Polish National Identity: From Ethnic to Civic Model. The Role of Urban Culture

Based on previous fieldwork, this study aims to highlight the dynamics of change in contemporary Polish national identity. The focus is placed on collective identities and the place of multicultural heritage in constructed symbolic images. The essay explores the shift from an exclusive ethnic model to a pluralistic, civic one. Within a conceptual framework inspired by Weberian models as well as the work of Arnold van Gennep, Ernest Gellner, Eugene Weber, Eric Hobsbawm, Tom Nairn, Pierre Bourdieu (the concept of symbolic power, the notion of social capital), Saskia Sassen, Manuel Castells, George Ritzer and Sharon Zukin, the study chooses not to treat national identity as a monolithic seamless entity, but rather focuses on its constant renegotiation and redefinition by various social groups. The essay deploys sociological models in its approach to the nation and nationalism, i.e. the ‘civic' as opposed to the ‘ethnic' one. The essay starts from the idea that in the nineteenth century Polish national identity was constructed around cultural, religious and ethnic lines. The essay focuses on the changes in this identity when Polish society transformed itself from a rural to an urban one. In this context, the authors introduce the concept of ‘new urban middle class'. The essay relies on case studies - the inhabitants of major Polish cities, Krakow and Wroclaw - considering that changes in national identity are more visible in this segment of Polish society. The case studies were chosen both for their similarities and for their differences. Methodologically, the study employed semi-structured in-depth interviews with active inhabitants of both cities (25 to 40), informal conversations and participant observation.

Key words: national identity, multicultural heritage, European integration, social capital, social integration