Dina Abazovic, University of Agder, Norway
‘Everyone in Town is Crying’: Images of War in Sarah Kane’s Blasted
In 1993, while staying at a Leeds hotel writing a play about a man and a woman, Sarah Kane saw on TV an old woman from Srebrenica crying for help, pleading for the UN, or anyone, to do something. This was only one report in a myriad of images about shelling, war rapes, starving people, that shocked Europe and the rest of the world in the early 90’s, while at the same time turning viewers into spectators.
Media reports on the Bosnian war changed the direction of the young English playwright’s first piece, Blasted. After the initial two scenes, the play explodes into scenes of a war zone, directly responding to the atrocities of the Balkan conflict. However, in the final version all concrete references to this war are deleted. As an allegory of the situation in Bosnia, Blasted points to the shortcomings of journalism and the absence of international intervention, reminding that no society has a guarantee of peace. The play is political in its origin, content and effects, but this was misunderstood when it premiered in January 1995. In this paper I am going to analyze the impact of the TV images and how they are reflected in Sarah Kane’s play. I will look at how the images from the actual war evolved into theatrical images, and how the war reports were integrated into the final text of the play.
Molly Andrews, University of East London, UK
Representing the pain of others: Tensions of ethical scholarship
This paper explores some of the inherent tensions between scholarship and ethics for researchers trying to understand stories of persons living in conditions of adversity. As someone who has long been interested in how people construct the historical moments in which they live, and how this contributes to the ways in which they participate in these upheavals, I have encountered numerous situations where I am listening to stories of acute pain and loss. We are often told that the most important skill an interviewer can have is that of listening, but little is said about the challenges that lie in such an endeavour. As academics, our ears are trained for critical analysis, highly sensitized towards ferreting out the inconsistencies in the stories offered us. Yet, as Veena Das (1997) remarks, “Even the most articulate among us face difficulties when we try to put ambiguous and jumbled thought and images into words. This is even more true of someone who has suffered traumatic loss”. Rather than attending to the variability of human emotion, staying with our speakers as they weave in and out of the experiences of their lives, we are trained to keep focused on our research agenda. Far from becoming better listeners over time, the journey for successful academics is often in the opposite direction, as we reveal the inconsistencies and vulnerabilities of others, all the while becoming ever more confident in our own ways of making sense of the world. How can we do our work responsibly, making ourselves vulnerable to hearing that which confronts our deepest sensibilities, and represent that to an outside world, all the while keeping in our hearts and minds those who have entrusted us with their stories?
Das, Veena (1997). “Language and the Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain”, in Kleinman, A., V. Das, and M. Lock, eds. Social Suffering. London: University of California Press.
Charles I. Armstrong, University of Agder, Norway
“As Though Curtains Were Drawn Suddenly Aside”:
Embedded Metaphors and Poetry of the Northern Irish Troubles
Northern Irish poetry depicting The Troubles has both implicitly and explicitly drawn upon historical precedent in their search for ways of articulating the trauma attending the political conflict. W. B. Yeats’s search for “befitting emblems of adversity” during the Irish Civil War is a particularly important exemplar, but still only one of a wide range of intertexts. Michael Longley’s poetry is particularly rich in drawing upon both historical and mythical parallels, expressing his grief over the bloodshed of the 1970s and 1980s in dialogue with the poetry of both World Wars and Homer’s treatment of the Trojan War. World War I is particularly important for Longley, as he uses autobiographical memory – linking up with his father’s wartime memories – to provide a historical echo chamber for contemporary grief. Given that his father’s participation in the London-Scottish regiment already partook in the denominational faultlines that would play such a crucial role in the Troubles, the vehicle (World Wari I) can be said to be embedded in the tenor (The Troubles), rather than deployed as a mere means of comparison. Similarly one also see a poet such Ciaran Carson exploring the historical markers inherent in Belfast street names – linked with the Crimean War and other Victorian battles – to suggest historical parallels and palimpsests to the conflict in Ulster. This paper will look at how these and other key Northern Irish poets use past political conflicts and wars as embedded metaphors for their own historical predicament, exploring both the formal and ideological aspects of this practice.
Taras Boyko, University of Tartu, Estonia
Changing the Story: from Soviet to Post-Soviet War/Military Related Monuments in Ukraine
Memories of wars and military conflicts always were, and continue to be, a rather sensitive issue in almost any culture, especially if we speak about the European continent. It is hardly possible to find a national historical narrative, which in one way or another does not rely on, for instance, a story of the heroic past of our fathers and grandfathers who fought and gave their lives for our freedom, independence, rights, and internationalist duties. Eventually this “heroic past” – whether or not it was artificially created for various semi-fictional or propaganda purposes, or indeed can be supported by accepted historical facts – finds its way to being, as it were, cast in bronze, and into the minds of the people. The current paper intends to explore a number of examples of war or military related monuments in Ukraine, with a particular focus on the changes in the tradition of monumental sculpture, especially in terms of composition, locations of the war monuments, and general ideology that has laid behind these monuments over the last seventy or more years. During this time span Ukraine (or Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, as a part of Soviet Union) and Ukrainian people have been involved in a number of military conflicts; however, not all of these conflicts are equally commemorated in, for example, monuments or celebrations of various war related anniversaries, on the state level. My intention, therefore, is to focus on the monuments related to the most crucial military events for Ukrainians: World War II, the so-called “Afghan War” (1979-1989), and, since 2014, the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine.
Jens Brockmeier, The American University of Paris, France
Layers of life
From Freud’s view of digging buried memories to neurocognitive theories and recent ideas of cultural memories as flowing across layers of collective and personal experience, many modern models of memory use stratified scenarios. In this talk, I consider some reasons for this approach of memory.
Kristin L. Canfield, University of Texas, Austin, US
The Cold War in/of Holocaust Film: The Divergent Reception of Ida
Film has played an essential role in remembering the Holocaust and the Second World War. From the immediate responses in Poland by directors like Jakubowska and Wajda to the explosion of American responses following the Vietnam War, decolonization, or the TV miniseries, Holocaust (1976), film developed a unique vocabulary for documenting and responding to the war. At the same time, the divisions caused by the Cold War meant that these conversations by in large took place separately. While contemporary historical films are produced within a local context, if successful, they circulate beyond the context in which they were produced and thus must take into account both the interests of the local populations and the task of making local histories intelligible to international audiences. Their role in shaping public memory, therefore, is characterized by their obligations to multiple publics. By taking the reception of Pawel Pawilkowski’s Academy Award winning film Ida (2014) as a case study, this paper argues that the study of film must ground itself in questions of circulation across publics. In taking seriously not only the conservative, nationalist response to the film in Poland, but also the sometimes paternalistic, foreign acclaim for the film, I show how Ida reimagines Polish memories of the Holocaust through the lens of Communist Poland. It is not only that we cannot understand the Polish experience of the Second World War without understanding how its memories were negotiated by the post-war government, but that memories of Communist Poland rely on strategies and forms originally developed to remember the Holocaust.
