Family Memory in Migrant Family Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Laima ZILINSKIENE, Vilnius University, Lithuania
This paper aims to test the applicability of ‘family memory’ in analysing how memory preserves the migrant family unity across borders. The author examines the ways shared memories give family members the sense of a shared history and allow them to cope with stigmatizing labels such as ‘broken families’, which appear in public and political discourses. When discussing the importance of ‘family memory’ as a tool to study the preservation of a sense of ‘familyhood’ across borders, the author appeal to Aleida and Jan Assmann’s (Assmann 2008:117) terminology of cultural and communicative memory. In these concepts, cultural memory describes past representations and their functioning in fixed cultural forms and practices, while communicative memory is a transmission of important memories through generations within family networks by means of informal communication. The author argues that intergenerational solidarity is significant to understand how meaningful contents are transmitted in transnational family practices. The paper draws on the insights of two surveys of Lithuanian residents (2013; 2017) in the network of the project financed by Research Council of Lithuania for the purpose to examine family channels (parents, grandparents, siblings, parents-in-law) and kin network channels (aunts/uncles). In studying the content of memory, the author looks at how memory channels are used to transmit information about historical traumas experienced by family and kin; meaningful family events (celebrations, weddings, funerals); family unity/ painful relationships (divorce, violence) and; changes in family and kinship networks. Considering that memories are embedded with emotions the paper examines family memory by focusing on the quality of intergenerational relations.