“A Closer Look at the Experiences of Iraqis and Poles Involved in the Academic Exchange” – Interview with Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska
We regularly introduce scholars that work in the project by letting them answer three short questions. Today, we talk to Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska who received her PhD in social sciences from the Polish Academy of Sciences and a BA in Arabic linguistics and culture from the University of Warsaw. Her doctoral dissertation discussed the socio-spatial development of protracted refugee camps based on ethnographic case study of a West Bank refugee camp. Dorota held visiting positions at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Birzeit University and Zentrum Moderner Orient. She is interested in forced migration, urban anthropology and knowledge production with the geographical focus on Palestine and Iraq.
What will you be working on while being involved with the “Knowledge Unbound” project and what did you work on before?
Before I joined “Relations in the Ideoscape”, I had a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Center and worked at the Department of Middle East and North Africa, University of Lodz, on a research project examining the role of sport and youth centers as sites of self-governance and local participation in the West Bank.
In the framework of the “Relations in the Ideoscape” project, I focus on knowledge relations between Iraq and Polish People’s Republic in the fields of architecture and urban planning. Specifically, I look at two mechanisms through which these relations developed: student exchange programs that allowed Iraqis to study in Poland and expert contracts by which Polish academic staff worked at Iraqi universities. I am interested in how these knowledge relations developed, what impact they had on the actors involved – both Iraqis and Poles – as well as on the academic and professional fields of architecture and urban planning in Iraq.
What role does the concept of “knowledge” play in your own research?
The concept of knowledge plays a central role in my research. I am interested in how knowledge is produced through interaction between individuals and/or groups that come from different academic and cultural backgrounds. For the majority of research participants, the experience of being exposed to different academic cultures and knowledge systems had a significant impact on their professional development and shaped their approach towards architecture/planning. A closer look at the experiences of Iraqis and Poles involved in the academic exchange allows me to trace the genealogies of knowledge relations, the processes of their formation, expansion and change, as well as to tell the story of the institutions that were the platforms for their interaction.
Have there been any surprising moments in your research recently?
Snow in Mosul! One of the case studies I look at is the Department of Architectural Engineering, University of Mosul. Following its establishment in the academic year of 1978/79, a big group of Polish academics from the Technical University of Wroclaw worked at the Department and played a significant role in its development throughout the 1980s. In the second week of February 2020, I visited the Department to talk to the staff and was surprised to discover how important the legacy of Polish-Iraqi academic collaboration has been for many of my interlocutors. I received a very warm welcome, which I appreciated a lot, particularly given the extremely difficult situation the University of Mosul, and the city of Mosul, is facing following the ISIS-occupation and the liberation campaign. At the end of my two-day visit, the colleagues from Mosul invited me for a walk in the old city. The level of destruction in the city is horrifying, what reminded me of pictures and accounts of post-World War II Warsaw. Our visit to the old city was cut short by a snowstorm, a very unusual weather for Mosul, what made the colleagues jokingly remark that I have brought Poland to Mosul once again.