This paper aims at understanding the absence of the Jews in Poland after the Holocaust, as a social factor that acted and functioned as possessing a symbolic "agency". The paper will analyse how the absence, or rather the "presence of absence" of Polish Jews was in a way "agent", by playing an active and ambivalent role on the social life in Poland. As I will show, this "agency of absence" was concretized and materialized in the presence of the physical remnants of the Jewish culture - abandoned synagogues, deserted cemeteries, ruins and empty spaces. Those former Jewish sites embodied the memory of the murdered Jews and their absence. As the Jews were gone, the Jewish material traces in a way "stood in" for the living Jews, and haunted the Polish consciousness. In this sense, the absence of the Jews, embodied in the material traces, was very much "agent" in private and public spheres, and was also perceived by Poles as having a unique and powerful "agency". This paper draws on the term "agency of absence" developed by the sociologist Kevin Hetherington, and on recent disscusions in the fields of material history and culture about the "agency of objects" in relation to collective trauma and mass violence. Relying on this theoretical background and through specific examples from communist Poland, this paper will argue that understanding the social function of the Jewish Material traces in Poland after the Holocaust in term of their "agency", captures the ambivalent and complex ways that the Absence of Jews functioned in Poland after the Holocaust.
Weizman, Chilik, "The “Agency of Absence” of Polish Jews. A Material History" (2014). Papers submitted for the Israel Academic Exchange 2014. 2.