home / congresses / SIEF2013

SIEF2013 11th Congress: Tartu, Estonia.
30 June - 4 July, 2013

SIEF2013: Circulation

Tartu, Estonia; 30th June - 4th July


Agents, politics and intermediality in/of circulating historical knowledge

Location Jakobi 2, 114
Date and Start Time 03 July, 2013 at 10:30


Ene Koresaar (University of Tartu) email
Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti (The Finnish Literature Society) email
Tiiu Jaago (University of Tartu) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The panel invites papers on the 20th century experience and history cultures related to it. Interdisciplinary approaches focussing on issues of intermediality and negotiation in the process of history-making are welcomed.

Long Abstract

The panel problematizes how the dynamics of meaning-making of the 20th century past is formed in relation both to experience and to pre-existing narratives. One of the main questions this panel poses is about the circulation of historical interpretations through personal, local and national narratives. Another question related to the first one is about the 'travelling' of historical images within the European cultural space, the role played by mediation in the transfer and translation of images and stories about the past across national and cultural-linguistic borders.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Telling history through memoirs: dealing with the communist past in post-communist Albania

Author: Rigels Halili (Nicolaus Copernicus University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on one important aspect of post-communist reality in Albania, namely the ways Albanians experience, remember and/or forget the period of communist regime. My analysis focuses on a recent phenomenon, i.e. the growing number of published memoirs about life under communist rule.

Long Abstract

The main aim of this article is to analyze a recent in post-communist Albania, namely the growing number of memoirs written by intellectuals, political prisoners, former activists of the communist regime, army officers etc. It is like almost everybody, who lived under communist regime has a story to tell, and thus a book to publish. Seen in the context of recent explosion of memory in Europe this phenomenon is not specific at all, but the time of appearance and intensity call for a closer analysis.

Apart from economic hardship, political instability and social unrests, the case of post-communist Albania is specific also due to the, as I call it, collective social amnesia about the communist experience, which dominated in the public discourse for more than a decade after the change of regime in 1991. The half of the next decade has seen a growing tendency to write about communist experience. Many oral testimonies, memoirs, documentaries, and journalistic accounts have appeared, but been historians have remained silent. Only recently there have appeared few historical works on communism. What are the reasons behind the lack of activity by professional historians and the explosion of telling history by amateurs? Are these two phenomena related to each other, and how if at all? What were the reasons behind social and collective amnesia of the 1990s and the explosion of memory in 2000s? Through analysis of few memoirs and their contextualization I try in my paper to answer to these questions.

Literature and historical archives in the circulation of local images: a study of local and national narratives in Xiangxi, Central China

Author: Lijing Peng (Trinity College Dublin)  email

Short Abstract

This article aims at investigating two distinct literacy practices, basing on a study of area history in China: one endeavors to represent local people, the other to produce nationalistic ideologies. It especially looks into the role of circulation leading to diversified historical narratives.

Long Abstract

China has experienced great political and social transitions in the first half of the 20th century, which have deeply influenced modern nationalistic ideology. This article endeavors to examine two literacy practices in Xiangxi which brought about considerate influences on the historical interpretations of local images.

The first is an analysis of literary works of a Chinese writer, Shen Congwen, which indexes a purified peasantry morality through his literary style in which the voices of local people are believed to be presented. The role of literary texts is examined as interventions in broader cultural and ideological dynamics, which, through circulation, generating power on cirtain historical images. The popularity and vicissitude of Shen's works during the 20th century also implied the change of attitudes towards the positive locality implicated.

The second study is an examination of local historical archives in Early Modern Period and their circulation. Through reading the national and local propaganda, one can see these archives as efforts of advocating local educational experience and equaling it as an image of pioneer educational system which may well fit into the Chinese nationalism in Early Modern Period; the local image in relation, however, is contrary to Shen's ideology of positive locality.

Two parallel analyses here exemplify the diversified historical narratives, which base on the special structure of Chinese society. Both the writer Shen Congwen and clerks documenting local archives were analyzed to describe this structure, which, through circulation process, lead to different patterns of creating locality.

