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Agata Zborowska Office: Phone: Email Interests:

Visual and material culture; critical archives; oral history; cultural history; historical anthropology; migration and displacement; diaspora studies; transnational history; Central and Eastern Europe

Postdoctoral Fellow in History

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Chicago
Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Assistant Professor, Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw (on sabbatical 2023–2026)

PhD'18 University of Warsaw


visual and material culture; critical archives; oral history; cultural history; historical anthropology; migration and displacement; diaspora studies; transnational history; Central and Eastern Europe.


My current project, “Critical Archives of Ordinariness: Vernacular Moving Image Practices and Migrant Identity in Polish Chicago” (acronym: Not-So-Ordinary) investigates home movies and related oral histories of Polish Chicago before the digital era to challenge and broaden our understanding of evolving migrant and diaspora identities. Following critical archive studies’ call to empower communities underrepresented in historiography by developing and interrogating archival collections, the project juxtaposes home movies – “ordinary” motion pictures created for family and close friends – with interviews with their creators to uncover the “not-so-ordinary” capabilities of this underused data source for studying minority groups. The project investigates a specific case: the interplay of vernacular moving image practices and the transformations of Polish diaspora identity in Chicago; however, it leads to conclusions of wider significance. it contributes to cultural anthropology by identifying the role of vernacular moving image practices in shaping identities; it advances media archeology by showing how evolving analog home movie technology altered vernacular moving image practices; it expands the field of transnational history by investigating home movies circulating between countries; it demonstrates how to contextualize historical home movies by creating a research collection of home movies and related oral histories; it advances research methods by providing guidance on home movies as a research source and by showing the use of the movie-interview analytical unit. The Not-So-Ordinary project is funded by the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action and implemented at the University of Chicago (academic years 2023/24 and 2024/25) and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (academic years 2025/26).

In my PhD thesis I examined the “life of things” – transnational history of material culture from the perspective of post-WW II Poland. I introduced three analytical categories of things – found, hospitable, and newfangled – and showed how they improve the understanding of the relationships between people and objects in the situation of austerity and displacement. The thesis was published by the University of Warsaw Press (2019) and won the Inka Brodzka-Wald Award for the best doctoral dissertation in the contemporary humanities in Poland.

I completed my PhD at the University of Warsaw (2018, summa cum laude). I spent part of my PhD studies at University College London (2014) and Indiana University Bloomingotn (2016). I have been a postdoc at the Univeristy of Chicago (2019) and Indiana University Bloomingotn (2022). Since 2020, I have been an assistant professor at the University of Warsaw (currently on sabbatical leave 2023-2026). My research has been supported by European Commission, Polish National Science Centre, and  Kosciuszko Foundation, among others.

In my academic work, I strive for socially relevant historical inquiry, research-based teaching, and inspiring outreach.

Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Publications

Życie rzeczy w powojennej Polsce [The Life of Things in Post-war Poland], Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (University of Warsaw Press), 2019.

‘Abandoned’ things: Looting German property in post-war Poland,” History and Anthropology 34, no. 4 (2023).

“Do spółdzielni produkcyjnej i z powrotem. Przemiany własności w powojennych narracjach pamiętnikarskich”[Towards the production cooperative and back. Ownership transformation in post-war memoir narratives], Kultura i Społeczeństwo 66, no. 2 (2022).

Between Hospitality and Hostility: The Experience of Migration Through Things,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 43, no. 5 (2022).

 “Rzeczy i historie potencjalne na obrzeżach reformy rolnej” [Things and Potential Histories on the Margins of Land Reform], Teksty Drugie 5 (2021).

“Wyznania amerykańskich komunistek” [Confessions of American Communists], Praktyka Teoretyczna 37, no. 3 (2020).

Bazaars and Found Objects: Thing Culture in Post-war Poland,” Fashion Theory 21, no. 4 (2017).

“Uses and Abuses of History: A Case of the Comme des Garcons Fashion Show,” Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty 5, no. 2 (2014).