Open lecture with Ulla-Maija Peltonen and Anne Heimo

Open lecture with two Finland-based folklore scholars and oral historians Ulla-Maija Peltonen and Anne Heimo. The lecture will be held on Thursday, May 16, 2019, at the National and University Library Pjetër Bogdani at 10AM .


“Silenced memory. The meaning of truth-seeking in oral history narrative” by Ulla-Maija Peltonen

“Untold stories, twice-told tales: Oral history as history-telling and narrated memories” by Anne Heimo

This event is organized by Oral History Initiative in collaboration with Kosovo-Finland Friendship Association, and supported by Embassy of Finland in Pristina and Permanent Studio.

Biography: Dr. Ulla-Maija Peltonen is Docent of Folklore Studies at the University of Helsinki and Director Emerita of the Literary Archives (SKS). Her research interests include historical narrative tradition, oral history methodology, relations between private and public narrative in wartime and theory and methods of archive research. She was a Member of the Steering group of the War Victims in Finland 1914–1922 research project (1998-2003), a chair of the Finnish Oral History network FOHN in 2002–2012 and is a Member of the International Editorial Advisory Board of the Oral History Journal (UK).

“Silenced memory. The meaning of truth-seeking in oral history narrative”

Abstract: The oral history narratives of war challenges us in ways that are more than merely academic. We need to determine which issues can be dealt with publicly and those which must be consigned to silence. However, those affected often hold knowledge which questions and challenges officially divulged information. By this I refer to other knowledge, a phenomenon that manifests itself in a number of different ways.

The truth about the consequences of the 1918 Finnish Civil War and the War itself were so painful that it took half a century before it was even possible to talk about the War from the losers’ point of view. Speaking about mass destruction, the problem is that the concept of “truth” will never cover the entire event, which is difficult to comprehend.  I will stress the importance of the search for truth in oral history research.

My example of silenced memory and truth-seeking in oral history narratives deal with disappearance during the war. I have interviewed a woman who´s  father had disappeared in connection with the battle of Tampere, which took place on the 3rd and 4th of April, 1918. Since he had gone missing, nothing certain had been known about him. The daughter told me about her mother, who had never given up in the search for truth about her husband’s fate. The War Victims in Finland 1914–1922 research project (1998-2003) was the last chance for the daughter  to gain new information, although it had been more than 80 years since her father had disappeared. The families of the victims of the War want to know what really happened, that is the only important thing for them. When narrative theme has an important emotional significance for the narrator or his/her immediate social circle, it is remembered and told repeatedly.

Biography: Dr. Anne Heimo is acting Professor of Folkloristics at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku. Her research interests include everyday memory practices online and offline, including the memory of the 1918 Finnish Civil War and heritage work conducted by Finnish migrants and their descendants in Australia and North America.  She is the co-chair of European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC) Oral history and life stories network and council member of the International Oral History Association (IOHA).

“Untold stories, twice-told tales: Oral history as history-telling and narrated memories”

Abstract: In my talk I will examine how people tell about their past in oral history interviews. The difference between telling about history in an interview situation or in a so called natural telling situation – by which I do not mean that I consider the interview to be unnatural, but something that does not exist without the interviewer- is, that what is spoken in an interview has usually never been told in that form before. Every time a narrative is repeated it is always slightly different depending on the audience and the purpose for telling. Some parts will be highlighted, while some other parts will be left out. There is no specific genre to tell about the past, in the contrary any genre may be used. In everyday situations most personal or family narratives are told in bits and pieces, allusions, anecdotes, personal experience stories, local legends etc., when the occasion arises. Many of these narratives may have been told many times, but rarely if ever, is a story told as a coherent and organized whole outside the interview situation. Stories from the past are told in the present, and from a perspective, which may have changed over the years and defines a new relationship to the past. This relationship underlines the whole story and defines the meaning, which the story is supposed to convey: for one never tells a story in itself, but in order to convey some meaning. In most cases this – often unconscious – goal of meaning-making prevails over the faithful reconstruction of the past.