Phantasms of the nation and models of community in view of the rituals of Polish secret organizations in the 19ᵗh century

Phantasms of the nation and models of community in view of the rituals of Polish secret organizations in the 19ᵗh century




19ᵗh century history, ritual, secret organizations, romanticism, historical anthropology


The main topic of this article is the role and functions of ritual in Polish secret organizations in the 19ᵗh century. The programs and activities of clandestine associations, which the previous studies have usually viewed through the prism of political and conspiratorial activities, are interpreted in reference to the theory of ritual studies, which allows a slightly different distribution of accents. I take into account new categories of sources, such as rituals, records of rituals and ceremonies of member acceptance, which in historiographical studies served illustrative functions at best. The perspective of ritual studies also offers us a glimpse into the private world of members of secret societies and reveals a whole range of affective experiences to contemporary audiences. I use the concept of phantasm following the researchers of Polish Romanticism, but combine it with the theory of affective societies, where the emotional component plays a primary role. Within this theoretical framework, I present the key concepts of community and nationality framed by the allegorical dimension of the phantasm from the point of view of the organization of secret societies. Features of ritualism are outlined through several examples, which, in my opinion, indicate the potential of research that considers the ritual side of the activity of clandestine societies.

Author Biography

Dariusz Grzonka, University of Applied Sciences in Nowy Targ, Poland

Doctor of humanities in the field of religious studies. His research interests include the history of secret societies, theories of ritual, cultural somaesthetics, historical anthropology and contemporary concepts of tactile media. He is the author of monographic articles on contem- porary concepts of the ritual and sensual experience: Lost Sensoria Anthropological Research on Sensory Experience in the Context of Multiculturalism, from 2020; Doświadczenia sensu- alne w perspektywie społecznej: rytuały, performanse społeczne w wybranych koncepcjach teoretycznych [Sensual Experience in Social Perspective: Rituals, Social Performances in Selected Theoretical Concepts], from 2016; and Wędrujące obrazy naszych myśli: kulturowe formy patrzenia i myślenia obrazowego w pers- pektywie antropologii kulturowej [Wandering Images of Our Thoughts: Cultural Forms of Looking and Pictorial Thinking in the Perspective of Cultural Anthropology], from 2017.