25.01.2019 change 25.01.2019

Dr. Agnieszka Dauksza: Emotions and affects in culture

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Over the years, intuition, first impression, inspiration, as well as emotions, tensions and feelings were treated as "unscientific" and "unprofessional". Dr. Agnieszka Dauksza from the Jagiellonian University, author of the book "Klub Auschwitz i inne kluby" ("Auschwitz Club and other clubs"), considers them important components of research work.

Memory, testimony, camp experience

"Many hours of touching conversations with former prisoners of concentration camps, confrontation with the scale of human experience, al well as my research on affects, that is, intensities and feelings, fundamentally changed my approach to science" - says Dr. Dauksza, a finalist of the Polityka Weekly Science Awards.

Agnieszka Dauksza researched the Polish experience of World War II and concentration camps. She interviewed witnesses, analysed their stories, wartime and post-war fates, focusing especially on the mechanisms of memory, on what and how the witnesses remember and how they want to talk about their past over 70 years after the war. She also wrote about the changing Polish-Jewish relations. The result of her work is the book "Klub Auschwitz i inne kluby. Rwane opowieści przeżywców" ("Auschwitz Club and other clubs. Torn stories of survivors").

According to Dr. Dauksza, researchers must learn to feel what they are trying to understand. Intuition, first impulses, accidental meetings and inspirations, tensions and feelings are important. The researcher calls them "reasons that have been treated as unscientific and unprofessional for years". She believes that these are essential components of research work.

"Being attentive to such signals in literature and art, as well as in our everyday community, allows us to discover new, significant aspects of culture. As researchers, we are subject to intensities, we operate in a relationship, we depend on others - and it is an asset in our activity, not a weakness. There is and will be no valuable research without feeling, openness and commitment" - says Dr. Dauksza.

Affects, feelings, intensities

The researcher`s doctoral dissertation concerns the 20th century avant-garde literature. Dr. Dauksza calls it "experimental, ambiguous and intense - one that is more felt than understood". In the book "Afektywny modernizm. Nowoczesna literatura polska w interpretacji relacyjnej" ("Affective Modernism. Modern Polish literature in the relational interpretation"), Dr. Dauksza explores the previously unknown aspects of Polish modernist culture. She reinterprets works by authors such as Witold Gombrowicz, Bruno Schulz, Leo Lipski, Anna Świrszczyńska, Kornel Filipowicz, Miron Białoszewski and Wisława Szymborska.

The reception of these texts, according to the researcher, is not purely rational, but it turns out to be a multi-stage sensory-intellectual experience, establishing a relationship, an act of exchange. Dr. Dauksza calls this perspective an affective critique. She points out that thanks to her method, the status of the work, the author and the recipient changes. The researcher`s attitude and sensitivity also change. According to her, this analysis model is also useful in cultural studies of visual art.

The researcher says that a new dictionary of concepts allows to better understand the contemporary public sphere. Dr. Dauksza emphasizes that culture is created by confronting, cooperating and competing individuals and communities. Therefore, our social relations, the nature of public debate, the activity of media and politics directly depend on the circulation of affects and emotions. "Understanding these mechanisms will allow to get a better sense of who we are, in what realities we function and what event scenarios we can expect" - the researcher believes.

Although Dr. Dauksza studies European modernism of the 20th century, she considers reflection on literature and art a starting point for the question about the present and the current community - its changing status, mentality and sensitivity, behaviours, receiving habits and reactions.

Dr. Dauksza has been awarded grants from the National Science Centre, ministerial scholarships and the FNP Start stipend, which allowed her to complete a program in Canada.

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