Jakob Dahlbacka, Åbo Akademi University, Finland
“Inventio Crucis” – The Use of Biblical Narrative and History Culture as Prosthetic Memory When Converting a Nightclub into a Church
When, in 2016, The Lutheran Church of Helsinki – located in the heart of the Finnish capital – was once again converted into a church, a long series of events was brought to an end. During the past 25 years the building had served as both a restaurant and a nightclub, and before that had been subject both to wartime bombing and squatting. Hence, understandably, spirits were high among the members of The Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland, who stood behind the re-opening; the event was labelled a “new beginning”, a “return home” and an “awakening from the dead”. In the wake of the announcements of the re-opening, news spread of the discovery of the church’s altar cross. The cross – believed to have been destroyed during dismantling of the religious interior – had miraculously survived the exile. The symbolism was obvious, and it soon became the key element in the “conversion story”, surrounding and preparing the inauguration. For instance, more than 150 volunteers carried the cross from Turku, where it had been stored, to Helsinki – a distance of nearly 150 kilometers. At first sight, this story has little to do with war or political rupture. On the other hand, it is hard not to notice the resemblance to the original “finding of the cross myth” that served to legitimize Jerusalem as a Christian city, and also to the original crusades, which later aimed at reclaiming it. Thus, below the surface, the mediated story is one of good conquering evil and of something lost being reclaimed from enemy hands. It is a story that draws on implicit but recognizable Christian and church-historical imagery, narrative figures and memory, and thus serves as a prosthetic memory for those without a personal connection to the actual site, but with a clear knowledge of the history that culture brought to the fore.
Colin Davis, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
‘The Day War Broke Out’: Talking and Not Talking About War
This paper suggests that war may be an underlying reference point often, and especially, in testimonial works which do not overtly thematise its traumatic presence. The particular example examined here is that of the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. His account of the occasion on which he strangled his wife in 1980 makes only the briefest allusion to his experiences as a Prisoner of War in the 1940s, yet I shall suggest that this allusion underpins the whole episode. Remembering and not remembering, recounting and concealing, talking and not talking about the war, are bound up with one another in the fraught politics and ethics of memory.
Cigdem Esin and Aura Lounasmaa, University of East London, UK
Ethical Conversations: Working with Refugee Narratives in Calais Jungle
This paper draws on our reflections and on-going questions of the ethical complexities of working with refugee residents of the unofficial refugee camp in Calais Jungle. These reflections are based on our involvement in numerous overlapping projects and initiatives run in the camp by the Centre for Narrative Research at the University of East London since November 2015. The projects include a short university course aimed at camp residents, and multimodal narrative workshops for men and women in the camp. Other forms of storytelling emerged in these projects, such as a film by two refugee film-makers, and a co-authored book by a number of camp residents. The questions we raise in this paper are related to two separate and interlinked layers of this work: working with refugees, and working with refugee narratives. The questions lie in the ethical, conceptual and physical boundaries of the work we do while working with refugees. We constantly negotiate power relations and categories of difference. These negotiations shape the ethically important moments (Guillemin& Gillam, 2004) within a context in which acute conditions and relations define the contact. We approach the narratives that are produced and co-produced in the projects as strategic tools in the process of self-making and world-making (Bruner, 2001). The narrative approach enables us to consider the refugee narratives beyond binary categories such as victim/agent or vulnerable/resilient. While none of the projects are designed for analysing narratives for research purposes, representation necessarily arises as an ethical dilemma. Both, the participants, and we ourselves realise the important ‘transformative’ potential of disseminating some of these narratives. However, we cannot control the conditions of dissemination and interpretation once the stories have been told. We will discuss our questions as part of the ethico-political positions that we inhabit within these projects.
Victoria Fareld, Stockholm University, Sweden
Entangled Memories of Trauma: Améry and Fanon
In my presentation, I will discuss the entangled memories of the Holocaust and the anti-colonial struggles in Western Europe in the 1960’s, by way of relating the writings of Jean Améry and Frantz Fanon. My aim is to explore how Améry’s retrospective narrative of his lived experience in the Nazi Lager was formed by his reading of Fanon’s experiences of colonialism, and how Fanon’s narrative of the colonial trauma was transposed and translated into Améry’s testimony as a Holocaust survivor.
Kim Stefan Groop, Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland
Olukonda Mission Station as a (Trans-)Cultural Heritage
In the 1870s, in South West Africa (now Namibia), the Finnish Missionary Society founded a mission station at Olukonda close to the court of the King of the Ndonga ethnic group. One of its first missionaries was Martti Rautanen – nicknamed Nakambale because of his hat – and he quickly became a local legend. Apart from serving as a missionary and pastor, Rautanen developed the Ndonga language, translated religious texts, collected plants, studied the local folklore, acted as the kings’ medical doctor and political advisor and so on. In 1992, shortly after Namibia gained its independence from South Africa (after some four decades of apartheid and nearly three decades of civil war) Rautanen’s mission station – including the church, and the graveyard at Olukonda – was declared a national cultural heritage. Explored in this presentation will be the transcultural aspects of this cultural heritage. Despite the reputation of the missionary movement as being at odds with culture, it is assumed here that there were many areas where mission/missionaries and local culture/individuals merged and grew into each other. This may have been the case at Olukonda, and this may in turn be one of the main reasons why Namibian politicians today are repeatedly emphasizing the importance of this site. Leading questions in this study could be as follows: How are the cultural boundaries depicted at the heritage site of Olukonda? What kind of a role do the Finnish missionaries play in the Namibian story told at and about Olukonda?
Jordi Guixé i Coromines, European Observatory of Memories, University of Barcelona, Spain
Uncomfortable Memories in Public Spaces. Some Trans-European Cases
Memory processes in 21st century Europe have new challenges. Two main axes mark the actions around which public policies of memory are created: trans-nationality and trans-disciplinary actors (how “mobile memories” interact in a transversal way, breaking national borders), and the effects of citizen participation on memory. Both are the aims of our European Observatory on Memories. Although governments have to deal with “uncomfortable”, “conflictive” and “subaltern” inherited memories that are represented in the public space in different ways: art, public space projects, monuments, memorials and street art, these different expressions of memory demonstrate unsolved ideological and cultural problems such as the relationship between Eastern and Western Europe, or national/global narratives, and political, national unsolved conflicts with its past. In this paper, I will discuss the unsolved and conflictive case of Spain, with its civil war and dictatorship, as well as other European examples of memorials and conflictual monuments within the social sphere of citizen’s participation and debates.
