Socially inherited memory, gender and the public sphere in Poland
More recent theories of the 'revolutions' of 1989 in the societies of Eastern and Central Europe now suggest that the underlying dynamic was continuity rather than disjuncture in terms of social and political relations. Yet such theories fail to explain the nature of and the reasons for this continuity in terms of gender relations in the public sphere. The thesis suggests that the clue to understanding the nature of the gendered transformation in Poland's public sphere in its mediated aspects between the years 1980 and 1994 lies in the role of 'socially inherited memory'. Socially inherited memory is the dialectical and gendered process by which a given society both remembers and forgets past events, feelings, thoughts and knowledge through representations. The key to Poland's social memory concerns the repressed stories of political right developed during the nation's period of identity formation in the nineteenth century and interwar years. Certain aspects of this social inheritance were recalled by the Polish United Workers' Party and then by Solidarity to legitimize their power: Because Poland's social memory was formed around the public exclusion of women and Poland's ethnic minorities this resulted in the continuation of exclusionary mechanisms and public ghettoization after World War Two, and, in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the evidence of the thesis also suggests that there were sub-plots of women's resistance and inclusion within the public sphere from at least the nineteenth century onwards. Thus the exclusionary impact of socially inherited memory is not an inevitable historical process: At particular historical moments inclusive representations of women and ethnic minorities are recalled or reenacted in the form of Public organisations or alternative cultural productions. Socially inherited memory it is suggested may provide a useful concept for examining the (en)gendering of the public sphere in other societies.