PHC PROTEUS

Pasts without history and displaced histories of people without traces

Michèle BAUSSANT & Katja HROBAT VIRLOGET

After two deadly World Wars, post-1945’ ‘Europe’s political structure was held up as one of peace and stability. Borders have been remarketed under new national limits, with the waves of “decolonization” affecting Western Europe and the reconfiguration of Central and Eastern European countries due to the Cold War, and later, due to the fall of communist regimes (Rekacewicz, 2003). As a result, it led to new divisions and inward-looking political and cultural attitudes.

Depending on different modalities and temporalities, ethnic minorities expelled from the newly formed “national spaces” such as East Prussia and Silesia, Germans from the Sudetenland and Bukovina, Italians from ex-Yugoslavia, Europeans, and Jews from North Africa, Portuguese from Angola and Mozambique, when at the same time the abruptly depopulated areas (neighborhoods or even regions, in urban or rural areas), which were left behind, became “home” to other populations who did not necessarily share a bond or connection with the previous ‘population’s cultural heritage.

How and why have some of the memories of displacements been erased, ignored, forgotten, and others memorized and commemorated? In what ways do they still matter in Europe and beyond today? Under what circumstances, some of the features of the past have remained so persistent and resilient?

The project endorses the view that spatial reference points frame memory, such as sites, buildings, streets, and artifacts, as stressed by Frances Yates (1966). Furthermore, it is indeed with the material traces left in space that the History begins and which allows us to claim that something happened. Lying on this assumption, on the one hand, we can argue that the material  alteration of places and social landscapes can transform our memories, and even lead to their disappearance. Nevertheless, on the other hand, as Halbwachs highlighted, we also should remember that both memories and silences, in turn, design the spaces in which we live (Halbwachs, 1951 and 1952; Topalov, 1997). By symbolically marking out space, both also change places with which they are associated (Lepetit and Pumain, 1993; Jonker, 1995, Zombori, 2012 ;Truc, 2016).

Our objective is to answer these questions by exploring two parallel collective memories: the memories of the displaced, and the memories of those who (re)populated the cultural and physical spaces after them, as well as the distance and the encounter, the gap, and the crossover between persistent traces of the past without History and displaced histories of people without traces, as reflected in artifacts and material assets, bodies, and narratives. Focusing on this relationship between memories, silences, and production of History and places, following the paradigmatic and pioneering ‘Halbwachs’ study on the collective memory of Christians in the Holy Land, we will be exploring further the question of the links between memory circles (or milieu de mémoire) and sites of memory, an issue that is significantly neglected by the theory of sites of memory (Nora 1984–1992). However, the socio-anthropological importance of the dynamic relationship between memories, silences, production of histories and places can never be exhausted by a study of the so-called sites “of   memory” alone (Baussant, 2015).

This project is deeply rooted in ethnographic fieldwork and will be based on specific empirical case studies. The choice of the case study locations reflects the expertise of the research team’s core members, both from the French and the Slovenian sides.

Membres of the team

Michele Baussant, senior researcher at the CNRS

Katja Hrobat Virloget, associate professor (FH UP)

Aleksej Kalc professor,(ZRC SAZU)

Irène dos Santos, senior research fellow CNRS (URMIS)

Johana Wyss, junior researcher, Czech Akademie of Sciences

Neža Cebron Lipovec, assistant professor  (FH UP)

Petra Kavrecic assistant professor (FH UP),

Maria Kokkinou, postdoctoral fellow CEFRES, Charles University

Felipe Kaiser, doctoral student (IIAC-EHESS, CEFRES)


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