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Negotiating Socialism. A Comparative Analysis of Cultural Patterns of Interpretations of Socialism in Georgia Maya Razmadze, European University Viadrina.

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Presentation on theme: "Negotiating Socialism. A Comparative Analysis of Cultural Patterns of Interpretations of Socialism in Georgia Maya Razmadze, European University Viadrina."— Presentation transcript:

1 Negotiating Socialism. A Comparative Analysis of Cultural Patterns of Interpretations of Socialism in Georgia Maya Razmadze, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) / Georg Eckert Institut für Internationale Schulbuchforschung Braunschweig, Germany

2 Research Theme In this research I would like to make a comparative analysis of patterns of cultural interpretations of socialism in Georgia.

3 Methodological Approach The research comprises two levels: On one level, I study how socialism is presented in history textbooks. I question the reception and effectiveness of post-Soviet patterns of interpretation of socialism conveyed in textbooks. Textbook analysis alone does not indicate what knowledge is really present in society. Therefore (on a second level), I survey and analyse biographical narrative interviews with history teachers. Finally, I compare the interpretations of socialism presented in textbooks with the memories of history teachers in order to work out the structural relationship between collective and individual memories.

4 Theoretical Frame Memory Research: What kinds of interaction are observed between collective and individual memories. (Halbwachs 1985 [1967], Assmann 2001 [1992], Welzer 2005, Moller 2003, Erll 2005, Oberstreis/Stephan 2009) Transformation Research: How effectively does the state shape the memory of socialism (Tatur 1999, 2002, Herrmann-Pillath 1999, Mummert 1999, Staniszkis 1995, 2002, Christophe 1998, 2005, Hann 2002, Segbers 1998, Schwanitz 1997) Textbook Research: how do textbooks, as instruments which enforce privileged state narratives, influence social memories (Klerides 2010, Jacobmeyer 2002)

5 Motivation and Theoretical Relevance The investigation is worthwhile from the perspectives of memory research, transformation research and, and textbook research. Memory research: since socialism became an interesting mixture of the official interpretations of academic educational elites and different memories of individuals, it would be interested to establish how the socialist past is defined. However, most memory research in eastern Europe focuses on breaks in cultural memories caused by system changes or sites of memory, victims‘ experiences and the revision of historical images (Niedermüller 1997, von Plato 2000). By contrast, my research analyses the changing relationship between collective and individual memories and focuses on cases in which cultural patterns of interpretations are not clear.

6 Motivation and Theoretical Relevance Transformation research: The starting point of my research is the assumption that the state effectively enforces cultural patterns of interpretation in order to create its legitimacy, prepare for overcoming the innovation blockages of socialism, and to initiate institutional change. Here the research focuses on history teachers as mediators between state and society. Textbook research: my research contrasts the patterns of interpretations of socialism (presented in textbooks) with the memory narratives of history teachers, in order to establish how effectively textbooks are received and implemented.

7 State of the Research Studies about the history of Soviet Georgia, especially in the 1960s and 1980s are hardly available. The geographical focus of western studies was mainly on Russia and not on peripheral regions such as Georgia. Therefore this gap should be closed. Most memory research is concentrated on Stalinism and on experiences of traumatic events. In comparison to this, I focus on the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, the most friendly period in Soviet history. This period (Brezhnev era) is also interesting because in official political discourse it is presented as a time of stagnation and corruption. But, often, in private memories of people, this period is associated with wealth, stability and material well-being. Some people in Georgia were able to enjoy privacy with no interference from the Soviet government, keep their national values, traditions and enjoy a high quality of life. (Simon 1989, 1991, Gerber 1997, Mühlfried 2005).

8 Goals and Aims of the Research In this comparative research I want to examine the changing interactions and influences between the official interpretations of socialism and the individual memories of history teachers I want to figure out how effective are interpretations of the past as conveyed through textbooks and provided by state –Factors influencing the effectiveness of state interpretations The structure of the textbook narrative (hegemonic narrative vs. multiperspective The relations between remembering in the present and experienced situations in the past The next step will examine whether teachers use collective patterns of interpretation as preserved in official historical images and in academic educational media, while framing and forming their biographical experience. The final step will analyse what influence the biographical experience of teachers has on how they translate the official images of socialism in their daily teaching practice.

