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“Journalists Discovered Łódź Like Columbus”

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Orientalizing Capitalism in the Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Polish Modernization Debates

image of Canadian-American Slavic Studies

This article examines Polish urban travelogue literature and reportage concerning the industrial city of Łódź in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Łódź, a rapidly growing textile production center, was one of the few places which paved the way to real industrial, capitalist modernization in the Russian-controlled Kingdom of Poland. It was inhabited by large non-Polish populations and came to be perceived as alien, hostile and even savage. We investigate the anti-urban discourse on Łódź from the background of the broader Polish debates and compare it with urban travel writing on England. Łódź, although located in Europe, was subjected to an almost touristic gaze and virtually orientalized. Drawing from concepts of orientalization and nesting orientalism and the strong program in cultural sociology, we argue that in this situation an unusual reversal occurred in the modernization debate. What was orientalized and excluded from the broader civic community, even denied civilization status, constituted precisely the components connected with industry, capitalism and modernization.

Affiliations: 1: Central European University ; 2: University of Łódź


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