how the Zoroastrians construe their identity and preserve their own religion and culture while residing in a Shiite religious state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. The research spawned several academic papers and a book: The Zoroastrian Minority in Contemporary Iran. The Collective Identity in the Context of the Shiite Domination (Krakow 2013, Polish title: Mniejszość zaratusztriańska we współczesnym Teheranie. O tożsamości zbiorowej w kontekście dominacji szyickiej).
 

» The Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near Eastern Literature

The Hebrew Bible is the basic text of two great monotheistic traditions: Judaism and Christianity. The impact of this book surpasses the domain of religion whereas the reiterations of the biblical myths and ideas have made their presence felt in the secular sphere. The position of the Bible in the broadly understood Western culture is undoubtedly exceptional. Yet, despite the alleged popularity of the biblical motives, very few strive to deconstruct these stories and see beyond the most popular expositions. Meanwhile, it is possible to approach this text from a variety of perspectives (for example, literary or comparative) as a complex composition conceived in the context of the religious and cultural traditions of the ancient Near East. Such an interpretative scope allows us to leave the traditional exegesis behind and to recover the richness of the biblical polytheistic myths. This is the research field of Andrzej Mrozek and Wojciech Kosior.

» The Traditions of the Rabbinic Judaism

Among the constitutive sources of the Rabbinic Judaism there are two Talmuds (Babylonian and Palestinian) and the medieval collections of midrashes - for example, Rabbah, Tanhuma and Pirqey de-rabbi Eliezer. The lion's share of these texts is devoted to halakhah – the traditional norms of conduct regulating the life of the Jews in the changing cultural and historical conditions. Although the main point of reference for these texts is the Hebrew Bible, they contain a plethora of materials originating from completely different sources. This is the case with the numerous stories of varied nature known as aggadot. These comprise reiterations and expansions of the biblical motives, adventurous accounts of the rabbis and mythical legends as an effect of the fusion between Jewish, Greek, Persian and Babylonian traditions.

This is Wojciech Kosior's main field of study. He is mainly interested in the issue of rabbinic angelology and demonology and the role these creatures have played in the formation of the Jewish monotheism. A derivative of these issues is the question of the apotropaic meaning of the few basic Jewish mitzvot: circumcision, mezuzah and tefillin. Wojciech Kosior also deals with the issue of the Talmudic dissident sages such as Elisha ben Avuya, Eliezer ben Hurqanos and Eleazar ben Dordia – figures hovering at the border of the Rabbinic Judaism and simultaneously marking the framework of this phenomenon.
 

» Arabic Sociolinguistics

Arabic sociolinguistics is usually concerned with the issue of diglossia – a dichotomy of the high and low varieties or Standard and Colloquial Arabic. Meanwhile, the last decades have witnessed socio-political transformations that have significantly affected the linguistic situation. One of the most important changes is the emergence of the intermediate variety (usually referred to as Educated Spoken Arabic) – the linguistic continuum incorporating the elements of both Standard and Colloquial Arabic that is currently the only natural medium of verbal communication. Due to its broad range of application (also in the written form), its universal affirmation as the communicative and somewhat prestigious norm in social relations, the intermediate variety is not only the tool of communication but also an important shaper of culture.

On the other hand, it is the European languages, particularly English and French, that gain more and more ground. For educated Arabs, these languages constitute the main means of functioning on an educational, economic, professional and personal level while their role far exceeds that of Standard Arabic. As a consequence, the phenomenon of code-switching between Arabic and English/French becomes more and more popular. These issues are the focus of Dr. Małgorzata Kniaź, the author of the first Polish publication that deals with the intermediate variety: The Intermediate Variety of Arabic in Egypt. The Structure and Culture-forming Role (Krakow 2013, the Polish title: Odmiana pośrednia języka arabskiego w Egipcie. Struktura i rola kulturotwórcza).
 

» The Classical Arab-Muslim World

The five centuries of the Abbasid dynasty (750–1258) is generally considered to be the classical period in the history of the Arab-Muslim world. This era witnessed the cultural and civilisational development that extensively utilised the heritage of the conquered nations. The Arabic language and the ideology of Islam allowed for the transformation of this mosaic of the foreign elements into one relatively coherent system. Despite the very unstable political situation, the classical world of Islam remained to a large extent culturally and socially homogeneous. The apex is considered to be the 10th century – the period when practically all domains of material, spiritual, individual and social life reached a high level of maturity.

