Narrative Perspectives On Intergenerational Transmission Of Memory

Project Description

Latvia’s centenary and the country’s reflection on the changes that took place in the history of the republic have drawn the attention of researchers to the intergenerational transmission of memory. As the times and the environment change, the reflection of past events is also transformed; the further removed memory stories are from the actual time of the event, the more abstract they become, the more they change in form and content, and they become rooted in the collective memory of children and grandchildren. This research project will facilitate an understanding of the link of memory between generations and present-day behaviour. Memory sources evaluated across several generations can help to counter prejudices, reveal manipulations, and open a new perspective in intergenerational and inter-ethnic relationships as well as in attitudes towards the emigration and re-emigration of the country’s citizens. Most importantly, they provide an analytic evaluation of the past.

The main goal of the study is to examine narrative perspectives in the intergenerational transmission of memory, at once identifying factors that influence the creation of a generation’s identity and narratives – the link between generational memory and the experience of historical events, collective memory, and the shared value system (compare with the theories of Thomson 2016; McCrindle, Wolfinger 2009; Argenti, Schramm 2012).

The project’s objectives and research questions are:

  1. to explain what factors (age cohort, shared historical experience, including historical and biographical breaks, integration in the host country) influence and create generational identity and an individual sense of belonging to one or another generation;
  2. to analyse what narrative perspectives are used to construct life stories, especially in memories of previous generations, thereby testing the assumption that, as one moves from one generation to the next, memory stories become ever more abstract until they take on the form and function of myth;
  3. to study the influence of collective memory on a generation’s values and choice of action in critical situations, and how the experience of previous generations is transformed according to the collective memory of one’s own age cohort;
  4. to identify how both ethnic differences and similarities in a shared national space are manifested in the intergenerational transmission of memories.

In order to achieve the project’s goals, the study will use a qualitative study methodology. The main methodology of the project is based on the biographical approach in social sciences (Riesmann 2008; Miller 2017; Chamberlayne et al. 2000), which considers personal experience an important resource in the study of social life as well as in the analysis of the interaction between generations. Oral history sources have been especially widely used as research data in humanities and social sciences since the 1980s-90s, although they have been used in macro and micro studies already since the early part of the 20th century (Chicago School of Sociology).

The proposed study will make use of the narrative analysis approach (Riesmann 2008). This approach allows the content and structure of the narrative as well as the relationship between the narrator and interviewer to be analysed from a synthesizing perspective (thematic, textual, and interpersonal levels). On the whole, the theoretical perspective of the study is based on the awareness that a story is more than mere information about the past, that its very framework (content, form, modes of expression, etc.) contains information about the culture and society in which the narrator lives.

The research group, led by Vieda Skultans (Shelley), PhD, consists of the leading researchers and researchers from the National Oral History Archive of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia:

  • Main implementers: Vieda Skultans (Shelley), PhD; Kaspars Zellis, PhD; Maruta Pranka, PhD;
  • Implementers: Ieva Garda-Rozenberga, PhD; Agita Lūse, PhD; Edmunds Šūpulis, MA; Māra Zirnīte, MA;
  • Students: Maija Krūmiņa, MA; Ginta Elksne, MA.

Funding institution: Latvian Council of Science

Funding number: lzp-2018/1-0458