Phil. Dr. Andén Lovisa

113700 €

Muted Memories and Silenced Stories: Memoirs by women of the Gulag Archipelago

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kolmivuotinen

The aim of this project is to explore the gender specific experiences of the Gulag through memoirs written by women. For a long time, witness accounts and memoirs were the only documentation we had about the Gulag system, due to the secrecy surrounding it. After the archives were opened and other sources have become available, the memoirs continue to form our understanding of the Gulag system. However, most of the published memoirs are written by men. My aim is to investigate both the gendered aspects of the experience of the camps, and the gender stereotypes through which the male survivors understand women’s experiences. To this end, I will draw on phenomenological research on gender and experience. My thesis is that an examination of memoirs written by women will reveal a new understanding of the Gulag, both in terms of collective experience and historical truth. I will study sixteen memoirs written by women of different European nationalities. Their texts were originally written in English, French, German and Swedish. They were published in Europe or the USA, they all address a Western public and aim at raising consciousness in the West about the Gulag. The fact that most of these testimonies are little known contrasts to their explicit aim to reach out. The project uses unconventional methods in order to examine questions that could not otherwise be addressed. First of all, it is situated in an interdisciplinary field that draws on research in philosophy, comparative literature, history and gender studies. Furthermore, it approaches questions of collective memory through a corpus of personal memoirs. Finally, the project is groundbreaking with respect to the gender perspective it adopts: to date there has been no study on the Gulag with a focus on memoirs written by women in the West.