EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Intimacy of social memory and the construction of self-identity linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations in the current interconnected world

Location T-307
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00


Carole Lemee (Université Bordeaux & UMR 5319) email
Vytis Ciubrinskas (Vytautas Magnus University) email
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Short Abstract

The intimacy of social memory linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations is shared among victims and descendants who assemble various aspects of their complex & multidimensional histories between intimacy and public spaces and also niches of displacement in the contemporary interconnected world.

Long Abstract

25 years after the Cold War and 70 years after the liberation of most of Europe from Nazism, this topic deals with the (re)construction of self-historical-identity and heritage communicated and miss communicated among individuals and families having suffering from various violent events. On one hand, these events relate to racial genocide (the Holocaust, and deportation of the Roma), to other mass deportations and waves of refugees during the WWII. On the other hand, they relate to other forms of forced migration during the communist/socialist period in Eurasia. The anthropological focus is on various social memory activities of these different victims and their descendants, and how they deal with intimate remembering while often continuing their lives in niches of displacements. Our aim is to consider the transversal modalities they have to assemble different aspects of their complex and multidimensional histories, between intimacy and public spheres in a current interconnected world. It aims to question the dynamics of new collaborative intimacies and their sociocultural effects inside the family and in the other social spaces. Proliferating internet-communications and the growing transnational mobility modify practices and relationships involved in activities forging heritage and politics of memory. It provokes also debates and conflicts between all that relates to the self-historical-identity and collective identity constructions of the groups. The complexity in these dynamics invites us to multi-sited ethnographic mobility studies. There is also a need to follow genealogical, family (re)union and 'memory network' studies with the internet-practices.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Story and scholarship in intimate ethnography: my father's wars

Author: Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, City University of New York)  email

Short Abstract

My Father’s Wars is an intimate ethnography, a transnational, trans-ethnic, multidimensional, diasporic story. This paper reflects on its power to illuminate inter-relationships between violence, embodied subjectivity, self-historical identity, sensate experience, social memory, power, and history.

Long Abstract

My project uses an approach Barbara Rylko-Bauer and I call "intimate ethnography," a method that takes to heart Linda Green's advice to historicize and humanize its subject matter. I look squarely at my father's lived experience of displacement and dispossession, a particular life shaped by violence in its various forms—political, structural, institutional, symbolic, acute and chronic (normalized/everyday). My father traveled through the multiple violences of the 20th century; his story offers a vertical slice of life across continents, countries, cultures, languages, generations and wars. The goal is to capture his story in book and multimedia forms (www.myfatherswars.com), approaching it as an anthropologist who is also a daughter. Thus, My Father's Wars is a personal story that tells a larger, transnational, trans-ethnic, multidimensional and diasporic history. In pursuing this project over many years, I have been guided by the assumption that intimate ethnography as method and as written document has potential to bridge story and scholarship, bringing anthropology into the public conversation on critical social issues, past and present. Also, intimate ethnography may powerfully illuminate the relationships between violence, embodied subjectivity and self-historical identity, sensate experience, social memory, power, and history. In this paper, I take stock of fundamental assumptions of my project. I will assess my version of intimate ethnography (how I am doing it; by what means), consider its potential relevance to particular audiences and for specific contemporary issues, and reflect on its value as story, and as historical and theoretical scholarship.

Grand-daughter, daughter, anthropologist: an auto-ethnography of here and now, there and then

Author: Maya Melzer-Geva (Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee)  email

Short Abstract

A cross-generational auto-ethnographic study constructs intimacies in contexts of time and space: past and present, Europe and Asia. Going back and forth, it introduces multi-layered identities. Through the dialogue between documentation and memory, World War II reflects on the present and beyond.

Long Abstract

The study was inspired by the EASA conference in 2008.

The presentation reveals and analyses my grandmother's "real-time" diary, which documents life as refugee and labor camp victim over a six-year period of World War II. My mother, who was with her during this time, rewrote the diary and translated it from Polish to English. I then interviewed my mother, and asked her questions that arose from reading of my grandmother's diary, and from contemplating my mother's intimate relationship with my grandmother and with myself.

The paper discusses the motivations behind the writing of a "thick description" diary during wartime, its translation 60 years later, and its anthropological analysis. These written and spoken accounts reveal social perspectives on family, gender, power, professions, religion and national identity - all through a cross-generational prism. Through my "matrilineal" past I understand the multi-layered construction of my complex identities as a person - as a woman, a parent, an anthropologist, and an Israeli citizen. In addition, through Memory I understand my mother's trans-nationalism, as part of her generation's migration patterns.