Folklore and fine arts: the circulation of images

Author: Toms Ķencis (Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art)  email

Short Abstract

Latvian national fine arts developed by borrowing heritage concepts created by other cultural activities, connected to the nation-building processes. The differences of discursive economies make it a study of status representation within knowledge production.

Long Abstract

My presentation concerns the efforts to formulate Latvian national arts from the last decades of the nineteenth century to World War I. Due to increasing number of ethnic Latvians educated in institutions of Russian Empire and abroad, as well as increasing density of local art market, a necessity to formulate principles of national fine arts besides other forms of cultural representation rose. Still, there were no state-governed national art and high art education institutions in the Latvian speaking provinces of Russian Empire at the time. The idea of national art developed within the framework of free and often international discussions, borrowing models of identity from more mature art scenes abroad as well as from other areas of representation like discourse of folklore and ethnography. As a result, several coexisting versions of national art identity can be distinguished in the given period of time. Visual arts can be "nationalized" via form - developing particular ethnographic patterns of ornamentation or via content. The latter ranges from formal depictions of local landscapes (V. Purvītis) and people (early J. Rozentāls) to motifs of ancient history (A. Baumanis), folklore (Ā. Alksnis, R. Rudzītis) and mythology (late J. Rozentāls). The developing scene of ethnic visual arts became a place of negotiation and exchange between international artistic techniques on the one hand and construction of national cultural heritage on the other hand. As such it demonstrates highly interesting dynamics of discourse economy taking place in a field of tension between realms of different status, traditions and rules.

Travelling shows: peripatetic artists of the 20th century and their legacies

Author: JoAnn Conrad (CSU East Bay)  email

Short Abstract

The emigre illustrators of mass-produced US children's books in the 20th century contributed to the mythologizing of a particular vision of America.However, their art also reveals a residual,perhaps subversive, avant-garde sensibility.

Long Abstract

Among children's books illustrators in the US in the 20th century many were recent emigres from Eastern Europe. Fleeing the Russian Revolution, pogroms, the Nazis, or seeking out the vibrant art communities in western Europe, these artists' paths to the U.S. were circuitous; the U.S. not necessarily the planned destination. Along the way, all seem to have been part of artistic and ideological movements in Europe, particularly the avant-garde.

In the US, many of these artists were employed in the corporate world of the Golden Books -- cheap, mass produced children's books directed at middle class consumers. Thus,despite coming from an avant-garde background, they now found themselves not only involved in radical capitalism and consumerism, but agents in the mythologizing of a particular vision of America. From the corporate standpoint, these artists held value because they worked for cheap and because their productions evoked nostalgia for the "old world" that satisfied American expectations. But since many of these expatriates were Jews, their artwork evokes the echoes of now-destroyed shtetl life and of the Russian countryside, overlain by the artistic experimentation of the 1920s. Thus, these artists incorporate traces of a now vanished homeland in their images, which were unremarkably incorporated into mainstream Americana. Their art also displays a residual sensibility about the nature of art and its perception, and the role of art in shaping a new society that comes from this radical European past. Their visual experiences spill out over the page and call the viewer into an emotional and experiential relationship that makes the narrative almost irrelevant.

The missing manuscript of Vladimir Korotkevich: genres and forms of the narrative and its function in contemporary Belarus

Author: Anastasiya Astapova (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on the belief that has appeared and developed recently in Belarus about the missing manuscript of the novel by Vladimir Korotkevich. The belief obtained multiple forms and may be defined from the point of view of different genres as well as their functions in contemporary society.

Long Abstract

In 1960s Belarusian writer Vladimir Korotkevich wrote the novel "Ears under your sickle", which is based on the real facts of Belarusian history and refers to one of its most prominent moments - the uprising of Kastus Kalinovsky held in 1863 against tsarist Russia and Poland. The book was planned to be written in three parts: the first and the second ones telling about the childhood and life of those who organized the uprising, while the third one was planned to be dedicated to the uprising itself. It is officially considered that Korotkevich didn't write the third part, and it resulted into the shorter novel which didn't justify hopes of readers. Though at the same time I encountered the fact that some people do not accept this official point of view, and claim that the third book was written, but stolen.

