Your History and My History - Doing Biographical Research within the Framework of German-Polish Relations

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ina ALBER, University of Goettingen, Germany
In my paper I’d like to argue that doing biographical research in a transnational context affects the biographical construction of both the interviewer and interviewee and leads to new research questions. The argument is based on my biographical experience of doing social research as a German scholar in Poland and with Polish people in Germany. Being involved in the German-Polish context sooner or later raises the issue of history. These patterns of interpretation also frame the situation of the biographical-narrative interview. This situation of narrating once life story is on the one hand side shaped by the relevancies (in the Schützian sense) acquired through experiences people have made. On the other hand side it is shaped by the relevancies applying in the interview situation, in which the role of researcher and biographer are negotiated among the participants.

To take these interactively produced meaning of nationality, family history and the political history of these two countries into account is important when analysing the interviews. It can be shown in the analysis that certain discourse fragments are found that relate to the historical, political and European dimensions of Polish-German relations like occupation and violence, forced labour, collaboration and communist images of the ‚class enemy‘ – all of them interlinked with the face-to-face situation between German interviewer and Polish interviewees. I’d like to illustrate that a strong reflexivity and sensitiveness for historical and cultural contexts is needed in these global contexts in order to understand the biographical constructions. One positive side-effect can be that the reflexivity and interest in contexts may lead to new research questions and future common, global projects.