Accepted Paper:

Travelling stories and the empowerment of alternative, intimate histories in Estonia  
Inge Melchior (VU University Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation deals with travelling (hi)stories within Europe and the way in which they encourage young Estonians to defend ‘their’ (nation’s) precious pasts against Europe’s hegemonic historiography. These history encounters thus empower them to tell their alternative histories.

Paper long abstract:

In this presentation I will question how young Estonians, who increasingly face intercultural encounters with people from 'old Europe', empower themselves by introducing alternative histories, which contest the hegemonic historiography of Nazi Germany as Europe's biggest enemy. Although they themselves have no experiences of Soviet violence, they have lived in the stories of their parents and grandparents, and within a nation-state whose emotional historiography is closely connected with their family stories.

During an intensive fieldwork period in Tartu, I have come to understand how my informants perceive a hegemonic European historiography to exist and how their encounters with that historiography through cultural memory (film, books etc), travelling or international friendships have increasingly made them aware of their 'alternative' history. In addition, reflections on their conversations with me, a Western European anthropologist, have provided very valuable information on the introduction of alternative (hi)stories and the challenges that come with the mobility of stories.

In this paper I question what happens in these intercultural dialogues. I will argue that these encounters instigate both feelings of insecurity and empowerment, of exclusion and belonging to the bigger European family. I will show that when these youngsters are more aware of their alternative histories, they attach more importance to local commemorations, books and symbols. It is thus not only the mobility of people that affect mnemonic practices, but especially the mobility of stories that opens one's eyes for the preciousness of one's past, which incites to protect it against challenges by hegemonic historiographies.

Panel P006
Intimacy of social memory and the construction of self-identity linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations in the current interconnected world