Selected areas of the classical world of Islam are in Bożena Prochwicz-Studnicka's field of interest. She is particularly fascinated by the social history of cities and the organisation of urban communities. Her mostly source-text oriented research has resulted in some publications dealing with the functional and spatial structure of traditional Arab-Muslim cities, municipal services, physician circles, quacks and groups on the social margins.

The classical period of the Arab-Muslim culture and civilisation also witnessed the full formation of Islamic law (shari'a). Joseph Schacht, one of the pioneering researchers dealing with classical legal thought, emphasised that it is impossible to understand the Muslim domains of knowledge or Islam in total without attaining prior understanding of the law with the latter being the most typical manifestation of the Muslim way of life and the essence of Islam. There are still many regions in legal Islamic thought that have not been adequately researched or have been approached only superficially. Bożena Prochwicz-Studnicka, together with Dariusz Michta, a lawyer, conducts comparative research. One project's aim was to compare two legal institutions which rely on the idea of equity: the Roman aequitas and the Islamic istishsan (juristic preference). The endeavour also aimed at determining the possible influence of the Roman institution on the Islamic one. Another project was concerned with the issue of the suftaja – one of the basic law (and financial) instruments used in non-cash transactions and its influence on the formation of a promissory note in medieval Europe. The purpose of the final project was to approach the classical juristic thought from the perspective of usul al-fiqh – the discipline that is usually translated as legal theory and interpreted as based on the elements nowadays classified as theory and philosophy of law, logic, epistemology, theology and linguistics.

The point of reference for Bożena Prochwicz-Studnicka's current research is Arabic culture in the context of orality/literacy theory (the theory conceived in the 60s of the 20th century as the result of independently conducted studies on the communication systems from the perspective of their influence on culture). According to this theory, writing is responsible for introducing significant changes in culture. The changes in the oral culture that take place after the incorporation and interiorisation of writing affect both the institutional and psychological dimensions. The way the orality and literacy coexist can be presented by means of the bipolar model with the continuum between the extremities containing the variety of intermediate, oral-literary solutions which are applied in different ways depending on the culture (according to Grzegorz Godlewski). This model was utilised in the research (i.e. the historical research of literacy and writing) that aims at answering the question about the degree of transition from orality to literacy in Arab-Muslim culture beginning with 12th century, when the text ceased to be simply the support for speech and to a large extent turned into an autonomic means of communication.
 

» Between Occidentalism and Imagined Identity: the Transformations of Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

35 years after the Islamic revolution in Iran a generation of people arose who exist in two realities simultaneously – the private domain of tactics and the public sphere of strategy. The issue of this "cultural schizophrenia" is particularly vivid within the young inhabitants of big cities – the army of 20 million as Ruhollah Chomeini used to label them. The study of the transformations of the cultural gender in this social environment can give answers to many questions that have not yet been explicitly stated. What constitutes the idealised image of an emancipated European woman and how does it translate into the phenomena observable in the teenage culture of contemporary Iran? What representation of Western pop-culture emerges from the experiences of these people? Which tendencies in identity formation will prevail in the future? Krzysztof Żwirski enjoys approaching these problems from the perspective of anthropology and social psychology.

Central Asia

» The Subject of Identity in Tajikistan

In 2009 Marek Moroń together with his students (Piotr Radwański and Mateusz Skoronek) went on a field trip to Tajikistan which was a part of a project entitled Pamiris of the Mountain Badakhshan: Geopolitics of the Region versus Individual Identities. Due to their interest in the subject of identity in the selected regions of Central Asia, the participants visited the Gorno-Badakhshan Province – a Pamirian autonomous region inhabited mostly by Ismaili Muslims. This trip resulted in the international research seminary "Tajikistan–Badakshan: Historical and Contemporary Issues of Nation and State" that took place in 2009 at the Centre for the Comparative Studies of Civilisations.
In 2012 Paulina Niechciał held a research internship in Tajikistan during which she studied the collective identity of the contemporary Tajik social leaders. The internship was a part of Paulina Niechciał's broader project revolving around the issues of identity and religion in the world of Iranian culture. Paulina Niechciał was hosted by the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan in Dushanbe.

