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1)The reading for this week offers an introduction to the course by summarizing the history of Poland leading up to the twentieth century. While a number of themes are covered, the primary through-line of the chapter is what we would nowadays call “identity politics.” That’s an issue that all of us are familiar with in 2022, whether from experiences in our own lives, from debates in the media, or from other classes we have taken that deal with some form of cultural identity (whether defined by race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.). Pick one of the issues about identity explored in this week’s reading assignment, and compare it to a comparable example from some other time or place. What can a consideration of 19th century Poland teach us about the broader issues of identity in the modern world?
2)This week you read several political texts from the early 20th century, and from the tumultuous events surrounding the creation of the Second Republic in 1918. Had you been alive at the time, living somewhere in the lands that would become Poland, how do you think you would have responded to these texts? You can imagine yourself in whatever social position you wish: worker, peasant, landed aristocrat, urban lawyer, university student, priest, etc. And you can position yourself within any ethnic/linguistic community. The main goal of an exercise like this is to practice “historical empathy”: the process of placing yourself inside the world of a person who lived in conditions very different from yours, so that you can try to understand the assumptions, blind-spots, insights, hopes, doubts, and ambitions of people in the past.
500 words per question


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