Memory & Trauma WG | Creative Approaches to Memory TFDC 2.14
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.15. Trauma and memory formation: digital collective memory, autoethnography, responsibilising trauma, object attachment

The panel will discuss the methodological difficulties of trauma research, the digital ethics of trauma, and the historical aspects of disaster and trauma and the relationship between trauma processing and objects.Erzsébet Tóth's presentation focuses on the methodological difficulties of memory research caught between different academic, power and political structures and expectations. Mykola Makhortykh discusses the ways in which the major internet search engines influence individual and collective memory and the impact of past events on contemporary perceptions of the past. He addresses the digital ethics of the representation of victims and perpetrators. Annie St. John-Stark discusses how the phenomenon of "the collapse of address" in catastrophe and trauma situations has evolved throughout history, i.e. how the experience of the endlessness of trauma has been shaped up to the present, up to the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Erzsébet Hosszu explores how young migrants become traumatised because of the forced abandonment of their homes, how their attachment to objects influences the way they process trauma, and how boundary objects can become a tool for design therapy.

Erzsebet Toth

The matter of audience„Just sitting and talking" – was the title of a well-known television talk show in Hungary. "I just sit and tell stories", might be the assumption of the interview subjects of our memory-related projects as well. They find an attentive audience in us, researchers, and often express their wishes what they want in return for their narrated accounts of the past. In a context, where family memory is still a slave of this historical era and collective memory is still colonialised, the expectations are closely connected to political and power ...

TFDC 2.14 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The panel will discuss the methodological difficulties of trauma research, the digital ethics of trauma, and the historical aspects of disaster and trauma and the relationship between trauma processing and objects.
Erzsébet Tóth's presentation focuses on the methodological difficulties of memory research caught between different academic, power and political structures and expectations. Mykola Makhortykh discusses the ways in which the major internet search engines influence individual and collective memory and the impact of past events on contemporary perceptions of the past. He addresses the digital ethics of the representation of victims and perpetrators. Annie St. John-Stark discusses how the phenomenon of "the collapse of address" in catastrophe and trauma situations has evolved throughout history, i.e. how the experience of the endlessness of trauma has been shaped up to the present, up to the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Erzsébet Hosszu explores how young migrants become traumatised because of the forced abandonment of their homes, how their attachment to objects influences the way they process trauma, and how boundary objects can become a tool for design therapy.



Erzsebet Toth

The matter of audience

„Just sitting and talking" – was the title of a well-known television talk show in Hungary. "I just sit and tell stories", might be the assumption of the interview subjects of our memory-related projects as well. They find an attentive audience in us, researchers, and often express their wishes what they want in return for their narrated accounts of the past. In a context, where family memory is still a slave of this historical era and collective memory is still colonialised, the expectations are closely connected to political and power structures. After tedious fieldwork and analysis, the researchers are faced with another hard reality: that they would sit and would tell stories, but their scientific audience also exposes expectations towards them, pushing researchers into another power structures, which has different faces on institutional and global knowledge production levels.
This presentation relies on the method of autoethnography and draws on experiences of data collection, analysis, writing and then narration of a doctoral research that was developed into a long-term project. It highlights the imagined communities that our respondents imagine us to belong, explores living on the boundaries of colonised memories and also highlights personal strategies, which helped the researcher to find meaning in the need of constantly having to translate herself, juggling to recruit listeners and then fulfilling the needs of her various audiences.

Erzsebet Fanni Toth is a faculty member at Sigmund Freud University in Vienna, Austria. She has been researching deportation and forced-labour-related memories for over a decade. As a cultural anthropologist and a theoretical psychotherapy researcher she is interested in the intersection of the psycho-socio-cultural aspects of memories


Mykola Makhortykh

We are not the same: How web search engines shape memory about Holocaust perpetrators and survivors

