On the meaning of popular representations of low-budget urban practices in Poland: The case of cultural translation

Aneta Monika Podkalicka, Dominika Potkanska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


In recent years, the Polish mainstream media have engaged in commenting on diverse economising urban practices including balcony gardening, street universities, barter systems, handicraft, food collectives and so forth. This paper explores the manner in which these practices are represented in the Polish popular press and online media stories, and how this can aid our understanding of Poland's contemporary consumer formations, especially concerning the relationship between past and present portrayed. Various interconnected reasons have been cited as a background for their current popularity, including a valued return to tradition, anti-consumerist sentiments, their fashionable status in Western capitalist economies, and the financial and social rewards they offer. Our analysis reveals complex ways in which 'traditional' and familiar domestic activities such as knitting, gardening, repairing, or popular social institutions from the past such as milk bars, are being recast as socially valuable and 'cool', and generally associated with visible, choice- and value-based practices of young, highly educated people with a high level of cultural capital. We explain this ongoing semiotic process by the concept of 'cultural translation' (Lotman, 1990), highlighting some of the tensions in the way popular media are implicated in a different valuation of identical practices, and thus in social change. We also reflect on the practice of cultural translation as experienced in the course of collaborating on this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-119
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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