Page 169 - MIGRATION

Basic HTML Version

167
MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
RITUALIZATION OF FAMILIAL MEMORY. REVISITING
THE BIRTHPLACES OF REFUGEES FROM EASTERN
THRACE
Natalia Rashkova
Preliminary (terminological) observations
The topic at hand entails discussing notions related to the culture of memory and its
expression in the experience of the descendants of a particular migrant group. The memory of
the personal familial history of the individual is woven into the collective memory of the group
to which the individual belongs by virtue of common historical and biographical trajectory. This
establishes the correlation between the individual (autobiographical) and collective (historical)
memory (Halbvachs 1980: 50–52) as one of the pillars underpinning the existence of communities
through shared memories. The act of ritualization is interpreted within the frames of expressing
and of performing symbolically charged acts. Among the many existing and complex definitions
of ritualization, I rely on those which focus on delineating characteristic features such as the
presence of significant and meaningful, formalized activities and verbal expressions and their
organization in a succession of ritualized forms leading to reflections on their content (Rappaport
1999: 29). The process of ritualization entails the emergence of an imagined, socially experienced
or mythologically constructed receptivity (Grimes 1995: 69). When we consider ritualization in
terms of a complex inventory of behaviors called practices, not rituals, what is characteristic of
the process are strategies for differentiation between clearly delineated and contrasted acts (Bell
1992: 90).
Research sources and props
My analysis discusses differentmeaningful aspects of specific attitudes to the past which are part of
the personal, familial and communal history of the descendants of Thracian refugees from Eastern
Thrace. On the basis of interviews, participant observations, visual research documentation,
documentaries and written sources, I analyze the need for materializing the memory which is
preserved and transmitted within the family, for affirming the consciousness of local identity of
“Thracian Bulgarians”, for ritualizing the visits to the places of origin, for the unlocking of narratives
and family knowledge exchange. The possibilities for free access and movement within Thrace
and outside Bulgarian state borders which opened post 1990 generated a wave of tourist trips to
the birthplaces of the refugees, organized by the local Thracian societies, by individual unofficial
initiators, or on an individual private basis. People from different generations returned to the past
of their families, or sought and experienced their connection with the land of their predecessors.
Self-reflection when working with empirical data leads to differentiating between three
types of research perspectives: