The Dianne Widzinski Visiting Fellowship at the Copernicus Center for Polish Studies was made possible by a generous gift from Dianne Widzinski for Polish scholars, artists, journalists, and public figures to conduct and share their research on contemporary Polish society, culture, and politics at the University of Michigan.

The inaugural cohort of Widzinski Fellows arrived in Ann Arbor in February 2024 and quickly became immersed in the CCPS and local Polish communities. Widzinski Research Fellow Jowita Baran traveled from Kraków, where she is a PhD candidate in sociology at Jagiellonian University. Widzinski Senior Fellows Ewa Klekot and Małgorzata Łukianow both came from Warsaw—Klekot is a cultural anthropologist, translator, and curator who works as an assistant professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities’ (SWPS) Design Institute, and Łukianow is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Warsaw. On April 24, Klekot and Łukianow presented their research to the CCPS community in a session titled “The Matter of Memory: Politics and Materiality in Poland” (watch the recording). 

Baran, Klekot, and Łukianow sat down with the Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia’s Initiatives and External Relations Coordinator Derek Groom to reflect on their time in Ann Arbor and how the Dianne Widzinski Visiting Fellowship has impacted their work. Highlights from the conversation are below.

Groom: What interested you in pursuing your research through the Dianne Widzinski Visiting Fellowship at the U-M’s Copernicus Center for Polish Studies?

Baran: My research focuses on the construction and expression of national identity through clothing in contemporary Poland. I knew it would be very helpful to spend time abroad to compare my own methods of interpreting data with those of other scholars from different cultural backgrounds. Also, Professor Geneviève Zubrzycki’s work, especially her amazing book about materiality and nationalism, has really inspired my own research project. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to work together for a while!

Widzinski Fellows Małgorzata Łukianow, Jowita Baran, and Ewa Klekot.

Klekot: I was attracted to the Dianne Widzinski Visiting Fellowship as it offers a rare opportunity for Polish scholars to work on their Poland-related research in one of the leading academic institutions in the U.S. My current research concerns the anthropology of manufacturing and related cognition modes: skills, embodied knowledge, procedural memory, materials, and processes. I’m interested in folk art/craft practices and their “heritagization,” and in material culture and design anthropology. I carried out interdisciplinary research in a porcelain factory in Ćmielów, Poland, where in collaboration with a ceramic designer I was able to not only produce a deep ethnography of fine porcelain production, but also to develop a product that demonstrates the human element of manufacturing processes. My next project focuses on materiality and embodied knowledge in crystal glass production.

Łukianow: My background is in memory studies, with a particular focus on the politics of memory. After learning more about the work by University of Michigan faculty, in particular that of Professor Zubrzycki, I was convinced that this was an ideal environment to develop my research on dissonant heritage and the material dimensions of heritage. This was my first time in the United States, and I was thrilled to receive a fellowship from such an excellent institution.

Groom: What is your favorite memory or experience during your time in Ann Arbor?

Baran: This was my first visit to the United States, and I am so grateful for the chance to live in such a beautiful place as Ann Arbor! I loved meeting so many beautiful, kind, and helpful people who welcomed me to the CCPS community. I would like to express special thanks to Professor Zubrzycki, Małgosia Kowalczyk, and Birgitta Kohler for all of their support. 

My fondest memory was visiting U-M’s University Productions costume shop with Dianne Widzinski, who was very interested in my doctoral research and passion for sewing. It was really wonderful and inspiring to observe the process of creating costumes and accessories.

Klekot: I loved walking through U-M’s central campus to the sound of carillon resounding from Burton Memorial Tower.

Łukianow: I had the opportunity to present my research on April 24 to the local academic community, as well as to the very active Polish diaspora around Ann Arbor. I was delighted with the discussion, the clash of perspectives, and the group’s interest in my research. As a presenter, I also felt very supported by the CCPS team who did a phenomenal job at organizing the many events I attended this semester.

Geneviève Zubrzycki, Ewa Klekot, and Małgorzata Łukianow during Q+A on April 24.

Groom: How has your fellowship at U-M and engagement with the CCPS community impacted your future research and professional goals?

Baran: The Dianne Widzinski Visiting Fellowship helped me gain valuable experience traveling abroad, deeply focus on my research, and take a fresh look at my doctoral dissertation.

Klekot: The fellowship allowed me to conceptually refine some aspects of my upcoming June fieldwork in the glassworks in Piechowice, Poland. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore the exquisite CCPS Exhibition “Modernist Glass from the Polish Past” and to become acquainted with the collector, Professor Endi Poskovic from U-M’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Ewa Klekot presenting on April 24.

Łukianow: The CCPS community is dynamic, and I found the diverse perspectives presented here to be enlightening. I return to Poland inspired by the various discourses on Polishness and identity that I have had the opportunity to explore more closely during meetings and seminars.