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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P120)

Memory and history: identity, social change and the construction of places

Location Tower B, Piso 3, Room T11
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Sónia Ferreira (CRIA (FCSH-Nova)) email
Inês Fonseca (CRIA FCSH-UNL) email
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Short Abstract

Due to the close relation between Memory and History, namely in the modern nation-state construction, discussions over past and historical or collective memory took central stage in social analysis debates. This panel calls for papers on memory, history, identity, heritage and space.

Long Abstract

Due to the close relation between Memory and History, namely in the modern nation-state construction and in sub consequent practices such as commemorationism, discussions over past and historical or collective memory took central stage in social analysis debates. In Anthropology and History field production, a part of this discussion focuses on the processes of making, defining and selecting heritage conveyed by identity construction dynamics.

So, as each epoch has its own memory social itineraries that change according to the historical forms that constitutes them, and also builds, reproduces and obliterate dominant and dominated memories, it becomes essential to present the processes of ‘making history’ and ‘construction’ of collective memories, in their agents and dynamics. An analysis of the dominant ‘cadres de mémoires’ present in each society is an instrument that reveals social hierarchies and status positions and constitutes a place where the production of identities is extremely relevant. Similarly, the construction, reproduction and projection of material, memory and collective spaces are crucial in the maintenance of social memory.

This panel calls for papers focused on cases that discuss the themes proposed, namely memory, history, identity, heritage and space.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Comment ethnographier la mémoire

Author: Martin Mourre (Deutsches historisches Institut)  email
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Short Abstract

À partir d'un événement tragique de la colonisation française en Afrique il s'agit de comprendre comment la mémoire de celui-ci a pris place progressivement dans l'espace social. D'autre part, cette communication cherchera à discuter du rôle du chercheur dans la production de cette mémoire.

Long Abstract

Le passé des sociétés africaines semble prendre une place croissante dans les constructions identitaires des acteurs du continent et ce à plusieurs échelles : groupes dominés, militants politiques, artistes et niveau étatique proposent des narrations historiques qui, parfois, concurrencent l'historiographie traditionnelle. À partir de la répression de Thiaroye − en 1944, au Sénégal, au moins 35 combattants africains ayant combattu pour la France sont tués sur ordre de l'administration coloniale simplement pour avoir réclamé leur paye−, cette communication s'articulera autour de deux axes. D'une part, il s'agit de comprendre de manière diachronique quels ont pu être les différents milieux de mémoire et les régimes d'historicité favorisant l'expression du souvenir de la répression. Cette focalisation sur ces deux notions permet de mieux comprendre la morphologie et les modifications de l'espace social national sénégalais. D'autre part, étant donné l'importance de l'objet mémoire dans les sociétés contemporaines − postcoloniales ou pas−, il s'agit de développer des outils méthodologiques originaux pour cerner le lien entre passé historique et pratiques identitaires. Je propose pour mieux rendre compte des phénomènes d'anamnèse, la description de deux phases d'observation participante issues de mon terrain de recherche: un travail théâtral réalisé en classe et l'organisation d'une exposition photographique ayant trait à l'histoire de Thiaroye.

Spaces of memory: the construction of colonial and post-colonial spaces in the memories of former Portuguese colonizers

Author: Mário Machaqueiro (CRIA/FCSH-UNL)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the memories built by former Portuguese colonizers, in their relation to the imaginary construction of colonial and post-colonial spaces, disclosing particular representations of Portugal, Angola and Mozambique as sites for identity-building and emotional investment.

Long Abstract

The question of the intricate relation between memory and history has become even more problematic in the post-colonial condition. The role of memory in the shaping of history, understood as a strategic reading of the past, is now a deeply contested one, for we are confronted with plural, conflictive and politicized narratives, which erupted from the identities that co-existed in the tensional field of colonial power relations. My paper addresses a segment of this new landscape, focusing on the memories built by former Portuguese colonizers who occupied different positions in the structure of colonial power. I question the strategies of nostalgia and resentment and the work of mourning that are ingrained in those memories. They will also be considered in their close relation to the imaginary construction of colonial and post-colonial spaces, since they disclose particular representations of Portugal, Angola and Mozambique as sites for identity-building, which symbolically extend the motherly body and the family relationships (Mother-Father/Child). Cleavages between "good" and "bad" spaces, but also the ambivalent swaying between the two, are pervasive in the memories analyzed in this paper.