Matti Hyvärinen, University of Tampere, Finland
Scaffolded and Unscaffolded Hindsight in Julian Barnes’ The Noise of Time
Mark Freeman (2010) considers hindsight “a vehicle of narrative reflection, binding together the disparate episodes of our lives into a story.” He also mentions that “hindsight frequently serves the role of moral recuperation, of redressing one’s ‘shortsightedness’”(8). Freeman’s purpose is to balance the dominantly negative understanding about hindsight and he admits the potentially “perilous” nature of it. However, this hindsight seems to grow almost spontaneously over the years. His approach largely dismisses the terms and conditions of proper hindsight. By reading Julian Barnes, I demonstrate the necessary scaffolding of hindsight. In The Sense of an Ending, Barnes’ narrator portrays two entirely different versions of hindsight: the complacent and forgetful hindsight before visiting the facts of his youthful romance, and the radically changed understanding after meeting his previous lover. In The Noise of Time, Barnes addresses this same problem field as regards the heritage of Stalinism and the Soviet Union. The composer Dmitri Shostakovich is attacked by the Stalinist cultural organizations; he becomes misunderstood equally by gullible and hostile western discussants and gradually by his own colleagues and friends after his public roles as a celebrated Soviet composer. The end of Stalin’s terror and the rehabilitation of Shostakovich provide no escape, rather he becomes an official figure who gives talks and statements written by others, finally even a member of the Communist Party. A discussion about the past never begins in Shostakovich’s lifetime, and the isolated composer never gets space or proper scaffolding for hindsight to re-interpret his permanently cautious and compliant course of life.
Kaisa Kaakinen, University of Turku, Finland
Reading Comparatively in the Twenty-First Century – The Case of Joseph Conrad
At the beginning of the twenty-first century the discipline of comparative literature faces the challenge of responding to expanding transnational readerships. Increasingly, global reading contexts not only highlight the need to extend comparative analysis to formerly marginalized texts, but also place new pressures on fundamental analytical questions about how we read fiction. This paper argues that the analytical project of twenty-first century reception aesthetics should be updated to account for readers who cannot engage with a given text in an unimpeded relationship of dialogue; this is especially the case when literary texts revolve around transnational histories of violence. I will elucidate on this dynamic by focusing on effects of asymmetrical history in the literary texts and reception of Joseph Conrad, a storyteller of imperialism, and a naturalized British citizen of Polish descent. The paper will bring together postcolonial perspectives to Conrad, as well as approaches to the “erased” Polish context in Conrad’s texts. While the Polish reception of Conrad through the twentieth century has been able to imagine a secondary implied address in Conrad, to the Polish context, Conrad’s non-European or racialized readers face Conrad’s texts as unwelcome readers excluded from the hierarchical conversation set up in Conrad’s texts. But while these reading positions are incommensurable, the increasingly global twenty-first century reading contexts highlight the need to see them in relation. Instead of promoting a competitive comparison of victimization between postcolonial and post-Soviet contexts, I emphasize how Conrad can be seen as a medium in a comparative project of dismantling the different legacies of imperialism in contemporary literary studies, and of trying to understand the historical dynamics of reading in more multifaceted ways.
Heta Kaisto, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland
Affections of Disaster — Taking Cue from the Method of Fragmentary Writing by Maurice Blanchot
“Disaster beyond experience, that which withdraws from all possibility of experience — writing at the limit. It bears repeating: disaster de-scribes. Which does not mean that disaster, as a force of writing, excludes itself, is beyond writing, outside text.”
Maurice Blanchot: The Writing of the Disaster
My artistic research Beyond Writing: Fragmentary and Maurice Blanchot’s Vision of Poetics examines the paradoxical non-experience of disaster and the ways to present it as text, sound, and image. In the heart of my research is the philosophical text The Writing of the Disaster (L’Ecriture du désastre, 1980) written by Maurice Blanchot, and the method of fragmentary he developed in his late writings. There are strong tendencies of artistic practice in Blanchot’s philosophy. For this reason I find it necessary to choose artistic research as a way to explore the fragmentary. In my presentation I will examine the role of affect in language, image, and sound, and discuss its position in theorising disaster and war. In Blanchot’s writing the textual weave is constantly leaking sensation rather than meaning. In my research, I take cue from the method of fragmentary — or writing at the limit. I introduce two works-in-progress: first a 3D radio play about the Finnish civil war in 1918 that I am currently co-writing and directing. In this radio play we use archive audio material (interviews, testimonies) gathered by the Finnish Literature Society during the 1960’s and 70’s. Secondly I introduce a series of texts and photographs taken at the prison Patarei in Tallinn, Estonia. Through this project I wish to explore the question of affect in terms of materiality and substance in the poetics of fragmentary.
Siobhan Kattago, University of Tartu, Estonia
Haunted House: Memory, Ghosts and Political Theology in Lenin’s Mausoleum
Much has changed since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. An empire has vanished from the maps, while economic and social changes proceed in unprecedented and uneven ways. Yet, in spite of such turbulence, one of the most iconic and eerie places of Soviet memory still remains. Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet Union, died in 1924 and has been lying in an open coffin in the centre of Moscow for over ninety years. As a place of memory, Lenin’s Mausoleum is not only suggestive of a haunted house, but an example of warped mourning, political theology and deification of the state. If the grave marks the passage between the living and the dead – what might a body that is perpetually waiting for burial signify? Particularly, if the regime that the leader founded no longer exists, why is he still revered as a modern day relic? After all, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was not just any leader, but the first leader of the communist party, founder of the Cheka, father of the Russian Revolution, advocate of violence and embodiment of a totalitarian regime. Lenin’s physical presence on Red Square underscores the complex continuity of post-Soviet Russia with the Soviet Union. His mausoleum is more than a Soviet curiosity piece for the occasional tourist; it is place of memory or lieu de mèmoire that signifies the tremendous difficulty of coming to terms with the past in post-Soviet Russia.
Neringa Klumbytė, Lithuanian Social Research Center and Miami University, Ohio
Transitional Justice and Memories of Post-WWII Anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania
In Lithuania, post-WWII memory of anti-Soviet resistance is intrinsic to the post-Soviet project of sovereignty. The public political culture commemorates WWII anti-Soviet resistance in museums, public events, and national holidays. Soviet suppression of Lithuanian partisan resistance is considered a genocide and is institutionalized as such in the Lithuanian Criminal Law. My presentation will explore memories of WWII anti-Soviet resistance in a small southern village in Lithuania. I will ask how archival data and Soviet constructions of crime and civilian suffering divert from post-Soviet conceptualizations of crime and suffering and how people who remember post-WWII atrocities navigate different official interpretations by remembering their own lives as children and teenagers after WWII. I will argue that memory is constituted in the context of competing sovereignty projects, through which people re-experience the past and reinscribe themselves into the present as political subjects.
