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On Memory Work in Post-communist Europe

A Case Study on Romania's Ways of Remembering its Pronatalist Past

Lorena Anton

Taking the memory of pronatalism in contemporary Romania as a case study, this article is an attempt to view the national politics of memory of contemporary Europe with regard to its communist past from an anthropological perspective. From 1966 to 1989, the communist regime imposed extreme policies of controlled demography in Romania, as it was imputed, for 'the good of the socialist nation'. Profamily measures were developed in parallel to the banning of abortion on request and the making of contraception almost inaccessible. The social remembering of such a difficult past is still a taboo in contemporary Romanian society. This general lack of public remembering, which is still playing a role in the current situation of Romania's reproductive health, is influenced by the interrelations between the different forms of pronatalist memory. The analysis is based on oral history fieldwork conducted between 2003 and 2008, and is theoretically informed by the interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies.

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Naughtiest Girls, Go Girls, and Glitterbombs

Exploding Schoolgirl Fictions

Lucinda McKnight

In this article I consider the white British and Australian schoolgirl through a notionally comparative study of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl in the School (1940–1952) series and the contemporary Go Girl (2005–2012) series, texts spanning my lived experience as girl, mother, and teacher. Through incendiary fragments of memory and media, I, as researcher and writer, seek the girl addressed by these texts and consider the struggles, denials, and ambivalences that produce and are produced by reading the schoolgirl. This girl resists historical determinism, coalescing as contemporaneous past, present, and future as the reader performs her own girlhood through reading and writing. This creative analytical article notices the visual and physical manifestations of texts, as well as their linguistic discourses. Through this work, we perceive postfeminist entanglement in the ongoing re-configuration of the schoolgirl, with implications for policy and practice in education and for cultural and girlhood studies.

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Handmade Identities

Girls, Dolls and DIY

April Renée Mandrona

This article examines the connection between two discrete areas of inquiry—the study of dolls as it relates to the identity of young girls, and the contemporary DIY (do-it-yourself) craft movement. I identify how the activity of DIY doll-making might be useful for thinking about what it means to be a girl in relation to its offering a departure from the hyper-commercialized, ready-made dolls of the twenty-first century. The commercial doll has existed alongside its counterpart, the homemade doll, since the beginning of industrialization. In different ways both forms of the doll have played a significant role in the lives of young girls and they continue to shape both collective and individual identities associated with what we think of as being a girl. Tracing the act of doll-making and the residual influence of craft movements in my own childhood, I explore this notion of dynamic identity formation: I examine doll-making as a medium for artistic creation and narrative development with the potential to transform girlhood identities.

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Claudia Mitchell

Now, in 2017, Girlhood Studies begins its tenth year. It is a tribute to our guest editors and contributors that we have been able to take on such a range of topics and concerns. Quantitatively, we have passed the one million mark in relation to the number of words about girlhood in the first twenty issues of the journal. The various guest editors have tackled such critical issues as critiques of girl power, girls and post-conflict, girls and health, girlhood studies and media, dolls and play, memory work methodologies in the study of girlhood, literary texts and girlhood, visual disruptions, girlhood and disabilities, Indigenous girlhoods, and ethical practices in girlhood studies.

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Helmut Peitsch and Joanne Sayner

This article examines two chapters from Martin Sabrow's 2009 edited volume Erinnerungsorte der DDR, one on antifascism and one on Buchenwald. These two case studies exemplify the complexities of the contemporary German memorial landscape. In particular, they thematize the remembrance of the Nazi past in the German Democratic Republic and how this GDR past has, in turn, been tendentiously remembered since unification. By examining the layering of memories in these two chapters, we argue that the theoretical models which often underpin contemporary German memory work, Sabrow's volume included, serve to obscure the role of the state as carrier of official memory. On the basis of this study, we show that concepts dominant in today's Germany promote a unified national narrative. In particular, terms such as the “culture of memory” (Erinnerungskultur) and cultural memory (kulturelles Gedächtnis) downplay conflicting, contentious and diverse memories relating to the GDR past. As such, the article provides a timely note of caution for memory studies and memory work, which increasingly applies these models to wider, non-German contexts.

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Lia Friesem

More than other collective memories, the Holocaust is the most vivid memory in today’s Israeli existence. As a result of comprehensive official and unofficial memory work that utilizes the Holocaust as a political and educational tool, on the one hand, and due to the advent of the new media, on the other, its grip on everyday Israeli reality is only growing stronger. As part of a broader research project focusing on resistive cultural activity on Israeli Twitter, this article makes visible the striking omnipresence of the Holocaust on this social network, while maintaining that many of the ‘Holocaust tweets’ constitute an act of resistance. That is, users are engaged in oppositional decoding in a battle against the hegemonic Holocaust discourse.

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Eric Langenbacher

The Federal Republic of Germany—both before and after 1989—has been influenced deeply by collective memories of the Nazi period and the Holocaust, a seemingly "unmasterable past." In a first phase after unification, memory trends, which had their origin in the mid 1980s, continued, but a second period, beginning around the 1999 move of the capital back to Berlin, however, witnessed the erosion of this older trend and the delayed rise of new memory dynamics. Substantively, there have been three vectors of memory concerning Nazi crimes, German suffering, and the period of division, especially regarding the German Democratic Republic. In this article, I outline the major collective memory dynamics and debates, first from a qualitative and then from a more quantitative perspective where I analyze the holdings of the German National Library. I conclude that an intense period of memory work characterized the postunification years, but the peak of concern was reached several years ago and the German future will be much less beholden to the past. Given inevitable normalizing trends and the unintended consequences of the hegemony of Holocaust memory, Germany's difficult historical legacy increasingly appears to be disappearing or even mastered.

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Welcome to this inaugural issue of Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal (GHS)

Claudia Mitchell, Jacqueline Reid-Walsh and Jackie Kirk

It is a moment of collective memory work. The three of us—Claudia, Jacqui and Jackie—try to remember when and where the idea for a Girlhood Studies journal came from in the first place. We think that probably the precise moment (or event) was the “A New Girl Order: Young Women and the Future of Feminist Inquiry” Conference convened by Anita Harris and colleagues at Monash University and held at King’s College, London, from November 14 to 16 2001. Although we had individually attended conferences related to girls and girlhood, it was for the three of us the first time that we had been to an event that focused on girlhood in ways that went beyond disciplinary boundaries of, say, girls in science or girls in development. There was something quite different emerging—a new area that combined advocacy, interdisciplinarity, and of course the voices of girls themselves—and it somehow gave a new imperative to exploring girlhood in all its possible manifestations. That was 2001 and now it is 2008. It has taken us seven years to make Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal a reality with this inaugural issue. Now we try to remember why it took us so long, or what it was that gave us the kickstart to finally do it!