Maryam Adjam, Uppsala University
”Echoes of the missing: Memory tales of the present absence”
Focusing on hidden and deserted graveyards for the missing, political dissidents victims of state sanctioned violence in Iran during the 1980’s, the following paper investigates the tales of absence in the context of violence. Being a battlefield of traces left and erased, traces speaking and mute, these sites both encapsulate different historical representations of the past, the memory politics articulated through these representations, as well as evoking a space of embodied memories bringing the missing to the fore as present absence. The authorities leaving the sites as hidden and unmarked, is an act of materializing the absence of the missing as a suspension from history, of depriving the name yet letting the remains remain as deserted. Memories tracing the missing in the place, is rather a tale of those still present through their absence, of remains still remaining, with or without names, of the afterness in what still remains. Of reclaiming the absence and bringing its presence to the fore, and by doing so, suspending the suspension. Displacing the act of remembrance from memoralization to enacting an experience of being missed, an experience of an entirety lacking, the memories of the missing embody a history of absences. Using bricolage as method, the analysis explores how absence is sensed and evoked through the temporary constellations memories assemble in the place.
Molly Andrews, University College London
“’I am a child of my time’: The (in)conceivability of a country that is no longer”
This paper examines the generational effect on experiences of national identity of a small group of East German political activists, compared with that of their parents and their children. What does it mean to speak of national identity in the context of a country that no longer exists? Based on a longitudinal research project carried in former East Germany between 1992 and the present day with key political anti-state activists, I will examine how the demise of the GDR in 1989 impacted on the shifting ways in which different generations within the same family experienced their national identity, exploring why for some East Germans it became easier to embrace an East German identity only after that country no longer existed.
Oriana Bernasconi, Alberto Hurtado University
”Memories of political violence: beyond victimhood narratives and governmental reason”
One way to expand the memories of massive political violence is to problematize the approach used in the management of these contentious pasts, identifying its limitations and pushing for more comprehensive conceptions. For this purpose, I use interviews with survivors and documentary material collected in ten years of research to compose and contrast two stories. First, a brief genealogy of victimhood in transitional Chile (1990-2010), which will allow me to reveal the predominance of the transitional justice paradigm in the consolidation of the figure of the victim as a normative category of governmental reason and a subjectivation project. I will show how this reason acted channeling the demands for legal and social recognition of arbitrary and largely invisible and unpunished damages through the identification, qualification and reparation of the victims. Second, a negative genealogy of victimhood, based on the study of a form of political violence deployed by the military dictatorship that has not been recognized or repaired by the Chilean state and that the victims themselves naturalize: the massive raids on poor urban dwellings, which operated by illegally retaining, threatening and detaining residents. More than individual human life, this is a technology of government of the territory, oriented to the bending of the city project raised in the 1960s by the self-organization of the urban poor, which, however, had the opposite effect: it strengthened the popular organization to overthrow the dictator. The contrast between both narratives will shed light upon issues of resistance, agency, subjectivity and sociality, that need to be addressed in memories of state violence.
Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham
”In the shadow of 1968? Fighting over water rights in the 21st century”
The May 1968 uprisings in France are often perceived as a watershed by political observers and academics alike. While collective action until then was generally taking place in the form of collective worker struggles at the workplace over pay and working conditions, after 1968 and against the background of a general shift towards a ‘post-materialist’ or ‘post-industrial’ society we have witnessed the emergence of a range of different social movements focusing on individual rights. These so-called new social movements, different from trade unions identified as old social movements, have included, for example, environmental movements and feminist groups, which are concerned with issues in the sphere of social reproduction rather than economic, materialist concerns in the sphere of production. In this paper, I will assess to what extent such a division between old vs. new social movements, sphere of production vs. sphere of social reproduction is still tenable, when analysing struggles over water rights in Europe in the 21st century. In more detail, I will make two inter-related arguments. First, conceptually a clear-cut distinction between production and social reproduction misunderstands how capitalist accumulation has always depended on both exploitation in the workplace together with expropriation in wider society. Second, in an analysis of water struggles in Europe including the Italian, Greek and Irish water movements as well as water struggles at the European level, I will show how it is in these moments of struggle that the internal relations between different struggles become apparent. It is in these moments of struggle that large alliances of social movements can be formed and new identities such as ‘water activists’ emerge, which go across these assumed different types of social movements and different types of struggles.
