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New Projects Seminar Series: Bridging the Gap Between Adorno and Butler – Reconciling (Negative) Dialectics and Poststructuralism

Gabriel Klimont, GSSR PhD candidate

March 16, 2021, 15:00, Staszic Palace, Nowy Świat 72, Warsaw, room 232


The aim of my paper is to critically examine the practices of the first Polish police institutions
in the second half of the 18th century. I argue that the ongoing “fight against vagabonds” was
highly ineffective (both at the logistical and economical level) and should be understood in
biopolitical terms.
My main argument is based on both qualitative and statistical analysis of 90 interrogations
from Warsaw (1787-1794). The usage of biographical methods (D. Bertaux) enables to
reconstruct the life-cycles and highly heterogeneous identities of the people usually referred
to as a “social margin”. On the other hand, the statistical interpretation of the main
correlations in my database (between age, gender, social origin, number of migrations and
conflicts with law) allows me to draw a conclusion that the people caught by the early modern
penal institutions in Poland did not differ significantly from a normal population.
Furthermore, I will also briefly discuss the main institutional projects that aimed at using
vagabonds as an asset (Warsaw’s prison and a couple of the manufactures supported by the
state). I argue that these projects had a biopolitical character.
The paper will contribute to a more detailed understanding of the “modernization” process in
the peripheral context, as my analysis will hopefully prove, that the Polish police institutions
were not fighting against “social margin” – they were in fact actively producing it.

Event supported by NAWA Welcome to Poland.