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Accepted Paper:

Silence between conflict memories, traumatic past and future. A reflection on the reasons and meanings of silence on the "Istrian exodus".  
Katja Hrobat Virloget (University of Primorska)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with silence in ethnographic research. Silence is not the absence of something, but it is an action, a powerful form of communication. It can derive from a conflict of memories and emotional trauma. How to research silence? How to detect it? What message it conveys to us?

Paper long abstract:

After more than sixty years, the "Istrian exodus", the massive migrations of (mostly) Italians from Yugoslavia after WWII, continues to stir emotions and provoke disputes in international politics. My research of it in Istria, which after "exodus" radically changed the population structure, has been pervaded by an omnipresent silence and strong emotions. In the dominant research silence is treated as a consequence of socio-political power relations, the relationship between dominant and marginalized social groups and memories. Indeed, silence ensues when memory cannot rely on collective memory because it is unacknowledged (Halbwachs 2001). However, silence can be seen as the consequence of emotional trauma, the impossibility of narration. By keeping silent people protect themselves and avoid everything that reminds them of the emotional trauma. If memory does not process traumas from the past, there is a danger of a "conspiracy of silence" and the collective identity can rely on collective silence. The research identified other kind of communication tactics by which people tried to retain control over emotionally burdensome memories. But emotions like fear, sadness, humiliation etc. are communicated and transmitted through signs of embodied memories (Kidron 2009). The main methodological problem is how to detect them? How to research silence, even when silence is filled with words? What impact on the traumatic silence and its future can have an ethnological research which contextualize, acknowledge and articulate the untold? These and other questions will be dealt with in the Istrian case of the memories on the post WW II "exodus".

Panel Body03
Mediating affect in the world of uncertainties
  Session 1 Thursday 8 June, 2023, -