Jill Bradbury, University of the Witwatersrand
”Narratives of (un)learning: my (great)grandmothers, my father and a poet laureate of Africa”
This paper reflects on the (im)possibilities of intergenerational mobility and change in a particular historical context of inequality. I reflect on my engagements in this space as a student and a teacher, as an activist and a scholar and explore the problematics of (un)learning and the resistances of ignorance. I outline some pedagogical implications for shifting practices in an accelerated changing landscape across the dying days of apartheid, and into the present highly contested terrain shaped by pressing questions of decolonization. Mirroring these political trajectories and the social practices of education, I trace more personal narratives of earlier generations and youthful imagined futures in my own life and learning history. The complex narratives of my (great)grandmothers’ colonial stories, my youthful desire to follow my father’s footsteps into the world of work, and an early academic encounter with a poet laureate of Africa provide retrospective narrative touchstones for rethinking the present and imagining future forms of knowing and being in the world.
Jens Brockmeier, American University of Paris
”That’s me: Personal and political memories”
Considering how many academic disciplines deal with human memory and remembering it is little surprising to find an amazing variety to understand the relation of personal (or autobiographical) memories and political memories. In the scientific and scholarly literature on memory as well as in the broad field of life writing there are many different positions, from emphasizing the difference between the personal and the political to stating their complete identity. These positions depend on how human memory is defined, how it is investigated, and what is considered to be its individual and social function and value. All these criteria change culturally and historically, and so does the idea of autobiographical and/or political memories. In my talk, I will discuss some of these positions, using examples from the memory sciences, literature, and the arts.
Neil Ferguson, Liverpool Hope University
“Collective Narratives and the Legacy of the Troubles: Territoriality, Identity, and Victimhood in Northern Ireland”
This presentation discusses the transmission of memories and narratives of collective victimization in Northern Ireland to the generations that did not experience the violence personally. These victim narratives are transmitted not only by family members, but also through physical and performative identity markers in the community such as murals, memorials, graffiti, painted curb stones, flags, and parades. Through this transmission, the post-agreement generations perceive a duty to remember and feel that it is now their turn to fight. The presentation discusses the role of collective memories merged with more personal post memories in contributing to a violent relapse of the conflict when new grievances trigger these transmitted memories and mobilize support for violence in the post-agreement space. However, violence is not the inevitable response to transmitted memories of collective victimization, and the presentation moves to discusses how collective commemorations and community projects can challenge the partisan transmitted collective memories, acknowledge less widely shared collective memories, and contribute to positive intergroup relations between former adversaries.
Tuomas Forsberg, University of Tampere & University of Helsinki
”Russian Foreign Policy Narratives and the War on Ukraine”
This paper will focus on Russian foreign policy narratives before and during the war on Ukraine. It will build on earlier analysis and taxonomies of Russian foreign policy narratives and ask, how these narratives and their frequency changed in the run-up and during the war on Ukraine in 2022. The key justification for the war was the geopolitical threat posed by Ukraine’s links to the West, but increasingly the Kremlin referred to a series of other narratives: historical artificiality, denazification, corruption, genocide, unconventional weapons, rejection of traditional values and whatabautism. The key hypothesis is that historical narrative became more important than the geopolitical narrative and, overall, these narratives started to become less connected to empirical evidence.
Halleh Ghorashi, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (co-author: Elena Ponzoni)
”Differentiated narratives that make a difference”
In the field of migration and refugee studies, refugees are often studied as objects of policies and interventions and rarely as active (political) subjects. In this study we investigate the role of emergent refugee-led organizations and refugee advocates who want to access the political space to influence polices that affect them and their community, in the Dutch context. Narratives from refugee experience can enlarge the imagination of people in position of power, who are responsible for policies that affect refugee lives but are often disconnected from the life-world of refugees. Also, they can enable the emergence of counter narratives challenging implicit structures that reproduce exclusion and marginalization of refugees and migrants. However, in order to enable participation and enlarge the political significance of refugee narratives, conceptual distinctions are needed between different types of narrative contributions and spaces for participation. Our investigation is based on an exploratory qualitative study, in which we have collected the experiences of different types of actors: Currently active/emerging refugee-led advocates; refugee advocates that have been active in the Netherlands in earlier several decades; policy makers working on refugee reception and integration; and representatives of the main Dutch NGO active on refugee issues. The mirrored experiences and expectations of these actors help identifying pitfalls and potentialities regarding the inclusion of refugee-led advocacy in the current Dutch context, on the background of experiences from the past.
