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Balcerzak, Agnieszka (2021): “The Charm of the PRL”: Memory Culture, (Post)Socialist Nostalgia and Historical Tourism in Poland. In: Slovenský národopis / Slovak Ethnology, Vol. 69, No. 2: pp. 255-273 [PDF, 1MB]


The article explores the mechanisms of memory culture and the commercialization of the socialist heritage from the period of the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) (from 1945 to 1989) as a tourist destination, societal practice and cultural resource in today’s Warsaw. At the intersection of heritage studies, historical tourism and material culture, the ethnographic analysis focuses on three empirical case studies as examples of the commercial popularization of the history of the PRL. These are the communist heritage tours offered by WPT 1313 and the documentation of the socialist heritage at the Museum of Life in the PRL and the Neon Museum. These commodified products of Warsaw’s tourism and entertainment culture fill a gap in the tourist market, based on the prototypical, nostalgic longing of tourists for a sensual and emotional experience of the “authentic past”. This predominantly participant observation-based ethnographic study on the practices, spaces, images and agents filling this touristic niche, illustrates how they create sensual-emotive, aesthetic and performative fields of reifying, discovering and experiencing the socialist past. Finally, the paper focuses on how these polyvalent mechanisms shape the tourist infrastructure of Warsaw oscillating between critical distancing and entertaining appropriation of the socialist heritage.

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