Kuisma Korhonen, University of Oulu, Finland
Memories of Fire: Continuity, Destruction, Rebirth
One can see, in the symbolism of fire, a strong dualism of life and death, creativity and destruction. This dualism was expressed by Thomas Browne, who in his essay “Urne-burial” (1658) not only speaks about fire as a tool for disposing bodies, but as a metonymy of life itself: “Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.” In memorials all around the world, eternal fire burns for the fate of unknown soldiers. These monuments not only carry cultural memory of wars, but also have more ancient roots: for example in Ancient Rome every house had an altar that featured an eternal fire where penates, the household gods, were thought to live. In the eternal fires of ancient Iran, fire was worshipped as an emanation of divinity. Every four years in the Olympic Games the torch is lit in Greece and carried to the site of the event, symbolizing the link between modern and ancient times. What the millions of followers of this spectacle probably do not know is that this tradition was inaugurated by Adolf Hitler, who ordered the torch ritual the first time for the Berlin Olympic Games, in 1936. It belonged, therefore, to the same symbolism of fire that the Nazi party notoriously used in its ceremonies, for example in Nuremberg rallies. In a way, the torch rituals prepared the German Volk for its near future, when the whole world was set on fire. There is a link between the eternal flame of the Olympics, the firestorms of the Second World War, and the flames of the Holocaust, a link that we prefer not to remember. In my paper, I will map out some uses of fire in memorization of wars. I will show how the imagery of purifying fire has been used in war rhetoric, how military attacks have been remembered as firestorms, and how fire continues to serve as a trope for memory and oblivion in contemporary memory practices. The paper belongs to a larger project with a working title Memory of Elements: Material Poetics of Cultural Remembrance.
Aleksandra Kubica, King’s College London, UK
Storytelling Memory: Museum on Wheels and Neglected Narratives About Former Jewish Inhabitants In Rural Poland
“The storyteller takes what he tells from experiences – his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale” (Benjamin 2006, p.364). The experience of storytelling as an interaction, which requires active participation both from the tellers and listeners, is central to the understanding of how memory is mobilized. Memory, conceptualized as the past which has been made present (Terdiman 1993), is evoked affectively by museums in their programmes, exhibitions, communication strategies, and politics (Arnold de-Simine 2013). This paper studies a travelling museum initiative run by the POLIN Museum of History of Polish Jews, Museum on Wheels (MoW). It explains how MoW emerged as an outreach program for small towns in Poland, and how its narrative stems from POLIN’s perspective on Polish history. Particularly, the importance of storytelling as an interactive practice of mobilizing memory will be analysed as a means of inviting multiple perspectives on the local past. The travelling project, Museum on Wheels (MoW), has since 2014 visited over sixty towns and villages all over Poland. Organisers from POLIN collaborate with locals to create the cultural and educational programme of the museum’s three-day visit. MoW fits into the broader developments in the museum sector, in which institutions seek to become more open, inclusive, participatory and engaging through community projects (Crooke 2011) or transmedia storytelling (Kidd 2014). The aims and narratives of MoW follow POLIN’s overall approach: educating about “the centuries-long coexistence of Polish and Jewish culture” (POLIN 2015). The focus is deliberately moved away from the Holocaust in the stories conveyed through the exhibition and MoW’s educational program. Yet, as this paper will demonstrate through the analysis of encounters between POLIN’s employees and local inhabitants, the stories about the towns’ Jewish communities, which are mobilized in reaction to POLIN’s project, emphasise different elements than MoW’s institutional discourse. In the stories that emerge locally, memories of atrocities, suffering, the Holocaust, occupation and displacement are central themes. Attempts to deal with difficult knowledge (Lehrer and Milton 2011) through storytelling, or the inability to do so, evoke affective reactions ranging from empathy, nostalgia and mourning through guilt and shame, to fear and anger.
Eneken Laanes, Under and Tuglas Literature Centre, Tallinn University
Transnational Memory as Translation
The paper discusses a recent phenomenon in Eastern European cultures of remembrance – art work that deals with local history but is addressed to an international audience and which uses transcultural memorials to translate the local experiences for a wider audience. In viewing the transnational travel of cultural memories as a translation, the paper draws on translation studies as well as on contemporary debates concerning the problem of untranslatability in world literature, and asks if and how cultural memories are translatable, and what is the role of transcultural memorial forms in the process of translation.
Unni Langås, University of Agder, Norway
The Uses of History in the Current Refugee Situation. On Madame Nielsen’s Novel Invasionen
One of the most interesting literary responses in Scandinavian literature to the current refugee crisis in Europe is the Danish author Madame Nielsen’s novel Invasionen. En fremmed i flygtningestrømmen (The Invasion. An Alien in the Stream of Refugees, 2016). Already in its title, the references to WWII become evident (‘invasion’), and this comparative take on the actual situation turns out to make up a main strategy of the novel. Similarities and differences are tested out through historic parallels in order to understand, explain, critically examine myths, and possibly provoke, – in ways that challenge our interpretation of the text. Words, phrases, and sentences are all but innocent, and Nielsen’s frequent use of Holocaust and WWII related vocabulary suggests empathy, allegory, and irony as shifting reading approaches. In its echoing of negative reactions and prejudices towards the refugees, massively referred to in the media, the novel also reminds us of how language and images are performative powers in the public negotiations on how to address the crisis. In my paper, I intend to discuss some of the effects and implications of the novel’s complex integration of cross-cultural, historic dialogue and intertextuality.
Neringa Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Vilnius University, Lithuania
Memorials and Memoralization of the Holocaust Sites in Lithuania
There are 250 mass killing places of around 190 000 Jews killed in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation. The first attempts, by the Lithuanian General Administration, to register data on the sites of mass killings of Jews, were recorded in late 1941 and took the form of correspondence between local institutions on the issues of management and supervision of the sites of extermination. After investigations of the Holocaust sites by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission, the local authorities encountered extreme poverty that prevented financial investment into a decent reburial of victims and commemoration of the sites of mass killings. To be more exact, most probably it did not even hurry to allocate resources to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. As a result, in the said period local Jewish communities in Soviet Lithuania, having obtained the approval of the chief architect of the LSSR, took efforts to erect monuments with inscriptions in Hebrew or Yiddish at the sites of mass killings in Kaunas, Vilnius and Panevėžys. However, already in 1948 an Anti-Semitic campaign began, and inscriptions about the Jewish victims were replaced with new ones in Russian telling about the loss of ‘peaceful Soviet citizens’, ‘hard-working people’, ‘innocent brothers who fell victims’ and ‘Soviet people’. The Holocaust as a phenomenon was hidden behind the total number of victims of World War II. The mass killing sites of Jews had to become the sites mobilising the victorious efforts of the Soviet Union in its fight against Fascism, thus legitimating the Communist rule and promoting the Communist ideology. In the post-war period, a small share of the mass killing sites named as cemeteries of victims of fascism were put on the List of Valuable Cultural Property of the LSSR, as historical objects. However, their maintenance was in the hands of maintenance units of local executive committees, which did not take proper care of the sites, and local religious communities also were not allowed to interfere with their maintenance. The fall of the totalitarian regime in Lithuania encouraged the ridding of prevailing ideology in the areas of difficult heritage. In 1990, the reconstituted Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Lithuanian State Jewish Museum, with the support of the Supreme Council of Lithuania, and with the assistance of the Administration of Lithuanian Municipalities, started taking care of the commemoration of Holocaust victims and the necessary arrangement works at the mass killing sites of Jews. In 1990, there were 152 sites in Lithuania with monuments erected during the second Soviet occupation, for ‘Soviet victims’. By 1991, the necessary arrangement works, and replacement of propaganda inscriptions with plaques in Lithuanian and Yiddish were completed at 130 sites or 74% of all mass killing sites of Jews that existed during the Soviet times. The aim of this paper is to analyze the monuments for the Holocaust victims through the collective memory perspective and to reveal the influence of Soviet public rhetoric on the formation of the historical consciousness. The study will try to answer how and what kind of Holocaust memorial monuments had expressed Soviet public memory, how Soviet memory was conceptualized, what kind of historical myths were expressed in the monuments, and how it made its influence on the society. The paper will discuss the concept of collective memory, highlighting its main parts, place, history and memory. The location gives a sense of collective memory, while the history of collective memory helps to construct it. It also analyses the institutional aspect of the construction of monuments and their influence on the development of monuments.
