On Thursday, June 22, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska took part in the Cultural Memory seminar series at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University. She presented a lecture titled “Ghosts as Material Traces: A Spectral Perspective on Displacement and Resettlement in Slavic Central Europe” online via Teams. The seminar was organized by Nóra Veszprémi, and Ben Dew, a historian at Coventry University specialising in Polish-British relations, was a discussant.
In her lecture, Karolina proposed an alternative perspective on ghosts, regarding them as material traces that reveal hidden histories and enable comprehension of alterity, rather than the conventional view of the souls of the deceased haunting the living. She advocated for such a perspective in the study of displacement, focusing on territories that were formerly inhabited by one culture but were resettled by another one after a forced migration, especially the settlers’ encounters with the objects that the previous inhabitants had left behind. She argued that these objects can be seen as ghosts that haunt the new inhabitants, challenging their sense of belonging and identity, but also opening up possibilities for dialogue and reconciliation.
The lecture was followed by a lively discussion with the audience, who raised questions about the theoretical and methodological implications of Karolina’s approach, as well as its applicability to other cases of displacement and resettlement in different regions and historical periods. The seminar was part of a series that aims to explore how cultural memory is shaped by various factors, such as art, media, politics, and emotions.