Connect in Congress
Politics and Culture
While trying to understand the coexistence or complementarity of culture and politics, one has to assess the features of both such illusive terms and spheres. And yet, despite the difficulty or maybe even impossibility of doing so, there seems to be a must to understand the conundrum between them as well as how both the creators and recipients function in between.
As two seemingly separate spheres without any mutual feature, politics and culture seem to clash with each other, at times, daily. Looking at the importance of art, whether through graphic commentary or mockery of the political scene, the significance of the art that accompanies every strike, it is easy to argue that both politics and culture continuously function complementing despite the inner contradictions of each other. It is a way of combining two strikingly opposite forms of expression that enable a discussion or a fight that concern all groups of politicians, artists, and the people.
Art is a ‘weapon of the weak’ of those who do not possess agency, enabling change. Culture, therefore, functions as a tool of power for those deprived of it. Similarly, it is a threat for politicians, a sign, a voice of those who in the public debate often remain silent or are silenced.
However, despite all that, there seems to be little discussion on the role of the artist within such an environment. Those who hitherto were ‘simply’ cultural entities producing art, which too often is perceived as an escape from reality rather than a tool to immerse yourself within the status quo's politics, seem to be overlooked. And yet the question of their importance remains – isn’t it equal with those in power? How do we evaluate the actors and their role in this debate?
As of 2021, it is hard to continue arguing that art and culture are separate from politics. The visuals, the graphics of Women’s Strike’s movement, of the climate change movement, or even the importance of the image within the abortion debate seem to suggest that the role of art or a sphere, broadly described as the cultural one, is one of the highest importance, equal to what is pure politics. One could not exist without the other, despite them being not only opposites but very often rivals.
Therefore, the panel ‘Politics in Culture’ aims to understand the inner contradictory feature of the intricate relationship of politics and culture, which seem to continuously stimulate the public debate as well as each other through different forms of voicing one’s values, ideas and feelings. Giving the voice to the artists – those describing themselves as political, as an activist or as neutral - to find the role that both art and culture fulfil within the socio-political spectrum.
Barbara Węgrzyn, Speakers Officer
University of Cambridge
On the crossroads of geopolitics and the international economy
It has now become a cliché to say that the year 2020 has changed many things in our daily lives. Still, the unfolding of the current events caused us to re-evaluate our priorities and change our perspectives. COVID-19 pandemic accelerated geopolitical shift in the balance of power. While the US is still troubled with domestic problems, a Chinese contest for economic and political domination is becoming more apparent than ever. For the first time in history, European Union lost a member country and now is struggling to redefine itself. Coronavirus planted the seeds of doubt in western democracy causing a wave of polarisation of European politics. International markets have become more volatile than ever. 14th edition of Congress of Polish Societies in the UK aims at exploring the threats and opportunities for Poland in the global context.
China's role in the contemporary world has been a topic igniting debate and created a wide range of controversies. There are many pressing issues in our bilateral relation - China’s stand on climate change, workers’ rights and political cooperation between our countries. The fact is, everyday China is becoming economically stronger, and we need to resolve those issues now. The game is worth the candle - establishing Poland as the closest partner of the second-largest economy. During the Congress, we will also look closer to home. We want to ask a broad question about the role of Poland in the EU. Do we want to shape how it works and be a key driver of change, or do we prefer to build strategic alliances with countries of the V4 group? For many adopting a Euro would be a bold move towards greater economic integration with the core countries of the EU. At first glance, it might seem like only an economical decision, but nothing far from the truth. Joining the Euro is not only an economic choice. It has vast political and social implications. It will set Poland on the faster political and cultural convergence with countries of western Europe. Maybe the wave of Polish Euro-enthusiasm will spark similar attitudes in other countries and reverse the European Union's current direction.
During the Congress, we will also be able to take a closer look at the Polish Stock exchange and capital markets. We will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the conditions of the capital markets and financial systems. 2020 has also been a year of change for the Polish stock exchange. We have seen an increase in uncertainty related to the pandemic, Brexit and new IPO, just to name a few. Has the system recovered stronger, or has covid exposed the institutional flaws of our financial sector?
2021 will be a year of many questions for Poland. We can firmly say that the sea of opportunities is opening before us, but only by taking an active part in the game of geopolitics can Poland achieve its highest prosperity and safety goals. The overarching theme of the Conference from the economic perspective is to understand those opportunities and Megatrends that shape our current social environment and understand Poland's role in the hyperconnected contemporary world. Paraphrasing Paul Krugman, we live in interesting times - so let’s explore them.
Daniel Jensen, Speakers Officer
University of Warwick
A new era of development. A new era of conflict
The recent conflict in Nagorno Karabakh has left the world in mute amazement, showing a distance between the modern and obsolete army, clear as never before. British Government has started a heated discussion in the media by presenting an ambitious plan of the British Army modernisation and rising spending on military purposes by 10%, despite the ongoing pandemic. The topic of military development has never been discussed during Congress, but this is about to change this year.
This broad topic has a few burning points to be resolved in the coming years - the partnership between state and private companies in delivering solutions for the army or transformation to a thoroughly professional army model. During Congress, we will gain an outstanding opportunity to delve into the topic by hearing the expertise of general Mirosław Różański, ex-Commander General of Polish Armed Forces and general Andrzej Pawlikowski, a specialist in combating terrorism. Poland has its own chapter in the history of modern conflicts, which are peace-keeping missions all around the world - what can we learn from them? Is Poland ready for the new era of military development? And what can be done to reach the highest possible standards in the Polish Armed Forces?
The new era of the world's development brings us to the topic of another great conquest - space. Ambitious plans to set bases on the Mars surface in the following years and recently announced plans to return to the Moon after 50 years have a powerful effect on the imagination of people all over the world. Ideas described by science-fiction authors are coming into life. The race is accelerating because of a thing never seen in a space industry before, a competition between state and private actors.
In recent years, Poland has made progress in space exploration by sending research satellites. Many young constructors and scientists are waiting for their turn in the race to the stars. What opportunities and threats are awaiting us? On one hand, space exploration can bring an unexpected development of technologies and their transfer to different areas of life. Space medicine can bring answers to many illnesses, while space mining can provide rare materials and, therefore, avoid the use of Earth's resources. On the other, the militarisation of space is already in sight. Recent announcements of hypersonic missile development have shown us that the deadly arms race is developing in a completely new direction. How can we prepare for this era full of surprises? And what can Poland do to not fall behind?
We will be happy to explore this topic at Congress, along with different aspects of the future of technological development. What will be the future of Atomic Energy in Poland and all around the world? How to protect business and administration from cyber-crime? Connect in Congress and find out!
Stanisław Kopyta, Co-Head of Speakers Team
University of East Anglia