Claire Launchbury, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK
‘How Am I supposed to Talk to You, or With You or About You?’: Exploring the Refugee as Transcultural Memorial Form Co-Remembering the Nakba and the Shoah
The figure of the refugee as a shared platform for understanding the traumatic experience and afterlives of both the Shoah and the Nakba is central to the works of Lebanese writer, Elias Khoury. For Bashir Bashir and Amos Goldberg this is brokered upon a sense of disruptive empathy which they argue might offer a means of articulating an inclusive and ethical binationalism in Israel-Palestine. Drawing on post-civil war Lebanese memory cultures which inevitably encounter matters of Israel and Palestine as well as internal sectarian divisions, I suggest that far from making a simplistic analogy of suffering or administration of roles, the disruptive empathic figure of the refugee functions as a transcultural paradigm of memory whose literary utterances necessarily involve sensory confusion, floating between dreaming and waking and seamlessly transferring from past to present. Khoury’s texts, for example, are composed of tales, legends, cities and exile in which the disruptive central element is configured in situations where some form of perception is hindered (by coma, delusion, hallucination, dissociation) and communication strained. In this way, I seek to demonstrate how these shared traumatic experiences, however uneven they may be, might begin to attempt to dialogue rather than confront each other and offer understanding about contemporary refugee crises in Europe and the Middle East.
Dragoş Manea, Mihaela Precup, University of Bucharest, Romania
Transcultural Intelligibility and Cultural Memory in Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints (2013)
Gene Luen Yang’s two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints relies on transcultural and trans-temporal frames of representation to explore the events of the Boxer Rebellion, an anti-imperialist, proto-nationalist uprising, which took place in China between 1899 and 1901. Marked by strong anti-Christian sentiment, the uprising has also been interpreted by historians as an instance of civil warfare which saw the massacre of thousands of Chinese converts, as well as foreign missionaries. Yang, a Chinese-American cartoonist, the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant for his work’s engagement with history, divides Boxers & Saints into two volumes: Boxers, which tells the story of Little Bao, a young man who becomes one of the leaders of the Boxer Rebellion after he witnesses the oppression of his fellow villagers; and Saints, which tells the story of Four-Girl, a Chinese Catholic convert from the same village, who is later murdered by Little Bao during an anti-Christian massacre. The novel thus presents the perspectives of both victims and perpetrators, and characters such as Little Bao or Father Bey, a French missionary, inhabit, by turns, both subject positions. In conversation with cultural memory scholars such as Alison Landsberg, Michael Rothberg, and Ann Rigney, our paper explores the transcultural and trans-temporal strategies employed by the novel in order to make the events of the Boxer Rebellion intelligible to contemporary Western readers, as well as the ethics of adapting such a complex historical event. Although described by Yang as a work of historical fiction, the novel also employs a number of elements from different time frames and cultures: the rebels are possessed in battle by the gods of the opera (a number of familiar figures from Chinese cultural memory); Four-Girl’s conversion to Christianity is prompted, in part, by her visions of Joan of Arc; and the contemporary figure of the terrorist is employed in order to complicate the audience’s perception of the perpetrator. Finally, on a formal level the novel employs two different yet familiar registers: while Boxers depicts the gods of the opera as brightly colored kung fu superheroes, Saints utilizes a more muted color palette, reminiscent of American autobiographical comics.
Hanna Meretoja, University of Turku, Finland
From Appropriation to Exploration: A Non-Subsumptive Model of Storytelling
This paper analyses the difference between subsumptive and non-subsumptive conceptions of narrative understanding. While poststructuralist thinkers tend to conceive of all understanding in terms of a subsumptive model that links understanding to appropriation, assimilation, and subsumption of the singular under the general, the tradition of philosophical hermeneutics explores the possibility of non-subsumptive understanding and its ethical potential. While “subsumptive narratives” tend to reinforce cultural stereotypes and explain singular events in terms of general cultural narrative scripts, “non-subsumptive narratives” tend to question such general scripts, and challenge our categories of appropriation. In both cases, storytelling has a performative dimension: it is not just about representing the past, but takes part in constructing intersubjective reality and in shaping historical imagination. Only non-subsumptive narratives, however, self-reflexively make visible their own performative, explorative and interpretative nature. In developing a non-subsumptive model of storytelling, this paper uses as the main literary example Sofi Oksanen’s Purge (2008), the narrative strategies of which evoke the multidirectionality of memory.
Dana Mihăilescu, University of Bucharest, Romania
Mediating Memories of World War II Violence in Contemporary United States: On Amy Kurzweil’s Flying Couch (2016)
As Hillary Chute has demonstrated in Disaster Drawn (2016), among the various types of media, comics occupy a significant position as a form of documentary and witnessing, one initiated by a tradition of drawing as documentation due to Holocaust camp inmates who didn’t have access to cameras inside the camps and instead used drawings as an urgent form of recording and transmitting information about the conditions of life therein (e.g. Charlotte Salomon, Horst Rosenthal, Alfred Kantor, Paladij Osinka). Following in the lines of these relevant insights, the aim of my paper is to examine Amy Kurzweil’s debut graphic memoir, Flying Couch (2016), and to consider how the Holocaust narrative at the core of this graphic narrative is negotiated by three generations of Kurweil’s family: the artist’s grandmother who was a World War II survivor who escaped the Warsaw ghetto by disguising herself as a gentile; her mother – a survivor’s child who became a psychologist in the U.S.; and the artist herself, coming of age as a third generation artist in Brooklyn. I argue that 1987-born Kurzweil, who is two generations removed from her Holocaust-survivor-grandmother, constructs her graphic narrative starting from this distancing that changes the configuration of memories about World War II violence, in comparison to second-generation Spiegelman’s Maus (1986, 1991), or 1.5 generation Miriam Katin’s We Are On Our Own (2006). In particular, I will trace what comprises the transcultural mediations of Holocaust memories specific for the three generations of Kurzweil’s family in the U.S. and how, together, they shape a Holocaust history that is both personal and collective. I propose that, in this case, the Holocaust is no longer singled out as the paradigmatic event impacting the identity of the third generation granddaughter of a Shoah survivor, as it happened in the case of the second generation; in Kurzweil’s narrative, this traumatic memory will figure out later on as just one form of Jewish representation alongside other events of displacement and conflict affecting the artist’s development and constructing the third generation’s memory.
