Projects

The projects are arranged alphabetically by the title.

» Birla mandirs – the Contemporary Hindu Temple Complexes as an Example of Modernisation by Going Back to Tradition

[NCN research grant UMO-2013/09/B/HS1/02005] National Center of Science, Opus 9

Project manager: Prof. Dr hab. Marta Kudelska

Main executives: Dr Agata Świerzowska, Dr Agnieszka Staszczyk

Other executives: Dr Paulina Tendera, Natalia Nadkańska MA

Project period: January 2014 - January 2017

The Birla family of Indian industrial tycoons is well-known for its philanthropic activities as well as supporting various projects in the field of technology, medicine and education. Among objects and facilities founded and financed by the family there are over forty temple complexes, commonly known as "Birla Mandir". The researchers (Marta Kudelska, Agnieszka Staszczyk, Agata Świerzowska) consider the Birla temples as an inexhaustible source of knowledge on contemporary India with reference to social and political relations, cultural changes and the various religious attitudes of the society. Since the discussed buildings fit into specific social and political conditions, the authors assume that the construction of such places of worship by one of the most mighty families in India may be related to the family intent of strengthening its power among the Indian people (in a political and religious sense).

The project is thus to document and conduct a detailed interdisciplinary analysis of the temple complexes founded by the Birlas, since no thorough study has been presented as yet. The basis for the analysis is the religious perspective originating from philosophic sources. The study is based on the following research stages:
1. Reconstruction of modern forms of spirituality and devotion in India based on the analysis of the architectural forms and decorations found in the Birla temples.
2. Analysis and interpretation of the material acquired in qualitative research in order to explain the social and religious function of the temples.
3. Analysis of the methods used in training the temple priests, illustrating the ideological aspect in the formation of the Hindu community attitudes.
 

» Identity Formation among Established and Recent Polish Communities around Utica, NY

A joint research project of Jagiellonian University and the Department of Sociology/Anthropology of Utica College, NY, USA, supported by Joseph P. Furgal Fund

Project coordinators: Paulina Niechciał, PhD; Jessica F. Brown, PhD

Project executive: Margarita C. Molina

Project timeline: from June 2016

The study aims to identify elements of ethnocultural identity (ex. religion, language, cuisine) of members of Polish communities around Utica, as well as identify and explain factors that influence this identity construction. Contemporarily Polish Americans comprise one of the largest ethnic groups in Oneida County. Early Polish movement into this region began in the 1880s, attracted mainly by work opportunities in the textile mills, and slowed at the beginning of the 1920s. The next wave of Poles began arriving as refugees of World War II. Following that, a population of Poles who came to Utica and surrounding towns in a few last decades. 
The focus of the study is a comparison between an established community, those people originating from families describing themselves as Poles or Polish Americans, born and raised in the Unites States, and a recent community, Poles who came from Poland as adults in recent decades. The study will contribute to in-depth understanding the processes of identity construction of cultural minorities in multicultural context of Upstate New York, as well as documentation of contemporary history of local Polish community. It will result in an academic publication, as well as a publication documenting the researched population.

It is a study in the frames of interpretivist sociology. We will use a life story, semi-structured interview technique to gather the experience of interviewees concerning their belonging to the Polish communities. The researched population is a Polish community living in Utica and close surroundings. We will interview its members who have been living in the area not less than 15 years. We will use purposive sampling contrasting cases, seeking for participants of both recent and established communities of Polish origins. At the beginning, we will use a snowball sampling technique based on contacts established by Paulina Niechciał during her visit in Utica in 2014. Additionally, we will conduct a participant observation in events organized by different local institutions connected to the Polish communities. Transcribed narratives as well as other documents collected during the fieldwork will be analyzed using qualitative analytic procedures.

More about the project in: P. Niechciał, J. Singer Brown, Polish Community in the Utica Area. A Joint Research Project of JU and Utica College, "NJUsletter", vol. 59, 2016, p. 17-18.

