Nations and Stereotypes

History teaches us that international relations are strongly contingent on our representations of others. Even if the beliefs we live by do not find corroboration in reality, we are reluctant to discard stereotypes or prejudice, which Ambrose Bierce called “a vagrant opinion without visible means of support”.
Thinking of stereotypes is deeply vested in culture, history, and collective memory. It reflects more than real, ancient or recent conflicts, yet it cannot be disconnected from them entirely. After all, stereotypes are born from tension and rivalry, frustration and aggression.
Gordon Allport was right to note that stereotyping is “the law of least effort”. It provides relief from reflecting on what the world is really like, even if it does result in harmful simplifications. This is especially true for national stereotypes, which, once formed, seem impervious to revision or modification. The most efficient means for changing them can in fact be the political situation. We need not seek far and wide; this is happening before our very eyes. Today, Poland and Germany are connected by friendly relations, and moreover Germany is among Israel’s greatest friends in Europe, while it is the tie between Ukraine and Russia that is undergoing the toughest test.
Nothing, therefore, is granted once and for all. Even stereotypes are not set in stone.

    • 1
      Editorial
      Jacek Purchla

      History teaches us that international relations are strongly contingent on our representations of others. Even if the beliefs we live by do not find corroboration in reality, we are reluctant to discard stereotypes or prejudice, which Ambrose Bierce called “a vagrant opinion without visible means of support”.
      Thinking of stereotypes is deeply vested in culture, history, and collective memory. It reflects more than real, ancient or recent conflicts, yet it cannot be disconnected from them entirely. After all, stereotypes are born from tension and rivalry, frustration and aggression.
      Gordon Allport was right to note that stereotyping is “the law of least effort”. It provides relief from reflecting on what the world is really like, even if it does result in harmful simplifications. This is especially true for national stereotypes, which, once formed, seem impervious to revision or modification. The most efficient means for changing them can in fact be the political situation. We need not seek far and wide; this is happening before our very eyes. Today, Poland and Germany are connected by friendly relations, and moreover Germany is among Israel’s greatest friends in Europe, while it is the tie between Ukraine and Russia that is undergoing the toughest test.
      Nothing, therefore, is granted once and for all. Even stereotypes are not set in stone.

    • 4
      Worth a Look

  • Nations and Stereotypes
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      Mare Nostrum – Metaphor and Reality
      Shlomo Avinieri

      To brand all feelings or structures of nationalism or nationhood as fundamentally power‑oriented and aggressive, and hence morally repugnant, is both theoretically and historically wrong, and ultimately also morally blind.

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      The Stereotype – in the Trap of Cognition
      Maciej Czerwiński

      Our knowledge results from the fact that these and other designates had already been assigned a certain stereotypical value earlier, before us. This is why we automatically connect certain general truths with them. We do not invent them; we inherit them.

    • 30
      The Fourteenth Worst Place
      Mykola Riabchuk

      We can easily recognise that the essential divide in the country is not between the proverbial East and West, or ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians, or Russophones and Ukrainophones. It is primarily between the past and the future, Soviet and anti‑Soviet, patron‑clientelistic and civic.

    • 42
      Ziemowit Szczerek

      Poland is an East that is trying to escape from the East. This eternal standing in the corridor between East and West engendered a kind of schizophrenia in the Polish people.

    • 50
      Polish Men and Women in our Recent Cinematography
      Tadeusz Lubelski

      The last decade was a period of a less or more valuable, but still visible, reworking of the Polish identity in culture.

    • 64
      Stone Worshippers. The Skopje 2014 Project
      Piotr Majeweski

      The ideologists of the Macedonian right seem to believe that by raising substitutes of architecture from the distant past they will pass the values preached by “their” predecessors (yet defined and determined currently) so that they will become equally bfamiliar to posterity.

    • 79
      New Europe Online
      Łukasz Trzciński

      Łukasz Trzciński talks to Magdalena Petryna and explains an idea of his photo project "New Europe. Atlas"

  • Interviev
    • 92
      Art Negotiates with Space
      Mirosław Bałka, Kasia Redzisz

      Mirosław Bałka and Kasia Redzisz talk to Monika Rydiger and Natalia Żak

  • Ideas in practice
    • 110
      Cologne, a Museum, Zumthor
      Stefan Kraus

      Stefan Kraus, director of the Kolumba Museum, talks to Żanna Komar

      Having contact with the original artwork leads to one’s own discoveries, which I like to call a museum’s scientificity. In the perception of objects, architecture and collections, it is not so much about what is “old” and “new”, but rather about how their presence and simultaneity interact.

    • 126
      Jioanna Rajkowska: Visible and Un-seeable
      Wojciech Szymański

      At the turn of the century, contemporary art, invisible to a majority of the society, became not only very much visible in the media discourse, thanks to the generation of such artists as Rajkowska, born in the 1960s and generally associated with the formula of critical art, but also seeable (as a problem) because of the questions it tackled.

  • Reflections, impressions, opinions
    • 140
      Gierymuses Return
      Edyta Gajewska

      "Aleksander Gierymski 1850–1901"
      The National Museum in Warsaw
      20 March – 10 August 2014

      "Maksymilian Gierymski: works,inspirations, reception"
      The National Museum in Krakow
      25 April – 10 August 2014

    • 156
      Unknown Landscapes on the Oder
      Wojciech Wilczyk

      André Köhler,
      "Odra_Rhein_Oder_Ren Fotoessay"
      Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg 2011

    • 164
      Horse and Genetics, or the Centre of Europe in a Courbette
      Beata K. Nykiel

      Frank Westerman, "Czysta biała rasa. Cesarskie konie, genetyka i wielkie wojny"
      (lit.: Pure White Breed. Imperial Horses, Genetics, and Great Wars)
      Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2014

  • By myself
    • 178
      The Other Meaning of 1989
      Emil Brix

      On a continent proud of cultural diversity, it is worth working towards a situation where borders stand for integration rather than rupture. Europe has much to do in order to find some balance between centres and peripheries.