Catarina Kinnvall, Lund University
”Political Imaginaries, Emotional Governance and Fantasies of Naming and Shaming”
Proceeding from the idea that we live in a ‘permanent age of anxiety’, this paper takes its point of departure in the suggestion that we need to understand the ways in which all leaders, politicians and movements are engaged in reading and responding to current feelings that seem to be out there and how they, in so doing, are engaged in emotional governance. Emotional governance can simply refer to the everyday emotionally charged utterances and statements made by politicians and other prominent figures, but can also be read in a larger Foucauldian sense as techniques of surveillance, control and manipulation. This has led a number of scholars writing on the populist right to argue that populist far right movements and parties are not simply bystanders and passive recipients who channel the political climate, but active agents in the narratives about their success and failure in relation to other political bodies (people, parties, states), often by taking ‘ownership’ of controversial issues, such as migration, borders, and national identity. In this paper I explore the relationship between emotional governance, political imaginaries and racialized and gendered fantasies of naming and shaming by looking at how populist right parties and movements use such fantasies in order to restore a sense of security and belonging among its followers.
Eneken Laanes, Tallinn University
”Katja Petrowskaja’s Translational Poetics of Memory”
This paper discusses Katja Petrowskaja’s memorial text Maybe Esther (Vielleicht Esther, 2014). The text deals with the history of her Jewish-Ukrainian-Russian family that reflects the complexities of 20th century history of Central and Eastern Europe. Petrowskaja who grew up in Kyiv speaking Russian, writes about her travels to research her family history in German, thereby “moving in the chasm between languages, in exchange, in the confusion of roles and viewpoints” (Vielleicht Esther, 115). This paper explores Petrowskaja’s translational poetics of memory that includes her reflection on the role of imagination in remembering, on her own role as the „switchman” of European memory and her creative play with German language (prose rhymes, direct translation of idioms from Russian) that halts the smooth flow of the text even for its native speaker readers.
Aura Lounasmaa, Tampere University
”Pedagogy of the tired”
From 2016 I have been developing approaches to university education that recognise bordering, racism and marketisation of education as some of the barriers faced by students, especially students in refugee-like situations. It started as an anxious response to the suffering of the millions seeking safety in Europe since 2015. Following Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed, with colleagues we developed the OMNI-model of education: open, multimodal, narratively based and inclusive, reaching from administrative practices to pedagogy and psychosocial support of students. Our work was greatly disrupted by the pandemic, and trying to safeguard students through online education was met with new models of exploitation and exclusion when universities used the pandemic as an opportunity to increase workloads, fire staff, cut support and develop new modes of surveillance. Educational researchers keep coming up with new ways to transform education, empower students and create spaces for critical dialogue, and each of these in turn are marketised by universities into promotional material, recruitment tools and employability schemes. The climate crisis, racism, sexual violence, the pandemic, poverty, war and invasion penetrate the classrooms, causing divisions, fear and making most of us distracted. Trauma-based practice and feminist ethics of care offer some tools to support students and sit with them in our collective pain. In addition to these I want to propose a pedagogy of the tired, which allows us to just get through without constantly transforming ourselves; which celebrates the ordinary without asking them to become inspirational and which nevertheless keeps on going, recognising that those who suffer most do not have a choice.
Kesi Mahendran, Open University, UK
(co-authors: Sue Nieland and Anthony English)
”Multilateralism, migration-mobility, global human identification and the democratic ideal of a border-free world”
What happens if individuals have the agency to rule the world? Would they control or remove borders? This article draws on studies into identification with all humanity – IWAH (McFarland, 2011; McFarland, Webb, & Brown, 2012) and global human identification and citizenship (GHIC) to investigate the relationship between degree of migration-mobility and narratives of belonging when citizens within liberal democracies rule the world. The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, war on Ukraine, NATO membership debates and refugee-related forced migration reveal porous state-borders and the precarity of the planet. GHIC is positivity correlated with humanitarianism, cosmopolitanism and environmental concern. GHIC appears to be an antidote to increasing levels of social dominance orientation, right-wing authoritarianism and ethnocentricism. It has been negatively correlated with each of these measures (McFarland et al, 2019; Hamera, McFarland & Penczekc, 2019). Yet high global human identification is held by only a minority of people. This talk is focused on the relationship between degree of migration-mobility and participant decisions to create or remove borders on the world. Interviews and an on-line interactive worldview mapping tool (n = 23) carried out in England, Scotland and Sweden reveal borders were imposed for protection (sovereignty) to bridge (identification) and removed as divisive (global human identification). The talk offers a a dialogical-narrative approach which seeks to diffract two key binaries within discussions of migration, xeno-nationalism and sovereignty – migrant/non-migrant and public/migrant. In conclusion, the talk reflects on how the war on Ukraine within Europe has potentially created new positioning on multilateralism and the democratic ideal of a border free world.
