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Call for papers for a joint session accepted for the the XXIIInd International Congress of Historical Sciences

Palacky University Olomouc

Call for papers for a joint session accepted for the XXIIInd International Congress of Historical Sciences,

Poznań, Poland, 23.-29. 08. 2020

Organizer of the session: Radmila Švaříčková Slabáková, Department of History (, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic,

Session proposed by the: Czech National Committee of Historians and Slovak National Committee of Historians

Joint Sessions are convened by at least two organizations member of ICSH. Joint Sessions are three hours in length with six participants.

Title of the Session:

Family memory and intergenerational transmission of the past


In spite of the “memory boom” detected in social sciences and humanities since already a few decades, family memory has hardly become an important topic of research. Related to a broader concept of collective memory, introduced by French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs in the 1920s, its study was overshadowed by research focused on collective memories of nations or by investigations of autobiographical memory. A few studies dedicated to family memory, if at all, have examined particularly the recollections of traumatic and important historical events in families. The family, in such studies, has been understood as a mere connecting link between individual memory and national memory. M. Halbwachs himself, although he talked about a “certain inescapability of family memory” and described the family as “one of the main site where socio-cultural schemata are acquired”, did not study the family in detail, neither subjective and psychological features of memory. As revealed by psychologists, there is, however, a certain unease in the study of the family: each family encompasses persons who share a part of the past and have certain common relational perspectives. These perspectives change in time, together with the family functioning as the whole. Family memory cannot be, therefore, understood as unchangeable entity, but as a continual process of creations of meanings of the family past (particularly A. Muxuel, 1996 and H. Welzer et al., 2002). The recollections are rather “the imagined past” (Widerberg, 2011) which are actively created and modified through the process of communication in the form of a narrative.  If the family is an intergenerational entity, the recollections are transmitted through generations with respect on the current needs of the family and available cultural and social norms.

The aim of this session is to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon called family memory. Family as a topic of research and as an important interrelational system has not yet been studied to the extent the science would need. A possible and innovative direction of research was suggested by an American psychiatrist David Reiss (1987), unfortunately with almost no followers, who introduced the notion of the family paradigm. The family paradigm is a collection of shared and deeply rooted assumptions, opinions, beliefs, values and expectations that enable the family to orient itself in the world and to react to all possible changes. The family paradigm is the core center of the way the family as a whole perceives and interprets what happens in the world. The family paradigm can be seen as a part of a family identity. It is preserved in the memory of the family and transmitted through the family rituals and routines, it means in the framework of the family interaction which has also a memory function.

Beside the aspects described in previous paragraphs, the family memory is created also by material objects which evoke the family past. These are old family photographs, preserved private correspondence, diaries and notebooks, toys with which the children used to play, clothes or accessories, fashion jewelry, pictures, porcelain and china or old rustic tools, for instance. Although the members of the family have different recollections or stories to tell when evoking these memorable objects, altogether these objects represent the family heritage, in other words, the family “treasure”. If these objects evoke indeed the feelings of loyalty and obligation in respect to previous generations or if they are perceived with indifference, it is again the matter of the needs of the family and its social-cultural norms.

The session welcomes proposals focusing on the meaning, content and the ways of transmissions of the family memory in a broad interdisciplinary context (sociological or psychological) and in the worldwide perspective.

The paper proposals should focus on:

1) The recollections of historical events and their intergenerational transformation – f.i. In which way and why are the recollections of previous generations modified by the next generations?; Can family narratives serve as counter-narratives of national/official memory? In which ways?

2) The particular aspects of lived family memory, such as family material objects/photographs, family traditions and family values – f.i. How are they transmitted through generations and what does it mean for a historical and a social position of a family/families?

We particularly welcome proposals focused on three-generational perspective of family memory and drawing on qualitative interviews.

The Solidarity Fund will be available to the participants.

The papers presented during the session will be published in an edited volume (probably Routledge – to be confirmed).

An abstract of about 200 words and a short CV is to be sent to on the 16th of December 2018 at the latest.