Geneviève Zubrzycki's research focuses on the linkages between religion, politics, and collective memory at moments of significant political transformation. Her work combines historical and ethnographic methods, and carefully considers evidence from material and visual culture.
Her first book, The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland (U. of Chicago Press, 2006), studies the historical constitution of the relationship between Polish national identity and Catholicism, and its reconfiguration after the fall of communism. Through a multi-layered analysis of the “War of the Crosses” at Auschwitz in the summer and fall of 1998—during which ultra-nationalist Polish Catholics erected hundreds of crosses just outside the former death camp—Zubrzycki examines why and how religion and its symbols are mobilized in nationalist discourse and practice, and identifies the socio-historical processes behind the relative fusion or fission of religious and national categories. To make sense of ethnoreligious nationalism, she argues, we must move beyond the study of the nation-religion dyad and instead focus on the triadic nexus between state (re)formation, the (re)construction of national identity and the (re)definition of religion’s role in society.
The Crosses of Auschwitz received the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Book Award in the Sociology of Religion; the Orbis Book Prize, awarded annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies to "the best book in any discipline, on any aspect of Polish affairs"; and the Polish Studies Association’s Kulczycki Best Book Award.
Zubrzycki is now extending her research agenda in two directions:
She continues investigating the triadic relationship between religion, nationalism and state (re)formation by turning to the case of Quebec. She is currently at work on a book-length historical ethnography of the genesis and transformation of French Canadian/Québécois national identity from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, through the examination of the “career” of St. John the Baptist, the national patron-saint. She traces and analyzes the ritual use of the symbolic figure in religious processions, popular parades and political demonstrations, paying specific attention to the 1960’s Quiet Revolution but extending her analysis to recent debates on secularism and immigration.
She also pursues her work on national mythology and symbolic boundary-making in Poland, and is now studying the renaissance of Jewish communities as well as non-Jewish Poles’ interest in Jewish culture and Polish-Jewish relations.
Recent and Forthcoming Publications:
- “The Meaning and Challenges of Pluralism in Québec: Debating “Reasonable Accommodation” in Religion at the Edge: Toward a New Sociology of Religion, edited by Peggy Levitt, Courtney Bender, Wendy Cadge and David Smile. Under Review.
- “History and the National Sensorium: Making Sense of Polish Mythology.” Qualitative Sociology. March 2011. Clifford Geertz Prize for Best Article, Sociology of Culture Section, American Sociological Association, 2011
- “What is Pluralism in a ‘Monocultural’ Society? Considerations from Post-Communist Poland,” in Courtney Bender and Pamela Klassen (eds) After Pluralism: Re-imagining Models of Interreligious Engagement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
- “National Culture, National Identity, and the Culture(s) of the Nation,” in Laura Grindstaff, John R. Hall and Ming-cheng Lo (eds) Sociology of Culture: A Handbook. New York: Routledge, 2010.
- “Nationalism and Religion: A Critical Reexamination,” in Bryan S. Turner (ed.) A New Companion to the Sociology of Religion. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009.