A diary is a testimony chronologically constructed from the past forward, having no knowledge of the consequences and effects of the events experienced. An in-depth semi-structured interview memorizes life-history backwards, knowing war's outcome and being aware of a re-living of the wartime experience. When conducting auto-ethnography through three generational perspectives, I serve as a multi-layered meeting point of past, present and future, and of individual and cultural contexts.

Mémoire, histoire, filiation saccagée, construction

Author: Yoram Mouchenik (université Paris 13)  email

Short Abstract

Recherche  et compagnonnage avec   un   groupe   d'anciens   enfants   juifs   cachés   en   France   pendant   l’occupation dans leur tentative favorisé par le groupe de reconstruire une histoire personnelle et un lignage.

Long Abstract

Mon   intervention   relate   des   aspects   d'une   recherche   ou   plutôt   d'un   compagnonnage   avec   un   groupe   particulier,   d'anciens   enfants   juifs   cachés   en   France   pendant   l'occupation   qui   ont   survécu   au   génocide   et   que   je   rencontre   60   ans   après.   Mon   propos   va   s'appuyer   sur   ma   participation   aux   activités   de   l'Association   pour   la   mémoire   du   convoi  Y  qu'ils  ont  crée  et  dont  je  vais  suivre  les  différentes  activités   puis   réaliser   des   entretiens   auprès   de   16   participants.   Pendant   plus   de   quatre   années,   je   vais   suivre   le   groupe  :   les   réunions,   les   assemblées   générales,   les   voyages   de   commémoration   en   province,   à   Paris   et   en   Pologne,   les   expositions   et   différents   développements   de  l'association  

Self-historical identity, social memory and heritages in the post-Holocaust interconnected world

Author: Carole Lemee (Université Bordeaux & UMR 5319)  email

Short Abstract

The concept of “self-historical identity” created in my research with Holocaust survivors and descendants, aims to consider intimate social situations where tensions exist between lived experiences and collective timeless identities linked to the genocide, Jewish worlds, heritages and memories.

Long Abstract

This paper is focused on fieldwork conducted with Holocaust survivors and direct or collateral descendants (i.e., children, great-grandchildren, cousins, etc.) living in various countries. The aim is to consider how they deal respectively with the composition of a "self-historical identity", between private and public spaces of their life, and concerning each generation. Such processes concerning their own specific identity, in the way they have to grasp and assemble many aspects from their past and present social experiences, and with their multidimensional heritages, cultures and histories, in diachronic and synchronic perspectives. It occurs 70 years after the genocide, after the atomization of their kinship system through eradicative violence, often in post-migratory situations in or outside Europe. Survivors and descendants perceive specific identities through the prism of lived experiences including socio-historical and geographical contextualisation inside many regions or countries. These processes simultaneously take place in the aftermath of European upheavals such as the Cold War's end and the Soviet Union's collapse, and also in growing Internet-communications. While many survivors now speak more about what was formerly thought of as confidential details of their Holocaust experiences because they did not always correspond with the major representations built around the Victim's image, many descendants are in quest of cultural, social, and historical family roots in many European countries, developing online genealogical research, going to archives, and travelling to the soil of their ancestors therefore reconstituting their "self-historical identities".

Reconstructing cultural identity: a Transylvanian case

Author: Alina Ioana Branda (Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to analyze specific ways of reconstructing self historical and cultural identities, after repetitive traumas, focusing on the case of a Transylvanian Jewish community.

Long Abstract

The "Romanian Chapter of Holocaust" and the Transylvanian one, following a period of anti-Semitic laws exposed the Cluj Jews to limit experiences and triggered deep anxieties and traumas. Then, the social changes in Romania (the communist regime installed and the belonging to the Soviet Block) caused other individual and community traumas: the deprivation from social and educational functions of the community (as a specific historical structure, having for Jews the role of the State, compensating, at that time, its non existence), through different decrees, ordinances, laws in 1948, 1949, aiming at nationalizing hospitals, medical centers, orphanages, Jewish schools. This process affected enormously Jewish communities all over Romania, loosing those parts of institutions contributive to processes of identity construction and representation. On 11-th of August 1949, the imposed unification of the neolog, orthodox and Sephardic communities in Romania continued the aggressive campaign of the Romanian totalitarian state against Jewry. The post totalitarian period configured other specific problems: the emigration to Israel and other countries continued, the property restitution disadvantaged the Jews, and in general terms, non citizens and non residents of Romania. The goal of my paper is to analyze the strategies of identity self reconstruction, as they are present nowadays among the Cluj Jewish community members, after all these internalized traumas. The paper is the result of the fieldwork I have been conducting in Cluj in the last years. Semi structured interviews and life histories have been extremely useful in my analysis.