Melissa Mott, Columbia University, US
Boundaries and Borders: Trauma Narration as a Great Global Medium
“No one is a passive recipient of trauma”, White (2007) states. The byproduct of that assertion is varied and complex cultural production existing irrespective of boundaries and borders. How does trauma act as a unit of measurement? Can knowledge of the past bridge chasms of inequity? How does contextualizing shared experiences of conflict, war, and displacement act as a binding agent, opening channels for cross-cultural global discourse? I will discuss how understanding and implementing dialogue predicated on shared historical trauma can lead to the production of empathy and build bridges across otherwise disruptive socio-emotional “demilitarized zones” that exist within society. I will discuss my interdisciplinary research around the idea of trauma narratives as an inherently mimetic process that reconstitute trauma and loss at the hands of war and conflict into a new narrative, while existing as a therapeutic one as well.
A therapeutic technique used by social workers and direct practitioners to retell a victim’s trauma and reframe the disruptive experience through a lens of empowerment, trauma narratives create new forms of memory. Reflecting responses to deep historical truths and seeking to supplement existing normative narratives proliferated by the collective memory of the nation-state, I will discuss the role of transcultural memory using the framework of international education, specifically globalization and post-conflict, in the context of post-genocide Eastern Europe and sites throughout urban America. Paralleling how trauma and remembrance is memorialized and taught in African-American communities, specifically to indicate a response to loss and disenfranchisement felt by diaspora populations in America, and the implementation of Holocaust education in low-income classrooms, which I posit situates memory within a new paradigm by establishing agency, and fostering empathy.
I will ask; is trauma the great global medium? What role do cross-cultural exchanges play in facilitating discourse in the 21st century global political climate? How do these narratives fuse memory to the experiences of trauma present in contemporary world events like the Syrian migration crisis, climate change, post-Ferguson America. I conclude that the idea of storytelling and collective transcultural memory are apparent in “off-site remembrances”, generating intergenerational transmission of trauma and secondary suffering which influence cultural production.
Aura Nikkilä, University of Turku, Finland
Photographs as Vessels of Memory in Comics Dealing with Migration
Photographs are commonly considered as direct documentation of lived reality, whereas comics are primarily seen as subjective expressions of a single comics artist. The juxtaposition between comics and photographs constitutes an intriguing question when photographs are used as part of graphic narratives, a practise ever more recurrent partly due to the popularity of autobiographical and other forms of documentary comics. Photographs, both as direct reproductions printed on the pages of the comic, as well as in the form of drawn pictures, are a recurring element in comics concerning migration. Photographs capture a fleeing moment in time, and thus, according to Roland Barthes, always connote the presence of loss and death. This effect is emphasized even more when the photographs portray people and places left behind. In migrant narratives photographs tend to function as vessels of memory: through them the past is narrated to the following generations, and, in this way, photographs may function, in line with Marianne Hirsch’s idea of post-memory, as tools for handling traumatic memories and also as construction blocks of identity for the descendants of migrants. Photographs convey memories also to the readers. Through photographic elements the feeling of realness is accentuated in both fictional as well as documentary graphic narratives. In particular, the reproduced photographs in comics serve as authentication of private memory: they are presented as proof that the story told really happened. At the same time these photographs foreground questions of the ethics of showing. Is it more ethical to represent memories through drawing than to show them as photographs?
Niina Oisalo, University of Turku, Finland
Recollecting Traumatic Transcultural Memories of World War II in ’Unwar Documentary’ Auf Wiedersehen Finnland (2010)
Virpi Suutari’s documentary film Auf Wiedersehen Finnland (2010) recounts the experiences of Finnish women who left with the German soldiers after World War II, and the repercussions of their ‘falling’. These women, condemned as ‘Nazi whores’ and ‘traitors’, speak openly for the first time in their lives about their experiences, and the shame that has not evaporated even after more than 70 years. The women’s stories come to life in evocative archival imagery, dramatized scenes and interviews, which touch on painful memories, but some of the traumas are also left ‘unopened’. The making of this film could be considered as an act of re-membering and creating affective and intimate war memory behind the battlegrounds and national militaristic narratives of World War II (Sturken 1997). In this presentation, particular focus is placed on the way Suutari’s film creates ‘recollection-images’, which embody past events that have no match in any one person’s memory (Marks 2000: 71). These images testify the partialness and the incompleteness of memory. As Laura Marks (2000: 50) writes: “when remembrance fails, the story must be creatively falsified in order to reach the truth.”
Marks, Laura U. (2000) The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Sturken, Marita (1997) Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemics and the Politics of Remembering. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Jessica Ortner, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Transcultural Memory in Eastern European Migrant Literature – the Holocaust Revisited
The “transcultural turn” of memory studies focuses on the fluid and dynamic aspects of cultural memory. This paper is concerned with the traveling of memories along the paths of migration. As migrants carry along “collective images and narratives of the past” (Erll 2011), migration is one of the major processes that circulate memories across cultural and national borderlines. This paper will investigate the circulation of memories in Eastern Europe migrant-literature that since 2000 has become an increasingly influential literary tendency in Germany. Articulating an eastern perspective on the past, the writers express memories and “post-memories” of Stalinism, the German occupation, and the Soviet regime. By exposing their experience of a two-fold victimization, both as Jews and as people subjected to Communist suppression, writers such as Vladimir Vertlib and Katja Petrowskaja challenge the Western European perception of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Vertlib does so by shaping multidirectional interconnections between the Holocaust and other atrocities such as ethnic cleansings, the siege of Leningrad or the Russification of Estonia, which he recollects by means of well-established narrative strategies of Holocaust-memory. Petrowskaja contests the decontextualizing of the Holocaust inherent in its universalization by focusing on marginalized aspects of its execution, such as the massacre of Babij Jar, or the death marches of the Hungarian Jews after the liberation of Auschwitz. Both authors consciously follow the mission to “enlighten and inform Western readers about their eastern neighbours” (Haines 2008). Causing an “eastern enlargement” of German literature (Bürger-Koftis 2008), the wave of migrant authors broadens Germany’s cultural memory by supplementing it with “new” memories. Furthermore, by telling history through the lens of family history, they facilitate emotional identification and – in the sense of Avishai Margalit (2002) – “‘thicken imaginative relations” between their German readers and the fates of individuals in “another zone of Europe” (Rigney 2012).