» Impact of Globalization on Syncretic Processes in Contemporary Religiosity Exemplified by Mexican Folk Catholicism and Cuban Santeria

The project is financed by Narodowe Centrum Nauki (SONATA 7 program)

Project Coordinator: Dr Piotr Grzegorz Michalik

Executives: -

Project duration: January 2015 – January 2018

 

The aim of the project is:

1. To develop a model that adequately describes impact of factors associated with globalisation (such as migration, influence of new media, commercialising of religious practices) on changes occurring in selected ritual and belief systems.

2. To utilize the model to define, coordinate, and reduce part of terminology applied to analysis of transformations occurring in contemporary religious phenomena, particularly to assess scope and adequacy of the term "hybridity".

The model will be developed on the basis of research on interactions between the cult of Mexican folk Saints and the cult of orishas – mythical beings originating from Cuban santería. Both cults have been presented in studies of religion and anthropology of religion as showcases of syncretism and hybridity.

The project is interdisciplinary. It is grounded in the field of studies of religion, at the same time utilising methods of data collection characteristic of anthropology (interviews and observations) and theoretical tools provided by semiotics. The model of transformation processes occurring in investigated ritual and belief systems under the impact of globalisation is developed on the basis of data acquired through fieldwork, supplemented with ethnographic literature. Fieldwork targets the practitioners of Mexican folk Saint cult and the cult of Cuban orishas identified with these Saints, dwelling on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico: in Havana, Cuba and Mérida, Mexico. The expeditions take place at approximately one year intervals.

The outcomes of the project are supposed to contribute to academic debate on fundamental issues for studies of religion and anthropology, such as the extent of autonomy of religious phenomena in comparison to other cultural phenomena, the impact of globalisation on dynamics of contemporary syncretic processes, and the validity of terms such as hybridity, or transculturation as tools of research on current religious phenomena. Additionally, studies on interactions between Cuba Santeria and Mexican folk Catholicism, considerably scarce to date, might fill a huge gap in Latin American studies. The project also stresses the importance of fieldwork among the research methods of current studies of religion.

» Leon Chwistek's Theory of Plurality of Realities

The project was financed by the National Programme for the Development of Humanities 3.1

Project no: 31H 13 0183 82

Supervisor: Dr Karol Chrobak

The purpose of the project is to promote the philosophy of Leon Chwistek in English. Particular emphasis will be devoted to texts concerning his theory of reality. The pivotal text for this project is the treatise "The Plurality of Realities" (1921) which is one of the most important philosophical texts of Polish interwar period. This presents a theory of four realities that is considered to be one of the most original and comprehensive philosophical theories of that time. It is important to show this theory in all its complexity - that is, taking into account the context of its creation, its main inspirations and the motives standing behind it. For that reason, also other texts on this theory will be translated: excerpts from the book "Meaning and Reality" (1916), "Three Lectures relating to the Concept of Existence" (1917), and "The Plurality of Realities in Art" (1918). In the latter text, Chwistek "translated" his theory of reality into the theory of art, in order to justify the autonomy and originality of the then new born Polish avant-garde art. This shows that Chwistek's theory had a much wider range of influence than purely philosophical. Based on his concept of reality Chwistek developed not only original directions in art, but engaged also in methodological, ethical, social and cultural issues.

» New Light. On Philosophical Questions of the Contemporary Art of Light

The project is financed by the National Center for Science within the framework of the competition Prelude 4
 

Project Executive: Dr Paulina Tendera

 

Project Supervisor: Prof. Dr hab. Leszek Sosnowski

 

Project duration: September 2013 - June 2015

 

The aim of the project entitled New Light. On Philosophical questions of the art of Light is the presentation of the philosophical description of the contemporary art of light.
The working hypothesis is that contemporary art can be described by formal method of philosophical analyse. The hypothesis will be verified through the example of the art of light. The proposed structure penetrates the ontology of a masterpiece by reaching for the conceptions of the sensory levels prevalent in a work of art (Stróżewski) and for the concretisation of the piece of art and the aesthetic experience (Ingarden). This kind of structure is not an artistic critique but an attempt to renew the formal values of the piece of art in contemporary art discourse.

