Memory as a Security Policy: The Case of Poland

Memory as a Security Policy: The Case of Poland

Monika Gabriela Bartoszewicz (Masaryk University, Czech Republic)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8392-9.ch003

Abstract

The intersectionality of nationalism, memory, and securitized identity narrative rendered the politics of memory and the history politics with particular importance. The following chapter tackles the issue of memory and history politics through the lenses of the ontological security theory used as a framework for understanding state policies in the sphere of security perception and behaviors. For the purposes of this chapter, the history politics is understood as a construction of a binding historical memory by organizing history in a particular narrative constructs that help to develop and/or maintain a salient group self-identity. After having delineated the theoretical foundation, the interaction between security and managed historical memory is in its political, institutional, and discursive aspect will be explored. The three interrelated factors important in ontological security behavior—1) discourse frames, 2) institutional arrangement, and 3) policies—will be analyzed in the Polish context.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

In recent debates related to the narrative turn in political sciences (Huysmans, 1998; Alexander, Levin & Henry, 2005; Guzzini, 2013), Ontological Security Theory (OST) has been frequently invoked because it explains how the motives for certain behaviors can be sought in the need to maintain or recreate positive identity anchored in a consistent, auto-reflexive narrative about the self and the community we identify with (Steele, 2005 & 2008; Mitzen, 2006 & 2016; Delehanty & Steele, 2009; Rumelili, 2014 & 2015). The lack of narrative continuity (also in the context of the state and society) regarding the form of narrative and the shape of the self-image (both for individual and collective identity) will, therefore, constitute the main source of the ontological threat; another root of ontological insecurity is a self-disparaging historical narrative.

Anthony Giddens (1991: 243) defined ontological security as a “sense of continuity and order in events.” Insecurity in this sense means not the traditional realist security whereby survival is at stake; ontological security is shaped by normative threats as opposed to more sensate physical dangers (Creppell, 2011). To be ontologically secure, explains Giddens (1991: 47), is to have “answers to fundamental existential questions.” Thus, collectives uncomfortable with or unsure of who they are lack security in its ontological dimension. In the same vein, Steele (2008: 52) reasserts that ontological security comes about when agents’ actions reflect their sense of self-identity constructed via biographical narrative. This biographical continuity (of the state and society) in the form of narratives and images of the Self (and the Other) is sought to be institutionalized, and the dominant discursive frames inform routinized relationships with significant others.

The policy-identity and the identity-security nexus are two academic compounds which are vividly debated and tackled from a variety of positions using a wide range of terminology. On the one hand, regardless of this plethora of voices, we can agree that the concept of identity is inherently ‘relational’ whereby demarcations between domestic and international, similarity and difference, or the Self and the Other, are what demarcates its boundary (Campbell, 1998; Connolly, 1985; Neumann, 1992). On the other hand, the self-categorization theory views the self-identity as constituted by group membership and puts identity construction in the very center of political processes. Identity construction, as Steele reminds us (2008: 30) becomes a political project where states distinguish the ‘we’ as a basis for action. These notions point to the inherent linkage of collective identity constructions via subjective security perceptions by defining the Self (and the Other) in a narrative that links past, present, and the future. In other words, categories of political belonging and directions of political actions are both part of the fundamental self-other ontology and remain “a subject of considerable political controversy and great consequences for security” (Kaztenstein, 1996: 18-19). For instance, Ejdus (2017) quite convincingly argues that states are ready to compromise their physical security in order to stabilize and defend their ontological security.

These dilemmas notwithstanding, if states have the ability to reconstruct and transform their identities and then adjust their actions so that they confront those identified self-identity threats, they do so by constructing and maintaining narratives that correspond with their ontological security. On the state level, this biographical narrative becomes history politics: the ability to choose a memory (interpretation of history) and institutionalize it into a collective identity via history politics as means for maintaining and strengthening ontological security.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collective Memory: Term coined by Maurice Halbwachs referring to memories shared by a group and emerging through communication and institutions. Social collective memory is implicit, heterogenous, and bottom-up oriented, whereas cultural and political collective memory is explicit, homogenous, institutionalized, and top-down formulated.

Ontological Security: Concept developed by Anthony Giddens. It signifies a sense of continuity and order in events and the ability to answer fundamental existential questions.

Discursive Frame: Linguistic construct endowed with a meaning production within the discourse.

History Politics: A construction of a binding historical memory by organizing history in a particular narrative constructs that help to develop and/or maintain a salient group self-identity.

Pedagogy of Shame: A term used in journalism and a public debate in Poland; approach to history politics by exaggerating negative Polish national characteristics, show Poles as criminals, and highlight dark moments of Polish history.

Ontological Security Theory: Stipulates that motives for certain behaviors can be sought in the need to maintain or recreate positive identity anchored in a consistent, auto-reflexive narrative about the self and the community we identify with.

Pedagogy of Pride: A term used in journalism and a public debate in Poland; approach to history politics through approval of cultural, religious and national identity, as well as constitutes an affirmation of patriotism.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset