MISSION STATEMENT

Regra é da vida que podemos, e devemos, aprender com toda a gente.

Fernando Pessoa

When you are literally minor (i.e. smaller), it is easy to overlook you from a (not necessarily theoretical) distance. When you are minor, those who are literally major (i.e. bigger) find it easier to overshadow you, belittle you, exclude you and degrade you. Once a hierarchy of majority is established, the minor party will never be appreciated. Do minor cultures have similar problems vis à vis major cultures? How do they compare with minority cultures, subcultures, varieties of folk culture? Why study them?

When you are minor, you want to be appreciated, too. You crave attention just like anyone else. And your minority is your title to your uniqueness, to your otherness. In 1989 Hans Georg Gadamer enthused over the historical practice – widespread in Europe – of cohabitation with the other: “And here it may be one of the special advantages of Europe that – more than elsewhere – her inhabitants have been able or were compelled to learn how to live with others, even if the others are very different.” Almost three decades later that enthusiasm is no longer justified. The cohabitation with the other is something that Europeans will probably have to learn anew, from scratch, given all the imbalances of power and disproportions between minor and major political, social, religious and ethnolinguistic players on the continent.

A minor culture is often an effect of the constitution or fortification of certain (political, historical, administrative, territorial, religious, linguistic) borders. At the same time minor and major cultures share a common space, although they can make use of it in disproportionate ways. Within this space the interplay of the centre and the periphery inevitably defines the hierarchies of cultures and petrifies all sorts of divisions. Consequently, the very existence of a minor culture assumes the presence of a dominant one; a dynamic intercultural interaction occurs which is based on the absence of symmetry.

In our Centre, the study of minor cultures presupposes an inquiry into the rhetoric of territory and the rhetoric of borders. Furthermore, we want to inquire into the very rhetoric of minor cultures in the sense that what deserves our particular attention is how they articulate their concerns. How do they produce their differences? How do they bond as communities? Do they tend to manifest they commonalities or irregularities? The narrative of the mobility of people and things – just as the narrative of the global world – is impressive but it lacks anthropological gravitas. The affirmation of uprootedness and carefree mobility finds an alternative in local communities where the global yields to the power of the truly communal.

Today minor cultures have an ethical value: they extend to us an invitation to take an interest in the other. No longer confident of making sense of culture at large or developing universal methods for doing so, we focus on more modest commitments – our responsibilities to the Other, to Everybody, to the Minor (in both senses of the word), to Ourselves. The reflection on the role which minor cultures perform in the contemporary world is bound to make us transform our social practices. An ethical reading of cultures clearly indicates that the borders which were meant to separate us can be redesigned for building rapport between communities by appealing to the idea of a morally justified human solidarity and to our yearning for an ethical commonwealth.

Although research is our priority, we also seek to develop close ties with social and cultural institutions in our region, initiate collaborative projects with international partners and encourage like-minded colleagues to join us in our efforts to promote cultural diversity and equality. We come from all walks of the humanities, including Polish, modern languages, cultural studies, linguistics and postcolonial studies. What brings us together is both enthusiasm and respect for minor cultures, even for those which may be denied their very existence.

However marginalized they might be elsewhere, minor cultures are always at home in our Centre.