EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P043)
Temporalities of the past: moments, memories, and futures in the making
Location Horsal 4 (B4)
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Ivana Maček (Stockholm University) email
  • Siri Schwabe (Roskilde University) email

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Short abstract

The panel explores the role of the past in shaping current moments and imaginings of the future. We are interested in individual, familial, and collective processes, as well as in their overlapping spatial and temporal dynamics.

Long abstract

In this panel, we seek to explore the role of the past in shaping current moments and imaginings of the future. We are interested in individual, familial, and collective processes, as well as in their overlapping transnational and intergenerational dynamics.

Emotional dynamics, meaning-making, and issues of morality seem to be central to how people engage with and activate the past in contemporary political and cultural settings. In that regard, narratives of the past can become 'frozen' reference points with explicit moral implications. But what happens when we for instance say "never again," and how is the moral ideal embedded in these words negotiated in practice? More generally, how do visions of the past interplay with imaginings of the future, and how are particular futures pointed to in practice? How does people's imaginative engagement with the past differ from their engagement with the future and how do we conceptualize the present accordingly?

The temporalities of the past might be explored through people's relationship with material objects, the intergenerational transmission of family stories, shared cultural activities within a community, state monuments, memorials and education, as well as through the built environment. Further, the interplay between past, present, and future might be approached through transnational flows as well as via research on travelling, multidirectional, and mediated memories. We invite papers that present ethnographic, methodological, and theoretical perspectives on these or similar themes.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'True Island Type Ponies': The Role of the Past in Contemporary Shetland Pony Breeding.

Author: Catherine Munro (University of Aberdeen ) email
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Short abstract

In this paper I argue that the past is a living, adaptable part of the present in relationships between humans, animals and landscapes in Shetland.

Long abstract

In this paper I argue that the past is a living, adaptable part of the present in relationships between humans, animals and landscapes in Shetland.

Throughout Shetland's history, crofters are believed to have survived great hardship through their clever adaptations to a challenging environment. Shetland ponies played an active role in the survival of these households. The shared lives, and shared characteristics, of humans and animals are directly linked to contemporary ideas of home and belonging.

Changes to economic and agricultural practices have fundamentally altered land use, rendering obsolete many of the roles the breed traditionally performed. Shetland ponies are now more commonly recognized as a pet rather than a working animal. Pony breeders in Shetland are concerned that increasingly human dominated practice, and separation from the landscapes in which they evolved, puts at risk historic breed qualities of intelligence and independence.

Working with ponies in a way that maintains historic characteristics and connections with Shetland's landscapes is considered the right way to live, for both humans and equines, and is frequently contrasted with life in mainland UK.

Pony breeders are not seeking to recreate a static idea of the past, but rather keep alive elements of the past considered central to a sense of belonging and identity in Shetland.

With much in the future uncertain, preserving and cultivating healthy sustainable relationships with landscapes and animals, and adapting them where necessary, is believed to be essential to the continuation of life on the islands.

SPECTRAL LANDSCAPES: GHOSTS OF COLONIALISM, CONFLICT AND CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE SOUTHEAST HIGHLANDS OF MYANMAR

Author: Tomas Cole (Stockholm University ) email
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Short abstract

In this paper I discuss how the landscapes along the western bank of the Salween River in Southeast Myanmar are replete with ghosts. Not only the kind that go bump in the night but also the ghosts of Colonialism, Christian proselytising, chronic conflict and growing concerns of ecological collapse.

Long abstract

In this paper I discuss how the landscapes along the western bank of the Salween River in Southeast Myanmar are replete with ghosts. Not only the kind that go bump in the night but also the ghosts of Colonialism, Christian proselytising, chronic conflict and growing concerns of ecological collapse haunt these highlands. I am interested in how this kind of haunting can be understood as spectral. Spectres are at once of the past, yet, as caught so vividly in the first line of the Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels 1848), always haunting the present in their potential to break into the current moment and (violently) refigure the future. I begin this paper by demonstrating how 'imperial debris' (Stoler 2013) such as Japanese army helmets and British guns are constantly being retrofitted by the locals to serve pressing current demands, as chicken feeders and blunderbuss like hunting rifles. I then use these findings as a springboard to better grasp local cosmologies where materials, stories and myths are constantly retrofitted to meet present exigencies and, in the process, attempt to absorb and domesticate radical alterity. I then go on to explore how these spectres are weaved into the very landscape of these highlands and continually shape present hopes and fears in the face of looming threats, of climate change as their crops continue to fail year after year, and that the next outbreak of conflict may be the last.

