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Women’s Memory of Socialism: 15 Years of International Networking, National Research and Public Promotion
KIS Oxana
Sub-theme: Organizing Oral History: Institutions, archives, museums, organizations and grassroots groups.

Between Past and Future: Oral History, Memory and Meaning
XVI. International Oral History Conference Prague, 7 – 11 July, 2010

Women’s Memory.
15 Years of International Networking, National Research and Public Promotion For over last 15 years the various aspects of women’s experiences of living under state socialism have been a subject of study by members of an international research project “Women’s Memory”. It was conceived by a group of Czech feminist scholars and activists in 1996. Its major goal was a thorough unbiased analysis of multifaceted life experiences of women from the former ‘socialist bloc’ based on biographical interviewing of three generations of its female survivors. It aimed at deconstruction of ideological myths and popular cliché about “a communist/socialist woman” as a solid homogeneous category. To date the international project includes research teams in seven post-socialist countries (Czech and Slovak Republics, former GDR, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Ukraine) which differ considerably in their political histories and experiences of state socialism. United by shared feminist approach and oral history methodology (narrative biographical interview), as well as common ethical principles and documentation rules, those national branches remain relatively autonomous in terms of choosing their disciplinary focuses, cognitive priorities, analytical tools, institutional affiliations, financial sources and ways of presenting the project outcomes to the general public. The proposed panel aims to gather the representatives of national teams of the “Women’s Memories” project to share their unique experiences of studying seemingly similar subjects (women’s experiences of socialism) in the divergent political, cultural and academic contexts those countries represent today. Panelists are expected to discuss methodological and institutional challenges as well as societal impacts of studying women’s memories in the post-socialist countries. The role of feminist oral history in undermining the dominant positivist paradigm, the elimination of androcentric discourse, ridding historical scholarship of ideological interventions will be given a special consideration. The panel will also examine ways to enhance public awareness of different national histories from a specifically gendered perspective, including the role of media (books, TV, internet, radio broadcasting, and film) in such promotional activities.

Brief panel description:
Scholars from Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia and Ukraine will share their experience of implementation of the international research project “Women’s Memories”. Panelists will discuss actual methodological and institutional challenges and societal impacts of studying women’s memories of state socialism in the divergent political, cultural and academic contexts.

First EFID course about biographical approaches and methods

5th -10th of February 2007, Berlin

More information HERE!

Telling the Untold: Representations of Ethnic and Regional Identities in Ukrainian Women's Autobiographies

Whole article of Oksana Kis, the Ukrainian coordinator of Women`s Memory Project, is available HERE - (download .doc file)

Abstract: Women's oral history is in its infancy in Ukraine. The project "20th century Ukraine in Women's Memories" utilizes the narrative autobiographical interview for the first time in the country. The advantage of the oral autobiography over the written one lies in the range of indirect, non-verbal ways an interviewee can express (and a researcher can read) her unconscious, latent, unarticulated opinions. This is crucial for a study of post-totalitarian Ukrainian society. For decades, the soviet regime deprived people - especially women - of their individual voices and memories. As a result, women today find it difficult to state clearly and openly their sense of the past. This article is based on the case study of two in-depth autobiographical interviews of women representing two special regions of Ukraine - East and West. It reveals the ways in which women with similar life stories, but different attitudes towards the Soviet regime, construct their own and the other's ethnicities reflect upon Ukrainian-Russian relations, interpret regional differences of Ukraine's population, and make sense of their individual experiences of Ukrainian history. Key words: women's oral history, autobiography, ethnic identity, Ukraine

:: The radio cycle War through the Women`s Eyes, that came out from the concept of Women`s Memory project, has come to its end. The cycle has been published by Czech Radio 6 within the programme Hovory na Bìlidle and it has been supported by The Fund for Future CR. The cycle is available online on

:: The interviews from the Women`s Memory project were basis for the documentary War in the Memory of Women. This documentary was shooted by the Czech TV in cooperation with Gender Studies. Lifestories of 6 women were broadcasted on 22.5.2005. This documentary is considered to be a first summary of women`s war experience in the Czech Republik.

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Through you can buy:

:: The new books of Pavla Frýdlová based on the oral history methodology: Ženy v bílém - Women in White looks into the prestige life of women medical doctors.

:: Ženy odjinud - Women from elsewhere looks into the opinions and strategies of female foreigners living in the Czech Republic
Example of interview
HERE you can find transcribtion of one interview that was taken in the first period of the interviews collection.
Showcases of the additional materials
Here you can find examples of protocol, biogramme, resumé and list of entries (index for the archives).

Gender Studies, o.p.s.
Gorazdova 20
120 00 Praha 2
tel: 224 913 350, 777 910 941, 777910 933
tel./fax: 224 915 666
Big thanks to women's weekly VLASTA for usage of their photo archive (1950-1960).
© gender studies o.p.s. 2003