» Archive of Tajik Press

As part of the research project "The Cultural Strategies of War and Reconciliation: Analysis on the Example of the Civil War in the Republic of Tajikistan (1992-1997)", funded by the Polish National Science Center (NCN) within the Sonata 5 grant, an electronic archive of the Tajik press from 1990-2000 has been established. The archive contains the following materials:

1). Tajik-language newspapers and magazines – the majority of issues from the following years:
"Junbish" (1997-1999), "Orion" (1992) "Haftganj" (1992) "Sadoi Mardum" (1991-1993), "Sukhan" (1991) "Somon" (1991-1992), "Tojikistoni Soweti", later as "Tojikistoni Shurawi"and "Jumhuriyat" (1990-2000).

2). Russian-language newspapers and magazines – the majority of issues of the following years:
"Kommunist Tadzhistana", later as "Narodnaya Gazeta" (1990-2000), "Biznes i Politika" (1992).

An electronic version of the archives is located in the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations of the Jagiellonian University, and is available upon request by e-mail:

- Dr. Paulina Niechciał paulina.niechcial@uj.edu.pl;
- Dr. Elizabeth Olzacka elzbieta.olzacka@uj.edu.pl.

» The Transculturality of Tibet

The subject of Joanna Grela's research is the historical and present transculturality of the Tibetan Upland: (1) merging and mixing of ideas, their representation and cultural practices of India, China and the Autan peoples (mostly Mongolian and Tungusic peoples) in the period prior to the second diffusion of Buddhism, i.e. until the 11th century, as well as (2) current processes of cultural globalisation in this region. Dr. Grela's research includes folk worship and the semantic evolution of archaic terms as well as the analysis of culture and pop culture-related texts.

South Asia

» Indian Philosophy

Marta Kudelska's academic interests focus on the culture of ancient India, particularly on Indian philosophy. For years Marta Kudelska has been studying the seminal Indian philosophical texts: Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and minor philosophical tractates. Her studies have produced translations of the classical sources along with commentaries and elaborations of the philosophical issues contained therein.

In her work, Marta Kudelska analyses various Upanishadian motives relying mainly on the philosophical school of Advaita Vedanta. According to this interpretation, only the Absolute Being (sat) actually exists whereas the empirical reality as its representation is considered to be of an inferior ontological status. The sat-dimension is extra-empirical and ungraspable by any categories. When it comes to denoting the absolute being in the Indian philosophical language, the most often applied technical terms are atman (from the subjective perspective) and brahman (when assuming the stance of the total description of reality). According to Advaita Vedanta school there is total identity between atman and brahman that fits the category of radical monism. This also means that the ontological or metaphysical difference between the absolute and empirical dimension is absent. In its stead we have a case of epistemic valuation. The Indian thinkers attributed the ontological status only to the personal reality whereas empirical reality was considered to active not in itself but because of the existence of the experiencing subject. In turn, this subject, whose reality is according to Advaita Vedanta extra-empirical, can be treated as a sufficient reason to explain the experience as well as the existence of the representational reality. The empirical reality is perceived in the nature of things in its personal dimension – and this has to assume the existence of the perceiving subject.

While translating and interpreting the classical texts of the Indian tradition Marta Kudelska strives to render the metaphoric and symbolic language of the ancient sources in the clear technical parlance that has been developed by Western philosophy. Due to her studies a new research motif has emerged concerned primarily with the translation of the crucial concepts and terms of particular cultures. This issue has been approached from the perspective of comparative philosophy and resulted in very interesting and insightful outcomes. Many cultures give raise to essentially identical questions and answers, yet these are formulated in a variety of ways. It is only through scrupulous analysis and comparison of the vocabulary and its cultural context that these dilemmas may turn out to be universal in nature, without being undermined by superficial simplifications. This refers not only to the clearly defined views but also to the tools and methodologies of their description. This facilitates dialogue on the pre-phenomenological method of ontological studies, found in Upanishads 2000 years before Husserl.

