The Transnational Circulation of Violent Memories: Discourses, Identities and the Margins of Europe


Author: Brigittine French (Grinnell College, U.S.)
Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou (Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.)
Maria Tapias (Grinnell College, U.S.)
Xavier Escandell (Grinnell College, U.S.)
Brigittine French (Grinnell College, U.S.)
Scott Olson (University of Iowa, U.S.)
Speaker: Brigittine French, Evropi Chatzipanagiotidou, Maria Tapias, Xavier Escandell, Brigittine French, Scott Olson
Topic: Narrative and Metanarrative
COMELA 2022 General Session


Abstract

This panel takes up theoretical approaches to and empirical investigations of how narratives of violence, trauma, and loss circulate across time and space borders in ways that intersect with European places, identities, and epistemologies. It does so by building upon recent scholarship that highlights how narratives of violence often are presumed to be fixed and transparent in public discourse in ways that belie myriad ways that narratives are transformed through circulation. Accordingly, the panel focuses on tracking the cartographies of transformation in a variety of discursive forms including court cases, genocide survivor testimony, migration and diaspora narratives, and museums. The papers show how narratives of violence and loss are shaped by and shape the interactional and political contexts of their production. This shared orientation enables the panel to show how a multiplicity of erasures and fault lines lead to the production of competing versions of truth, history, and visions for the future. Chatzipanagiotidou examines Cypriot diasporas, imagined as anchored in the past through shared memories, trajectories of displacement, and collective trauma, to argue that diasporas are also made by their orientations towards the future and the politics of hope. Tapias explores experiences of migration from Bolivia to Spain, arguing that narratives of return and the feelings of hope, promise, and aspiration they entail, are projected onto the future by migrants to ease how separation is negotiated. Escandell examines the dialectic between erased and recuperated memories of historic violence against the Xuetes of Mallorca, a social group descended from Jews recently recognized in Spain. He reflects on the upbringing of a mother and daughter, raised in a xueta family, and connects familial memories to the persecution of xuetes locally, demonstrating how the trials have created xuetes’ collective memory. French focuses on the production of Maya genocide testimony as part of on-going efforts to bring justice to victims of state-sponsored violence in Guatemala. She interrogates the generic expectations of survivor narratives based upon standards of European Holocaust memories, allowing her to question universal understandings of genocidal processes from social scientific perspectives. Olson focuses on contemporary German debates over iconic midcentury American queer liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson’s “true” identity, arguing the debate itself forms the basis for negotiating a just queer future in post-Holocaust, post-socialist Berlin Taken together, these inquiries into diverse discursive genres enables the panel to disrupt putative universalized understandings of knowledge, suffering, and survival that are linked to Europeanness.

Keywords: Collective memory, narrative, circulation, entextualization, violence, epistemology, temporality, genre