Seminar “Topology of the Cultural Memory”. The topic: “Strategies of the Memory Formation in the Culture”
The first seminar “Topology of the Cultural Memory” was held on the 15th of February 2018 in the Institute of Philosophy of the Saint Petersburg State University, with the support of the Biography Research Centre “AITIA”.
At the seminar philosophers, historians, sociologists, philologists and cultural studies scholars discussed issues regarding the preservation and the transmission of the memory in the culture. Intense discussions were generated around the opportunities of the witnessing and its interpretation in the situation of the crisis of historical consciousness. Special attention was focused on the issues of the conceptual system which can be appropriate for the analysis of the complex phenomena of the modern Russian memorial culture.
The opening question for the seminar was raised by L. E. Artamoshkina, the moderator of the seminar: should such words as “guilt”, “pain” and “trauma” be used as terms - as they were already established in the Memory studies tradition of Western Europe? Thereby A.A. Griaklov introduced one of the main topics of the discussion: memory and historical events.
In the context of the discussion the issues of memorial politics and national founding myths were considered. A.V. Smirnov initiated a discussion on the matters concerning memorial politics and its deep connection to the struggle to create a national identity. He examined both the examples of the conflicts around the memorial politics in Russia (installation and following disassembly of the memorial plaque dedicated to the admiral Kolchak, debates around the Museum of the Blockade) and the situation in the Eastern Europe, where each country is developing its own victim narrative, presenting itself as a victim of both Nazi and Soviet regimes, without any willingness to admit its historical “guilt” such as participation on the Holocaust. In connection with the topic I. Kazakova raised the issue of the creation of cultural and national myths, and analyzed the tension between the memory and the myth on the example of the creation of national myth in Sweden (Romans as “ancestors” of Swedes).
After that, the discussion turned towards the questions of biographical narratives and their interpretation. L.E. Artamoshkina suggested that the turn to biography can be the way to move away from destructive ideological terms to possibility of “being together with” (in the terms of Heidegger). A.V. Smirnov assumed that the biographical materials could be interpreted in different ways and sometimes it leads to the heated discussions, as it was with the works of Svetlana Alexievich. A.A. Griakalov argued that the identity in the modern world is often built on negations and rejections, and the interpretation of history through biographies can be a way to find some positive strategy of identity narrative construction. Each interpretation is anchored in a tradition, an ideology, a collective memory, but at the end it is always connected with the personal choice, with the creation of a character with an own responsibility. Hereby he also stressed that today the attention shifts from the discourse analysis to the “unique character” – and as a result to “witnesses”.
The next topic discussed at the seminar was the memorial culture as a part of the everyday culture and the connection between “topos”, “memory” and “biography”. Z.V. Nikolaeva considered issues of the transmission of the cultural memory between generations on the case of the agricultural traditions in Italy which are based on the decade-long cooperation. In this situation the preparation of “heirs” is a necessity. A.I. Rezvukhina examined the generative aspects of the culture memory transmission on the example of the situation in Kaliningrad region – the former East Prussia, a part of Germany, which is now an exclave of Russia. She analyzed the way Russian inhabitants of the region started to identify themselves with the Prussian heritage and the Prussian history and considers the generative dynamic of this process.
A.V. Apykhtin suggested that biographic materials can be used as a way to deconstruct existing mythologems, because these mythologems are mostly based on some “historical events”, and in biographic materials such events are always presented from a personal point of view. In connection with this issue A.V. Apykhtin and A.A. Griaklov discussed the book of N.N. Nikulin “Remembrance of the War”. In the course of the discussion A.A. Griaklov raised a significant question that we should examine not only the remembrance, but also “the art of forgetting”.
Afterwards the reliability of biographical sources was discussed. Z.V. Nikolaeva underlined that sociologists are often confronted with the high percentage of inaccuracies in memoirs, caused by different factors. Also the difference between the memoirs written with the intention for publishing and without such intention was mentioned, with the focus that even the works the author did not wanted to publish are written in the context of his time and situation. Thereupon A.A. Griaklov considered the novel of M. R. Stern “The Sergeant in the Snow”, based on author’s experience as a member of the Italian Alpini corps which fought during the World War II and experienced the disastrous retreat from Russia.
At the conclusion of the seminar the topic of the next seminar was stated: “The Language and the Memory”.