It is my contention that the memories and narratives produced by those who integrated the formerly dominant side, defeated in the process of colonial wars, must be conceived as part and parcel of post-coloniality. By thinking the present through a reconstruction of the colonial past, they are a different way of articulating the prefix of post-colonialism, even when they strive to keep themselves out of it.

Remembering the war during peace: militarism, trauma and everyday life

Author: Ayse Yuksel  email
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Short Abstract

With the help of ethnographic data, collected from Southeast Turkey, this paper focuses on the relation between collective memory on war and the contemporary economic structures and classes.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to provide a historical frame for understanding how the periods of wars are remembered and interpreted during peace. Militarism, trauma and violence, which are usually associated with the "extraordinary periods" of humanity, that is to say the wars, are also in charge during peacetime. Thus, the very idea of "war" becomes an "empty signifier", which mobilizes social groups and help nation-states to regulate societies. In this paper, I focus on the relation between a "war trauma" and local entrepreneurial spirit in Southeast Turkey, a region connoting "poverty" and "ethnic conflicts" in contemporary Turkey. The empirical template, which I will pursue my theoretical discussion is a newly emerging industrial centre in the region, namely Antep. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Southeast Turkey became the arena of various local organizations and armed bands resisting to French and English troops. Antep resistance became the symbol of this struggle. The various and conflicted interpretations of the armed resistance continue to shape the urban space and local identities but more importantly they constitute a basis for the local entrepreneurial circles to connect to neoliberal order and legitimize their presence in urban economy.

With the help of in-depth interviews, I sketch how the business circles of Antep "remember" the resistance after WWI and associate their class identifications and local entrepreneurial spirit with the trauma of war. Such an inquiry reveals insightful data regarding not only social memory but also its relation with militarism, nationalism and class.

Carabanchel prison (Madrid, Spain)

Authors: Carmen Ortiz (CSIC)  email
Mario Martinez  email
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Short Abstract

The prison of Carabanchel was built after the end of the Spanish Civil War, by political prisoners, between 1940 and 1944. At the time, it was the largest prison in Europe. It was also one of the last examples of the panopticon design, which was very much in vogue during the late 19th century in Europe and America. Until the law of general amnesty of 1977, which put an end to political imprisonment two years after General Franco’s death, Carabanchel stood as the most powerful symbol of political oppression and resistance in Spain. The premises were vacated in 1998 and the prisoners (by then common criminals and nationalist terrorists) were transferred to other, more modern centres. After years of abandonment and under much controversy, the structure was eventually demolished in 2008.

Long Abstract

In this paper we will examine the biography of the prison, including not just its birth, life and death, but also its afterlife. The long agony of the prison—an entire decade—allowed for the emergence of diverse actors who used and misused, claimed and interacted with the place in different (often conflicting) ways. The relationship was not just between people and the prison as a symbol: the raw materiality of the derelict building played a prominent role in the years after its abandonment.

We will look at the history of Carabanchel prison considering three phases: the Francoist period (1940-1977); the period of common criminals (1977-1998); and the period of abandonment, demolition and afterlife (1998 to present). Each of these phases is marked by a particular relationship with politics and a different symbolization of the place in the collective imagination of the neighbours living around it and the Spaniards in general. During the first period Carabanchel is regarded as a pure political symbol of oppression and resistance to dictatorship; the second witnesses its conversion into a place of abjection, with AIDS, violence and drugs causing havoc among the common criminals that crowded Carabanchel; finally, the third period is the return of the political: the phase of marginality was glossed over and the neighbours struggled to transform the prison into a memorial to the fight for democracy during the late Francoism (1960s and 1970s).

Transcending European heritage. The Soviet prison camp of Tambov: social production of memory and memorial acting

Author: Florence Fröhlig (Södertörn University)  email
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Short Abstract

My presentation is about the current memorial practices of French former prisoners of war and their descendants on the site of the former soviet prison camp of Tambov(USSR - World War II). How does a new experience of the place of Tambov and a new oral memory of the site emerge through their memorial practices?