Aušra Paulauskienė, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Holocaust Memory in the Formation of Lithuania’s Civic Society
The recent breakthrough in Lithuania’s remembering of the Holocaust surprised even the chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff. Similarly to Germany and Israel, Lithuania’s institutional strategy of reconciliation (Levy and Sznaider) allowed for a formation of a civic society that, once formed, took the lead in the memory work. On August 29, 2016, both the President and the Prime Minister joined the nation in the commemorative Molėtai march, convened not by either of them, but by a civically minded citizen, the playwright, Marius Ivaškevičius. Intellectuals and their narratives stand behind the scenes of this seemingly spontaneous breakthrough. Academic books by Lithuanian historians, Alfonsas Eidintas, Valentinas Brandišauskas, Arūnas Bubnys, Liudas Truska and others, written in the first two decades of the restored independence, did not reach a wider public. Two non-scholarly books—Robert van Voren’s Undigested Past: The Holocaust in Lithuania (2011), and especially Rūta Vanagaitė’s Mūsiškiai (Our People) (2016)—had a bigger educational impact. Out of a few Litvak return narratives, only Ellen Cassedy’s We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (2012) reverberated with the Lithuanian public due to its reconciliatory forward-looking orientation. Lithuania clearly lacks reflections on the Holocaust in the mediums of film and literature. Those that have been created so far—the films Vilniaus Getas [Vilnius Ghetto] by Audrius Juzėnas (2005) and Seserys [The Sisters] (2016) by Lilija Kopač and Danutė Selčinskaja; the novels Tamsa ir Partneriai [Darkness and Partners] by Sigitas Parulskis (2012), Šėtono apžavai [The Devil’s Spell] (2008) and Miestelio Romansas [Shtetl Romance] (2013) by Grigorijus Kanovočius, and Žydų Karalaitės Dienoraštis [The Diary of the Jewish Princess] by Saulius Šaltenis (2015)— have been authored by both Lithuanians and Litvaks and record a multidirectional memory of the two totalitarianisms clashing on Lithuanian soil in the 1940s.
Anja Portin, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland
Narrative of Fragments – Documentary Essay as a Medium of Remembrance
Recently, there has been growing interest in the relationship between different narrative practices and remembrance of wars and other societal ruptures. However, rather less attention has been paid to one particular mode of narration, the essay. The purpose of this presentation is to explore the potentiality of the essay as medium for addressing war-related experiences. I will discuss this question on the basis of my research topic, the relationship between documentary essays, archives, and questions of memory related to wars and other societal conflicts. Firstly, I will explore the means in which the essay, as a concise form of literary composition, can yield to different contours of remembering. In this regard I ponder particularly the associative and fragmentary nature of essayistic writing, thematic repetitions and the quoting of past voices. Secondly, I ask how the essay can facilitate conveying experiences of disquieting and violent events. Here I discuss particularly Hannah Arendt’s deliberations on history and on the relevance of storytelling in understanding processes of societal rupture. Thirdly, I ask what role can a collection of essays play in bringing together experiences caused by different conflicts, not into a totalizing narrative but into a more manifold composition in which varied stories resonate with each other and in that way contribute to our understanding of specificity of different conflicts and experiences caused by them.
Anna Reading, King’s College London, UK
Future Memories: (Un)settling Displacement and European Neofascism Through Imaginative Remembering
This paper looks at how ‘future memories’ can be created in the arts through drawing on activist and unsettled memories of Europe’s memories of fascism in the 1930s. The paper performs short sections of and reflects on a new theatre script entitled Churchill. The title of the play refers to an imaginary renamed British city set in a neofascism future. The play is part of a triptych examining memories and imaginaries of forced migrations called (Pre)Occupations. Churchill follows the trajectory of a woman who is forced to escape by withdrawing to the attic of her home, abandoning her partner and daughter, while anonymously posting resistance videos through social media. The paper reflects on the importance of the arts of creating future memories as a form of resistance to the rise of neofascism.
Ann Rigney, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Imagination, Materiality, and the Remaking of Memory
How do memories that have been occluded come into visibility? And start to matter for people who have hitherto ignored them? Using the slow emergence into visibility of the colonial troops on the Western Front in World War One as my example, I will explore the role aesthetics play in renegotiating the boundaries of mnemonic communities. I relate aesthetics to both materiality and imagination, and argue that together these are a key, but hitherto under-theorized feature of the dynamics of cultural memory.
Per Roar, KHIO, Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Norway
Docudancing Griefscapes is a presentation of a contextual approach to choreography and traumatic grieving. Here, I will introduce the concepts of docudancing and griefscapes that emerged through my doctoral artistic research at the University of the Arts, Helsinki (Roar 2015). See: http://www.uniarts.fi/en/newsroom/väitös-docudancing-griefscapes). Through sharing how I approached and attempted to embody the aftermath of the Bosnian War as a griefscape, I want to highlight the challenges involved in engaging with traumatic and documentary material in contextually based art projects; concerns, which I connect to Hal Foster’s discussion of the artist as an ethnographer in his Return of the Real (Foster 1996).
Päivikki Romppainen, University of Oulu, Finland
Palimpsestic Writing – Provoking Ethical Reading?
In my presentation I shall concentrate on two authors, who have explicitly claimed their writing as being “palimpsestic” by nature, namely W.G. Sebald (Austerlitz, 2001) and Paavo Rintala (his works in the 1990’s, Aika ja uni in particular). Sebald characterized his method as palimpsestic: he was writing layer after layer, until some kind of “metaphysical meaning” shined through. Paavo Rintala also used this characterization about his later prose (Alhoniemi, 2007). The palimpsestic mode of writing is a powerful tool: on one hand, it evokes strong feelings of empathy in the reader (long sentences and temporary blending of voices of the narrator and character in Sebald, and the tone of pathos in Rintala) – on the other hand, it interrupts or disturbs these feelings of empathy by using several means of “alienation”. For example, Sebald uses recurrent phrases like “said Austerlitz” or “said Vera” in order to remind the reader about the mediated and epistemically unsure status of what has been told. And Rintala’s narrator is seeking to give form to his traumatic experiences as a child refugee during the Second World War by recounting other stories of martyrdom and suffering (Akhmatova, Tsvetajeva); method is reminiscent of the “multidirectional memory” of Rothberg. These stories evoke empathy, but the narrator interrupts his tones of pathos with macabre or grotesque details. My hypothesis is that palimpsestic writing creates a reading experience, where both the evoking of empathy and the distancing from it by using several means of alienation or interruption belong to the same hermeneutic circle: this enables empathy, the “empathic unsellement” of the reader without slipping into identification (LaCapra). This hermeneutics also reflects a conception of ethics described “as a place of struggle, where the result is not necessarily good”, to quote prof. Colin Davis. However, the reader is activated….
Michael Rothberg, University of California, LA, US
Inheritance Trouble: Migration and Transcultural Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Germany
Since the end of the Cold War, prominent intellectuals and institutions have placed memory of the Shoah at the center of German and European identity, but that project appears to some Europeans as threatened by the presence of millions of citizens and residents who are allegedly “foreign” to the Holocaust. As the population of Europe shifts, both through the “natural” sequence of generations and through mass migration, the continent, we might say, is experiencing a form of inheritance trouble. How can Holocaust memory be transmitted in such circumstances? In this lecture, Michael Rothberg considers migrant engagement with the Holocaust in contemporary Germany. The works of art, literature, and performance by migrants and postmigrants that he will discuss model alternative ways of remembering the Holocaust in the twenty-first century and suggest the possibility of more encompassing, transcultural understandings of German and European identity
Hans Ruin, Södertörn University, Sweden
Necropolitics: On the Constitution of Community through Caring for the Dead
Recent decades have witnessed a rise in the political-historical significance of bodies and remains of the dead, with corpses unearthed and reburied, with graves desecrated and restored. Among many different and important examples of this phenomenon can be mentioned reopened graves in the former Eastern Europe and the struggle among formerly colonized indigenous populations around the world to recover the remains of their dead. This has led to a deepened interest, especially among anthropologists and historians, to understand the underlying logic of the role of the dead in the constitution and transformation of societies. The lecture recalls some examples of this phenomenon and of the recent literature and places them in a broader context of what it means to be-with-the-dead as a phenomenological-existential category. “Necropolitics” is presented as a way to think the constitution of the political as such, encompassing both the living and the dead, as also figures for the present and the past. Pointing beyond Weber’s canonical distinction between enchanted and disenchanted times, it shows how it is only within the framework of an expanded ethical-practical understanding of what it means to exist historically that we can begin to understand the political function and significance of the dead.