» Patterns, Functions and Social Perception of Arabic-English Code-switching in Egypt

The project is financed by the National Science Centre (Sonata 6)

Project Coordinator: Dr Małgorzata Kniaź

Executive: Magdalena Zawrotna MA

Project duration: September 2014 – September 2017

Code-switching is the use of two (or more) languages or language varieties in the same speech situation. The vast majority of research dealing with code-switching in Egypt has focused exclusively on diglossic code-switching between the two basic varieties of Arabic – Standard and Colloquial Arabic. Meanwhile, since the 1990s the role of English in Egypt has increased considerably, particularly in education and the labour market. Members of the upper and upper-middle class usually have a better command of English than Standard Arabic both in writing and speaking. As a result, Arabic-English code-switching has become a common phenomenon among a large group of well-to-do bilingual Egyptians using the linguistic resources of Egyptian Arabic and English in private and professional communication. For this reason, bilingual code-switching should be included when describing the linguistic situation in Egypt, particularly as ongoing linguistic change may be the determinant of a cultural evolution in which awareness is the key to understanding the current socio-political transformations in this country.

Despite the prevalence of Arabic-English code-switching in Egypt, it has not been subject to thorough sociolinguistic analysis as yet. To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first empirical study conducted on the basis of real-life material from television, the Internet and data collected during fieldwork in Egypt. The objective of the project is a multidimensional and comprehensive analysis of Arabic-English code-switching. We aim to describe the patterns, grammatical constrains, functions, and social perception of code-switching as well as social and conversational motivations for its use in public discourse, face-to-face and computer-mediated communication. As far as methodology is concerned, we combine research methods used in linguistics, sociology and anthropology.

The project will help to answer the question about the universality of the MLF (Matrix Language Frame) model and define the phenomenon of code-switching in a diglossic situation, which will be an important contribution to the development of the theory of code-switching, particularly as our study deals with unrelated languages that have conceptual systems belonging to completely different cultural traditions. We focus not only on a comprehensive description, but also the understanding of the mechanisms underlying code-switching, which is significant to enrich the knowledge on linguistic interaction. Research solutions applied in our study will allow the creation of tools for the analysis of code-switching in diglossic communities.

» Polish Theosophical Thought and the Ideas of the Theosophical Society in the years 1905–1939. A Critical Analysis of Selected Philosophical Topics

The project is financed by the National Science Centre (Etiuda 4)

Project coordinator: mgr Karolina Maria Hess

Project timeline: 01.10.2016-30.09.2017

The project’s objective is an analysis of the specific character of the Theosophical Society in Poland and its activities (and complex institutional structures), as well as the functioning of theosophical ideas in Poland, including an analysis of their religious and philosophical premises. The research will be conducted from a perspective which considers Polish Theosophy against the background of theosophical ideas in Europe and around the world in the last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.
Theosophy itself is a uniquely interesting topic of academic research. It is a religious syncretism, a cultural tendency of great influence, a trend which inspired artists, scientists and seekers of new spiritualities. In the second half of the 20th century, Theosophy inspired the development of New Age. It is also connected to masonic mixed lodges such as Le Droit Humain and strictly religious organizations such as the Liberal Catholic Church.
The aim of the project is to prepare the first monograph of Theosophy in Poland, covering a theoretical introduction, a characterization of the Polish theosophical institutions and structures, as well as an interpretation of theosophical ideas. Besides the monograph itself (i.e. the doctoral dissertation) the project includes several articles to be published in peer-reviewed journals of international reach and continued presentation of research results at conferences in Poland and abroad.

