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Talk: 'Fading Democracy - Post-Socialism, the Climate Crisis, and the European Right'

All are invited to attend the fourth and last session of “Fading Democracy,” a series that tackles the state of democracy and its challenges at the beginning of the twenty-first century. “Fading Democracy: Post-Socialism, the Climate Crisis, and the European Right” panel will discuss what has happened to environmentalism in Eastern Europe since 2000, featuring a Polish politician, environmental activists, and environmental artists Katarzyna JagiełłoDr. Iwona Liegmann, and Cecylia Malik. It is moderated by Dr. Thomas Fleischman, a Professor of Modern European History at the University of Rochester, specializing in the history of Germany, and environmental history.

Please RSVP by Thursday, May 6. You will receive confirmation of your registration and a link to the event will be sent in a reminder email on the 6th. 

“The history of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has been told in many ways. Sometimes it is a story of the rise of civil society in opposition to communist dictatorship. Other histories argue that collapse was brought on by the exhaustion of a sclerotic, aging ruling class and the obvious shortcomings of supposed “Real, Existing Socialism.” In my own work, I've come to focus quite a bit on the widespread experience and acute onset of multiple pollution crises across eastern Europe throughout the 1980s. These were crises of air pollution, water pollution, forest death, and acid rain, and nuclear meltdown and fallout.  Of course, this history cannot be reduced to one, simple narrative. The collapse of communism unfolded at different speeds and concerning different issues, depending on the country in question. But the lived experience of environmental catastrophe in the 1980s animated activists in the East and West, and certainly contributed to an erosion in the legitimacy of communist states everywhere. And for at least the first decade after 1990, environmentalism and environmental politics were everywhere. People across the political spectrum invoked the language of environmentalism to justify all kinds of political and economic reforms--some good, many bad--across post-socialist Europe. What was perhaps most striking of all, was the ways in which environmentalism made strange bedfellows of the Left and the Right.” –– Prof. Thomas Fleischman

Tom Fleischman and his guests––the politician and the Greenpeace international activist Katarzyna Jagiełło; artist, art-educator and grassroots animal rights activist, Iwona Liegmann; and artist, painter, performer, educator, environmentalist, and urban activist  Cecylia Malik––will try to answer Fleischman’s central question “what has happened to environmentalism in Eastern Europe since 2000? How has the rise of the climate crisis, as the world’s most important environmental issue, shaped the politics of the new Right? Is the national framework the only way to study these issues? How does it relate to debates in other European countries?”

Dr. Thomas Fleischman is an Assistant Professor of History, specializing in the history of 20th-century Europe, Germany, environmental history, and animals. His book on politics, nature, and agriculture in former East Germany titled Three Little Pigs: East Germany’s Green Revolution, 1945-2014 was published in 2020.

As a politician, Katarzyna Jagiełło runs a campaign dedicated to the protection of pollinating insects and cocreated “Adopt a Bee;” she is also a member of the Council for Organic Farming at the Ministry of Agriculture of the Polish Government. She was and is involved in opposing the logging in the Białowieża primeval forest and she has taken action in many other initiatives. Katarzyna is engaged in protecting seas and oceans and is a diving instructor, translator, and traveler. She graduated from the Leadership Academy for Poland and is involved with the international Greenpeace movement.

Dr. Iwona Liegmann is an educator, artist, and environmentalist, with a particular interest in activities designed to improve the lives of animals. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Visual and Performing Arts from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (2015). She teaches art at the High School of Fine Arts in Grudziądz. Iwona is a multimedia artist, painter, illustrator, and sculptor. Recently she was awarded a scholarship from the Marshal of Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, allowing her to continue her work on a series of portraits of pro-animal activists.

Cecylia Malik is a visual artist, painter, performer, educator, environmentalist, and urban activist. There is a lot to say about Cecylia (she was a guest artist at the University of Rochester in October 2019), and the information included here is just a beginning. Cecylia graduated with a degree in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, followed by postgraduate curatorial studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. She is co-creator of the “Alcon Blue Collective” campaign to defend Krakow’s Zakrzówek green space against development and to protect the Alcon Blue butterfly. She is the initiator of social and artistic actions such as “Polish Mothers on the Stump” against LEX Szyszko, “Białka’s Braids” in defense of the Białka River against regulation, “River Sisters” created together with the Coalition Save Rivers against the construction of a dam in Siarzewo. For the implementation of the artistic action “365 Trees,” she was awarded the title of “Culture Person of the Year 2010” by the 3rd Program of Polish Radio. In 2012, she received a fellowship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage for the implementation of the project and documentary films “6 Rivers.” Cecylia Malik organizes protests with experts and organizations with sensitivity and effectiveness, at the same time creating them as happenings and works of art in public space.

The Fading Democracy series is organized by the Ph.D. students of the Department of History and co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies, The Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, the Humanities Center, the Art and Art History Department, and the Russian Studies Program.

Please share this invitation with colleagues, students, and collaborators. 

Friday, May 7 at 1:30pm to 3:00pm

Virtual Event

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This event requires registration.