The Ethnography of Memory in East Siberia: Do Life Histories from the Arctic Coast Matter?

Florian Stammler, Aytalina Ivanova and Lena Sidorova

Abstract

This paper shows the use of oral history for contributing to larger debates on the making of memory, the particular role that anthropologists have in the social construction of memory, and ultimately to identity construction projects in the field sites we work. Combined with anthropological fieldwork, oral history allows us to reveal new facets and principles of memory negotiation. Biographical narratives from a multiethnic fishing village established by Stalin’s relocation policy help us develop a fine- grained understanding of awareness between the individual and the public sphere of memory that Hamilton and Shopes (2009) identified as important. Taking the debate on collective memory one step further, we suggest that there is more than a duality between the personal and the general sphere. We conclude that collective memory in its multivocal character crucially shapes human sense of belonging to groups, drawing meaning from the diverse interpretation of their past.

  • 1. This paper is part of a series of publications focusing on Arctic Oral History. The series is one outcome of the Finnish Academy Project ORHELIA (Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic), decision number 251111.

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