PAPER SESSION 5 - THURSDAY 26/8, 9–11pm (UTC +8)
P5.1 – Communal Identity and Political Memory
Alessandro Porrà (Italy) The Jewish Community of Istanbul and the Neo-Ottoman and Republican Nostalgia
In the last two decades Turkey has witnessed a massive and unexpected wave of memory practices and discourses in relation to the Ottoman Empire which have generated a nostalgia for a "lost" Ottoman cosmopolitanism, seen as a sort of lost “Golden Age”.
Considering that many historians also appraise the Ottoman Empire as a sort of “Golden Age” for the Turkish Jews, my research wants to verify if the Turkish Jews may share this “Neo-Ottoman Nostalgia” or, on the contrary, they may feel more connected to their Republic past, in particular to the building years of the Republic, years that deeply shaped the relationship between minorities and the Turkish state and society.
The conceptual framework of the research rests on the historical analysis of the “Pros” and the “Cons” of having been a Jew in the Ottoman Empire and in the Turkish Republic, on the comparison of the obtained data, on the understanding if the actors may feel nostalgia for one of those periods, or, in reverse, a rejection of it.
The method chosen for the research is "Oral History", because, as A. Portelli says, it is “a perfect tool to study how the past is read, interpreted and lived in the present”. Indeed, Oral History focuses on personal testimonies, gathered through interviews of the actors involved in a given historical process and helps to understand how individuals and communities experienced the forces of history.
The collection of this information will take place through the use of semi-structured interviews, an approach that allows researchers to prepare questions ahead of time and grants informants the freedom to express their views in their own terms, and employing Fritz Schütze’s auto-biographical method.
Once the cycle of interviews will be completed, the collected data will be examined, studied, interpreted and placed in a precise historical context in order to formulate an interpretative method capable to assess whether the dynamics driving the Turkish society influence the Jewish identity of the interviewees, and what is their perception of the wave of nostalgia for Ottoman cosmopolitanism that currently runs through Turkish society.
Alessandro Porrà is a PhD student at the Department of Political and Social Science at University of Cagliari, Italy. His doctoral research focuses on the Jewish community of Istanbul after the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
Keywords: Istanbul; Levantine Jews; nostalgia; Ottoman Empire; Turkish Republic
Lenka Krátká (Czech Republic) The Same, Yet Different: Memoirs of Czechoslovak Seafarers and Bargees about their Lives in the Socialist Times
The paper is embedded in a wider topic of business trips from Czechoslovakia abroad during the times of the communist regime – a period from the communist revolution in 1948 to the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Because of strictly guarded borders and limited travel opportunities in the people’s democracy and later socialist Czechoslovakia, business trips brought a relatively exceptional opportunity to visit foreign countries, experience exceptional freedom or adventure, to earn foreign currency and use it for buying foreign goods, perceived as luxurious at that time.
Because of the inland position of former Czechoslovakia, two occupations were even more exceptional in this sense – seafarers and river bargees. Using more than three dozen of oral history interviews, the paper aims at various strategies of remembering the past by the men involved in the jobs. As an introduction, the author will bring a short description of those transport businesses running. Then, some specifics of the jobs (for example, a chance to emigrate, partner’s and family life, financial issues, working skills, smuggling, loyalty towards the communist regime) will be followed with the main aim to interpret a different way of (re)construction of the past in these two groups of men working abroad. Finally, the author will concentrate on narrators’ effort to preserve an idealized image of men working on Czechoslovak ships and barges. At this point, significant differences in men’s memoirs can be traced.
Lenka Krátká is a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Her main research interests cover economic and social history of Czechoslovakia after WWII, and corporate culture development. She also works as a part-time lecturer in oral history methodology at Charles University.
Keywords: bargee; Czechoslovakia; seafarer; socialism
Klara Kohoutová & Ondrej Ficeri (Slovakia) Antagonizing Myths as a Source of a Permanent Ethnic Conflict: Slovaks Versus Roma
Roma population of 12 million people is the largest ethnic minority in Europe. Roma people are heavily stigmatized and spatially segregated in numerous rural and urban ghettos across the continent. The biggest Roma ghetto on the territory of Slovakia – Luník IX in the city of Košice is by the majority of Slovak populace believed to be built by the authorities in 1981 to upgrade the socioeconomic status of local Roma populace. However, the myth of the modern and green space housing estate altruistically “given” to “backward” Roma is challenged by the evidence of archival sources which reveal that in fact the authorities by constructing the racial space followed a deliberate plan how to remove Roma families from the city centre to the urban periphery. Thus, in mentalities of the majority Slovak population the myth of “the prominent district” functions as a discursive strategy to legitimate the developed status quo which ghettoises the Roma minority.