Family house between the past and the future - Transnational Families and the Ambivalences of Remembrance in Bosnia-Hercegovina

Author: Sanda Üllen (University of Vienna) email
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Short abstract

The presentation discusses the role of the family house as an active participant in construction of memories in post-war Bosnia. Following a processual concept of memory, the family house is perceived as an ambivalent site of memories, revealing negotiations about the past, present and future.

Long abstract

In perceiving the family house as an active participant in construction of memories, where personal, familial and (trans)national memories intersect, this presentation explores the dialectic relationship between space, time and memories in post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina. Based on data from ethnographic fieldwork in Bosnia, Denmark and Sweden, I conceptualize the family house as an ambivalent site of memory and analyze how narrative constructions over past, present and future are negotiated within the families though the object of the house and the yard. As such the house and the yard reveal different layers of ambivalences, including the ambivalent feelings towards the changed notion of "home" and the temporal reference between "pre-war" and "post-war" homes, making it itself a mobile concept where people use different mnemonic practices in order to manage their memories and (re)make "homes" in changed political situations. While the parents combine their visits to Bosnia and the family house with the narratives about the past, the children perceive the orientation towards the past as too overwhelming and as a burden. Thus, the family house reveals the negotiations and struggles about the past, present and future as well as the ambivalences within which strongly influence peoples' feelings of belonging and practices of emplacement over time.

A Sheltered Space: Arranging past, present and future inside of home bomb shelters in northern Israel

Author: Sonia Zafer-Smith (University College London) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the temporal overlaps between past, present and future inside of bomb shelters on Israel's northern borders with Lebanon and Syria. It considers how family memory and myth intertwine with Israeli state temporality in private shelters, embedded in quotidian space and practice.

Long abstract

Bomb shelters are ubiquitous throughout the Israeli landscape, ranging from public shelters in parks and playgrounds, to private shelters inside of family homes. What people do with these spaces varies inside and outside of conflict, and often leads to their near total incorporation into everyday space. This has been described by Shapiro and Bird-David (2016) as contributing to an Israeli ontological juxtaposition of emergency and routine. Shelters therefore offer places to encounter the slow crystallization of Israeli subjectivities entangled with Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, people and rights, an occupation which Israeli shelters are becoming increasingly necessary to sustain.

This paper, based on fieldwork in an agricultural settlement on Israel's northern borders between 2012-2014, considers how family myth and memory of past wars, anticipated future wars, and present day 'quiet' become knotted inside of private, home bomb shelters. Looking at the temporal dimensions that shelters incorporate into quotidian Israeli space, home shelters might be described as sites where futures are forecasted in relation to the yet unclosed past (Pederson and Nielsen 2013; Nielsen 2014), futures subsequently prepared for and not prepared for inside of shelters. Unpacking the home shelter further, they can be appraised as 'time-reckoning devices' (Nielsen 2014: 167; cf Bear 2014: 3) of familial temporality, interacting with and against the temporality of the Israeli state. This bears critical implications for understanding how the sensing of time shapes political agency, subjectivities, personal security practices, and the seeming absence thereof.

A family affair: memory, postmemory, and the online afterlife of the Portuguese colonial wars

Author: Maria José Lobo Antunes (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the mnemonic processes centred in online communities dedicated to the Portuguese colonial wars, and examines the interplay between memory and postmemory of a disputed past.

Long abstract

Between 1961 and 1974, Portugal sent nearly one million men to Africa. Conscripts and regulars were drafted to Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, to fight wars that were never officially declared. The Carnation Revolution brought an end to both the authoritarian regime and the empire, and silence over the past followed. Lacking an official politics of memory, contrasting discourses on the Portuguese colonial past have emerged. Four decades later, it is still a territory of contested meaning.