» The Art of the Indian Subcontinent

Agnieszka Staszczyk since the beginning of her cooperation with the Centre has researched the art and culture of the Indian subcontinent. This research particularly concerns the roots of religious iconography and her analyses cover the most ancient divine images, the first representations of the mythological narratives and iconographic descriptions in the literary tradition. The work of Agnieszka Staszczyk fits the broader framework of researching the genesis and evolution of the cultic images found in India. She is currently working on an iconographic dictionary of Indian art. Her other project (funded by the National Centre of Science) revolves around the continuation of iconographic patterns of temple sculptures created in the XX century.

Far East

» Culture of East Asia

Renata Iwicka's main area of study are the countries of East Asia – particularly the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Her other sphere of interest is demonology. For the last several years she has been working on the issues of demonology in the context of the comparative studies involving anthropological and cultural perspectives. Such an approach, heavily influenced by the tradition of J. Campbell, allows to perceive demonologies as a dynamically evolving cycle of motives and symbols. These in turn could be metaphorised as a swift stream in which various motives and symbols connect and disconnect. The research of Renata Iwicka covers also the motives present in the most recent mythologies: pop-cultural, urban and synthetic.

In the case of Korea, her main field of interest is its history and traditional culture with an emphasis on music, religion and dance. These countries of East Asia (including Taiwan) represent the complementary system of the third sphere of Renata Iwicka's research, which revolves around the nationalisms present in the modern history of the Pacific region. This problem is supplemented by the anthropological perspective of these countries' pop-culture.

Renata Iwicka has authored the first Polish translation of the 27th book of Konjaku Monogatari – a collection of anecdotes originating in 12th century Japan. Her work has been published as The Japanese Book of Ghosts and Demons. The Konjaku Monogatari Collection of Ancient and Modern Stories (Polish: Japońska księga duchów i demonów. Zbiór historii dawnych i obecnych Konjaku monogatari, Toruń 2013) The most recent result of Renata Iwicka's studies in the sphere of Asian nationalisms in pop-culture is the paper Nationalisms of East Asia in Popular Culture (2014).

» Culture of Japan and the Japanese Language

Wioletta Laskowska-Smoczyńska is philologist who graduated from the Jagiellonian and Tokyo Universities. Ever since her own studies, her main field of interest has been the culture of Japan – particularly literature and visual arts. Apart from conducting classes in Japanese in the Department, she works in the Manggha Museum in Krakow which allows her to connect her hobby with her research interests and find practical solutions. For many years she has worked on popularising the Japanese culture in Poland; she has coordinated some performances given by Japanese theatrical groups (nō, kyōgen, rakugo, nihon buyō etc.) and some cinematographic exhibitions such as: Akira Kurosawa. One Hundred Years Jubilee (2011); The Japanese Cinema in the Polish Movie-Posters (2011). She has also directed photographic exhibitions: 100 Years of Tokyo (2011), Holy Mount of Fiji (2012). She has authored numerous publications concerning the culture of Japan, the translations of various literary works and exhibition catalogues.
A separate sphere of Wioletta Laskowska-Smoczyńska's interests is the issue of teaching the Japanese language. She has years of experience as a lecturer and translator supported by additional workshops conducted by the Japan Foundation. Her expertise is supplemented by the systematic exchange of materials and experiences with a network of other Japanese language lecturers.

» Alternative Pop-Culture of Japan

Klaudia Adamowicz is a post-graduate student at the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations. Her research interests focus on contemporary Japanese culture and its ongoing transformations. She is also interested in the transcultural exchange between Japan and the West. Her main area of academic interest, however, is Japanese alternative culture with an emphasis on the fashion and music subcultures from a comparative perspective, involving people from both Japan and the West.

» Culture of the Chinese-Speaking Regions

Classical Chinese thought is one of the most significant factors to influence the Chinese civilisation. This discipline in particular constitutes the main field of interest of Rafał Banka. He deals mainly with classical Chinese philosophy from a comparative perspective, as well as with reference to selected issues in contemporary philosophy. Another sphere of his anthropological-philosophical research is contemporary Chinese art and aesthetics. Rafał Banka is also interested in the Chinese diaspora, a phenomenon that illustrates the complexity of cultural interactions.

