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The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914

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How do peasants come to think of themselves as members of a nation? The widely accepted argument is that national sentiment originates among intellectuals or urban middle classes, then "trickles down" to the working class and peasants. Keely Stauter-Halsted argues that such models overlook the independent contribution of peasant societies. She explores the complex case of How do peasants come to think of themselves as members of a nation? The widely accepted argument is that national sentiment originates among intellectuals or urban middle classes, then "trickles down" to the working class and peasants. Keely Stauter-Halsted argues that such models overlook the independent contribution of peasant societies. She explores the complex case of the Polish peasants of Austrian Galicia, from the 1848 emancipation of the serfs to the eve of the First World War.In the years immediately after emancipation, Polish-speaking peasants were more apt to identify with the Austrian Emperor and the Catholic Church than with their Polish lords or the middle classes of the Galician capital, Cracow. Yet by the end of the century, Polish-speaking peasants would cheer, "Long live Poland" and celebrate the centennial of the peasant-fueled insurrection in defense of Polish independence. The explanation for this shift, Stauter-Halsted says, is the symbiosis that developed between peasant elites and upper-class reformers. She reconstructs this difficult, halting process, paying particular attention to public life and conflicts within the rural communities themselves. The author's approach is at once comparative and interdisciplinary, drawing from literature on national identity formation in Latin America, China, and Western Europe. The Nation in the Village combines anthropology, sociology, and literary criticism with economic, social, cultural, and political history.


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How do peasants come to think of themselves as members of a nation? The widely accepted argument is that national sentiment originates among intellectuals or urban middle classes, then "trickles down" to the working class and peasants. Keely Stauter-Halsted argues that such models overlook the independent contribution of peasant societies. She explores the complex case of How do peasants come to think of themselves as members of a nation? The widely accepted argument is that national sentiment originates among intellectuals or urban middle classes, then "trickles down" to the working class and peasants. Keely Stauter-Halsted argues that such models overlook the independent contribution of peasant societies. She explores the complex case of the Polish peasants of Austrian Galicia, from the 1848 emancipation of the serfs to the eve of the First World War.In the years immediately after emancipation, Polish-speaking peasants were more apt to identify with the Austrian Emperor and the Catholic Church than with their Polish lords or the middle classes of the Galician capital, Cracow. Yet by the end of the century, Polish-speaking peasants would cheer, "Long live Poland" and celebrate the centennial of the peasant-fueled insurrection in defense of Polish independence. The explanation for this shift, Stauter-Halsted says, is the symbiosis that developed between peasant elites and upper-class reformers. She reconstructs this difficult, halting process, paying particular attention to public life and conflicts within the rural communities themselves. The author's approach is at once comparative and interdisciplinary, drawing from literature on national identity formation in Latin America, China, and Western Europe. The Nation in the Village combines anthropology, sociology, and literary criticism with economic, social, cultural, and political history.

38 review for The Nation in the Village: The Genesis of Peasant National Identity in Austrian Poland, 1848-1914

  1. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Makes a forceful argument for the development of a "rural public sphere" in 19th century Poland, especially after peasant emancipation in Hapsburg Galicia. A largely successful attempt to reconcile the growth of popular Polish nationalism with the mass of people, read: peasants. According to Stauter-Halsted this occurred as an outgrowth of local, empire-sanctioned authority getting directly involved on a communal village level, replacing landlordism and the gentry with a more cosmopolitan, educa Makes a forceful argument for the development of a "rural public sphere" in 19th century Poland, especially after peasant emancipation in Hapsburg Galicia. A largely successful attempt to reconcile the growth of popular Polish nationalism with the mass of people, read: peasants. According to Stauter-Halsted this occurred as an outgrowth of local, empire-sanctioned authority getting directly involved on a communal village level, replacing landlordism and the gentry with a more cosmopolitan, educatio-centered view of the new political language emerging throughout Europe at this time. This is the story of a sub-level of local "elites" evolving to be more political and the ways that the often heterogeneous "local" became involved in order to secure and safeguard local reforms and initiatives. Great "bottoms-up" history. It is also the story of the collision and symbiosis of folk nationalism with a wider political nationalist movement. Awesone shit that I'd love to see replicated in the ME.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melian

