Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Professor Joanna Tokarska-Bakir

Fellow Professor Joanna Tokarska-Bakir

Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, PhD, is a cultural and historical anthropologist, and a religious studies scholar. She isprofessor at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences,Warsaw and anassociate member of the General Assembly of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland. She specialises in the anthropology of violence and is, among other publications, the author of  a monograph on blood libel ‘Légendes du sang. Une anthropologie du préjugé antisémite en Europe’  (Albin Michel, Paris 2015),  ‚Pogrom Cries. Essays on Polish-Jewish History‘, 1939-1946, Peter Lang 2017, 2019, 2nd ed.), and a two volume monograph, ‚The Kielce Pogrom. A Social Portrait‘ (Czarna Owca, Warszawa 2018) for which she was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize (2019).

Research project at the Kolleg

The wave of anti-Jewish pogroms that swept through countries with varied wartime pasts, including Altai Krai, Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland in 1943-1946 is one of the least studied phenomena in postwar Eastern European history. The violence occurred in regions where military operations had recently come to an end and German forces had been driven out by the Red Army. Astonishingly, the violence was directed at society’s weakest members– Jews, decimated in theHolocaust, now returning home from hiding, concentration camps or the Soviet Union. The goal of the project set out here is to explain the social background of these events by using a biographical investigation methodology.

This microhistorical project focuses on one of three major urban pogroms that took place in post-Holocaust Poland in 1945 to 1946. The so -calledKrakow pogrom was a 12-hour riot, which took place on 11 August, 1945 in two Krakow neighborhoods: Kazimierz and Kleparz. It began with rumors spread by newspaper sellers and others, that there was a child’s corpse at the Kupa Synagogue. As a result, a mob stormed the temple and destroyed it, burning holy books. Jews were attacked on the streets of Krakow and in marketplaces, including the so-called Tandeta. The communist civic militia (Milicja Obywatelska), whose members joined in on the pogrom, initially took anambivalent and then a hostile attitude toward the Jews. The Polish Army, fighting alongside the Red Army, also played an unequivocal role. Contradictory orders were issued, often targeting those being attacked. As the forces of law and order had been compromised, the subsequent trials of the perpetrators were partly classified, which resulted in rumours that the pogrom had been organised by the NKVD.

Main areas of research

  • The blood libel phenomenology
  • Ethnography of the Holocaust and its aftermath
  • Anti-Jewish violence after WW2 (historical anthropology)

Positions and memberships

2020 - Associate Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences General Assembly

2018 - Chair of the Ethnic and National Relations Study Unit, Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

2010 - Professor of Humanities at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw


Pod klątwą. Społeczny portret pogromu kieleckiego [Under curse. The social portrait of the Kielce pogrom], 2 vols, Czarna Owca Publishing House, Warszawa 2018.

Pogrom Cries. Essays on Historical Anthropology of Poland 1939-1946, Peter Lang Gmbh, Frankfut am Main 2017; 2nd extended edition 2019; Polish edition: Okrzyki pogromowe. Szkice z antropologii historycznej Polski 1939-1946, Czarne Publishing House, Wołowiec 2012.

Légendes du sang. Pour une anthropologie de l'antisémitisme chrétien, éditions Albin Michel, Paris 2015; Polish edition: Legendy o krwi. Antropologia przesądu, WAB Publishing House, Warszawa 2008.

Rzeczy. Eseje i studia, [Hazy Matters. Essays and Studies] Wydawnictwo Pogranicze, Series «Sąsiedzi« [Neighbours], Pogranicze, Sejny 2004.

Obraz osobliwy. Hermeneutyczna lektura źródeł etnograficznych [Imago insolita. Hermeneutic Reading of Ethnographical Sources], Universitas Publishing House, Cracow 2000.

Wyzwolenie przez zmysły. Tybetańskie idee soteriologiczne, [Liberation Through the Senses. Tibetan Soteriological Ideas], Fundacja na Rzecz Nauki Polskiej, 2 editions, Wrocław 1998 and Toruń 2012.


 Edited volumes

PL: tożsamość wyobrażona, [PL: An Imagined Identity], concept and editing of a collective publication, Wydawnictwo Czarna Owca 2012.

academic editing and preface [Procedury pisma [The Procedures of Writing]] to: J.Goody, Poskromienie umysłu nieoswojonego, [The Domestication of the Savage Mind], PIW, Warsaw 2011,  7-20.

