Scholar Interviews

Questions

Padraic Kenney: How do you analyze the leaflet?

Transcription

There are several things that I think about and can think about when I come to a source like this. First of all, I’m a social historian, so I look at this not as a representation of a particular set of beliefs or an evocation of a particular ideology but I think about the people who produce it and the community that they’re a part of. And maybe the community of readership as well. Secondly, I’m interested in the moment that something is being created.

Maybe what’s useful is to think about the leaflet itself as an object that people are using by this point the same way they would use the walls of the city, which at this time were covered with anarchist symbols or with little pictures of elves which were quite a popular symbol across Poland. Or another symbol on this leaflet is a military helmet with flowers growing out of it. Flowers along with a military helmet suggests that kind of non-violence. And so maybe the leaflet is a surface like a wall only it’s a surface that you can distribute quite easily.

It’s a surface that, you can put anything you want on it which, by the way, is a kind of a radical break because paper in the underground world is something rather precious. You’ve got to beg, borrow, or steal it and there’s a lot of information that you want to get across that’s not in the official press. And so if you look at underground periodicals produced by Solidarity, they’re tight lines of text, very small, hard-to-read, hardly any margins. And here you’ve got room for graffiti. It’s also a way of saying: we’ve got the freedom to do with this paper whatever we want.

How to Cite

Padraic Kenney, interview, "How do you analyze the leaflet?." Making the History of 1989, Item #591 (accessed November 27 2014, 4:52 pm)