Jim McAuley, University of Huddersfield
”‘The burden of the recollection’ – collective memory, narratives and re-writing the past in Northern Ireland”
Memory is in a constant state of fluctuation and the process of remembering and forgetting fluid. People experience the past through both individual experience and collective memory to create a subjective view of historical reality. In Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, memory is open to assumption, appropriation and re-enactment often to meet contemporary political concerns. This reflects a constant struggle between conflicting interpretations of historical events, the determination of which serves to validate and legitimate the present. In this way memory is continually fashioned, constructed and reconstructed as the past is reinterpreted. Historical memories are changed and distorted (often overtly so) to suit present purposes. This is transmitted across generations by an everyday ‘commonsense’ narratives, characterised by the attempt to ensure coherence and commitment amongst the group. Thus, perceptions of the Self and of others are formulated in struggles over identity which often involve people in a clash to appropriate a reconstructed past. People are not inactive in constructing their sense of identity, which is formulated and reinforced through processes involving the continuous reformatting of biographical and group experiences. By drawing on collective histories and the common narratives this paper will highlight how Ulster loyalists have created their own communal interpretations of the past and framed particular understandings, to interpret contemporary social circumstances, in ways which become central element to communal identity. By looking at two key events this paper will highlight how distinct forms of belonging are understood and used to create and reinforce a marked sense of the politics of difference in Northern Ireland.
David Mwambari, King’s College London
”Navigating the past: Examining official narrative of the genocide and the vernacular narratives of Rwandan youth in the diaspora”
The presentation will explore how Rwanda’s official master narrative emerged and evolved in the past twenty six years in Rwanda and internationally. Scholarship on the post-genocide collective memory has mostly examined the politics around this official memory narrative and how its mobilized to promote political interests of the elites, but few have looked at the varied responses from members of the diaspora. Using both primary and secondary sources, this paper focuses on how Rwandan youth in the diaspora have created alternative vernacular narratives via online platforms to critic the national official master narrative of Rwanda’s past.
Minou Norouzi, University of Helsinki
”Empathic Entanglements: Whom Do Humanitarian Narratives Serve?”
What is the role of documentary in framing, critiquing and challenging political
narratives? In this chapter, artist-filmmaker and documentary scholar Minou Norouzi reflects on the creative-theoretical process of developing her essay film On the Tenderness of Men. She contextualizes this work-in-progress in relation to her theoretical research on the role of empathy in representing migrant experiences in documentaries. “On the Tenderness of Men” is a filmic meditation on men and violence explored through the iconic modernist architecture of the ‘Rock Church’ in Helsinki. The architects of the church, their childhood during the 1939 Soviet-Finnish Winter War, and the family’s subsequent expulsion from their home on Suursaari Island in the
Baltic sea, are the starting points from which to explore parallels to contemporary themes of war and displacement. Central to the film’s inquiry is the broader question of what a place of safety might be from any outsider’s perspective. Drawing on critical theories in the fields of migrant cinema and decolonial studies the film and this paper ask if narrative opacities produced through multi-vocal expressions can reinvigorate the task of doing politics with documentary cinema. There is much debate in the field of art about what constitutes political practice. But is our input as cultural producers needed, and if so, what is the nature of its necessity? Whom do humanitarian narratives really serve? Considering geopolitical conflicts, untenable resource extractions and economic disparities as root causes for migration, it’s understandable the question arises anew: What can the documentary do? How can the documentary help? Against documentary’s perhaps historic failure to fulfill its socio-political purpose and the failure of practices that narrate politics through the empathic engagement of viewers, this chapter argues that engaging viewers through empathic entanglements may hinder documentary’s aspiration to bring about political change.
Kinga Polynczuk-Alenius, University of Helsinki
”The tale of two ‘crises’: Refugees, racism, and media narratives in Poland”
After a period of distancing itself from the refugee flows into Europe and refusing to participate in the EU-wide relocation schemes, Poland has recently experienced two major refugee events to which it has responded in dramatically disparate ways. The first has been the crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border that began in the summer of 2021 and has seen thousands of asylum seekers, primarily from Iraqi Kurdistan, stranded at the border, refused entry to Poland, and pushed back into Belarus; institutional responses that have enjoyed considerable societal support. Although the precise extent of the humanitarian disaster is not known, given the curbing of public access to the border zone, at least twenty people have perished thus far. The second event has been an influx of Ukrainian refugees in the aftermath of Russian invasion in February 2022. Here, the reaction has been very different: the nationalist government has welcomed the refugees with open arms, albeit without providing sustainable support infrastructure, and the society rushed to help. In this talk, I consider mediated racism as a potential explanation for these seemingly incommensurable responses, whose relevance is underscored by the fact that the inflow of Muslim refugees to Poland has been minimal, therefore offering limited opportunities for embodied encounters, whereas the presence of Ukrainian migrants is already well established. Combining my earlier research with an analysis of media narratives on the two ‘crises’, I discuss a series of mediated encounters – mnemonic, domopolitical, conspiratorial, travel – that precipitated the radically different institutional and societal responses. While I flesh out the differences between mediated narratives around the two ‘crises’, I also tease out some (un)expected similarities.