 

» The Concept of Gender in Selected Areas of Muslim Culture. An Attempt at Deconstructing Western Perception about the Contemporary Islamic Republic of Iran

Executives: Monika Kołodziej MA, Mateusz Skowronek

Supervisor: Dr Joanna Grela

Project duration: February 2012

The project served as a preliminary stage for further transcultural research concerning contemporary Muslim identity. The aim of the project was to confront the western image of religious Iran with the current reality of the local youth and young adults. The field studies were focused on the process of social change involving questions of gender and social roles among young English-speaking Iranians from the big cities of Teheran, Isfahan, and Yazd.
Selected results and conclusions were published in the article "Hijab is my, our lie". Two faces of youth generation in contemporary Iran published in "The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture" (1/2012).

» The Cultural Strategies of War and Reconciliation: Analysis on the Example of the Civil War in the Republic of Tajikistan (1992-1997)

The project is financed by the National Science Centre (Sonata 5)

 

Project Coordinator: Dr Paulina Niechciał

Main Executive: Dr Elżbieta Olzacka

Project duration: March 2014 – May 2016

The research objective of the project is the analysis of civil war as a cultural phenomenon. We will examine the cultural strategies employed by conflicting parties to either defeat the enemy or bring peace to a conflict. The case studied in the project is a civil war in the Republic of Tajikistan (1992-1997). During two field-trips, the following research materials will be collected: in-depth ethnographic interviews with Tajik activists involved in creating the various political fractions during the Tajik civil war, and selected newspapers representing the interests of the various civil war parties. Our analysis will focus on the cultural content, as well as the language used by conflicting parties in the Tajik press to communicate it. We assume that the phenomenon of civil war is accompanied by changes in the cultural strategies. Referring to the civil war in Tajikistan we put forward the hypothesis that the strategies of the conflicting parties have changed over the course of the various stages of the conflict - not only during the period of armed struggle, but during the whole decade, from the very first anti-government demonstrations in the 1990s, to the parliamentary elections in 2000, which ended the process of implementing the General Agreement after the civil war. The project will contribute to the development of the scientific knowledge about how war is waged in the field of culture, as well as the empirically grounded understanding of the role of culture in the political transformation caused by the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The research is interdisciplinary, combining perspectives, knowledge and methodological tools specific to cultural studies, ethnology, sociology and Oriental studies.

One of the outcomes of the project is the Tajik press archive.

» The Reception of the Category of the East by Polish Esoteric Environments at the Turn of the 20th Century and its Cultural and Religious Consequences

Project financed by the National Science Centre (Poland) in the programme Preludium 6

Head of the Project: Karolina Maria Hess MA

The project aims to explore the cultural consequences of the collision of Eastern and Western thought in the Polish context, through the prism of sources related to the esoteric environment. The greatest turning point in the reception of elements of Eastern philosophy, as well as Eastern ritual and practice, in modern Western societies took place in the 2nd half of the 19th century and – if one takes into account the historical and cultural context – was mostly mediated by groups related to the Theosophy of Helena P. Blavatsky and Henry S. Olcott. My hypothesis is that Western Esotericism, which became the medium for this reception, contributed importantly to the interpretation of exotic elements. The main goal of the project is to analyse the specific distortions of Eastern philosophy and practice that were brought in by the mediating esoteric discourses and to explicate the extrapolation of meanings produced (by intellectual elites) as a result of those distortions within various areas of Polish culture in the first half of 20th century, including their later consequences, reaching as far as the beginning of the 21st century. To serve this goal, the project includes analyses of previously unpublished documents of the Theosophical Society and other organisations, as well as source material and manifestos of the ideologues of this and related intellectual trends, literary works, paintings and other works inspired by Eastern traditions and by Western esotericism.

The research aims at a systematisation of the source material, not yet studied, as well as an analysis of texts of great significance for the understanding of the reception of Eastern traditions at a time these were little known to a broad audience. At the same time, the research tracks the mechanisms of the development of philosophical-religious syncretisms and their expression; without a doubt, it fills a gap in the still underdeveloped field of Polish scholarship on Western Esotericism.
 

