"To the eternal memory of the event": Walking as a methodology for exploring the silent histories of absent communities in L'viv, Ukraine.
Elena Liber (Goldsmiths College)
Paper short abstract:
How can we listen to the unspoken and unspeakable histories that are present in the city of L'viv, Ukraine? This paper examines walking, talking, and the "sensing of history" (Richardson, 2008) as a method for interrogating historical silences and the presence of absent communities.
Paper long abstract:
Memory and movement in the former Soviet Union is the focus of much anthropological work examining the relationship between migration/movement, contested histories and the role of kinship in the transmission of memory (Skultans, 1997; Richardson, 2008; Pine, 2013; Witeska-Mlynarczyk, 2014). Based on my PhD project on family memory and silences in relation to post-EuroMaidan national memory policy in Ukraine, I suggest that walking and talking in the urban space of the city provides a methodology which allows historical silences related to the mass forced movement of Jews and Ukrainians during the Second World War to be examined. This paper reflects on three periods of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in L'viv, Ukraine between November 2016 and June 2018 consisting of participant observation, life history interviews, and informal interviews carried out while walking in the city. How do the traces left in the city by people and communities who never returned allude to unspoken and unspeakable histories? What impact does national memory policy have on the nature of these silences? How does the city space facilitate alternative methods of talking about histories that are silenced by the state? To fully understand how the past is shaping post-EuroMaidan Ukraine it is essential that we interrogate the role of silent, unspeakable histories and recognise the presence of absent communities through their silence (Kidron, 2009).
Silences of/and mobility: towards an anthropology of the unspoken and unspeakable