Conflict, Violence and Memory NUBS 1.04
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.11. Violent Histories and Right-Wing Politics in Family Memory

In this panel, we explore how families deal with shifting memories, legacies and material traces of violent far-right histories across generations, and how they negotiate their political meanings between present and past, private and public. Examining these issues through the analysis of different materials, such as artwork, oral histories, objects and private writings, our four cases look at and reflect the impact of three different geopolitical contexts: the 1930/40s in Britain, Austria and Germany.We understand families as transgenerational communities that share specific kinds of emotional and affective relationships which inform the ways in which memories are engaged with. This close and direct intimacy potentially complicates the negotiation of political extremes, even – or especially – when it comes to the memory of historical violence and the implication of family members in it. In this context, this panel explores how family memories are continuously changing as they are shaped and reshaped between individual family members, as well as within and across the different generations involved. We interrogate these dynamics and the complex processes of making sense of past and present within them by approaching the politics of family memory from such divergent angles as art, oral history, material objects and autobiography. These mediums reflect different layers of the manifold engagement with memories of violent pasts. While the papers of this panel focus on the politics of family memory in specific case studies, we hope that it will further facilitate discussion on the topic of the representation of violence in memory more broadly.

Claudia Treacher (University of Brighton)Splintering Composure: Contested Family Memories of 1930s Far Right Polit ...

NUBS 1.04 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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In this panel, we explore how families deal with shifting memories, legacies and material traces of violent far-right histories across generations, and how they negotiate their political meanings between present and past, private and public. Examining these issues through the analysis of different materials, such as artwork, oral histories, objects and private writings, our four cases look at and reflect the impact of three different geopolitical contexts: the 1930/40s in Britain, Austria and Germany.

We understand families as transgenerational communities that share specific kinds of emotional and affective relationships which inform the ways in which memories are engaged with. This close and direct intimacy potentially complicates the negotiation of political extremes, even – or especially – when it comes to the memory of historical violence and the implication of family members in it. In this context, this panel explores how family memories are continuously changing as they are shaped and reshaped between individual family members, as well as within and across the different generations involved. We interrogate these dynamics and the complex processes of making sense of past and present within them by approaching the politics of family memory from such divergent angles as art, oral history, material objects and autobiography. These mediums reflect different layers of the manifold engagement with memories of violent pasts. While the papers of this panel focus on the politics of family memory in specific case studies, we hope that it will further facilitate discussion on the topic of the representation of violence in memory more broadly.



Claudia Treacher (University of Brighton)

Splintering Composure: Contested Family Memories of 1930s Far Right Politics in Britain through Art, Autobiography, and Oral History

Lynn Abrams characterises memory stories as 'creative narratives shaped in part by the personal relationship that facilitates the telling' rather than 'repositories of an objective truth about the past' (Abrams, 2016: 58). This paper unpacks the contested family memory narratives around the politics of my great-grandfather who may have marched with Mosley's Blackshirts in the 1930s. I draw on accounts by his sons to make sense of inherited and shifting family narratives around his interwar political activities, complicated both by his enthusiastic military participation in the First and Second World Wars and also his sons' conscientious objection. In doing so, I explore the splintering of political and familial narratives that occurs between: artwork created by his first son during the Second World War, an autobiographical account several decades later by his second son, and contemporary oral history interviews between his third son and me, his great-granddaughter. I use the term splintering consciously to acknowledge the various conflicting memories at process and follow the lead of Michael Roper (2000: 184) in remembering as a 'psychically-orientated process' that shifts both forwards and backwards from the event. This paper ultimately aims to explore 'points of conflict and rupture' (Green, 2004: 42) that confront broader cultural memories of the Second World War in Britain.


Vanessa Tautter (University of Brighton/IFK Vienna)

"I often think, my god, maybe my father was a total Nazi and I don't know": Negotiating Violent Politics, Political Memories and Intimate Emotions in Austrian Families

This paper critically explores the political, personal and emotional complexities and contradictions of negotiating memories of the Nazi past in Austrian families today. It uses oral history interviews with 'ordinary' Austrians whose (grand-)parents were implicated in the Nazi system in various ways and who grew up in 'traditional' memory cultures in Austria to analyse how they imagine and position themselves, their families and local communities in relation to these pasts, especially in the context of changes in dominant memory cultures towards a greater representation of the victims of Nazism since the 1990s. While interviewees shared a widespread public awareness of Nazi crimes and opposition to historical Nazism, they struggled to reconcile this history with the memories and imaginaries of their own (grand-)parents, their feelings for them, and their contemporary politics. Building on this discussion, this paper also reflects on and problematises my own positionality as an Austrian researcher coming from a similar background as my research participants. It focuses, in particular, on the meaning – as well as the ethical and political challenges – of listening in oral history interviews in the aftermath of such historical violence as well as in the context of memory politics continuously entangled with epistemic and discursive violence that has been firmly grounded in the structures of Austrian society over decades and which perpetuate the legacy of these violent histories into the present.


Stefan Benedik, House of Austrian History, Vienna

Evidence of War Crimes, Token of Childhood Nostalgia: A Museum Object and Conflicting Layers of Family History

My paper follows the path of an object at the crossroads of personal family history and professional, scholarly work: As a curator at Austria's national museum of contemporary history ("House of Austrian History"), I recently exhibited an object that is both representative for the ubiquity of war crimes in private life and part of my own family's history. After the end of Nazi rule, my grandfather, a former Wehrmacht soldier and local Hitlerjugend-Führer, created a doll's pram out of a military field post box, which he had used to send home objects looted in French homes. In my paper, I aim to trace the different interpretations of this object among the women of my family, mainly the former soldier's sisters and daughters, and aim to identify how they made sense of conflicting ways in which the object was symbolically charged along the lines of gendered binaries such as war/play, violence/safety, soldier/girl. Not only is this ambivalent fabric visible in the position the object has in my family's memory but also in the object itself, which features multiple layers materially, allowing for shifting readings from the paragon of father's love to the material trace of war crimes. Starting from the reflection on how my professional work made the object a political, even ideological artifact and my family's reaction to that change in meaning, I thus follow the object's biography and its framing in family narrative. I discuss the ways in which it initiated an examination of a taboo past and claim that these new framings resulted in the object being excluded from the intimate/private space of family history and projected (in an ethno-psychoanalytical sense) into the father's "other face", namely his infliction in the Nazi ideology and war violence.


Lena Ditte Nissen (PhD candidate at the University of Arts Linz / Junior Fellow at IFK Vienna)

Chaosmos of the personal - An experimental approach to historical nationalsocialist writings from the private realm

How do we deal with the National Socialist perpetrators in our own families who were shrouded in silence? In this artistic research focusing on women as perpetrators, the ethnopsychoanalytical method of the so-called 'interpretation workshop' (Deutungswerkstatt) is put to the test experimentally in confrontation with texts from my own family.

At the center of my research are two women who were determined national socialists, my grandmother Camilla (1902 - 1994) and my great-grandmother Nanna Conti (1881 - 1941), who was the so-called Reichshebammenführerin, the leading midwife of the German Reich and, at the same time, president of the International Confederation of Midwives.

They both left writings as proof of their convictions: Camilla Nissen wrote a diary (1945) and later her memoirs (1969-71), which were intended only for the immediate family. Nanna Conti published countless writings in the midwifery magazine of which she was the chief editor, as well as other public writings in books and other propaganda magazines. Her remarks were thus explicitly intended for the public from the beginning. Both women wanted to tell their own ideological truth with their words, and to influence others with it - internally and externally - so one addressed the family on a small scale, and the other one spoke to society on a larger scale.

In this paper, I will give a short introduction to the method of the Deutungswerkstatt, then present excerpts from the diary and memoir of Camilla Nissen and speak about their polyphonic interpretation through the process of the Deutungswerkstatt, as well as address the possibilities and challenges of their transfer into artistic expression, which is my chosen form of representation of my reflections. 

PhD Researcher
,
University of Brighton
PhD Researcher
,
University of Brighton/IFK Vienna
Head of Public History Department
,
House of Austrian History
Ph.D. candidate, Junior Fellow at IFK Vienna,
,
Lena Ditte Nissen
Chancellor's Fellow in the History of Activism
,
Strathclyde
PhD Researcher
,
Royal Holloway, University of London
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