» The Role of Sanskrit Literature in the Creation of Classical Dance Traditions in India

Project conducted in the École française d'Extrême-Orient in Pondicherry, under the EFEO Junior Field Research Fellowship scheme

Coordinator: Katarzyna Skiba MA

Duration: November 2013 - March 2014, India

The aim of the project was to investigate the role of Sanskrit legacy in the process of the emergence and reinvention of classical Indian dance art, focusing on the example of the Kathak tradition. The research included a content analysis of Sanskrit treatises, which codify the rules governing the ‘classical' performing arts, in relation to the theory and praxis of Kathak dance. The analysis also encompassed the stories from the Hindu epics, Puranas and Sanskrit dramas, incorporated into the Kathak repertoire in the 20th century. The presence of Sanskrit aesthetics, as well as the popularity of motives drawn from Sanskrit literature in classical Kathak dance were considered in the context of the historical and socio-cultural factors of Indian dance ‘renaissance'. The project was aimed at demonstrating the tendency of the "sanskritisation" of Kathak in the process of its restitution, and concurrent changes in patronage structures, knowledge transmission, social functions, location and status of the dancers. The research explored the issue, whether, and how, contemporary Kathak dancers refer to Sanskrit treatises (Nāṭyaśāstra, Abhinayadarpaṇa, Saṅgītaratnākara, Saṅgītadarpaṇa, Nartananirṇaya), the application of conventions described in these works in contemporary dance practice and training methods, as well as the use of Sanskrit literature in the present Kathak repertoire, and the strategies for reinterpreting the classical canon in the context of modernity.

The methods applied in the research include: analysis of texts, dance performances, recordings and archival sources, observations and interviews conducted with choreographers, teachers and students in national academies and private schools of dance in Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Baroda, Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
 

» The Transformation of the Classical Indian Dance Tradition of Kathak in Terms of Social and Cultural Changes

A project funded by the National Science Centre (Poland)

Coordinator: Katarzyna Skiba MA

Duration: March 2014 - February 2016

The project aimed at articulating relationships between the transformation of the Kathak dance tradition in the new public sphere of the big cities, and the rapid social and cultural changes occurring in late colonial and post-colonial India. The intention of the author was to describe Kathak dance as an art reactive to the context of a rapidly changing political, social and cultural context, thus reflecting social change, which can be traced through the analysis of various modifications which the dance underwent over the past century. For this purpose, two phenomena – which particularly reveal the transformative impact of the historical context on Kathak dance – have been examined: the Indian dance revival, launched in the 1930s, and contemporary attempts to modernize the classical art of Kathak, termed as ‘innovations in tradition', or ‘contemporary Kathak', initiated in the 1980s. The former provided critical arguments for underlining the influence of nationalist discourse on the process of formulating the criteria for classicism in Indian dance, particularly in the form determined by the institutional patronage of the Indian government. In contrast, experimental choreographies have been examined as a space of increasing globalization, "liquefying" the national boundaries and narratives.
The results of the research have been developed through the analysis of source materials and audiovisual documentation, collected during three-month fieldwork carried out in dance schools and cultural centers in New Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. Applied methods included: interviews with Kathak dancers, teachers and choreographers, observation of dance classes and performances and archival research (in Sangeet Natak Academy, Archive and Research Center for Ethnomusicology in Gurgaon and New York Public Library). Scientific consultations with specialists in South Asian studies, anthropology and ethnomusicology in the United States formed part of the project.

The archival materials and data collected from the interviews allowed to explore late colonial and postcolonial history of Kathak. On the basis of interviews and observations, the author depicted the reality of contemporary dance practice, internal differentiation, hierarchy and dynamics of relationships within the community of Kathak dancers, especially the exponents of Lucknow gharana. The author has also investigated the phenomenon of social construction of the categories of "tradition," "classicism" and "experiment". Data gathered through interviews, observations, and performance analysis supported the diagnosis of current tendencies in Kathak art development, as well as the attitude of the local dance communities toward the imperative of faithful reproduction of the aesthetic canon and a postulate to innovate the repertoire. Social background and ethnic identity of the artists, their geographical location, religion, education and mobility have been considered as important factors of cultural hybridisation, to be seen in Kathak.

