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    The Kidnapping of Wroclaw’s Dwarves The Symbolic Politics of Neoliberalism in Urban East-Central Europe


    Cervinkova, Hana (2013) The Kidnapping of Wroclaw’s Dwarves The Symbolic Politics of Neoliberalism in Urban East-Central Europe. East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, 27 (4). pp. 743-756.

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    Abstract

    In this paper, I draw on the approach to the study of “actually existing liberalisms” with an example from contemporary urban east-central Europe. I focus on the city of Wroclaw, a success story of Poland’s economic urban transformation, and consider the symbolic politics embodied in the city’s promotional strategy as a tool of ongoing neoliberal restructuring. I argue that an important feature of the city’s symbolic politics is the commodification and fetishization of dwarves, the historical symbols of an antitotalitarian movement that used the image of a dwarf as a means for people’s deliberative and performative action that helped lay foundations for democracy. Today, the historical legacy of dwarves as a means of associational and performative action has been disguised in the city’s promotional strategy, which has turned dwarves into commodities that help sell the city on the global neoliberal market of intercity competition. I call this process of contemporary fetishization, the kidnapping of Wroclaw’s dwarves. Kidnapping refers to the process whereby the symbol’s meaning and historical legacy is turned into a commodity, disempowering it by depriving it of its meaning for social action. At the conclusion of my paper, I offer a critical ethnographic and pedagogical perspective focused on symbolic politics as a venue for understanding and inspiring critical action in the context of these urban neoliberal developments.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: wroclaw; neoliberalism; dwarves; place marketing; memory;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Anthropology
    Item ID: 12749
    Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1177/0888325413488627
    Depositing User: Hana Cervinkova
    Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2020 13:36
    Journal or Publication Title: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures
    Publisher: SAGE Publications
    Refereed: Yes
    URI:

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