“Journalists Discovered Łódź Like Columbus”

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

in Canadian-American Slavic Studies
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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.




Andrew Lees, Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought, 1820–1940 (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1985); Patrick Joyce, Visions of the People: Industrial England and the Question of Class, 1848–1914 (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991).


E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), p. 13.


Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London: Verso, 1983).


Jerzy Jedlicki, Świat zwyrodniały: Lęki i wyroki krytyków nowoczesności (Warszawa: Wydawn. Sic!, 2000).


Tomasz Kizwalter, “Nowatorstwo i rutyny”: Społeczeństwo Królestwa Polskiego wobec procesów modernizacji, 1840–1863 (Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawn. Nauk., 1991), p. 92; Andrzej Jaszczuk, Spór Pozytywistów z Konserwatystami o Przyszłość Polski 18701903, Wyd. 1, Polska XIX i XX Wieku (Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawn. Nauk., 1986).


Beth Holmgren, Rewriting Capitalism: Literature and the Market in Late Tsarist Russia and the Kingdom of Poland (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1998).


Ibid., p. 94.


Michał Buchowski, “The Specter of Orientalism in Europe: From Exotic Other to Stigmatized Brother,” Anthropological Quarterly 79, no. 3 (2006): 463–482; Tomasz Zarycki, “Orientalism and Images of Eastern Poland,” in Endogenous Factors in the Development of Eastern Poland (Lublin: Innovation Press Wydawnictwo Naukowe Wyższej Szkoły Ekonomii i Innowacji, 2010).


Clare Cavanagh, “Postcolonial Poland,” Common Knowledge 10, no. 1 (2004): 82–92; Kresy-dekonstrukcja, Prace Komisji Filologicznej/Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk, Wydział Filologiczno-Filozoficzny 48 (Poznań: Wydawn. Poznańskiego Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauk, 2007); Jan Sowa, Fantomowe ciało króla; Tomasz Zarycki, Ideologies of Eastness in Central and Eastern Europe (Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014).


Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).


Ibid., p. 33.


Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009).


Ibid., p. 17.


Milica Bakić-Hayden, “Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia,” Slavic Review 54, no. 4 (1995): 917–931.


Quentin Skinner, “Rhetoric and Conceptual Change,” Finnish Yearbook of Political Thought 3 (1999): 34–63; idem, Visions of Politics (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002).


Jeffrey Alexander, The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology (Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).


Jeffrey Alexander and Philip Smith, “The Discourse of American Civil Society: A New Proposal for Cultural Studies,” Theory and Society 2, no. 22 (1993): 151–208; Jeffrey Alexander, “Citizen and Enemy as Symbolic Classification: On the Polarizing Discourse of Civil Society,” in Real Civil Societies: Dilemmas of Institutionalization (London and Thousand Oaks; CA: Sage Publications, 1998); Jeffrey Alexander, ed., Real Civil Societies: Dilemmas of Institutionalization, Sage Studies in International Sociology 48 (London and Thousand Oaks; CA: Sage Publications, 1998); Alexander, The Meanings of Social Life.


Alexander, “Citizen and Enemy as Symbolic Classification: On the Polarizing Discourse of Civil Society,” p. 105.


Alexander and Smith, “The Discourse of American Civil Society: A New Proposal for Cultural Studies,” p. 164.


Kristi Siegel, ed., Issues in Travel Writing: Empire, Spectacle, and Displacement (New York: Peter Lang, 2002), p. 2; Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst, eds., Travel Writing, Form, and Empire: The Poetics and Politics of Mobility (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 5; Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002).


Jeremy Black, The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton, 2003); The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing; David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1993).


Steve Clark, ed., Travel Writing and Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit (London and New York: Zed Books, 1999); Justin D. Edwards and Rune Graulund, eds., Postcolonial Travel Writing: Critical Explorations (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).


