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Russian Dolls, Marble Cakes, or Taffeta Patterns ? Metaphors and their Implications for Constructing Regional Identities.

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Presentation on theme: "Russian Dolls, Marble Cakes, or Taffeta Patterns ? Metaphors and their Implications for Constructing Regional Identities."— Presentation transcript:

1 Russian Dolls, Marble Cakes, or Taffeta Patterns ? Metaphors and their Implications for Constructing Regional Identities

2 Structure of my talk Part 1: Metaphors of identity and how they affect our understanding of discursive identity construction Part 2: Extracts from a case study from the Border identities project, demonstrating similarities and differences in identity narratives across generations, socio-political context and gender Some conclusions

3 Metaphors of multiple identities: the regional in relation to national and transnational constructions Russian dolls (Risse 2004, Meinhof 2004) Marble cakes (Risse 2004) Volcanoes or earthquakes (Meinhof 2004) Taffeta patterns (borrowed from Joni Mitchell)

4 Russian dolls Nested identities: the smaller (local, regional) contained in the larger (national, transnational) Clear-cut boundaries Consensual Static

5 Marble cakes Overlapping and interrelating identities Less clear-cut boundaries, but still static Consensual

6 Volcanoes and earthquakes Conflictual between layers The regional potentially destructive of the national/ transnational The regional/ national threatened by the transnational

7 Taffeta patterns Joni Mitchell: theres oil in the puddles in taffeta patterns that run down the drain…. Flow, movement No clear-cut boundaries Consensual and/or conflictual

8 Implications for conceptualising identities Emphasis on fluidity and dependency on: - context of speaking - interlocutor relation - type of interaction - thematic choice - individual as well social and cultural construction

9 Social and cultural construction Emphasis on restraint of choice: - shared life experiences - shared socio-cultural repertoire - shared patterns of speech - shared meaning potential (Halliday 1979)

10 The Border Identities Project EU project (5th framework) Timescale of field work/ analysis: 2000-3, I.e. after unification and collapse of Soviet Union, but before EU entry of Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia Locality and sample: 3 generation families in border communities from Baltic to Adriatic Sea, but including former German- German border Aim: to understand discursive identity construction of family members in relation to political upheavals in three time periods. Method: Photographic triggers for narrative interviews in ethnographic setting plus discourse analysis of data For results visit Meinhof eds. 2002, 2003, Meinhof and Galasinski 2005.

11 Case Study: 3 generations in Hirschberg in Thuringia. Key narrative: the Leather Factory of phase 1 pre-WW2, phase 2 Cold War, phase 3 post-unification (see also Armbruster and Meinhof in press)

12 Significance of leather factory for region Since foundation in 18th century as family business increasingly important as regional employer In 1946 expropriated by GDR authorities and turned into a state-owned business Volkseigener Betrieb. During GDR years factory almost exclusive provider of employment in 5 kilometer exclusion zone. After unification survived only until 1993, first through Treuhand, then briefly under new private ownership. Closed down after bankruptcy in 92, demolished after 1993. Since 1996 empty fields and grassland. During our field work, factory had already disappeared, but remained a focal point for identity narratives on both sides of the river Saale.

13 Pre-war memories: the oldest generation No difference in types of narratives between eastern and western informants Narratives often foreground the harshness of working conditions, not just for their own generation but those of previous generations Narratives very colourful in detail; set in the past, no longer affect the present; prototypical stories

14 Phase 1: Emma Meier (oldest generation) I know that way back, my father also worked in the leather factory. They came with their bikes or they walked. In the winter they walked and in the summer they biked… and also the granddad of my husband, he lived over there in Mödlareuth and through wind and rain he started walking at 3 in the morning with wooden sandals and they went through the snow and to the leather factory, and then they walked back home again and in there they had to work real hard. How they managed, the old ones, one really has to wonder. Well my father he died 1968 when he was 67. He became very ill. He caught the Grubengrätz. Both arms infected with open wounds all the way up, and yes he had a terrilbe arm from all the tanning stuff, the tanning acid and all that. That was the Grubengrätz… those were hard times that lie behind us

15 Memories of GDR times Generational and gender differences in narration East-West perspective -us vs them becomes thematised and often implicitly affects forms of story telling: more argumentative narratives than prototypical stories especially in middle generation Evidence of conflictual identities with self- contradictions across longer narratives

