Eda Nagayama: USP Fellow in Krakow

Poland now is a very homogeneous country: white and Catholic, mainly conservative. Walking along the beautiful Stare Miasto, the main square in Krakow, I looked nothing like a “proper” Pole: Brazilian of Japanese origin, “late” researcher on memory in the present, cultural trauma and the refugee crisis in Europe. Taken as a tourist lost from my Chinese group, I heard “Ni Hao” a couple of times, including on the occasion when I was in Majdanek. Visiting concentration camps provoked in me a disturbing mix of feelings, deep reflections on all narratives and theory I have read about the subject. It made an abyssal difference to be there, in all these sites. It happened here. Unexpectedly, my most striking experience was not in Auschwitz, but in Płaszów, four kilometers from Stare Miasto. Roma Sendyka (Jagiellonian University) proposes that “non sites of memory” like this, present some kind of ‘aura’ that may disturb and affect people. I was affected indeed. With no official museological proposal, Płaszów looked like an abandoned green area with people running and walking dogs, sunbathing and enjoying some free time – inadvertently close to mass graves and to the remains of an old Jewish cemetery and other concentration camp facilities. Layers of different cultural traumas were put in conflict over there: Holocaust; the polemical Polish identity as collaborators and perpetrators; remembering and/or forgetting; denial and reconciliation; anti-Semitism and xenophobia; refugees vs. ‘Polishness’; EU, Germany, and Russia vs. Poland; the far right increase in Europe.

For me, the most valuable aspect of the SPeCTReSS program was mobility as an opportunity for exchange and to confront theory with our own present perception and experience. I was invited to join meetings and to deliver presentations and a creative writing workshop; I attended several lectures and events in Poland but also in Paris and Dubrovnik; I visited memorials and sites of memory in Germany and Hungary; I volunteered in a refugee camp and met migrants that occupied a former hotel in Greece, and also due to people I met in Krakow, later I joined a Human Rights observation program in Israel and Palestine. So many past and present traumas.

The experience of secondment has so changed my professional trajectory but also my personal life: I had deep experiences and met such interesting people – scholars or not, who I’m very grateful to. I specially would like to thank Magda Heydel, Beata Kowalska, Jan Sowa, Roma Sendyka and Gabriel Borowski, all from Jagiellonian University; my dearest Polish friends, Beata Nowinska and Dominika Blachnicka, and Konrad Pedziwiatr; our inspiring and always encouraging Jennifer Edmond, and the program coordinator in Poland, Tomasz Bilczewski, that makes everything possible with such an astonishing efficiency and amazing kindness. Last but not least, my admirable and generous supervisor, Prof. Laura Izarra.

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Kosta Bovan: FPZG Fellow in Delhi

After year and a half, it was time for me to return to Delhi, for my second part of the six-month secondment. I was there between March and June of this year, and this time I came prepared. In other words, the experience was less of a cultural shock, and more of a coming back to a familiar place. I was situated in a nice neighbourhood, Malviya Nagar, and shared the flat with two local roommates. After a week, it was like I never left Delhi, with its huge markets, lovely parks, magnificent food and friendly people. Unfortunately, the weather was much worse this time. The temperatures were extremely high (for most of my time in India it was between 40 and 45 degrees Celsius) which really affected my daily routine and prevented me from travelling. The impact of timing was also felt at JNU, where most of the students and professors were on leave and/or spent less time outside of their homes with AC. Still, I managed to meet new, and catch up with some old, acquaintances, share thoughts and learn more about India’s history, culture and ongoing political and social issues. I spent most of my time reading and writing on cultural trauma and psychotherapy (more on that in my scientific report), and following India’s everyday politics, always thinking about the parallels with Croatia. All in all, it was a nice experience and a productive finish to my explorations of India and the SPeCTReSS project.

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Mariana Bolfarine: USP SPECTRESS Fellow in Bochum

I am from the University of São Paulo in Brazil and, as part of the SPeCTReSS project, I spent one month at Rühr Universität in Bochum, Germany, and my mentor was Dr. Stefan Berger. The theme of my research is trauma and fictional representations of the sidelined historical figure Roger Casement, sentenced to death for high treason, for having sought German support for Irish independence at the brink of the First World War. Casement’s writings as a British Consul exposing atrocities committed against humanity are illuminating in terms of the way in which he was able to navigate through African and South American countries and cultures.

