Black Students and Socialist Internationalism: How to Deal with a Double Exoticism in the Public Space?

During the "migrant crisis" of 2015, several commentators pointed to the difference in attitudes between Western Europe and the "former" Eastern bloc towards foreigners. In Eastern Europe, the absence of a colonial and immigration past would explain the difficulty of confronting racialised otherness. Irrespective of whether this East-West distinction is justified or not, the reasons given raise the question of why certain experiences of encounters and confrontations are ignored. However, the societies of the people's democracies have been in contact with this immigration, particularly in the framework of the international solidarity of the communist bloc.

By focusing on Poland and especially in the case of Lodz, this contribution aims first to show that the presence of "Third World" students under communist rules has permeated the daily life of the population, but that this legacy has been broken after 1989: the “Bloc” no longer existed, academic networks were oriented to an European whiteness (Law and Zakharov, 2019) and the colonial question was forgotten. Secondly, I would like to show how this forgotten history could be turned into a legacy. Some academic research, conferences and exhibitions have already carried out on foreigners in Polish cities. The question arises as to how to present in museums and outdoors several objects (works of art and administrative forms), places (student hostels and clubs) and testimonies not as remnants of an exotic past, but as testimonies of a shared memory. Finally, the question of this colonial presence also raises questions about the national past, the opportunities and constraints of living in state communism.

Scroll to Top