Anja Tippner, Hamburg University, Germany
Retroactive Juxtapositions: The Holocaust and the Expulsion of Germans in 21st Century Czech Literature
As of late, Czech literature has seen a surge of texts that juxtapose and intertwine narratives of the Holocaust and narratives of the expulsions of Bohemian Germans in the immediate postwar years. As is evident in these texts, this is a means of coming to terms with Czech (post)war crimes and juxtaposing them to German ones. Novels by Denemarková (Money from Hitler), Topol (Through a Chilly Land), Tučková (The Expulsion of Gerti Schnirch), Platzová (Aaron’s Leap), Rudiš (Alois Nebel), as well as several others elaborate on the ways Jews and Germans were treated by their Czech neighbors and how these war crimes are remembered or ignored today. In some of these narratives the dynamics of totalitarian violence also include communist era suffering. All of these texts explore the need to integrate these experiences into Czech history but also the need to do so in order to conform to European memory politics. They also can be characterized as novels after theory that work with cultural theories and aestheticize them. They also can be viewed as examples of multidirectional memory since they make use of narratives about the persecution of Jews during the war, in order to raise awareness for other kinds of persecution. Some of these texts have met with harsh critique since they put Nazi and communist persecution on the same level. The presentation will take a closer look at the ways in which these texts juxtapose different narratives of victimization and how they integrate theories of cultural remembrance and trauma into their narratives. It will also focus on concepts of healing that are addressed in these novels and the images of a usable past that they create.
Annika Toots, Estonian Academy of Arts, Estonia
The Family Album: From Personal Stories to Memory Wars in Estonian art
In Estonia, the rise of photography as a medium of art is closely linked to the beginning of the 1990s. The same decade saw the constantly increasing attention on memory issues: considering the Soviet occupation as a trauma and a rupture, the memory politics of a newly re-independent country used the past and personal memories for building up a new identity, and filling the “gap”. This presentation focuses on the use of family photographs in art as a way of creating alternative or contra-memories, and also, for contradicting the dominant narrative and “brushing history against the grain”, as Walter Benjamin put it in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940). Taking advantage of photographs as a supposedly reliable medium of memory and the truth-value given to them, artists created personal narratives, which resonated with the collective memory, often conflicting with and criticising it. Although working with family albums and archives was considered to be a method belonging mainly to the 1990s, this kind of memory work still continues, with a new generation of artists materializing the past through art.
Avril Tynan, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Reconstructing Everyday Life: Patrick Modiano and Sebastian Faulks
Both Modiano’s Dora Bruder and Faulks’ The Girl at the Lion D’Or begin with seemingly insignificant newspaper extracts, and both elaborate the fictionalised reconstruction of the life of a young girl in the tumultuous and dangerous France of occupation and deportation (Modiano) or 1930s depression and devastation (Faulks). While the two narratives focus on distinctly different eras and locations, they are similar in their attempts to ‘fill in the gaps’ of history, to reconstruct a narrative around a life that is unknown or disappeared. In the face of silence, forgetting and absence, both authors use narrative to create an indelible trace of the past and to redeem loss from a second death.
Dora and Anne are themselves metonymic memorial forms, and the authors employ a restorative narrative strategy that reconstructs not the formative journey ‘to the East’, nor the Nazi concentration camps, nor the trenches, but a life that could be mine or yours, a life that could be today or tomorrow. Although both narratives are set in France, one by a French author of Jewish heritage, the other by a British author, their strategies are transcultural, transgressing historical specificity through the minutiae of everyday life.
How do these narrative strategies inform our memories of the past? Can narrative reconstruction bring the dead or absent back to the present? And perhaps more importantly, how do narratives of the everyday inform our interpretation and remembrance of events today? This paper explores the use of narrative to fill in the gaps of history and argues that the value placed on the reconstruction of the everyday by both Modiano and Faulks reassesses our perception of the past and reifies the importance of everyday life and of the lives around us every day.
Anna Vuorinne, University of Turku
Trauma, History, and Ethics in Comics: the Legacy of Maus
Art Spiegelman’s Maus, first published serially in Raw magazine (1980–1991) and later in two volumes (1986 & 1991), turned a new page in the history of comics. The wide success and public acknowledgement of Spiegelman’s work made visible that the medium of comics is suitable not only for funny stories but also for traumatic and complex histories. Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s father, an Auschwitz survivor, in a vivid and thruthful manner but extends beyond the standard Holocaust testimonial. While documenting the horrors of the concetration camp the story explores also family relations, the making of biography, and the essence of trauma. Spiegelman’s comic has been studied thoroughly also in the academia and has inspired for example Marianne Hirsch’s theory of postmemory.
In my presentation I will analyze Maus’ legacy in the contemporary comics’ narrative and aesthetic strategies. The comic is known for its fabelesque way of portraying humans as animals (Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Polish are pigs, etc.) but there are also many other expressive dimensions, like self-reflective narration or working with archival material, which have a great importance in the story. I will look how the narrative strategies made famous by Maus are used in contemporary European comics dealing with war, history, and trauma. How these strategies adapt to different contexts? How are they reworked, commented, and maybe even questioned in the comics of today? As comics scholar Hillary Chute has suggested, the multimodal form of comics may have some unique possibilities to express disaster and trauma ethically. By analyzing some contemporary examples of trauma and troubled past my presentation also explores the ethical potential of the medium of comics.
Tamara West, University of Mancherster, UK
The Dis-placement and Re-placement of Memory – A Physical and Virtual Stumbling across Two Sites and Archives of Trauma
This paper explores how traumatic events are memorialised beyond the site(s) of their occurrence and re-placed via online archives of memory. Starting with the example of the usages and transformations of a building, a large former psychiatric hospital built in late 19th Century Germany, the paper recollects a stroll and photographs taken in the once abandoned grounds of the site, and contrasts it with a more contemporary experience of the redeveloped site. Through these interactions the extent to which the periods of abandonment and redevelopment enabled a type of purposeful forgetting, extricating the building from its wider historical context, is examined. The article then proceeds to consider the role of online archives of memory and memorialisation, concluding with the story of an online walk and virtual stumbling across the description of unknown victims and memorials of a large mining disaster during the early 1900s.