Rural Areas, Poland, Civil Society Activists, Postsocialism, Transformation, Common Good
This article discusses experiences of postsocialist transformation in rural Poland. It is based on a year-long ethnographic fieldwork carried out in a peripheral region of southern Poland. Its inhabitants today face problems of unemployment and instability, as not only were state-owned farms closed but the new political-economic order and Poland’s accession to the European Union have caused a radical reshaping of the agricultural sector. However, rather than being passive observers of these ongoing changes, people are determined to have some say and to shape their own lives and the place they inhabit. This article argues that a fruitful way of studying these processes is through a focus on local leaders and civil society activists. Examining new forms of social organization, cooperation, and leadership, it describes local people’s ability to creatively draw on their socialist experiences, adapting them to new contexts and transforming them into innovative strategies for coping with new challenges. Beyond exploring local people’s narratives of socialism and their assessments of present-day developments, the article also questions some widespread assumptions regarding the role of rural areas in the process of postsocialist transformation. In English, extended summary in Russian.