Accepted Paper:

"I know what happened": diasporic origin and/as intergenerational knowledge  

Author:

Spela Drnovsek Zorko (University of Warwick)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores 'origin' as an object of intergenerational investment among post-Yugoslav migrants in Britain. It shows how young people's own experience of places of origin traverses the historical distance between themselves and their older kin, thus constituting a form of mnemonic time travel.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the concept of 'origin' as an object of intergenerational investment among migrant families from the former Yugoslav region. Drawing on conversations with young British-born Bosnians and Croats, as well as ethnographic fieldwork conducted at a Bosnian supplementary, it contrasts two modes for thinking about young people's relationships with their diasporic places of origin. On the one hand, migrant community projects such as the supplementary school promote a largely ahistorical concept of ancestral culture, with the pragmatic aim of bridging the perceived sense of distance that parents fear exists between their children and the homes they had left behind, in many cases as a direct result of war. On the other hand, my conversations with members of the younger generation suggest that their knowledge of familial pasts can be read as a form of emplaced, temporally dynamic memory that is inextricably entwined with their own visits to familial places of origin. In other words, rather than theorising a 'generational transmission' of family memory, the paper suggests that young people's first-hand experience of places of origin serves to effectively traverse the historical distance between themselves and their older relatives. The resulting stories of 'origin', I argue, constitute a form of mnemonic time travel, which relies as much on young people's diasporic points of departure as it does on recounted family stories.

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