» Contemporary Muslim Identity at the Crossroads of Cultures

Monika Kołodziej studies the contemporary trends and directions of transformations that are manifest in the generation of the young adults (18-34 y.o.) known as Chinese Hui Muslims. The main research issue concerns the personal identity and the collective identity (both Muslim and Chinese) against the backdrop of the broadly understood Western pop-culture, with the latter being particularly visible in larger cities.

Emphasis is on the contemporary young Hui dilemmas concerned with the confrontation of opposite cultural paradigms and the ambivalence of the government's policy towards religious minorities. The Chinese government supports the ideology of modernity that treats religion as unfit for the vision of a contemporary cosmopolitan country. On the other hand, it postulates a policy of tolerance towards the ethnic minorities, for whom religion is one of the most significant modes of identification.
 

The Comparative Research

» Religious Symbolism

Religious symbolism in the comparative perspective is the main field of interest of Agata Świerzowska. For the last several years she has been studying the cultural role of various stones, particularly with regards to their role in religious and magical symbolism. The semantic richness of particular gems is revealed only by means of a scrupulous analysis of material data involving the motifs of stones. The research involves artefacts – objects that bear witness to the usage of stones in the sacral (rituals) and magical (amulets, talismans) spheres and alchemy as well as oral transmission (sacral texts, chants, prayers, myths, superstitions, legends and other phenomena developed around particular gems). A separate and equally interesting issue is the application of the stones in folk medicine. Agata Świerzowska's research has so far resulted in two monographs studying the symbolism of stones of organic origins: Pearl in Cultures and Religions of the World, Krakow 1999 (Polish title: Perła w kulturze i religiach świata) and Amber, Coral, Jet. Religious and Magical Symbolism, Krakow 2003 (Polish title: Bursztyn, koral, gagat. Symbolika religijna i magiczna). These are the first Polish studies concerning such a diverse topic.

» The Theory of Civilisation

The theory of civilisation is the research domain of Agnieszka Kowalska and Agata Świerzowska. This sub-discipline underpins a basic knowledge of analysis, methodology and comparative culture studies. The civilisation perspective focuses on the synchronic and diachronic approach to the ancient and modern civilisations. The comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives on researching the statics and dynamics of the socio-cultural systems allows for the multidimensional interpretations of the mechanisms analysed. Accordingly, the research carried out within this sphere concerns the phenomena typical for the selected culture spheres, their transformations influenced by both endogenic and exogenic factors and the comparative analysis of the analogous phenomena that function in various cultural traditions.

» East – West

During the years 1994-2003, Andrzej Flis spent a total of 2 years in the Far East including: China, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia. In this time he conducted field-work and gave lectures at local universities. The tangible result of these studies is to be found in the last chapter of his book Christianity and Europe (Polish title: Chrześcijaństwo i Europa) titled The Dynamics of Civilisations: Europe – China – Japan. The subject has turned up in several of Prof. Flis papers in English, Japanese and Korean. The Confucian culture circle (civilisations of China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan) is the vivid opposite of European culture and as such presents an outstanding sociological point of comparison for studying the West.

» The Transformations of the Heroic Myth in the Modern Culture

Recent times have witnessed a discussion on the significance of myth in culture – and particularly in its popular dimension. The main field of study of Izabela Trzcińska is the form of contemporary myths and particularly their reinterpretation in a broadly understood fantasy. Izabela Trzcińska is also interested in the new framework of the contemporary mythical hero. One of the typical features of the analysed myth is that it usually refers to older transmissions of this kind, which gives the impression of antiquity and ingenuity. As noted by Claude Levi-Strauss, the subsequent transformations of the mythical story involve a continuous, hardly noticeable adaptation of the older traditions to some new circumstances. The classical hero of a myth or a magical fairy tale (Propp) is always confronted with a sacred sphere or some unusual power and this particular occurrence gains special significance for both the fate of the hero and for the world he comes from. The basis for such an understanding of the heroic myth has been furnished by Joseph Campbell, who has proved the existence of an exceptionally strong universal mythical model, which he has defined as a monomyth. It seems, however, that the contemporary adaptations of the mythical motives begin to extend beyond this classical pattern. This research is particularly significant in the framework of the issue of contemporary identity. The crucial aspect of these reinterpretations is their presence in the visual culture as a result of numerous adaptations of the fantasy tales in movies and games.

