Doing Family through Practices of Silence

in Ethnologia Europaea
Pihla Maria Siim University of Tartu

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Family history can be seen to be comprised of both told and untold stories and sentiments related to them, all of which affect family members. Drawing on interviews conducted with immigrants from the former Soviet Union living in Finland and their family members living in the country of origin (in Russian Karelia and Estonia), this article explores the silenced aspects of family storytelling and analyses how the absence of narration can serve as a protector and maintainer of family as a set of relationships, or an enabler of “normal” family life. The focus of the article is on family past, and the continuum from tellable to silenced experiences will be analysed. However, the methodological side of studying unsaid or unsayable things is also touched upon.

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