Accepted paper:

Painful pasts, uncertain futures: Walking as a method for interrogating historical silences in L'viv, Ukraine.


Elena Liber (Goldsmiths College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines walking and talking as a method of examining historical silences. By discussing the traces encountered in the urban space of the city it considers the role of multiple and contested histories in shaping the way the future is imagined by young people from L'viv.

Paper long abstract:

The Maidan Revolution and subsequent conflict in the East has brought to the fore the tensions surrounding the memory of communism, Ukrainian nationalism and the Second World War in Ukraine. Young people from L'viv, Western Ukraine invoke the memory of nationalist organisations of the 20th century to imagine and act towards a future free from Russian influence. Some, however, claim that the celebration of Ukrainian nationalism is incompatible with the memory of the Holocaust, Nazi collaboration and ethnic cleansing. The city itself is a palimpsest, with layers of silent or unspoken memories which are visible only through traces scattered across the urban space. How do the historical silences in the city make themselves visible in the form of traces? 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? Based on my doctoral research on family memory and silences in relation to post-Maidan national memory policy in Ukraine, and reflecting upon ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2016 and 2018, I suggest that walking and talking in the urban space of the city shines a light on traces which are otherwise obscured, and provides a methodology which allows historical silences to be examined. Through engaging with the traces of silent histories and memories it is possible to critically interrogate how the contested memories of the past are shaping the way the future is imagined by young people in L'viv today.

panel P142
Knowing Historical Traces, Eliciting Possible Futures