Post-communist counter-memories

Author: Michael Shafir (Babes-Bolyai University)  email

Short Abstract

The post-communist "competitive martyrdom" (Holocaust vs. Gulag) is the struggle of two different "post-memories," the latter using similar terms of reference as the former, but a different "master commemorative narrative", as is demonstrated by applying concepts borrowed from Holocaust studies.

Long Abstract

"Competitive martyrdom" is the attempt to exonerate one's political community from guilt or responsibility for having participated in the Second World War as a Nazi ally and from having perpetrated genocidal crimes against the Jews. It is a complex issue, influenced not only by the immediate Communist past and its treatment of the Holocaust in official history, but also, and above all, by socio-psychological factors linked to collective memory and to the social frameworks of the memory of specific groups within society. My paper employs concepts borrowed from Holocaust memory studies such as "communities of memory,""cultural traumas," "master commemorative narrative,""cognitive and mental mapping" and others to demonstrate why and how competitive martyrdom works. Unlike Holocaust denial, competitive martyrdom is bent on establishing that whatever sufferance perpetrators belonging to one's own community caused to victims of the Holocaust, this was merely a natural reaction to the earlier sufferance induced by the victims on that community. If Holocaust denial and Holocaust trivialization are by now likely to stir negative reactions at international regime level, competitive martyrdom is not only likely to squeeze in unsanctioned, but manages to enlist the support of figures who can hardly be suspected of antisemitism (as in the case of the deniers) or of subjectivity, ill-will or ignorance (as in that of the trivializes). This ongoing process is leading to what Dovid Katz has called "Holocaust obfuscation." The main pillar on which both competitive martyrdom and Holocaust obfuscation lean is the "Double Genocide" theory or the "Symmetric Approach."

Travelling stories and the empowerment of alternative, intimate histories in Estonia

Author: Inge Melchior (VU University Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation deals with travelling (hi)stories within Europe and the way in which they encourage young Estonians to defend ‘their’ (nation’s) precious pasts against Europe’s hegemonic historiography. These history encounters thus empower them to tell their alternative histories.

Long Abstract

In this presentation I will question how young Estonians, who increasingly face intercultural encounters with people from 'old Europe', empower themselves by introducing alternative histories, which contest the hegemonic historiography of Nazi Germany as Europe's biggest enemy. Although they themselves have no experiences of Soviet violence, they have lived in the stories of their parents and grandparents, and within a nation-state whose emotional historiography is closely connected with their family stories.

During an intensive fieldwork period in Tartu, I have come to understand how my informants perceive a hegemonic European historiography to exist and how their encounters with that historiography through cultural memory (film, books etc), travelling or international friendships have increasingly made them aware of their 'alternative' history. In addition, reflections on their conversations with me, a Western European anthropologist, have provided very valuable information on the introduction of alternative (hi)stories and the challenges that come with the mobility of stories.

In this paper I question what happens in these intercultural dialogues. I will argue that these encounters instigate both feelings of insecurity and empowerment, of exclusion and belonging to the bigger European family. I will show that when these youngsters are more aware of their alternative histories, they attach more importance to local commemorations, books and symbols. It is thus not only the mobility of people that affect mnemonic practices, but especially the mobility of stories that opens one's eyes for the preciousness of one's past, which incites to protect it against challenges by hegemonic historiographies.

The burden of the past: living together with divided memories on mass migrations in post-war Yugoslavia in Istria, Slovenia

Author: Katja Hrobat Virloget (University of Primorska)  email

Short Abstract

The paper investigates how the divided memories on mass migrations of Italians from Istria (Slovenia) after World War II influence the identities and cohabitation between the remained and immigrants in the emptied space.

Long Abstract

The mass migrations of (mostly) Italian speaking population due to redrawing borders between ex-Yugoslavia and Italia divides not just the two national collective memories, but also the memories of the communities living nowadays in the emptied (and resettled) space of Istria, Slovenia. What is understood as "exodus", forced national migrations on one side, is on the other side taken as voluntary migrations. The research is refocusing the attention from those who left to those who after mass migrations and great political-ideological turning points remain in the emptied space. The aim is to understand how their conflicting memories influence their identities and their cohabitation. On the one hand, the identity of a community is founded on the notion of "the victim", on the other hand the same tragic events will be neglected, reinterpreted and censored by the winning collective (national) memory, which will refer to the concept of victim too. The people that remained after the mass migrations lost all their social relations and found themselves as strangers in their own home, just as the immigrants. "Suppressed memories", amnesias of pressures, complicity, enmities, remain hidden because of their incompatibility with the national collective memory. The research shows the multiplicity of memories that according to Halbwachs can be explained by associating the individual memories to the various groups to which a person is simultaneously a member.

