Accepted Paper:

How to be a young widow: performing identity   


Eva Eglāja-Kristsone (Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia)

Paper short abstract:

In my presentation I will analyze the identity of young widows in Latvian society and culture. As data, I use autoetnography, interviews and online conversations, and my aim is to see how this type of social category has developed through a certain period of time.

Paper long abstract:

When one thinks of a widow, the image that mostly comes to mind is someone who is old. However, a certain percentage of widows are still very young when their significant other dies, in their twenties, thirties or forties. Becoming a young widow can entail multiple challenges: it is harder to find peers, one may have young children and there is a social stigma to cope with. The representation of the widow is indicative of the changing society and perception of women as shows my fieldwork among young widows in Latvia. As a widowed "insider" myself, I will analyze the widow performance in society and culture using autoetnography, face-to-face interviews and online conversations to see how this type of social category has developed through a certain period of time. Anecdotes and folksongs about widows, stereotypes used in literary texts and media from the 19th century to nowadays - what is their meaning to the widowed woman who is constructing her new identity as a widow? Besides extended interviews, I also have studied online text conversations of young widows in an Internet based network meant mostly for young parents and women and not specially designed for widows/widowers. In my presentation I will focus on the ways how young widows adopt to this gender-specific image in the 21th century.

Panel Gend003
Performing identities: age and gender related viewpoints to the poetics of past, present, and future