16 Phase 2: Elfriede Tanne (oldest generation) The kids, they were hardly a year old that you had to drag them with you to the creche, and of course that was good, but we had to, yes, we were dependent on our earnings, alone it wouldnt have added up. Over there <drüben, I.e. in West Germany) the men were already earning enough that they could feed their family. It wasnt like this over here, for a simple worker. The women went to work.. But as a mother you really had to sort yourself out, that was hard, every morning to put out their stuff before school, their clothing and then the breakfast.. Then you waited at the bus station and no bus came and it was cold, well thats how it was. And in the end I even went to do shift work at night, 15 years I worked like that, and 15 years in three shifts

17 Phase 2: Rudolf Tanne (her son), middle generation It was a huge complex with its own railway station and inside the leather factory we had everything, there was a cobbler, and when your shoes were torn you took them there. And there was a Konsum HO, HO, thats a sort of shop, and a florist for, for when you needed plants or something, you could even buy cucumbers, or a bunch of flowers, if you needed them, and a creche was in there, kindergarten, my children also went to the creche and the kindergarten. All that was actually really lovely and everything was well looked after. And they had their own welding shop, electricians, plumbers, and a gigantic refectory and a gigiantic factory kitchen with warm lunch, the cheapest lunch cost 50 pfennings.. Very good food, yes, super food. And in the morning there were buses for the workers, and back again in the afternoon, everything was well regulated, there were no problems, better regulated than today, thats for sure, and a lot more was left over for the worker

18 Phase 2: Franz Hauf, middle generation And generally speaking, it was the Collective that counted… where one was dependent on the other, so that the whole thing really worked to perfection. There was no dawdling or lazing away…And it really was fun, truly, there were the barrels that had already been depilated, and the whole point was, the important thing was, who is there in the morning, and so we went in at 4 am and fetched the first barrels out so that the next group could get on with their work. And the the real work started until the next shift came along

19 Post-Wende stories Deep disturbance about loss of factory across oldest and middle generations, even by those who had told very critical stories in phases 1 or 2. Demolition of factory seen as - Loss of identity (Lebensader; collapse of ones home) - Loss of economic basis, social decline - Loss of well-regulated organised existence, loss of time-frame (the missing clock) Emotional disturbances: pain, fear, dispair, desolution, resignation, anger

20 Phase 3: Barbara Hagen (oldest generation) Well, it was as if one had cut our lifes artery (Lebensader)..Yes, for me personally, I miss something, it is the artery of Hirschberg thats gone. Well, the leather factory was, well everything started out from the leather factory. And everyone had worked in the leather factory. And whoever needed something went to the leather factory, and now its gone all of the sudden. Well, yes. That is as if my house collapses, and I stand in front of it and cant do anything about it

21 Phase 3: Erika Leupold (oldest generation) The clock..Yes its all gone, all is gone. I dont know whether they they needed to have torn it down. It was so solid, it was good, solid, inside as well, lovely big rooms, the factory halls, the different levels and the lifts, that was all… and and my son says that they invested a lot of money there during GDR times, it wasnt old-fashioned, not at all, it wasnt old-fashioned at all

22 Phase 3: Frieda Findeiss (oldest) and Bernd Hase (middle generation) FF: Ah yes we really experienced this immediately (hautnah), ah well it really turns your stomach. I really must tell you, it gives you a cold sweat (kalt den Rücken runter laufen). I must tell you BH: ah yes, yes yes, I must honestly tell you, not only when I look at these pictures now, but when you look at the vast empty space down there, it makes you shudder (eiskaltes Grausen)

23 Phase 3: Elfi Lauf (oldest generation) And was.. All of the sudden it was gone. And now when one drives past, and that empty space is there, I could howl… Well, especially theres no more work, that was predictable, my son had always said: those Italian skins are cheaper than our finished leather. Well, it wouldnt have worked anymore, or would have collapsed in any case, but when one.. Well, it is a shame, isnt it

24 Conclusion Strong significance of the regional identity marker of leather factory provides focal point for divergent, conflictual and contradictory narratives, yet with elements of an underlying or over-arching shared key story (the significance of work and work ethic). Same key story is used as in-grouping but also as out-grouping device between east and west (Armbruster and Meinhof 2003). Patterns within generation more frequent than within the same family across generation Emotional charge of narratives not related to aesthetic of photograph (e.g. the beautiful white pre-war factory photo or the shot of ugly disintegrating building do not trigger related positive / negative memories)

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