    Polish nationalism in the 19th century is usually studied from the point of view of the upper class. Unfortunately, limitations in source material make it difficult to study national consciousness in the peasantry. In the Nation in the Village, Keely Stauter-Halsted overcomes this difficulty and presents an argument for how this crucial and overlooked population contributed to the national movement. Beginning with emancipation in 1848 and ending just before the outbreak of World War I, Stauter-H Polish nationalism in the 19th century is usually studied from the point of view of the upper class. Unfortunately, limitations in source material make it difficult to study national consciousness in the peasantry. In the Nation in the Village, Keely Stauter-Halsted overcomes this difficulty and presents an argument for how this crucial and overlooked population contributed to the national movement. Beginning with emancipation in 1848 and ending just before the outbreak of World War I, Stauter-Halsted showcases the evolution of identity in Galician Poland. She argues that peasant identification with the Polish state meant something different than it did for the aristocracy, and that this unique identity was created through the development of peasant-focused newspapers, political organizations, and education. Stauter-Halsted begins with an introduction covering the Polish uprising in 1846. During this gentry-led uprising, Polish peasants not only did not participate, but actually helped Austrian officials suppress the rebellion. Yet, a few years later, Polish peasants expressed enthusiasm for Polish symbols. This incongruency introduces the central question: how was the conception of Polish national identity different for Polish peasants than it was for the aristocracy? After the introduction, the book is divided into two parts. The first traces political developments in Polish Galicia. By beginning in 1848, the year that serfdom was abolished in the Austrian empire, Stauter-Halsted focuses in on the collective peasant experience. The first chapter explains the initial lack of political activity within the peasant population as the result of the inherent difficulties of their lifestyle. The following chapters demonstrate the growth of political society through networks of religion, identification with one’s village, and eventually though participation in the local government (gmina). A natural problem in tracing nationalism within a largely illiterate population is a dearth of sources. Stauter-Halsted overcomes this difficulty in the first part by using records from elections, letters, and case studies of more well-documented individuals such as the peasant Jan Siewiec who served in the Sejm in the 1860s. Overall, the first part gives the impression of an evolving political consciousness mainly concerned with protecting peasant freedoms from a return to serfdom and domination by the upper class, regardless of their nationality. The second half of the book has a more thematic structure, but still engages change over time as far as it relates to the topic. To show how the aristocracy viewed the peasantry in contrast with how peasants viewed themselves, the second part begins with a discussion of the developing elite view of the peasant as a “folk” representative of Polish nationality. It then goes on to trace Polish national development through the creation of agricultural circles, print media, education, and eventually the formation of the first Polish peasant national political party. Special emphasis is given to the importance of the newspaper Wiec i Pszczółka, and its importance in developing a peasant identity. One can also see the evolution of peasant presence in society through the vast increase in source material available within the time period. Stauter-Halsted uses letters, parts of the newspaper Wiec i Pszczółka, and articles from the Sejm to supplement her argument. The Nation in the Village’s greatest strength is the nuance that Stauter-Halsted lends to the writing. One gets the impression that there are many different factors affecting the peasant experience, and none is overlooked. Instead of treating the peasantry as a single unit, she identifies distinctions that peasants made among themselves. She includes testimonies from individuals that highlight the rising tension between the Church and the national movement. In doing so, she demonstrates how peasants began to define themselves through other means than religion, though still discussing the nuanced nature of identity within peasant categories of “good” (religious) and “bad” peasants. This refined examination helps the reader to see the role of the church, class identity, and especially education in developing peasant society. The progression of national consciousness in tandem with the progression of education is another well-defined aspect of the book. Stauter-Halsted does an excellent job relating the growth of the rural school to the growth of newspapers and literature to the growth of politics. The book is well-constructed overall. If it has a fault, it is that it ends at the cusp of a radical realignment of Polish society—World War I. The epilogue leaves the reader wanting to know more about the Polish diaspora that would soon be incorporated into the new state from other countries and the similarities and differences within the peasant experience in those regions. How did the formulation of peasant identity differ outside of Austria? This is perhaps beyond the scope of the book, but Stauter-Halsted’s thorough treatment of Galicia makes the reader with it were not. Overall, Stauter-Halsted’s study of peasant nationalism is a complete and satisfying examination of how “Polishness” evolved throughout the 19th century to encompass all social classes. Overcoming the limitations of the source material, the book gives the reader a clear picture of peasant society and its evolution. As it concludes just before Poland’s involvement in the First World War, the book leaves the reader wanting to learn more, but now with a strong foundation to go off of. The book would serve as an excellent starting point for those studying how nationalism developed for the majority of the population of Poland, how class differences affect national priorities, or how nationalism develops for any non-elite group.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I normally don't rate/review books I read for school but thought I'd make an exception this time. I read this for my seminar on nationalism and identity in Europe and found it to be super interesting and informative. I knew nothing about Polish nationalism going into this book, but found Keely Stauter-Halsted's writing style very accessible and I never felt like anything was going over my head. It also challenged my preconceived notions about peasant life/culture. Overall, a very compelling read I normally don't rate/review books I read for school but thought I'd make an exception this time. I read this for my seminar on nationalism and identity in Europe and found it to be super interesting and informative. I knew nothing about Polish nationalism going into this book, but found Keely Stauter-Halsted's writing style very accessible and I never felt like anything was going over my head. It also challenged my preconceived notions about peasant life/culture. Overall, a very compelling read that I really enjoyed! Would definitely recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathrina Petruska

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  6. 5 out of 5

    fran

  7. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Clark

  9. 5 out of 5

    bob

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

  11. 4 out of 5

    Catie Groves

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet Hartman

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Stein

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    Patrycja Szczudlo

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    Michał Wilczewski

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jared

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    Donna Gawell

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

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    Jackie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

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    Mike

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    Scott

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    Lisa

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    Jayne

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    James

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    Ara

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    Lisa Allen Thakur

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dina Stevenson

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    Barbara Grill

  32. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Freshenhurst

  33. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  34. 5 out of 5

    Michael Norman

  35. 4 out of 5

    két con

  36. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

  37. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

  38. 5 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

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