Uppsala University, Sweden, Thursday 28th – Saturday 30th September 2017

The transnational research project Comprehending the Core by Peeling the Concepts: Analyzing Famines in their Historical Contexts (COMPOT) invites individual paper and session proposals for its forthcoming thematic workshop. This will be the third in our series of workshops, which form part of the research project funded by The Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Famines have been a recurring strain on humanity throughout history. In this workshop we will, by means of historical research and memory studies, focus on experiences, values and mean- ings of events and phenomena related to famines rather than on factual written documentation of them. Sources of memory studies, which include interviews, diaries, letters, memory-based prize essays, autobiographies etc., provide aspects of events and phenomena conveying subjective experiences and attitudes of eyewitnesses and other contemporaries. A key feature of researching memories is enhancing further the polyphony of the past rather than highlighting causal chains or factual accuracy.

Memory studies can bind the past to the researcher’s own contemporary world. For example, oral history has transmitted famine memories from past to present generations. Fascinating questions which arise in this context include: why are stories on famines still told, and why do these stories tend to be more popular in some communities than others?

We can approach memory-based knowledge from three viewpoints. Firstly, it can be used either as a data source on peoples’ approaches to their past. Secondly, memory-based knowledge can be regarded as the object of the research and lens through which to examine methods, structures, and layers of constructing memories. Thirdly, memory-based knowledge can be used as a method for collecting material and information on the past. For example, interviewing informants is an established research method.

In sum, in our third workshop we define memory studies sufficiently broadly to include, in addition to traditional interview studies, the examination of legacies and layers of famine research, collective memory history from below, counterfactual speculation on “alternative histories”, as well as researchers’ role in creating famine legends. The main goal of this multidisciplinary workshop will be to discuss various traditions of famine reminiscence, their persistence over time as well as their significance and legacies for the present day.

The project COMPOT concentrates on famines in Estonia, Finland, Iceland, India, Ireland and Sweden. However, the programme committee is inclined to consider famines of other countries as well. Cross-country comparisons are especially welcome. Famines of any time period and any geographical extent are eligible.

The accepted papers are to be distributed in advance, and oral presentations will be limited to 15 minutes. The project aims to publish a selection of papers after peer-reviewing. The language of papers and presentations is English. The workshop will be hosted by Uppsala University and facilities are provided by its Department of Economic History.

Individual paper proposals should include an abstract of 250–500 words and one-page CV. Session proposals should contain a session abstract of 250–500 words, abstracts of three or four papers along with brief CVs of their authors. All these documents should be submitted by 28 February 2017 to the chair of the programme committee, Timo Myllyntaus, via email in Word or RTF format.

Image: William Murphy, The Famine Memorial Dublin, via Flickr