“Dying out”: conversion and the complexity of neighbourliness on the Polish Belarussian border



This paper addresses the way that religious affiliation and conversion shape ongoing tensions over historical periods of exile, resettlement, exodus and elimination in a small town on the Eastern Polish border. I explore how local Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian’s negotiations of a troubled past are materialized and managed through narrating family histories of conversion, In particular, this paper focuses on the compromises that enable mixed faith marriages and the conflicts that emerge over the burial of religious converts. In these negotiations, members of both congregations deploy the local model of “neighbourliness” and the ideal of the borderlander, to greater and lesser success. Day-to-day the practice of considered neighbourliness helps local people to acknowledge and minimize religious and ethnic difference. However, conversion brings the realms of religion and relatedness into conjunction in a risky manner: marriage may offer an opportunity to enhance neighbourly connections, but burial is an event where the tensions over histories of conflict become apparent disrupting neighbourly relations and practices.


Borderlands, Conversion, Family history, Poland, Christianity, Neighbourliness, Borders

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