Kraków and the World


The theme of the conference “Kraków and the World”, an anniversary symposium organised by the International Cultural Centre, was the phenomenon of the city – a topic which has intermittently occupied a very special place in the multifaceted reflection on heritage, identity and civilisation which has been the ICC’s mission since its inception on 29 May 1991. The city is a lens which magnifies the most burning issues of contemporaneity. But it is also a mirror of civilisation and its achievements and memory, as well as a place in which various identities and narratives clash.

This two-day conference will bring together international experts – including historians, literature scholars, specialists in culture studies, urban planners, economists and culture managers – who will debate on the phenomenon of the city. Special attention will be paid to the nature of change and transformation that cities have experienced over the last twenty-five years, as well as to city narratives, models of development and challenges posed by the future. Six plenary sessions will address Kraków’s role as a metropolis of Central Europe. The city’s global perception and literary representations will also be examined. Experts will contemplate its history and heritage. They will look into the future, considering possible paths for development and the role that cultural policy and culture sector can play in the process. Professor Claudio Magris and Charles Landry will be the special guests at the conference.

Registration is closed.

Conference participation is free of charge. Advance enrolment required.
Limited number of participants.


Take part in the following discussion panels:

  • Kraków in the European Core – If cities are indeed mirrors of civilisation, then how can urbanisation processes be instrumental in defining the phenomenon of Central Europe? What makes Central European cities particularly distinct? To what extent does the heritage of the Habsburg Empire determine the identity of Central European cities today? What has been the contribution of communism to the cities’ specific character? Has the nature of the 1989-2015 change weakened our identity? What is the place and mission of Kraków within the network of Central European metropolises?
  • Kraków from Afar – Kraków is universally acknowledged as Poland’s strongest brand worldwide. What is the city’s image and the role it plays from the Central European, European and global angles? Which elements of Kraków’s heritage are the most recognisable and which appear to be underappreciated? Is Kraków – both the Polish heartland and a UNESCO world heritage site – likely to gain a function as a European, or even world lieu de mémoire? What kinds of messages could such a place of memory convey? Kraków is part of a global constellation of heritage cities. What kinds of qualities should it prioritise and what dangers should it strive to avoid? Can Kraków become an alternative to the dominant trend of creating multimedia heritage museums? Could it be a heritage city that is alive?
  • Kraków and Literature – What literary representations of Kraków have been created? Are the images of the city originated and developed by Polish writers considerably different from those conveyed by foreign authors? Is the myth of Kraków as a symbol of the nation’s viability and its artistic milieu still alive and well? Or has it perhaps been superseded by other narratives? Is it an arena where various memories and identities (Polish, Jewish; Galician; those of the intelligentsia, the working class and the bourgeoisie) clash with each other? What is the cultural potential of today’s Kraków?
  • Kraków: A City of Heritage – One of the fundamental issues facing historic cities is the role played by cultural heritage in their future development. Will cultural heritage – in the fast changing world – continue to be a major point of reference which helps to decipher and define the identity of a place, or will it lose its power for good? Another question is: Will heritage continue to be a powerful element which contributes to and shapes the city’s economy by means of tourism and cultural industries? The new service economy, which attaches special significance to the “leisure industries”, has equipped heritage with a new function and, over the last three decades, has played a vital role in the transformation of historic cities. Will historic cities – today, in the times of mass and globalised tourism – survive and preserve their authenticity? Kraków is a laboratory where a number of these changes can be observed and investigated. Where will those changes take us?
  • Kraków: A City of the Future – What constitutes Kraków’s main developmental potential? What builds its attractiveness in the eyes of its residents, tourists and investors? What kind of role do creative industries, new technologies and knowledge-based economy have to play in the city’s development? What are the major challenges in terms of the socio-economic development of the city? Is it uncontrolled suburbanisation? Social polarisation? Social, physical and economic degradation of specific areas? Environmental pollution? What kinds of activities (events, investments, projects) does Kraków need to offer to be considered a good place to live, work, spend one’s free time, as well as invest? Can culture play a vital role in urban development in the 21st century?
  • Kraków. The City and Culture – Is Kraków a cultural capital of Poland? A slogan and/or a stereotype? If culture testifies to a city’s strength then what role does it play for Kraków? Is it a product which attracts tourists? An important element of creating the city’s brand? A part of its citizens’ identity? The closing debate will be devoted to the following dilemmas: Should the city’s cultural offer be directed at visitors or at the local population? Are big projects such as festivals, or strategic initiatives such as the European City of Culture, a curse or an advantage? How can urban cultural policies be re-shaped and re-oriented so that cities’ financial resources can be used to increase numbers of consumers of culture and, consequently, build strong social competences. Is such a change through culture possible at all? In order to achieve such a goal, should we not create the city’s culture anew?

We invite you also to participate in:

See the programme 

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