Beyond Hegemonic Narratives and Myths (BOHEMS) is a academic project (2017-19) funded by Charles University through the Primus Research Program. Throughout this project, we wish to come to a better understanding of troubled pasts in specifically, but not limited to, the regions of Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Turkey and the countries of former Yugoslavia. While this project is grounded in academic research, it aims for practical solutions to current issues concerning identity and memory by means of the presentation of these troubled pasts to the public.
Our team is an international, interdisciplinary group composed of one PI, three post-doc CIs, five PhD CIs and one post-graduate student CI affiliated to Charles University. They specialize primarily in memory studies, contemporary European history, post-conflict resoultion and the presentation of history via museums, art and memorials.
Our project maps out historical narratives and myths of troubled pasts within nation-building processes, which help create and preserve “imagined communities” and thus contribute to a specific formation of cultural identities across East-Central and South-East Europe.
Our research takes into account oral testimonies, nonfiction historical works, archival sources and other outputs of collective histories so as to analyze the presentation of these narratives in the forms of cultural-political representation such as museums, school textbooks, and vernacular memorials.
Our goals are to determine how more inclusive museums and conceptual art open up the possibility for rethinking collective memories of troubled pasts, and in doing so find alternative and inclusive presentations of history in a world of increasing nationalism, violence and radicalization.
The investigations and desired outcomes of this project are far-reaching:
Analyze the interpretation of past events and isolate (1) a point of origin of myths and narratives, (2) the means of establishing and deploying myths and narratives, and (3) the success or failure of such myths or narratives.
Engage in fieldwork dealing with official sites of memory to determine how history is presented.
Scrutinize less traditional, unofficial sites of memory to decide if they provide for more collective participation and assist in altering and/or easing troubled pasts.
Understand the role of victimhood and its contribution to identity formation.
Perform particular case studies as well as studies with joint denominators.
BOHEMS project investigates historical narratives and myths of troubled pasts within nation-building processes, which help create and preserve “imagined communities” and thus contribute to a specific formation of cultural identities across East-Central and South-East Europe. The focus on myths is concerned with the interpretation of past events, whether it be scientific, linguistic or historical; these always rely on pre-existing events and how they are presented to and interpreted by individuals. Thus, the focus on troubled pasts highlights the conflicting nature of such interpretations. However, these myths are always relayed and processed through a medium of myth-telling, which involves narratives. Narratives refer to the act of telling or presenting past events, which are never presented entirely “objectively” but are always ingrained in a historical background. When myths and narratives become so solidified that they are resistant to change, this corresponds to a hegemony (or hegemonic myths and narratives in the context of this project). This project aims to discern the origins, constructions and means of dissemination of these myths and narratives so as to map out the most prominent ones across the regions specified.
By digging out “troubled pasts” buried under more prominent histories, we will establish similarities in regional narratives. Such an investigation relies on exploring the limits of local formations of cultural identity and Nation-Building, including the variations that have occurred (or not occurred) inter-regionally. Our project acknowledges that identity can occur on two levels: identifying with something and being identified as something. While taking both of these into consideration, we furthermore analyze the relationship between the two. It is understood that cultural identity is not given a priori but relies on historical construction. Thus, our project-related version of constructivism wishes to isolate (1) a point of origin of myths and narratives, (2) the means of establishing and deploying myths and narratives, and (3) the success or failure of such myths or narratives. It is from this perspective that we approach Nation-Building, for as nations and the social ties that hold them together are contingent and historical, relying on myths and narratives, Nation-Building is the act of constructing such ties, whether historically or in the present. This gives rise to collective consciousness, i.e., the cultural pool of memories and identifications of a certain group.