Long Abstract

The aim of this ethnological study is to examine the current "Production of memories" about World War II in Europe. Focus will be drawn here on war prisoners in the USSR and especially the Alsatian-Mosellan's inmates (France) of the former prison camp of Tambov (These men were enlisted by force in the German army). Since these men were victims who could not be recognized as such as they had been on the side of the attacker, most of the survivors chose silence after the war, which signs an impossible neglect. Today, the living memory of these war experiences is disappearing together with the witnesses. However, since the 1990s journeys to the former prison camp in Tambov, called pilgrimages, have been organized by survivors. The purpose of this study is to analyze the actual memorial agitation taking place around the former Soviet prison camp of Tambov and to examine how a new experience of the place of Tambov is emerging through the memorial practices. The study material consists of interviews with the memorial actors and by conducting fieldwork observation of the memorial activities (pilgrimages, commemorative rituals). This will give us insight into how the different social actors are transcending their painful past experience and how they re-inscribe their suffering inherent from World War II in a contemporary European context. One interesting question to ask in this context is whether we are witnessing a reconciliation process here, engendered by the survivors of the camp themselves?

Belgrade fairground - Judenlager Semlin: a place of intentional oblivion

Author: Ranka Gasic (Institute for Contemporary History)  email
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Short Abstract

The area of the old Belgrade Fairground represents a paradigm of the constant "zero-point" in the Balkan history of discontinuity. It underwent several radical transformations: from the desert land, a theater of wars, to the modern fairground, and the concentration camp during the WWII, the HQ of youth camps after 1945, and finally, to a place of total oblivion for the last 60 years.

Long Abstract

This area has symbolized many different ideas in the collective memory of the Belgrade population. At first, it was a borderline of civilizatins and states for the past few centuries (and during the WWII). After it became a part of the new state of Yugoslavia, a fairground was built, which was a symbol of modernism, europeization, mass industry and commercial success. Being a Nazi concentration camp during the WWII, it became a symbol of Nazi occupation and the suffering of civilians. However, the new communist ideology tried to erase the memory of the past and to promote the idea of "new start" and the "better future". Therefore, a whole new city was built around this area, which was left out and sank into more or less intentional oblivion for the next 60 years.

The memory of the concentration camp was, however, put in another context during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s (not as a place of Holocaust, but a place of the extermination of the Serbs in the Independent State of Croatia).

Although situated very close to the center of the city, it is still neglected by the city planners. The new Belgrade Fairground was built on another location in the 1950s, and so the place was definitely deprived of its symbolism of the progress, at the same time not having its proper status as a memorial of war victims

Constructing history: the case of "Newroz", Kurdish new year

Author: Caroline Wallis (University of Helsinki)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper will focus on the celebration of Newroz by the kurdish people in Turkey. Widely unknown to the public in the 1970s, it has become a cornerstone of the construction of collective identification with the Kurdish group. How?

Long Abstract

Every year in Turkey millions of Kurdish people gather to celebrate "Newroz", making this

event a highlight of Kurdish identity claims. When asked about the origins of the festival,

participants recount a Zoroastrian myth: the victory of Kawa the blacksmith over the dragon

demon Dehak.

Organizers and participants all agree that "Newroz is a Kurdish festival, a symbol of freedom

and resistance". Organized by the Kurdish nationalist party and various pro-Kurdish

associations, Newroz has become a cornerstone of the construction of collective identification

with the Kurdish group.

Widely unknown to the public in the 1970s, the political significance of the festival grew with

the Kurdish movement in the 1980s and took on particular momentum in the 1990s, so much

so that the Turkish state now feels threatened by what can be seen as an invented tradition: it

has proclaimed "Nevruz" to be a Turkish festival and has integrated it into Turkish national

historiography.

My paper will focus on the introduction of Newroz into collective memory, looking into the

agents and mechanisms of appropriation of a Zoroastrian celebration and its transformation

into a symbol of identity. I will also be looking at the recent inclusion of Newroz, here

Nourouz, on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Collective memory has just left the building: the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara

Author: Kivanc Kilinc (Yasar University)  email
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Short Abstract

In the 1930s the Turkish government established museums as part of its political agenda to build a secular national identity. This paper examines the ways in which the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara has become, through its collections, an integral part of the city's collective memory.