Shirin Rai, Warwick University
”Border Crossing, Memory and Politics: the story of one family”
This paper is about border-crossings and its histories in one family, the crossing over the line drawn to divide India at the moment of its independence. This is a history I found difficult to unravel as no one talked about these crossings very much – other than through the cracks that occasionally appeared in the smooth mirror of everyday life. This despite the uprooting of lives that were scarred deeply as they pushed and were swept away in the roiling of hate and fear, and despite having to deal with contemporary political manifestations of this politics of hate. This of course chimed well with the political concern of ‘nation-building’ – forward, not backwards looking; modern not traditional. The second border -crossing I discuss is my leaving home also made me want to tell my story – who was I? I was a stranger in a land which was familiar through books, plays, music and even buildings and spaces, but utterly unfamiliar in the everyday meaning of place. How does one negotiate this strange familiarity? Telling stories, discovering them, patching them together through recognizing and putting together clues and traces helps in understanding how families and national histories are connected; how political narratives and the personal are imbricated and help us understand ourselves and our worlds better.
Eila Stepanova, Karelian Cultural Society
”Lamenting for Lenin: a case of political ideology in Karelian traditional lament poetry”
Traditional lament poetry, especially related to the death rituals, is known around the world. Laments are most often performed by women in rituals, and potentially also on non-ritual grievous occasions. In this paper, I will briefly introduce Karelian laments, their language, and meanings. I will discuss laments for Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin performed between 1970–1990’s by Praskovja Savelyeva (1913–2002). Praskovya’s knowledge of Lenin’s life and work was largely based on the official ideology prevalent during the Soviet era and the cult and myth of Lenin created within it. Savelyeva, an illiterate Karelian widow who performed her laments for Lenin willingly, was creating her own interpretation and narration of this cult and mythic image.
Lotte Tarkka, University of Helsinki
“The Political Epic – Heritage narratives, appropriation and national culture”
Notions of culture, heritage and literature are formed in historical processes entangled in value assessments and institutionalized power as well as their countermoves. Not only are the notions and concepts intrinsically political. Similar ideologically motivated dialogues determine the formation of historically specific, empirically observable cultures, heritage regimes and literary fields. In the late nineteenth century, the formation of the Finnish nation state was legitimized by the ideologically charged cultural movement of Romantic Nationalism. The Kalevala, also known as the national epic of Finland and Karelia, compiled by Elias Lönnrot in 1835, played a crucial role in this process and the epic continues to be an official yet contested emblem of Finnishness. The discourses rooted in Romantic Nationalism and the ideological impact of the epic still raise emotions and political debates, increasingly so within the sphere of identity politics. The heated debates take place within the vernacular rather than the institutional sphere; they take place in the social media and are initiated by activists and politicians rather than by heritage institutions. As Valdimar Th. Hafstein has stated, the notion of cultural heritage and the political praxis of heritage regimes has gradually replaced the ideal of a homogenous national culture. The paper addresses the role of the Kalevala in current heritage politics by looking at two cases of political debate in which the legitimacy of the national epic has been challenged, namely #MeToo and claims of cultural appropriation made by Karelian minority activists. The political narrative of the epic started with the national, but can the heritage turn with its vernacular twist gear its interpretations towards the inclusive and diversified?
Reetta Toivanen, University of Helsinki
”Imagining Indigeneity and the challenge with ”Indigenous Community””
This presentation will discuss – based on my empirical research – different narratives on and by the Sámi indigenous peoples of the Arctic area. These narratives are politically loaded, and come with economic consequences. Narratives on the Arctic work in various levels but the strongest of them – obviously – promoted by the machinery of businesses and governments, wipes out all human beings and spreads images of the Arctic as an empty place from where to extract richness. This dominant political narrative forces all other narratives, especially those by local population of the Arctic to relate their stories to it. Sámi and other locals engage with this dominant narrative through discussions on who belongs to the indigenous communities and thus deserves protection from extractivist logic. The membership in the Sámi community has impact on peoples’ livelihoods but also on access to language education and thus ultimately on the right to self-identification. Imagining indigeneity can form a strong counter-narrative to the extractivist narrative but the creating a singular story, it suppresses the local diversity and forges history and future of the peoples in the Arctic.