» The Forms of Communication in the Contemporary Culture

Contemporary culture is characterised by completely new conditions of communication, previously unnoticed in such a form and intensity. They are defined by the emergence of cyberspace involving the platforms of various social media as well as the phenomenon of inter-culture. This situation demands a definition for these new means of communication. Izabela Trzcińska deals with the interpenetration of the casual contemporary forms of communication in the context of the traditions of the East and West.

» The Early Christian Monasticism

Agnieszka Kowalska is particularly interested in the development of the Christian forms of monastic life in the region of the Near East and Europe. The results of her analyses were presented in her doctoral thesis concerning the birth of early Christian monasticism in Egypt, its development and influence on other near eastern and European religious traditions. In addition to the religious, symbolic and spiritual aspects of the phenomena, Agnieszka Kowalska's studies present the eremic and cenobitic movements in the context of the gradual routinisation and institutionalisation of charisma. The issue of the transformations of individual solutions into complex organisational structures is the central aspect of the studies on the mechanisms of the socio-cultural transformations.

» Modern Myth and Ritual

Katarzyna Bajka is a post-graduate student researching the forms of myth and ritual in contemporary times and popular culture. With regards to myth, she is particularly interested in the contents of contemporary and classic narration and their evolution, including fairy tales analysis, super-hero narrations; books, movies and serials containing supernatural and fantasy motifs. She is also interested in so-called fandoms, i.e. the life of the myth in human gatherings, creation and interpenetration of the canonical and apocryphal contents, recurrent motives and subjects. Katarzyna Bajka relies on methodology based on structural anthropology (C. Levi-Strauss) and psychoanalysis (J. Campbell) – both of which allow the extraction of the mythical pattern present in a particular story and the establishment of their cultural senses. She also works with the theory of communication and new media, which allows her to extend her research on the world of the social media and broadly understood cyberspace (McLuhan, Ong). She is also interested in the theories of myth, which could be utilised in researching oral, literal and audio-visual content. Her current field of research is the subject of heroism and the figure of the hero in urban societies in the contemporary, post-communistic Poland.

Regarding the ritual, Katarzyna Bajka is particularly interested in the anthropology of the body and eating, subjects of power and control over the body as well as the theory of habitus and connections between the body and religious symbolism. She has studied national and religious stereotypes in the multicultural rural societies in the region of Przemyśl (south-eastern Poland on the border with Ukraine). Her other research concerned the meaning of food preparation, understood as a special kind of nourishment, distributed accordingly to the mechanics of a gift. She conducts courses "Body – Religion – Anthropology" and "Blood Symbolism".
 

» The Reception of the Elements of the Eastern Thought in Poland at the Turn of 19th and 20th Centuries

Karolina Maria Kotkowska studies the cultural consequences of the collision between Eastern and Western thought in Poland from the perspective of the source-texts conceived in the esoteric framework. Eastern philosophy was disseminated here by means of esoteric organisations which were focused on the issue of initiation. The increased interest in esotericism was initiated by Helena P. Bławatska and others engaged in the area of theosophical considerations.

Western esotericism, which has become the medium for the reception of these contents, has definitely expanded our understanding and presented new interpretative options on these subjects. The main research issue is to establish the meaning of the category of the East from the perspective of the reception of esotericism at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and to note any differences against the background of the original sources.
 

» Nonverbal Communication

Bożena Gierek researches nonverbal communication, also known as "body language". Nonverbal communication comprises all elements of body language (mimic, eye contact, head movement, gestures, posture and body movement and space), as well as signs and signals sent by the body in various situations. Special attention is given to the role of body language in interpersonal contact – both private and professional – considering the differences between "female" and "male" body language, as well as in various cultural contexts. Quite a large part of the research is devoted to emotions – how they are expressed (for example, through micro-expressions) or restrained and masked, as well as the influence of the emotions on human physiology.

