Muted National Memory


Väyrynen, Tarja. 2014. “Muted National Memory.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (2): 218–35. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.773155.

Author: Tarja Väyrynen


The encoding of female bodies as symbols of the nation is a multifaceted process where some female bodies are uplifted to represent the nation and its honour, but others are abjected. I examine in this article Finnish women who fraternized with German soldiers during the Second World War. The bodies of these women carry historical and political content that could not be reconciled with the Finnish post-war national identity narrative that sought closure. The Finnish national subject came into being through the establishment of ‘Hitler's brides’ as others, and a variety of state-initiated disciplinary mechanisms were used to silence them. The taboo of speech became a lifelong condition that was broken just before the biological deaths of these women. When the taboo was broken their corporeal representations and voices were not simple representations of a past event, but political performances and utterances which intervened in a past and present national context. I show how the agentative figure that emerged was not that of a superstite (survivor) witness with confessional tendencies but that of a parrhesiastes, the one who speaks the truth.

Keywords: abject, agency, female body, silence, trauma, war, voice

Topics: Armed Conflict, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Nationalism, Post-Conflict Regions: Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe Countries: Finland

Year: 2014

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