Derek Offord, Journeys to a Graveyard: Perceptions of Europe in Classical Russian Travel Writing (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005); Wendy Bracewell and Alex Drace-Francis, eds., Under Eastern Eyes: A Comparative Introduction to East European Travel Writing on Europe (Budapest and New York: Central European Univ. Press, 2008); Wendy Bracewell, Orientations and Anthology of East European Travel Writing, ca. 1550–2000 (Budapest and New York: Central European Univ. Press, 2009).


Offord, Journeys to a Graveyard, p. 277.


Harold L. Platt, Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2005).


Asa Briggs, Victorian Cities (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1993), p. 56.


Platt, Shock Cities, p. 16.


Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England: From Personal Observation and Authentic Sources (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), p. 54.


Lees, Cities Perceived, p. 109.


Schulz-Forberg, London-Berlin, pp. 191–194.


Lees, Cities Perceived, p. 110.


Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible (London and New York: Continuum, 2006).


Wiesław Puś, Dzieje Łodzi przemysłowej: Zarys historii (Łódź: Muzeum Historii Miasta Łodzi, Centrum Informacji Kulturalnej, 1987).


Ibid., p. 39. However, recent estimations are less dramatic, pointing to the fact that the weakness of local intellectual elites was not that different from comparable situations in other similar-sized cities. See Marzena Iwańska, “Garść refleksji i postulatów badawczych w związku ze stanem badań nad inteligencją Łódzką w dobie Zaborów,” Rocznik ŁódzkiLIII (2006): 89–113.


Helen Carr, “Modernism and Travel (1880–1940),” in The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002), p. 75.


Stefan Gorski, Łódź spółczesna: Obrazki i szkice publicystyczne (Łódź: Nakładem Rychlińskiego i Wegnera, 1904), 5. The publication consists of a set of observations and remarks about Łódź made by a Polish journalist and editor.


Śmiechowski, Z Perspektywy Stolicy, 26; Biblioteka Warszawska 1865, t. 1, s. 145, quoted in Kizwalter, Nowatorstwo i rutyny, p. 47.


Briggs, Victorian Cities, p. 106.


Wiktor Marzec, “The 1905–1907 Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland: Articulation of Political Subjectivities among Workers,” Contention 1, no. 1 (2013): 53–72.


Zygmunt Nowakowski, Geografia serdeczna (Warszawa: Gebethner i Wolf, 1931). This was a set of reportages from Nowakowski’s journeys through Poland. The author was a Polish journalist, writer, actor and philosopher.


Glisczyński and Mieszkowski, “Łódź – miasto i ludzie,” p. 8.


Władysław S. Reymont, The Promised Land (New York: Knopf, 1927), which is the most famous and popular fiction account of Łódź’s life in the 1890s, written by a Polish novelist and Nobel Prize winner.


Glisczyński and Mieszkowski, “Łódź – miasto i ludzie,” p. 29.


Ibid., p. 23.


Glisczyński and Mieszkowski, “Łódź – miasto i ludzie,” p. 14.


Łukasz Biskupski, Miasto atrakcji (Warszawa: Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2013).


Gorski, Łódź spółczesna: Obrazki i szkice publicystyczne, p. 13.


Ibid., p. 11.


Ben Singer, Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001), chap. 3.


Glisczyński and Mieszkowski, “Łódź – miasto i ludzie,” p. 9.


Henryk Vimard, Łódź, Manszester polski (Łódź: Tygiel Kultury, 2001), p. 28, which is a collection of correspondent articles from Poland written by a French journalist visiting Łódź in 1910.


Edward Rosset, Łódź miasto pracy (Łódź: Wyd. Magistrat miasta Łodzi, 1929), p. 12, which is an academic study of the city by a Polish demographer born and living in Łódź.


Zygmunt Bartkiewicz, Złe miasto (Łódź: Tygiel Kultury, 2001), p. 13.


Glisczyński and Mieszkowski, “Łódź – miasto i ludzie,” p. 9.


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