The Forager of Ustroń and the Threefold Expansion of the Archive

If we understand the archive in abstract terms, as an apparatus that lays a framework for the production of knowledge and becomes an instrument of selection and control, then this forager of Ustroń rejects the archive’s mandate by complicating the discourse and carving out a space for Polish Evangelical Lutherans. Novelist Jerzy Pilch’s ironic take on the status of this religious identity indicates the gravity of Wantuła’s intervention: “Being Lutheran in Poland means something subtler than being Jewish in Poland. Jews once lived in Poland and do no longer. We Lutherans, on the other hand, once didn’t exist in Poland, and today, continue not to exist.” By problematizing the conflation of “the Pole” and “the Catholic” and verifying the canon of national history, Wantuła (author of Page from the History of the People of Cieszyn Silesia) broaches the borders of the Foucauldian archive. We could, of course, follow Agamben and argue that all subjectivization is a priori mediated by the apparatus. In this case, there is no way to take possession of the archive – we can only annihilate it. Wantuła, however, pulls off a subversive act of consequence: he expands the archive from within. Namely, by representing Evangelical Lutherans as the driving forces behind national consciousness in the Cieszyn region, he effaces the dividing lines that allow one to qualify them as a “foreign” group (for instance, by identifying them with Germans). In so doing, he challenges the system by which we generate statements of identity and community, giving voice to a people condemned to muteness by virtue of being cast among “the Germans.”