Shaping Experience of the Second World War through Life Story

Folkloristics 8/1-2 (2023):
Author: Ivan Praštalo

The aim of this paper is an analysis of the fieldwork material collected in 2016 and examination of the ways in which the interviewees, through oral recounting of their own experiences, but also of the experiences of their local community, develop the idea of the Second World War in their hometown of Žitište. An attempt has been made to understand the importance of their stories for constituting their own identities, both individual and collective. In order to do so, the main focus is put on the places of inconsistencies and silences in their stories. Drawing on various works from the oral history field, especially those on fascism and working class written by Luisa Passerini, and works on memory and identity done in Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, mostly those written by Popular Memory Group and Stuart Hall, it has been endeavored to determine the causes of these inconsistencies and silences. By the kind approval of another researcher who conducted interviews with the same interviewees, their fieldwork material has been used to find the similarities and differences in their stories about the Second World War. The monograph about the history of Žitište, which used both archival and oral material as sources, was of vital importance for the comparison. Thus, it was possible to see the consistencies and changes in the storytelling of the interviewees, but also, in a broader sense, of the local community as well. It has been attempted to understand how these individual and collective representations continuously shape the identity and sense of self through each instance of oral recounting.

Keywords: the Second World War, oral history, life story, identity, Žitište, fieldwork.