Long Abstract

With the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923, history and archaeology became the tools to redefine a secular Turkish identity. Following examples in Europe, the government inaugurated a national archaeology campaign and established museums in the 1930s. One of the prime examples of this movement was the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. Linking contemporary Turkish identity with the earliest civilizations in the Anatolian peninsula, such as the Hittites, this museum functioned as part of a larger agenda to prevent the Islamic element from dominating the Turkish identity, which was seen obstacle to progress and Westernization. In so doing, the republic attempted to "colonize" its Ottoman past, reducing it merely into another phase in its "timeless" existence.

By examining the ways in which both post-imperial and national narratives were spatially registered in this Museum, this paper explores its public perception in the contemporary. It argues that whilst the national agenda "failed" in the long run to replace the Islamic element with a secular, essentialist historical narrative, one of the ancient relics exhibited in the Museum became a powerful urban symbol embraced by the secular camp of the political left and an integral part of the city's collective memory. More specifically, by focusing on the last 20 years of municipal politics in Turkey's capital, the paper examines the role that the Museum has played, through its narrative and collections, in the ongoing political battle to choose an official symbol for the city.

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"Dirty", "arty" and "red": Croatian socialist heritage out of time and out of memory

Authors: Sanja Potkonjak (University of Zagreb)  email
Tomislav Pletenac (Faculty of Philosophy)  email
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Short Abstract

We would argue that by using the example of the ways in which socialist monuments were treated after 1990’s in the town of Sisak, Croatia, we could as well show strong processes of re-symbolization of collective remembrance through public discourse and rituals.

Long Abstract

This paper aims at studying a Croatian continental town of Sisak and its identity-in-change regarding the political shifts after the 1990s. The town itself was a major industrial centre during socialism, prosperous and fast growing socialist locale. The paper here tries to observe the ways in which socialist political imagery, was materialized in architecture, public art and political rituals and was inscribed and embedded into the city. In particular, it focuses on the political trajectory of the last twenty years and the negotiations of socialist and post-socialist ideology, memory and collective identity regarding socialist art heritage. We would argue that by using the example of the ways in which socialist monuments were treated in the last twenty years in the town of Sisak we could as well claim that the period after 1990s shows strong processes of re-symbolization, the processes of modification of collective remembrance through public discourse and rituals. Symbolic capital of socialist monuments was questioned though the linguistic practices of neglect, aggression and hate, as well as by individual actions. The paper tries to set questions of how changes in political imaginary re-shape the collective imaginary of self and others, what makes particular stories become viable histories of the locale in contrast to the histories to be forgotten, and how is it that a city can offer a paradigm of changes, therefore revealing that a place becomes meaningful only upon the process of cumulative consensus upon its past and present.

How to construct death so that you could live? The past of "Merry Cemetery" in Săpânţa as a category of integrating local religious communities

Author: Agnieszka Chwieduk (Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology)  email
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Short Abstract

The past (given as history and “story”) of local universe is first of all a category producing behaviour, be produced by the behaviour and maintain division. These ideas are analyzed on the example of case study of the Romanian village Săpânţa, known for its historic "Merry Cemetery".

Long Abstract

The speech will discuss the problem of constructing local community around the past. The past it isn't the story given "straight" both the community and the stranger outside. The past is a category producing behaviour, be produced by the behaviour for maintain division as a form of integration. These ideas are demonstrated by analyzing the behaviour of citizens of the Romanian village Săpânţa, known for its "Merry Cemetery". Their community is divided on the dominant group of Orthodox believers and Greek-Catholic minority. "Merry Cemetery" was the idea of the Greek-Catholic priest G. Luţu and before 1945 belonged to the Greek Catholics, and it. As a result of pressure from the communist regime in Romania, there was a forced conversion to Orthodoxy and Greek Catholics deprived of their property, which is not recovered in Săpânţa during the political changes after the collapse of the Ceaucesu's regime. The current community of Orthodox feels as the heiress to the idea of "Merry Cemetery". They use story about cemetery as proof which legitimize their estates and it is the "product for sale" to tourists which generates a profit and element of building Orthodox community prestige. The Greek-Catholics use the past (story about Merry Cemetery) as an element in bringing together and constructing the category of "persecuted." The significant function of the past as "local history" is also complicates the situation of the anthropologist who is treated as "a witness to history" and as a pawn in a local game.

