Accepted Paper:

Form's of denial in Gulag's memory.  

Author:

Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I will focus on the denial procedures occurring in Gulag's prisoners and Gulags neighbor’s testimonies. I will argue that these various forms of denial are not a dead end, but on the opposite side an heuristic starting point. Denial procedures oblige us to examine the way language might (technically as well as semantically)have been shaped by ideology.

Paper long abstract:

In order to question the legacy of mass violence in Post-soviet Russia, I have chosen to pay a specific attention to Gulag's memory. My research is therefore based on interviews of both former prisoners and neighbors of the Vologolag (a network of concentration camps dedicated to the building of dams on the Volga River, in activity from 1936 to 1957).

These interviews show that the recall of Gulag's collective experiment deals not only with the trauma raised by material and psychological conditions in which imprisonment and forced labor were experienced or witnessed, but also with a long time and large scale use of secrecy in soviet and post-soviet time. Social and political uses of secrecy has indeed produced a strong culture of denial, revealing that collective memory of the soviet period is still build up through silence, oblivion or guilt.

In this paper I will focus more specifically on the denial procedures occurring in prisoners and neighbor's testimonies. I will argue that these various forms of denial (silences, disruptions or bypasses) are not a dead end for interviewew, but on the opposite side an heuristic starting point. Recognizing denial as an object in itself, indeed allows us to impulse the dialectic of knowledge through examination of cultural, political and ideological uses of language, uunderline once-again the heuristic value of the tool-interview.

Panel P09
Recalling the unspeakable: interviewers facing silence