Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


20 February 2024
15:00 - 17:00
Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, 1.06 (Ravensteyn Stijlkamer)

Vanessa Tautter Research Talk

On February 20th, visiting scholar Vanessa Tautter will give a talk about their current PhD project. The event is open to all and no registration is necessary. For more information, see below.

Implication, Complicity and Silences in Family Memory

Since the 1980s, dominant memory cultures and politics in many European countries have shifted towards a greater representation of historically victimised, marginalised and oppressed people. These public shifts have also influenced how private and personal (hi-)stories of the past are shared, conceptualised, and engaged within families, where different generational experiences of history and memory come together in an intimate, often emotional space. The close relationships in this arena, however, can also complicate memory negotiations, especially when it comes to historical violence and possible forms of implication in it.

This talk critically explores cultures and politics of silences in families in this context, the meanings they hold, and the various ways they are navigated, negotiated, and engaged by family members from different generations. I use oral histories conducted in two case studies, namely Austria (on memories of Nazism) and Northern Ireland (on memories of the Northern Ireland conflict), to investigate these transgenerational memory processes. In both instances, I focus on (descendants of) ‘ordinary people’ who were implicated in these respective histories of violence on the side of dominant state actors, in Northern Ireland mainly from working-class and in Austria from rural communities. Doing so, this paper investigates granular, intricate, and multidirectional memory processes taking place in the intimate family arena. It highlights the agency of the people involved and explores the meanings that silences obtain for them when trying to make sense of the past from their respective generational perspectives.

About Vanessa

Vanessa Tautter is an oral historian with research interests in memory studies, historical cultural studies, family memory, transnational history and the history of emotions. Their PhD project at the Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories at the University of Brighton explores personal memories of ‘implication’ in violent histories in the context of changes in public memory politics in Europe since the 1980s. Currently they are a Junior Fellow Abroad at the International Research Centre for Cultural Studies, Vienna. They have been a visiting researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Vienna and the Queen’s University Belfast, and they conducted research at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.