9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 The Language(s) of Europe: Issues of Meaning and Translation in European Biographical Research Building II, C2.02

How to present biographies of the Baltic people at the international level

1.Bases of this paper consist of my experience to compile and edit a book ?Baltic Biographies at Historical Crossroads? mostly with authors from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia.
The qualitative research has been done by indigenous Baltic scholars who have exclusively focused on whichever country they are familiar with. But there are definite advantages and drawbacks related to being an integral part of the society you investigate. Namely, there is the danger of turning the interviews into a collaborative interaction aimed at re-constructing a shared history. This effect is less present when the researcher comes from the outside. Our enlistment of Finnish, Swedish, German, and British colleagues should guarantee a broad understanding of the local peculiarities of Baltic life stories.
2. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are often lumped together in a much too simplistic manner. Even though their 20th century trajectories share considerable similarities, they carry with them different historical legacies and identities. They also belong to diverse linguistic groups and congregations (Catholic vs. Protestant). Doing biographical interviews researcher must be very careful to follow national specifics of particular respondent.
3. In investigating the Soviet past of Baltic respondents any researcher must have in his/her mind that these people had never been Soviet-inclined and usually played games of ideological hide-and-seek. There developed a peculiar coexistence of ?right? and ?wrong? in individuals, a partnership of diametrically opposite poles where one side praised Soviet mentality while the other simply ignored it. This is very challenging for investigator to open individual plurality of the manifestation of so called ?double mental standards?.
4. Every rapid change in the history of Baltic peoples causes a mushrooming of respective to each epoch vocabulary, which in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian taken separately have been unique. Most of respondents have used mother tongue told their stories lived through the first independent (1917-1940), the triple occupational (1940-1944) and the Soviet period (1944-1991). The problem for editor is the comparative work with expressions and words from these told stories, such as similar social realities could manifest in languages of Balts quite differently.