From radioactive pyramids to balmy water: memory and heritage in a former mining town in Eastern Germany

Author: Arnika Peselmann (Institute of Saxon History and Cultural Anthropology (ISGV) Dresden)  email
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Short Abstract

After the reunification of Germany, uranium mines in the former GDR were closed and the areas decontaminated. This has not only changed the topography of the places but also constituted a field of contestation within different memories, heritage conceptions and identity constructions are articulated.

Long Abstract

Along with the reunification of Germany, the uranium ore mines in the Erzgebirge region, a part of the former GDR, were closed after having provided uranium for Soviet nuclear programs for more than 45 years. In the course of the decontamination some villages underwent a strong transformation in their topography and social spaces. One of the most severely affected ones turned from a "valley of death" into a spa offering nonhazardous radioactive bathes. Constructing a historical continuity to the pre-war period when the village was a well-known spa, buildings have been erected largely at the same locations as before the uranium mining.

Whereas the uranium mining was highly promoted by GDR authorities, after 1990 the endeavor was devaluated in national as well as local discourses. While the physical legacy is less and less visible, however, associations have been founded to memorize and preserve the so-called cultural heritage of the mining by e.g. performing miner's parades. These local and partially controversial initiatives have now been joined by the contentious project to nominate the entire Erzgebirge region a UNESCO "Mining and Cultural Landscape."

This paper focuses on a Erzgebirge village to investigate the negotiations among local, national and international actors dealing with heritage and landscape understood as a meaning-laden space inscribed with personal as well as collective memories and a relevant means to identity constructions.

Old memories and new histories: migrants and locals in an Italian town

Author: Donatella Schmidt (Università di Padova)  email
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Short Abstract

The arrival of migrants onto the local scene, represented by a middle-sized Italian town, provokes an urge for self-redefinition by the non-migrant majority and the migrant minority alike in an effort to come to terms with one’s own memories, with each other’s images, and with mutual representations.

Long Abstract

The arrival of migrants wishful of recognition in the public space is undoubtedly a moment of crisis for a host society. Our thesis is that the irruption of newcomers onto the local scene and into the regional political agenda provokes not only a shake-up in everyday life, but an urge for self-redefinition by the non-migrant majority and the migrant minority alike in a mutual effort to make sense of what is happening. Part of this redefinition involves a reconstruction of collective memories as pre-condition to imagine a society able to include both parts. Our narrative texts were mainly collected in a north-eastern Italian town located in Veneto, a region which hosts one of the quickest growth-rate of immigrant population on the continent. In this same region the memory of emigrants, who left poverty-striken war-burdened families by the thousands to seek fortune overseas, is constantly revived by the governing party to recreate a Venetian identity to counter-oppose the recent immigrants' histories and identities. Thus, memories of a recent past are introduced both to create empathy with newcomers and to mark a boundary-line with them. The large number of public events, out of which our narratives are taken, organized in different locations and by different actors, were only apparently isolated; if considered in a larger temporal and spatial context, they unveil threads which make actors and events intertwined and interdependent. The concept of mutuality, mentioned by Bauman (2003)is particularly relevant in the present study.

Pioneers in the Polder: place making and identity construction in new town Almere

Author: Demelza van der Maas (Vu University Amsterdam)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will examine how a new local, shared identity is constructed through cultural practice in the Dutch new town Almere, by focusing on a 2010 art project that aimed to be a platform for cultural place making and the construction of a new collectivity in the new quarter Almere Poort.

Long Abstract

In June of 2010, The Pavilions, a museum of contemporary art in the Dutch new town Almere, kicked off a project called Pioneers in Poort. This project aimed to be a platform of cultural place making and the construction of a new collectivity in the new quarter Almere Poort, that is yet to be realized.

The Pioneers in Poort project offered so called Happenings on a literal blue print of the Pavilions, realized in artificial grass and situated on the building suite of Almere Poort. The project means to construct the new quarter as a meaningful, perceived space by allowing future inhabitants of the new quarter to meet eachother and share their thoughts on past, present and future.

Interestingly enough, Pioneers in Poort focuses on creating new collectivity by referring to historical notions of pioneership, a dominant narrative in the history of the Dutch IJsselmeerpolders.

My paper will examine the dynamic process of place making and local identity construction by analyzing the Pioneers in Poort project, historically contextualizing it and analyzing interplay between official and vernacular contributions.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.