9 Textbook Analysis (First Study Level) Why Textbook? Textbooks are important sources of the reconstruction of collective memories, in which all essential events in the life of a nation are presented. are used by academic educational elites to homogenise and standardise collective memories. reflect the traces of current social discourse Why Textbook Analysis? According to textbooks analysis we can figure out  how the state defines the past,  what kind of patterns of interpretations it enforces and  what the state considers as relevant memory for academic educational media.  The main goal is the identification of the dominant patterns of argumentation and interpretation of the narrative, in order to compare them with the memories of history teachers

10 Step 0Formal media analysis Textbook design (layout, title, chapter/unit headings, graphics, photographs) Step IContent (narrative) analysis Representations 1.Identify major narrative organisation. 2.Identify dominant narrative strands (at key moments) 3.Identify traces of global discourses Step IIDetailed analysisRelations 1.Transitivity 2.Antagonisms 3.Responsibility management Step IIIDetailed ( hegemony ) analysis Discursive struggle 1.How do textbooks narratives fix particular meanings 2.What resists fixing in the dominant narrative? 3.What is presented as demanding (further) justification, i.e. hints at traces of social and political controversies? Textbook Analysis (First Study Level )

11 Why history teachers? The history teachers do significant mediation of historical knowledge in every system of the state and also make an important contribution to the state’s socialisation are the mediators between society and the state, a meeting point between collective and individual memories are individuals, with their own, very personal memories of life under the socialist system The goal of interview analysis is, to figure out How the teachers have experienced Soviet socialism as a political and social system, How they remember it today How they integrate that stage of life into their biography Interviews with History Teachers (Second Study Level)

12 Interview Analysis 1. Reconstruction of the narrative structure of life story 2. Reconstruction of biographical and professional doubts caused by the system change 3. What is the relationship between the patterns of interpretation to the patterns of action? –Do explicit comments and interpretations differ from implicit attitudes? –What is told in detail and what is omitted? –Where do we find ambiguities and incongruencies in the narrative told by history teachers? –What creates tension?

13 Preliminary Results of the Comparison between Textbook and Interview Analysis The textbooks present a shifting and ambivalent narrative of socialism: The Soviet period of the 1960s to the 1980s is described as time of stagnancy of political and economic life and increasing corruption, as well as time of fragmentation of Georgian society and moral-ethical decline of the people, but also as continuity of Soviet-Russian power. At the same time they refer to the most famous achievements of Georgian culture and science in this period. Finally the textbook concluded that Soviet force shaped people according special Soviet patterns, resulting in an indifferent attitude towards the state and much self- interest.

14 Preliminary Rresults of the Comparison between Textbook and Interview Analysis Shifting narratives reflect the attempts to transform a society like Georgia, to present the preferential and official version of the collective past, and to integrate this into a coherent image of history. On the other hand the controversies and uncertainty in the textbooks show that the national narratives cannot provide clear and consistent history without contradictions. –e.g Shevardnadse: valiant fighter and hotbed of corruption –e.g. Stalin: repression and order –e.g. cultural revolution: excluded the democratic and national notion of culture and improved literacy in the country This indicates again that the textbook used ambivalences and controversies as resources in order to refer to issues prevailing in the society as explosive.

15 Preliminary Results of the Comparison between Textbook and Interview Analysis The history teachers presented shifting, incoherent and broken life stories. They characterise socialism generally as a foreign and totalitarian force and refer to corruption as an integral part of the Soviet system. At the same time, they describe their private lives in this period as social and material well-being. They also deal with the uncertainty and doubt caused by system change. This can be observed in social descent and changed teaching practices. The history teacher used collective patterns of interpretation presented in textbooks to frame their personal experience in socialism. However they don’t adopt the dominant history narrative without questioning; they incorporate their own points of view, accents and attitudes. Contradictions can not only be found in national narratives but also in private memories of living witnesses. This indicates again that the assessment of the nearest socialist past is far from the social consensus.

16 Discussion Question On which factors or circumstances do the success or failure of transformation in the former socialist block, and especially in Georgia, depend? Does the institutionalisation of patterns of cultural interprations contribute towards overcoming the Soviet legacy and, if so, how?


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