Historical and contemporary pathologies of belonging: Bringing trauma theory into studies on belonging

In recent years there has emerged a shift in focus from the consideration of various national cultural traumas to globalization of memory. Within cultural memory studies and trauma studies, studying Holocaust memory is a vast field of research that has contributed to the globalization of Holocaust memory; yet in Finland the focus has not been so much on the faith of the Jewish, but rather on other kinds of trauma “of our own”, not the least the loss of Karelia in the Second World War. The Erasmus teaching visit of PhD Miklós Takacs who has conducted research on Holocaust was thus a welcomed event.

PhD Miklós Takacs from the University of Debrecen, Hungary tells about a forgotten Jewish cemetery as an example of cultural trauma.
PhD Miklós Takacs from the University of Debrecen, Hungary tells about a forgotten Jewish cemetery as an example of cultural trauma.

Drawing from his knowledge on the multidisciplinary research on individual and cultural trauma PhD Miklós Takacs from the University of Debrecen provided as an Erasmus exchange teacher a series of lectures devoted to the question of where the two areas of study, trauma studies and research on belonging, intersect. Miklós’s examples were derived especially from Holocaust memory – the history of remembering and forgetting of Holocaust in Hungary, the ongoing memory work as well as the literary and other treatments of this topic. Difficult histories are interconnected to politics of national belonging and bear witness to the various violent connotations of belonging in the form of social exclusion.

Miklós also talked about the performative acts of belonging that include definitions of home and homeland; a new current in the commemoration is the use of social media in dealing with cultural trauma such as Holocaust. Two powerful examples are the interactive project Yellow Star Houses in Budapest and the Facebook campaign “Holocaust and my family”, unfortunately available only in Hungarian.

Anselm Kiefer deals with Holocaust in his art. The painting Black Flakes is inspired by Paul Celan, a German speaking Romanian Jewish poet, who survived concentration camps.
Anselm Kiefer deals with Holocaust in his art. The painting ’Black Flakes’ is inspired by Paul Celan, a German speaking Romanian Jewish poet, who survived concentration camps. There was an extensive exhibition on Kiefer in Serlachius Museum Gösta in Mänttä Oct 2015 – April 2016.

As our guest dealt with the issue of forced migration and deportations as means of being stripped of belonging(s), one could but wonder about the horrific similarities of the deportations of the Jewish in the WWII and the contemporary “refugee crisis”, where many of the asylum seekers are denied their subjectivity and their right to own property or are literally pillaged materially and put away in the immigrant detention centers.

Trauma theory has brought into light that heroes may become villains and vice versa. Perhaps, one might think, some day we will look back at the contemporary “refugee crisis” and see the people demanding the closing of borders as the perpetrators that incited the public to inhuman actions against those in need of help.

Nina Sääskilahti & Tuija Saresma