This paper examines the interplay between memory and postmemory in online veterans' communities. Drawing from ethnographic observation in facebook groups dedicated to the Portuguese colonial wars, it will be argued that social media provides an unprecedented opportunity for engaging with a disputed past. Wide-ranging and inclusive, facebook groups gather all those who are interested in a common historical time: veterans and their children, settlers and their families. We will explore how contemporary evocation of people's pasts is articulated with discussions on issues of morality, war and colonialism. We will discuss the way stories and photographs are shared, how information on people and events is exchanged, and how war's reverberation is prospectively organised towards the future.

Family Stories as Myths in Bosnian Swedish Families

Author: Ivana Maček (Stockholm University) email
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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.

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.

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

Author: Spela Drnovsek Zorko (University of Warwick) email
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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.

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.

Big Shoes to Fill: Young Adults' Future Narrative and its Intergenerational Entanglements in Timor-Leste

Author: Sara ten Brinke (Utrecht University) email
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Short abstract

In this paper I explore how the past plays a crucial role in young adults' narratives about their future engagement as citizens of Timor-Leste. I will show how the romanticised view on the past independence struggle profoundly impacts intergenerational relations and young adults' positionality.

Long abstract

Timor-Leste (East Timor) became the first nation-state of the twenty-first century upon its independence in 2002, after twenty-four years of Indonesian occupation and a few centuries of Portuguese colonialism. Today, young adults (18-30 years old) are told time and again that the future of the nation rests on their shoulders. They are also told that they should never forget the sacrifices that the previous generations made, for them and for an independent Timor-Leste.

In this paper I will explore how stories about the past resistance against foreign oppression are used to create an image of the perfect East Timorese citizen as one willing to sacrifice everything for the freedom of his/her country. I will narrate the stories about political resistance that are transmitted to the post-conflict generation both in personal relations and in national political discourse. By scrutinizing the moral dimensions given to the 'worthy' Timorese citizenship of the generations of freedom fighters, I will explore how young adults construct a narrative of their future engagement that is based on the concepts of struggle, sacrifice and selflessness. In this narrative, the imperative to develop Timor-Leste becomes for the new generation what its independence was for the previous. Hence, I will theorize how young adults give meaning to their future role and how this is rooted in a romanticized view on the past engagements of their senior co-citizens. Accordingly, I will contemplate how the past and its memories shape intergenerational relations and young adults' positionality in Timor-Leste's present and future.

"Once it is Bangsamoro…": The Temporal Dimension of the Bangsamoro Imaginary

Author: Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo (Humboldt University Berlin) email
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Short abstract

The specific configurations of the Bangsamoro as imagined future that is captured in the subjunctive phrase "once it is Bangsamoro…" point to the plurality of pasts in the sense that this imagined future has various ways of simultaneously constructing and relating to the past(s).

Long abstract

In 2012, the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has been waging an armed struggle for the right to self-determination in the southern Philippines, signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The historic signing of this peace document and the succeeding peace agreements thereafter gave the term 'Bangsamoro' prominence and traction, animating the lives of Moros who have been part of the struggle for decades. Drawing on my long-term ethnographic research on imagination and memory among MILF adherents in the Cotabato region, I analyse the subjunctive phrase "once it is Bangsamoro…"—often uttered by my interlocutors when articulating their desires, expectations, hopes, and anxieties during this period in the peace process—as capturing their ideas of an imagined utopian future. I show that the specific configurations of this imagined future propelled by desire and possibility point to the plurality of pasts in the sense that the past does not possess a singular significance or relationship to the imagined future. Rather, the imagined future has various ways of simultaneously constructing and relating to the past(s). In turn, the past(s) and the imagined future shape my interlocutors' subjectivities and the Bangsamoro imaginary in the present. This co-implication of the past, present, and future is informed and moulded by my interlocutors' lived experience with and memories and imaginings of violence, marginalization, and impoverishment, the MILF's messages, memory-making practices, and re-narrativization of history, progress in the peace process, and the vicissitudes, precariousness, and liminality of life in the present.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.