» Death in Various Cultures

The research concentrates on issues related to death (perception and attitudes towards it) in various cultures and in various stages of cultural development. This research comprises burial rituals and eschatology. The comparison of the rituals and beliefs enables us to pinpoint similarities and differences, and subsequently the cultural background that influenced them. These studies are conducted by Bożena Gierek.

» The European Cultures in a Comparative Perspective

Bożena Gierek's field of interest covers the following peoples: Indo-European (Balts, Celts, Germans, Scythians, Slavs, Thracians) and non-Indo-European (Basks, Ugro-Finns). Her research includes: the social organisation, the system of values, customs, rituals, beliefs, cults and their locations. These European cultures have contributed significantly to the creation of the contemporary European culture long before Christianity (which was also influenced by them) was introduced. Various movements still refer to these cultures, for instance neo-pagan or nationalistic ones, seeking to support their ideologies. Europe is a mosaic of nations of various cultural roots, hence to understand certain phenomena that occur within this great community it is necessary to go back to the roots of their respective cultures.

» War and Culture. The Anthropological and Sociological Theory of War

War and culture are deeply and inherently connected by a network of bonds. Culture which permeates all aspects of human life also shapes the phenomenon of war, which has never in the history of human conflicts been a simple discharge of animal and aggressive impulses.

Nevertheless, war is seldom analysed from the cultural perspective – as both the cultural outcome and cultural factor of the conflicted societies. Even less popular are the attempts at considering war as a cultural phenomenon per se. These topics are the field of interest of Elżbieta Olzacka, who deals with the theoretical aspects of the bonds connecting war and culture as well as modern historical war cultures. She is also interested in the comparative aspect that allows for the emphasis of the significance of the cultural context in the creation of various models of victory and accordingly, various ways of conducting wars. So far the main product of her work is her Ph.D. thesis (War and Culture. The Role of the Cultural Factors in the Modern Military Revolution) and several papers on this subject. Elżbieta Olzacka is currently applying her methodology (involving sociology, culture studies and war studies) to research on the cultural aspects of war in Tajikistan.
 

Buddhology

» The Buddist Philosophy of Tibet

The research is carried out by Artur Przybysławski. He is interested in several subjects:

  • The issue of tathagatagarbha in the texts of Tibetan philosophers, particularly the representatives of the gzhan stong notion along with the discussions with the opposite stance of rang stong.
  • The Tibetan Buddhist epistemology, particularly the idealistic interpretations of Dignagi and Dharmakirti in the traditions of Sakja, Kagyu and Njingma.
  • The philosophical contents in the songs of accomplishment and biographical literature of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The translations of the important philosophical works of Tibet and the sources of Indian mahajana preserved exclusively in the Tibetan texts.
     

» The Religions of Tibet

Jacek Trzebuniak studies the cultures and religions of Tibet. Among his academic interests are:

  • The development of Buddhism in the Western world.
  • Beliefs and practices of the autochthonous tradition of Tibet – Yungdrung Bon.
  • The Tibetan doctrine of the great perfection – dzogchen (Tib. rdzogs chen).

» Modern Tibetan Language

Artur Przybysławski is also interested in the grammar of the modern Tibetan language with an emphasis on the verb structures.

» The Cognitive Philosophy of Indian Buddism

Szymon Bogacz is particularly interested in the epistemological theories developed in the philosophical schools of Indian Buddhism. These theories concern not only the knowledge-generating processes but also their metaphysical basis - that is, the nature of mind and the objects it recognises. His research on the epistemological theories of the Buddhist India includes:

  • Translation of the Sanskrit texts, inter alia: the main verses of Nagarjuna's Middle Way (Mūlamadhyamakakārikā) and fragments of the Tibetan texts.
  • The historical development of the key epistemological terms in various schools and traditions of Buddhist and Brahmin traditions with an emphasis on the Middle Way (madhyamaka).
  • The conceptual analysis of the most important issues of cognition in Buddhist India, inter alia the nature of mind, the discussion between realism and antirealism, logical grounds of argumentation, the theory of justification and the theory of truth.