“Multicultural Wroclaw”

Is Wrocław multicultural?  I reckon not, and not only I think that.  In their special on Wrocław, Polytka magazine quotes Professor Hana Cervinkova who says that “Vratislavians claim that their city is multicultural but really it is monocultural”.  Pope John Paul II may have said in 1997 that “Wroclaw is a city situated practically at the meeting point of three lands which through their history are very closely united to one another. It is, as it were, a city of encounter, a city that unites”, but this meeting doesn’t happen.  Bohemians, Germans and Poles have been here, but hardly any of them have been here at the same time.  There was and there is little meeting.


Wrocław 2016: The shallow city?

Nah, I reckon that multiculturalism as it tends to be understood is flawed in that when people talk of it they tend to only mean different nationalities and religions.  From that perspective Wrocław isn’t multicultural.  Recent census results have shown that if you look at nationalities other than Polish in Wroclaw among people who are registered we’re talking about less than one thousand people who have other nationalities.  Same with confessions/religions other than the RC church.

This concentration is flawed.  I wish to say more about this in a later article, but for now will simply point out that Amartya Sen, in his book, “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destinyshows that we are comprised of many different identities and that (what is often called as) intercultural meetings does indeed happen in Wrocław, but not in the way in which people most people think.

I mean, “when you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good”.

Now, as it happens, at an event in the Wroclaw museum of contemporary art last November, Dr Julia Makaro and Dr Kamila Dolińska presented their report, “On the multicultural monocultural Wroclaw” whereby they interviewed people in Wroclaw about multiculturalism in Wroclaw.  They came to the surprising conclusion that the great majority of people think that Wroclaw is multicultural, and 97% of them see this as positive.  The reason why they believed that Wroclaw is multicultural is that they hear different languages, can buy different types of food and see different styles of architecture.

For me this, while being fairly shallow, and leaving aside the issue that those who speak other languages tend to be tourists (by that logic Oświęcim is a multicultural town), and those who sell different types of food tend to be Poles, this is a useful starting point in trying to build respect for diversity.

Klaus Bachmann righfully points out that there’s a difference between being for multicultural in theory and in practise.  We might as well be pragmatic and try to make it work in Wrocław, to stop Wrocław from being a shallow city (well the water can stay shallow) and be a fitting Capital of Culture.  This blog shall therefore see a series of articles addressing various multicultural competences (let’s call them that, I prefer “transcultural competences”, but explaining that will require a whole article which would tire your patience) such as the issue of languages, power, identity, the creation of the concept of “foreigners”, the situation of Roma from Romania and other clever stuff.



3 comments on ““Multicultural Wroclaw”

  1. Will McNeice says:

    Very interesting. I look forward to the future articles in this series. However, the last two links do not work, and I would like to read them. Can you find them again? Also, where can I find the census information you quoted? I would like to examine it as well.

  2. Thanks Will. The Klaus Bachmann article appears to no longer exist online, so I’ve taken that link out. I’ve changed the one to the report on multiculturalism. Somewhere there’s an article in English by Wrocław Uncut about the census in Wrocław, but the site is undergoing work, so I can’t find it. My search in Polish under “spis, Wroclaw” in Polish hasn’t been successful. What I can remember is, is that the biggest nationality minority was, I think, Silesians, and then Ukrainians. (There are less than 20 UK nationals here, registered at least). Each of the non-RC confessions has less than 300 members (the Russian Orthodox church I go to saw about 80 today for their Christmas service) and the Greek-Catholics, German Protestants, Polish Protestants and various non-conformist confessions also have less than 300 members.

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