Photo of Karolina Szpyrko

Karolina Szpyrko
Research student (Media and Film)


In my PhD research I examine practices of resistance and obedience feminist activists employ in relation to circulation of their protest memories. The project focuses of the on-going feminist movement in Poland which has started in 2016 with mass protests prompted by the Polish government’s attempt to restrict the abortion law. The overreaching question driving this project is ‘How activists negotiate their personal protest memories with protest representations in cultural memory?’

The collective and cultural memory dominate as concepts in the studies of protest memory, especially these days, in the era of digital communication when cultural, shared memories become connective memories. The memory scholarship has a long tradition of exploring memory ‘on the move’, undergoing contact changes (e.g. Abercrombie, 1999; Erll, 2011; Keightley, Reading, 2014).

Nationally and internationally shared activist content of the current feminist movement and its circulation both on line and off line open up a question of activist and feminist ownership over protests memories articulated through material activist props- symbols, fonts, images, posters and slogans. These activist, historical artefacts are usually turned into romanticised stories of spontaneous mass uprisings, examined as instances of personal herodom further confirming heteronormative vision of nationality or become ‘stolen, ‘rebranded’ and ‘rechannelled’ by neoliberal and national discourses.

In my research I urge that each cultural memory, a sign or a symbol has at some point been a personal, privately cherished, memory of activist dissent, which in a course of political, historical discourse became publically shared and owned. Hence, the aim of this project is to interrogate the boundaries of protest memory in terms of their movements between private and public spheres, from a personal collection of stories of activist labour to the mainstream, national memory, and from a cultural, national memory to stories of personal, activist success and failure.