Debating the Urban, the Rural and the Foreign: Łódź in the Polish Urban Discourse of Late Russian Poland
AbstractThe article scrutinizes the Polish-speaking debate over industrial modernity regarding Łódź, a multi-ethnic textile factory hub on the over-industrialized Western fringe of the Russian Empire. I collate external and internal voices expressed in the press regarding modernity, urbanity and the status of the city within the national public sphere to reveal assumptions about the urban and the rural which underpinned cultural criticism targeting the industrial hotbed and attempts at self-assertion on the part of local elites. A specific developmental trajectory of rapid and barely regulated industrial growth, an ethnically mixed population, and high social polarization secured a highly ambiguous perception of this city. Warsaw-centered elites produced a specific mode of accusation against urbanity, denying its very existence in a place that could not be easily integrated into Polish, nationalistically colored, modern aspirations. From a broader perspective, the presented analysis maps the binary structure of the rural vs. the urban on the larger field of debate over modernity, the “urban question,” citizenship and national self-assertion.
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