Nowa Huta can be treated as a closed historical construct, referring exclusively to deposited historical sources, one that we easily enter into dialogue with, and use for whatever purpose we wish. But the city is a living organism, and it exists in real time, constantly created, reinterpreted, and used by its residents, by acting agents. By nature, cities never present cultural heritage as “invention,” a term used by Allan Hanson to stress the arbitrary dimension of the process in which “sign-substitutions […] depart some considerable distance from those upon which they are modeled, […] are selective and […] systematically manifest the intention to further some political or other agenda.”[1]

            Seen in this way, the city is about discussions and crossing institutionally imposed limits, as well as seeking to create a situation when the city becomes a ‘living’ phenomenon, capable of generating new meanings, rather than a mental construct contained in a glass case.

            The anthropology of newness proposes that the culture of a city should not be regarded as a strange phenomenon, a phenomenon that is opposite to our culture, but – as it were – across the category, opening the way culture has so far been conceived as closed, frequently believed to be the unvariable of an external category. And yet culture, with all its manifestations such as, for instance, identity, is all about action, rather than being a stable construct. The process provides us with the right tools to affect the course of the process of inclusion into life that models us. Hence the reflection on Nowa Huta as a city built from scratch, as creation of the New Human, but also the new Other, offers space for attempts at discovering a factor actively seeking unification in thinking about culture and departing from polarity in all opposed categories. Nowa Huta unites all binary oppositions in itself. The new seems to be synonymous with openness, looking across clichés, stereotypes, and schemata. A holistic approach to the city would thus involve disturbing the living tissue by actions disclosing creative potential of individuals. That would mean finding splits and crevices which would – like a lens – provide a view of grass-roots dimensions of culture. Not the institutionalised vision of urban culture, but whatever city people search and create beyond the mainstream. This is a suggestion that reality should be interpreted as a net of cultural relations through action, grass-roots practices that redefine themselves at once creating living urban fabric and identity, which is not a fixed construct enclosed in artificial schemata and simplifications, but keeps changing, recreating itself along the socio-cultural transformations.


[1] A. Hanson, The Making of the Maori: Culture Invention and Its Logic, American Anthropologist, p. 899.