To launch this new blog, I want to share some good news: Polish Studies is thriving in North America! It doesn’t come naturally to us Polonists to be optimistic, particularly against the overall backdrop of the challenges faced by the humanities and social studies in US academic life. But interest in Poland here in the US seems by any measure to be growing. American doctoral dissertations in this field rose from 28 in the 1980s to 50 in the 2000s. So far this decade 28 dissertations in Polish history have been successfully defended, which puts us on pace to produce a record number by 2020. Even if we stopped admitting all Polish history graduate students now, there are still at least 17 in the pipeline. The number of scholarly articles on Polish topics in major North American journals has also been increasing, and the biennial article prize of the Polish Studies Association had a record 55 eligible nominations during its last competition in 2013. The PSA itself has grown exponentially, tripling in size over the last decade. H-Poland, our field’s international and interdisciplinary online forum, now has nearly 500 subscribers, after fewer than five years of existence. And recently that service has been joined by an exciting new European counterpart called Pol-Int. Although my own experiences at the University of Michigan may not be representative of any larger trends, I have seen a striking growth in undergraduate enrollment in my modern Polish history class (48 in 2011, 72 in 2012, 87 in 2014, and 93 this semester). While I would be delighted to attribute this to my effective teaching, that conclusion is undermined by the fact that all my other classes have been shrinking. Academic jobs in Polish studies remain scarce—though no worse than in any other field. And even that dismal topic gets a little bit of sunshine by the addition over the past decade of newly-endowed chairs in Polish history at several major universities.
With all this in mind, it seems like a perfect time to launch this new blog as a way to highlight some of the exciting developments in this field. I’ll also be commenting on events and trends in Poland itself, offering my perspective as an American who has been studying the country for nearly three decades. Welcome, and come back soon!