On the other hand, Roma inhabitants constructed the “contra-myth” about the development of the ghetto. Until 1990s, it was unusual to interview Roma and to consider memories of Roma as a relevant source of the knowledge production. The Roma histories are still being marginalized in the perception of non-Roma inhabitants. We challenge this approach and come to conclusion that Roma narrative was constructed as a reaction to “white-supremacy-regime of truth” and has an antagonising social function: to legitimate social status of Roma as being victims of racial policies executed by the dominant Slovak populace.
In our oral history research we aim to verify the discursive pillars of the myths in mentalities of both the majority Slovak as well as Roma populace, explore their sources and confront them with the archival sources. Last but not least, we attempt to analyse what political and cultural agenda they serve.
Ondrej Ficeri, PhD. is a historian at the Centre of Psychological and Social Sciences of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Košice (Slovakia). In his research he deals with transcultural studies and interethnic relations with the focus on ethnically heterogeneous urban environments.
Klara Kohoutová, PhD. is a research fellow at Institute of Social Sciences CSPS SAS. She is scientifically focused on sites of memory in public space, a memory policy, issues of (self)identity and minorities. She has many years of experience presenting the results of her research by organizing discussions for the public and schools, working with the mass media.
Keywords: deconstruction of myths; ethnic conflict; Košice – Luník IX; oral history versus archival research; Romani people
Justin K.H. Tse (Singapore) ‘A Lot of Lawsuits There’: Evangelical Recollections of Chong v. Lee among Vancouver’s Conservative Cantonese Protestants
In 1981, the Supreme Court of British Columbia case Chong v. Lee established the precedent that Canadian citizens could bring ‘internal doctrinal disputes’ into secular court. Most notoriously cited in a 2009 lawsuit that divided the Anglican Church in Vancouver over the questions of same-sex blessings and the ownership of ecclesial property, Chong concerned a church in Vancouver’s Chinatown that ostensibly could not agree on whether baptism should be conducted by sprinkling or full immersion and if these liturgical differences should result in the alteration of the property, such as by installing a baptismal pool near the pulpit.
In this paper, I deal with the memories of this lawsuit among Cantonese-speaking Protestants in Vancouver who described themselves as more ‘conservative’ and ‘evangelical,’ ciphers for their theological convictions that church space should be used strictly for private prayer, proselytism, and preaching instead of as an open Chinatown community gathering space for civic discussions in Chinatown. The case came up in veiled references in key informant interviews among Cantonese-speaking Protestant leaders as they discussed their engagements with secular civil society. They described the case vaguely as a point of trauma, one that had shattered a major Cantonese Protestant community and that had resulted in a diaspora of members through Vancouver’s Cantonese-speaking churches. A strange consensus began to develop in which they attributed their ideology of church privatization to their experience of being sued.
The oral history of Chong v. Lee, I argue, has been used to construct a historical narrative of Cantonese Protestants justifying their understanding of church spaces as private property that is strictly the domain of its own members, not a community space for others. As this case is part of a larger project on Cantonese-speaking Protestants and secular civil society engagement on the Pacific Rim, I will contrast these oral history findings with archival sources detailing the backstory of why the Chinatown community attempted to resist this privatization of space through the courts, as well as how the narration of this 1981 incident contributes to more contemporary conceptualizations on the part of Cantonese Protestants in Vancouver of how they engage a world that they consider secular.
Justin KH Tse is Assistant Professor of Humanities (Education) at Singapore Management University. He served as lead editor of Theological Reflections on the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement (Palgrave, 2016) and is working on a book manuscript under review at University of Notre Dame Press titled The Secular in a Sheet of Scattered Sand: Cantonese Protestants and Postsecular Publics on the Pacific Rim.
Keywords: Chinatown; law; narrative; private; secular