Web search engines, such as Google and Yandex, have a major influence on individual and collective remembrance. By selecting what historical sources and interpretations to prioritise to their users, search engines shape how individuals perceive not only the present but also past aspects of our social reality. The degree to which algorithms powering the search engines are capable to deal with ethical aspects of representing the past, in particular in the context of victims and perpetrators of mass atrocities, remains understudied, in particular considering the potential of these algorithms to be subjected to non-systematic errors (e.g. retrieval of erroneous outputs) and systematic bias (e.g. prioritisation of denialist or offensive content in response to specific queries). This uncertainty raises a number of questions, such as whether there are differences in the types of information sources that are prioritised by the search engines, particularly those who are more likely to misrepresent the victims and perpetrators? Is there a variation in the quality of information (e.g. in terms of historical accuracy) retrieved by search algorithms in relation to particular individuals? And is there a tendency to focus on particular aspects of individuals' stories and how much such a focus is influenced by the system-side factors of web search (e.g. randomisation of search outputs). To address these questions, the paper looks at the results of a series of virtual agent-based algorithmic audits conducted in 2021 and 2022 for a selection of Western and non-Western search engines. Using a combination of qualitative content analysis and historical analysis, it examines the top 10 text search outputs for a set of queries dealing with prominent Holocaust survivors (e.g. Simon Wiesenthal) and perpetrators (e.g. Odilo Globocnik). Specifically, it looks at the types of sources prioritised by individual search engines in relation to the queries as well as what aspects of individual stories are prioritised by the search outputs.


Annie St. John-Stark

Endlessness and Address: Trauma and Responsibilising in the Lisbon Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and Past and Present Pandemics

The endlessness of the Covid-19 pandemic, considered in the context of analysis of what Cathy Caruth has described as a "collapse of address" in catastrophe prompts questions about the nature of address within catastrophic circumstances. This endlessness – the sense that things will never end, much less resolve into a return to before the catastrophe – is entwined with the action of responsibilising. The assignment of responsibility for a catastrophe and for its resolution is historically evident, as much as it is evident currently in the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper carries forward Caruth's analysis of address within a trauma context – catastrophe of the Covid-19 pandemic (2022) - into examining the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the plague pandemics of the 14th through the 17th centuries, and Hurricane Katrina (2005). This paper argues that the trauma now – within the pandemic and still impactful hurricane Katrina settings – is not directly the collapse of address, it is the means of address of and about the endlessness of catastrophe. Historic responses to the endlessness of plague pandemics of the 14th through 17th centuries were forms of address through the tropes of providence and divine arbitrary, mysterious and inaccessible purpose. The pre-Enlightenment, pre-Industrial-revolution western European world circled the providential and divine center. Forms of address in these historic settings meant that catastrophe's endlessness was not the trauma. Pandemic experience now, and experience in Louisiana's hurricane Katrina in 2005, is situated for many in a largely non-divine providence: the providential entity is the state and human institutions. Endlessness now is increasingly the fault of a human entity and created by or addressed through a human institution.


Erzsébet Hosszu

"Object as the tool of recovery"

Examining material culture of young refugees with the aim of trauma processing Objects integrate, socialize and teach us, mirror our past and self. They also represent our home, as we can take them with us when moving. What happens to our objects when this move is accompanied by trauma and compulsion? The aim of my research is to understand the significance of the object, the smallest physical unit of the home, in the recovery processes of forced migrants. In parallel with theoretical and field research, interviews were conducted with forced migrants with the main question of "What objects do you keep from your homeland and what items would you take with you on another journey?". The essay presents the symbolism and psychology of objects, highlighting aspects of migration, and introduces the results of the interviews. According to the research, it can be stated that the examined forced migrants are not strongly attached to their past or present objects. Also, their objects, the individual memories of their past, are replaced by collective actions in the present. The objects symbolize their current phase of integration and attachment. It becomes clear that refugees have much less emotional expectation of their objects than a place called "home", which means objects can become a neutral tool for a painless, less confusing methodology for processing trauma. From the results, a design therapy toolkit will be created, which can initiate therapeutic, learning and community-building processes by developing place and object attachment: it can provide a creative tool for professionals, educators and therapists working with those lost their homes.


researcher
,
Sigmund Freud University
Postdoctoral research
,
University of Bern
Assistant Professor
,
Thompson Rivers University
Research fellow
,
Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg
 Anne St. John-Stark
Assistant Professor
,
Thompson Rivers University
Lecturer
,
Fukuyama City University
Full Professor / Senior Research Fellow
,
The University of Jewish Studies, Budapest / The Institute for Advanced Studies, Kőszeg
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