This paper concentrates on the belief into existence of the third part of the nationally important novel that, to the people's mind, could increase not only ethnic identity, but also the possibilities for the political changes. It gives an account of the main forms of the belief and genres of the narrative as well as its function in contemporary Belarus.

Interpreting experiences and evaluating history in first-person narratives

Author: Andreas McKeough (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

In my paper, I will showcase what I refer to with the term of experience-centered validation/invalidation of historical conceptions in first-person narratives. I will do so by analyzing examples from a data that consists of texts that describe the Finnish Civil War of 1918.

Long Abstract

The form and contents of first-person, written narratives are guided by various dynamic and intertwining intensions, related to e.g. the nature of the experiences of the narrator, the desire to process and transmit them, and in a wider sense to the cultural, social and political contexts of narrating. In this paper, I will look at how personal ways and forms of experiencing historical phenomenon are linked to collective historical conceptions in first-person narratives. I argue that one key function of these linkages is what I have labeled as the experience-centered validation/invalidation of historical conceptions, which is connected to the intension of expressing and interpreting personal experiences and thus constructing subjective historical agency in relation to collective memory, historical interpretations and historiography. I use the term first-person narrative here to describe autobiographical texts where the narrator describes his/her life and experiences in a specific time frame. The paper is based on the data of my ongoing doctoral dissertation, which consist of such texts that describe the Finnish Civil war of 1918.

In my paper, I will showcase what I refer to with the term of experience-centered validation/invalidation of historical conceptions with the help of examples from my data. The concept is constructed to describe the relation of personal key experiences and historical conceptions in first-person narratives: how experiences and ways of experiencing are portrayed so that they either validate or invalidate historical conceptions, and in the former case how these conceptions on their part validate experiences.

The evacuation of children from Finland to Sweden during the Second World War in the light of memories and public discussion

Author: Pirjo Korkiakangas (University of Jyväskylä)  email

Short Abstract

The topic is children evacuated during the WWII from Finland to Sweden, their memories recalled three to six decades after the war. The reminiscences are connected with the approaches Finnish society adopted to these children, and how the transferring operation has been presented in public discourse.

Long Abstract

During the WWII about 70 000 Finnish children were transferred to safety, mostly to Sweden. Transferring was not an exceptional phenomenon; similar operations were carried out around Europe during the Second World War. In proportion to population, Finland transferred more children than any other country. Transfers were not only evacuations from war front action and bombing areas but were planned and related to "bettering" the surviving conditions on the home front.

The transfer operation was a turning point in the lives of the people who were war children during the WWII, and has affected their course of life. The main question in my studies has been how they as adults reminisce the events and places they lived in, and how themes of separation and identification are present in their memories. They experienced the separation twice: at first when they were separated from their parents, and again when they had to return to Finland and leave their Swedish home and foster parents. In Sweden they encountered a foreign language and a different culture. When they returned to Finland the youngest ones had forgotten Finnish, their mother tongue. After the war the standard of living in Finland was different from what they had accustomed to in Sweden. Further, their feeling was that their parents, sisters and brothers were like foreigners. The materials analyzed are in addition to interviews and written reminiscences of transferred persons collected during the 1970s and 2000s, public debate presented in newspapers during the war and afterwards, and historical and psychological studies.

The activity of the autobiographical narrator in the history-making process

Author: Tiiu Jaago (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

In the presentation I focus on the problem how drastic changes in the political situation affect the interpretation of the pre-change situations and the self-description of the narrator. I observe this through the example of autobiographical narratives.

Long Abstract

In the presentation I compare memories supporting on autobiographic narratives, describing everyday activities in connection with events of general history (period of revolution or war, establishment of the Soviet power in Estonia, period of restitution of independence in Estonia). The stories were narrated in the 1920s-30s, 1970s-80s and 1990s-2000s. The majority of the researched texts are retained in public archives (in the Estonian Cultural History Archives and the Tartu University Library). I compare these interpretations of the past, created at the initiative of researchers and told by narrators who were aware of the presence of the public, with materials from family archives. This enables to monitor the oppositions as well as the interplay between the general political and public attitudes and the personal or communal attitudes, concentrating on the role of the narrator - the first-person-character - in the described historical processes.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.