Ethnography of postsocialist rural change: social memory, modernity, local empowerment and internal displacement

Author: Hana Horáková (Metropolitan University Prague)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will look at the ways social memory derived from the “socialist past” affects ongoing processes and practices of local empowerment and exclusion/displacement in Czech rural areas.

Long Abstract

Rural change in postsocialist societies, accompanied by feelings of insecurity about the emerging new social order caused a breakdown in the most communities. Many local structures have changed dramatically; social networks have become fractured, while new structures of inequality and disadvantage have emerged. To understand the dynamics and complexity of the change, an ethnographic insight into the concept of social memory as a process in which issues of power, stratification, contestation are central is helpful, as well as the link between memory and identity, in order to trace the roots of social conflict.

The aim of the paper is to examine how social memory affects social interaction in the public space intersected by the ongoing processes of transnational mobility. The study uses multi-sited research strategy focusing on four rural areas in Czechia that have recently embarked upon international tourism.

Social memory is approached as an instigator of multiple practices and strategies that can lead both to local empowerment practices (denying the past), and to the internal displacement (symbolic and physical, within the newly produced social space in the logic of postsocialist modern rurality). The paper will look at the ways social memory derived from the "socialist past" affects ongoing processes, practices and relationships of empowerment on the one hand, and the fate of exclusion/displacement, on the other. The study on social memory will not only cast light on the complexity of the (re)production of rural space but it will also help account the conflicts between diverse social groups.

Communist industrialisation in Brașov: exploring the social memory of a "forced" migration

Author: Mihai Burlacu (Transilvania University, Brasov)  email

Short Abstract

The social memory regarding the industrialization of Brașov in the Communist period is correlated with an insidious form of “forced” migration. In this paper I explore the ways its subjects and their descendants managed to assemble the facets of their histories between intimacy and public spheres.

Long Abstract

The industrialization of Brașov during the Communist period was part of the state's attempt to bridge the gap between the developed western countries and Romania, following USSR model. This entailed a form of "acceleration", as the Communist authorities intended to recover the Western industrial advance in three decades. Seen as a whole, the industrialization of Romania included an insidious form of "forced" migration that is comparable with the deportations to the Bărăgan Plain. Seen in particular, the industrialization of Brașov entailed a massive migration from the rural areas of Moldavia, Muntenia and Transylvania. Deprived of any chance of having a future in their rural settlements due to collectivization, many Romanians were compelled to "choose" a spatial expression of social mobility. This phenomenon had lasting effects upon the families of those subjected to migration. It also affected their behaviours and cultural patterns. In my paper, I focus on the social memory activities of individuals who migrated from various rural areas to Brașov and were directly involved in the city's industrialization. I explore the various ways they assembled facets of their history between intimacy and public spheres in contemporary Post-Communist contexts. I also consider the dynamics of the new collaborative intimacies that have arisen and their effects inside families and other social spaces. This entails examining the modalities social memories were used in order to (re)construct historical identity. Likewise, it requires studying the way communications via Internet have modified the practices involved in shaping politics of memory and in constructing identity.

The post-memory and post-migrant society: quest for identity of Warmia-Masuria

Author: Michal Maleszka (Jagiellonian University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the role of post-memory in creating historical narratives and individual sense of belonging in the post-migrant society of Warmia-Masuria.

Long Abstract

Warmia-Masuria is a Polish region that once was a southern part of the

former German province of East Prussia. Contemporary social and cultural

identity of the region was defined by massive forced migration after the

second world war. Post 1945 history of the region was dominated by the

new ideology in which the "historical justice" and national rebirth was

tightly connected to establishement of the rule of communist party.

Period after 1989 resulted with proliferation of narrations on regional

far and recent history. Despite that the idea of "local identity" still

seems far from being certain and appointed.

Looking at the promo material on the region one can easily found

recurring sentence that "region is still looking for its identity". The

sociologigal concept of "third generation" (counting from the first

generation of newcomers since 1945) found its way to the non-academical

discussions in the local media.

In my paper I would like to present contemporary strategies of "looking

for the region's identity". The empirical foundation of my paper are

biographical accounts of members of the "third generation". I want to

focus my presentation on the role of post-memory in the process of

forming the individual sense of belonging. In the local context

post-memory at the same time concerns with the history of "our own"

country and people as well as history and land of the group that could

be treated as alien or even hostile. I want to depict how this shadows

affect present inhabitants of the region.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.