(with Anna Zawadzka) a themed issue of the journal “Societas/Communitas”: Polityki pamięci [Politics of Memory], ISNS UW, Warsaw 2009.

academic editing and preface [W winnicy rytuału [In the Vineyard of Ritual]] to: V.Turner, Proces rytualny, [The Ritual Process], transl. by E.Dżurak, PIW, Warsaw 2010,  9-34.

academic editing and preface [Problem winy [The Problem of Guilt]] to: E.E.Evans-Pritchard, Czary, wyrocznie i magia wśród Azande, [Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande], transl. by S.Szymański, PIW, Warsaw 2008,  7-21.

academic editing and preface [Energia odpadków [The Energy of Rubbish],  7-44], to: M.Douglas, Czystość i niebezpieczeństwo, [Purity and Danger], translated by M.Bucholz, PIW, Warsaw 2007,  7-43.

academic editing and preface [Przemiany [Transformations]]to: A. Van Gennep, Obrzędy przejścia, [The Rites of Passage], transl. by B.Biały,  PIW, Warsaw 2006,  7-24.       

academic editing and preface [Repetytorium z człowieka [Reviewing the Human]] to: A.Barnard, Antropologia kultury. Zarys teorii i historii [History and Theory in Anthropology], transl. by S.Szymański,  PIW, Warsaw 2006,  9-25.

„Cóż po antropologii?” [Why Anthropology?], [introduction to]: Studia i Materiały Collegium Civitas [Courses and Material of Collegium Civitas], vol. 1, ed. J.Tokarska-Bakir, Warsaw 2006.



Zofia Nałkowskas Am Bahndamm. Historisches Vorbild und literarische Verarbeitung’, [in:] Im Schatten von Krieg und Holocaust. Psychoanalyse in Polen im polnisch-deutsch-jüdischen Kulturkontext, Psychosozial Verlag, Berlin 2019.

‘“The Present Causes of Past Effects”. The Background Beliefs of the Kielce Pogrom (July 4, 1946)’, [in:] The Medieval Roots of Antisemitism. Continuities and Discontinuities from the Middle Ages to the Present Day, ed. by Jonathan Adams and Cordelia Heß, Routledge, New York and London 2018, 320-338.

The Open Secret: Victims, Perpetrators, Witnesses and Bystanders in Polish Public Discourse at the Beginning of the 21st Century’, [in:] Intellectual Antisemitism, Sarah K. Danielsson, Frank Jacob (eds.), Verlag Königshausen &Neumann GmbH, Würzburg 2018, 223-258;

The Polish underground organization Wolność i Niezawisłość and anti-Jewish pogroms, 1945–6’, Patterns of Prejudice, Issue 2: 2017, 111-136.

‘Ethnographic findings on the aftermath of the Holocaust through Jewish and Polish eyes’, [in:] Jewish Presence in Absence. The Aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland, 1944–2010, Feliks Tych and Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska (eds.), Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2014,  775-812.

Gustaw Herling-Grudziński and the blood libel legend: From overvisibility to oversight’, East European Politics, Societies and Culture, November 2014, Vol. 28, No. 4.

The Figure of the Bloodsucker in Polish Religious, National and Left-Wing Discourse, 1945–1946: A Study in Historical Anthropology’, Dapim Studies on the Shoah, 2013, 27:2, 75-106.

Communitas” of Violence. The Kielce Pogrom as a Social Drama,Yad Vashem Studies (Jerusalem, Israel) 2013, 41:1, 23-62.



Review of: E. M. Rose, The Murder of William of Norwich. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, „Speculum“, vol. 92, issue 4 (October 2017), 1242-44.

Polin: Ultimate Lost Object, in: Poland and Polin. New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies, Irena Grudzińska-Gross, Iwa Nawrocki [eds.], Peter Lang, 2016, 49-58.

You of Yedwabne, in: "Polin", G.Finder, N.Aleksiun, A.Polonsky and J.Schwartz [eds.], Oxford-Portland, Oregon, The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization for The Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies and The American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, vol. 20, 2008, 413-428.