The research highlights the role of dance as a tool for political and social propaganda in India, deconstructing stereotypes and Orientalist imaginaries of classical Indian dances as centuries-old traditions, rooted in Hinduism and Sanskrit culture. The results of the project demonstrate the scale of Kathak evolution in reaction to globalisation and transculturation, as well as the postcolonial conditioning of the dance development.

Results of the project are included in the following papers:

  • K. Skiba, Renesans czy rekonstrukcja? Przeobrażenia tradycji klasycznego tańca indyjskiego kathak na tle procesów narodowotwórczych, „Perspektywy Kulturoznawcze" vol. 4/2014, pp. 106-153.
  • K. Skiba, Odtwarzanie tożsamości narodowej w sztuce klasycznego tańca indyjskiego kathak, [w:] Piękno zespolić ze sobą. Korespondencja na styku sztuk, Uniwersytet Muzyczny Fryderyka Chopina, Białystok 2015, pp. 337-354.
  • K. Skiba, Between Boundaries of Tradition and Global Flows: Reimagining Communities in Kathak Dance, [in:] Congress on Research in Dance. Conference Proceedings, Cambridge 2016, pp. 386-397. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/cor.2016.51

 

Articles in preparation:

  • K. Skiba, Redefining Hybridity in Contemporary Kathak Dance, "Przegląd Kulturoznawczy" vol. 4 (30) 2016.
  • K. Skiba, Cultural Geography of Kathak Dance: Streams of Tradition and Global Flows, "Cracow Indological Studies" vol. 18 / 2016.
  • K. Skiba, A Heroine in Pangs of Separation or a Soul Longing for the Divine? Re-appropriated Voices in the Poetry of Kathak Dance Repertoire, "The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture. New Series" 2016.
  • K. Skiba, Kathak as a Śāstrīya Nṛtya. The Rediscovery of the Nāṭyaśāstra and the Invention of Classicism in Indian Dance, [in:] Pushpika: Tracing Ancient India Through Text and Traditions. Contributions to Current Research in Indology. vol. 6, Oxford 2016.

» Why There is "I" Rather than "It"? The Ontology of the Subject in the Upanishads

The project is financed within the framework of the National Programme for the Development of Humanities, module Universalia 2.1.

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr hab. Marta Kudelska

The purpose of this project is the English translation and subsequent publication of the book Why There is "I" Rather than "It"? The Ontology of the Subject in the Upanishads.

This book deals with the ontology of the subject in classical Upanishads. All the interpretations are based on the original Sanskrit sources and they are written from the nirguna point of view. All the considerations start with a translation and new interpretation of the Nasadiyasukta (Rigveda X 129). The main thesis is focused on the distinction between verbs originating from two roots: the root as from which the word sat comes and the root bhū, from which the word bhava comes. While the as element primordially implies a static state, the bhū element implies a dynamic one. This distinction is crucial for all given considerations in the book. Based on this idea, the scheme of the classical Upanishads is reconstructed. In the next parts many terms denoting the roles or the functions of the subject are taken into consideration. The analysis of the sentence ‘aham asmi' – ‘I am" is of considerably material importance. This utterance leads to the division into subject and object. ‘Aham' stands for the primordial level of bhava, and ‘asmi' still remains in the sat dimension. The subtlest form of the object appears as the light. In some texts the light assumes the shape of Purusha, the archetype of God, but according to other sources the light assumes the shape of the soul. The main thesis of this book is to show that all forms, all categories are secondary to the primordial, absolute state of being, which transcends all shapes and forms.

The Advaita is still one of the most popular Indian schools of philosophy. Detailed topics in this field are widely discussed on academic and semi-academic grounds. I am certain of the fact that this particular reconstruction of philosophy of the Upanishads is an original one. I also hope that it will be a new voice in the discussion of the sources of Indian philosophy. This book will not only provide the readers with an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of philosophy and Indian religion, but also to find a common philosophical conception, which opens a new perspective in reading the great Western philosophers, whose works are connected with the philosophy of subjectivity.