Accepted Paper:

Family Stories as Myths in Bosnian Swedish Families  

Author:

Ivana Maček (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores similarities between family stories and myths in providing the coming generations with explanations of the past, present and future. The materials are drawn from more than 20 families where parents left Bosnia because of the war in the 1990s, and children were born in Sweden.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws on materials collected during three years of fieldwork with over 20 Bosnian Swedish families. The parents came from Bosnia to Sweden because of the war in the 1990s, and their children were born in Sweden and had no experiences of war. I focus on what I call family stories: stories about the parents' experiences of the war, which parents and children told me independently. I explore the elements of the parental stories that were lost and those that were changed, as well as those that were transmitted accurately between generations. Elsewhere, I have suggested that exaggeration, simplification, and abstraction are means of preserving the moral and emotional content of parental stories, and that these intra-familial and domestic processes might be a first stage in a wider societal processes of myth-making.

Myths, among other things, contain explanations of how the world came into being and of how it works. They provide a group of people sharing them with explanations of the past, rules and guidelines for behaviour in the present, as well as orientation and aims for the future. In this paper, I will examine the accurately transmitted moral and emotional content of parental stories in children's contemporary social and political context, and will show how family stories of parents' experiences of war, flight, and (re)establishment in Sweden have similar functions as myths, for the generation of children born in Sweden.

Panel P043
Temporalities of the past: moments, memories, and futures in the making