Reconfiguring Backwardness: Polish Social Scientists and the Making of the Third World
This project aims to shed more light on the different genealogies of postwar modernity by examining the intellectual history of Eastern European involvement in the making of the Third World between the early 1940s and 1960s. During that period, the so-called 'international depressed areas' divided gradually into socialist Second World and post-colonial Third World. The project focuses on the historically contingent process of translating Eastern European experiences into a blueprint for post-colonial policies, while tracing the origins of this process in the 1920s and 1930s as well as its consequences in the 1970s and 1980s. Investigating the shifting meanings of East European concepts of 'backwardness' and 'underdevelopment' is crucial to understand the intellectual reconfiguration of the non-Western world and how these reconfigurations turned into a promise of Third World development in an era of decolonization. In particular, this project asks how the internationalization of development economics, the core discipline of postwar social sciences, was mediated by a group of Polish scholars and experts. The project follows their professional and personal biographies in exile, under German and Soviet occupation as well as in Communist Poland, where they were eventually scapegoated as 'Jews' and 'revisionists' and had to pursue their academic careers outside Poland.