Voicing Trauma in the Deportation narratives of Baltic women
Leena Kurvet-Käosaar (Tallinn University) [BIO]
In the late 1980-s, numerous large-scale oral history and life-story projects were launched in all three Baltic States with the main objective of bearing witness to the deportations of 1941 and 1949 as well as other repressions of the Soviet regime. Including the stories of women in equal proportion with those of men the extensive collections of narratives accumulating as a result of the projects constituted a textual body with at least quantitatively adequate gender balance.
My presentation seeks to analyze the deportation narratives of Baltic women within the theoretical framework of trauma as articulated by Caruth, Laub and Felman, Antze, Herman, Henke and others. The national and communal contexts of serious normative implications within which deportation narratives have emerged can be viewed as setting considerable limits to articulating the part of the experience of deportation that contains the highest degree of hurtfulness that the authors of the stories have been unable to overcome during the period between the experience itself and its narration. Even within these limits, however, the experience of deportation emerges as traumatic in the deportation narratives of women, traceable, for instance, in the narrative structure as well as in the imagery of the narratives.
On collective level, the narratives functioned effectively as a means of rehabilitation and remembrance of the victims of the Soviet regime. On personal level, however, the process of recovering history in the narrative may not always or even not mostly equal with a process of recovery from it. Thus the deportation stories of Baltic women can be viewed as lacking a quality postulated as essential by theorists of trauma: that of the therapeutic impact.