Let Go and Remember. Collective Memories and Narratives of Mass Violence in Finland

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Johanna NURMI , University of Turku, Finland
Due to its inexplicable and inconceivable nature, mass violence causes a considerable sense of insecurity, the impacts of which are felt far from the center of the incidents.  They extend out to touch those who are indirectly affected, and even people who are not personally disrupted by the events. Bystanders to these incidents are involved in the complex process of making sense of violence and death through collective memorialization practices and narratives recounting the incidents. These practices provide a sense of community while also being a source of conflict. Should the community remember and memorialize the incident, or try to push it out of their minds and move on?

In this presentation I explore the bystander experience in two school shooting cases in Finland that occurred in 2007 and 2008. The analysis is based on qualitative interviews with residents of the targeted communities – people who vicariously experienced the shootings. The presentation is especially focused on how these bystanders formed memories of the incidents and recounted their personal experiences in the interviews. To understand how the bystander experience is constructed through collective practices, I examine the collective narratives, recollections, and emotions shared in everyday interaction and the media. Public memorialization, such as attending vigils and contributing to spontaneous memorials, is identified as a defining feature in the bystander experience.