Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 21–57 | Cite as

History and the National Sensorium: Making Sense of Polish Mythology

  • Geneviève ZubrzyckiEmail author


Based on archival and ethnographic data from the Polish case, this article argues that national mythology is structured by historical events and embodied in visual and material cultures, which in turn frame national subjects’ understanding of the present. It suggests that the convergence and exchange between diverse sites of material expression and sensory perception, and their compression into trans-temporal nodes—what I call the “national sensorium”—makes them especially resilient. Even so, as historically constructed, contingent and contested systems of myths, the extent to which national mythologies can shape national identity or mobilize toward nationalist action depends on the specific historical contexts in which they are deployed. Theoretically, this article joins historical and phenomenological approaches to propose a framework for thinking about the constitution, persistence and shifting social and political valences of national mythologies.


Nationalism National mythology Visuality Materiality Affect Poland 



An earlier version of this article was presented at the conference “Whither National Myths?” at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center in May 2009. I’m grateful to Gérard Bouchard and the other participants for their helpful comments. I also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers, Javier Auyero, Paul Johnson, Krisztina Ferhervary, Krzysztof Jasiewicz and Jeff Lesser for their careful reading and thoughtful suggestions.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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