Christmas Market in Düsseldorf

Christmas Market in Düsseldorf

I arrived in Germany in the last days of December and left at the end of January, a period when most colleagues and students were not around. I was based in the city of Bochum, known for coal mining and, of course, a must-see is the Deutches Bergbau-Museum, which reveals history of mining in the Rühr area.

I also profited from the fantastic facilities offered by the university, such as the library. I took some of my time to visit other cities such as Berlin, whose cityscape carries the indelible scars of traumatic events, such as the two World Wars and the remnants of the Berlin Wall, reminding us that there are visible and invisible ways to promote division. I did not have time to visit all museums, but the Anne Frank Zentrum is certainly worthwhile in order to understand how a collective traumatic event affects the lives of individuals, such as the Frank family.

Child interacting with the Jewish Memorial

Child interacting with the Jewish Memorial

In terms of research, I profited immensely from a short stay in Belgium, as I had arranged a visit to the archives kept in the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in Tervuren. The Museum is known worldwide for its African masks and artifacts that date from the early 20th century reign of the absolutist monarch Leopold II. It is one of the most visited in Belgium, but it is being renovated. At the Research Centre, I had the chance to read and photograph the material I needed for my ongoing research on Casement and the African Congo.

I was particularly taken by surprise with Germany, which I already knew was outstanding in terms of culture, infrastructure and social services. But what really called my attention was the people. Even though I do not speak the language, the Germans made an effort to communicate with me, and helped me carry my suitcases on the trains or gave me precise directions when I was lost. One man even changed a 100 Euro bill that no one would take, for two 50 Euro bills.  My landlady in Bochum was really kind, and gave me tips concerning what to do, where to eat and how to use the washing machine with two doors.

Section of Brazilian products in a Berlin supermarket

Section of Brazilian products in a Berlin supermarket

Different from the perspective of a European travelling to the “developing” urban landscape of São Paulo, I went in the opposite direction. I travelled from a society where trauma is an ongoing, daily process, as we are surrounded by social inequality, river and air pollution, poor transportation and fear of being approached by pickpockets.

However, despite the stark contrast in terms of infrastructure such as excellent public transportation and less social inequality, I arrived in Germany two weeks after the terrorist attack at the Christmas Market in Berlin. Hence, to my mind, the Spectress secondment program was valuable as it provided me with a different perspective towards binary oppositions such as “developed” x “underdeveloped”, “us” x “them”, “safe” x “unsafe”, “polluted” x “clean”. As a result, after the experience of spending time in a country that is not one’s own, makes one capable of deconstructing pre-established preconceptions. Therefore, I suppose the lesson I have learned is that we all have monsters in our closets that that become less menacing when looked at up close, spoken about and “worked through”.


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Call For Papers – Rethinking Cultural Trauma from Transnational Perspectives, São Paulo 22-25 August 2017

The SPECTRESS network and XII Symposium of Irish Studies in South America will host a conference titled “Rethinking Cultural Trauma from Transnational Perspectives” from 22nd to 25th August 2017 in São Paulo, Brazil.

The aim of the Conference is to gather SPeCTReSS researchers to discuss the results of the three-year international joint-research project developed by eight universities: Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), Rurh-Universität, Bochum (Germany), Jagiellonian University (Poland), University of Tartu (Estonia), Zagreb University (Croatia), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), University of São Paulo (Brazil) and Yale University (United States). Delegates of the annual ABEI symposium of Irish Studies in South America and researchers of the WB Yeats Chair of Irish Studies will also join the event hosted by the University of São Paulo.

Abstracts should be sent via email to: abei.abeibrasil@gmail.com
Deadline: 10 May, 2017

You can download the Call for Papers here.

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Pawan Kumar: JNU SPECTRESS Fellow in Dublin

The scholarship offered under the SPECTRESS project gave me an opportunity to have a closer look into W.B. Yeats’s world so as to understand the subtle aspects of his creative imagination: what constituted the Irish imagination of Yeats, which images metamorphosed into his symbols and his poetic voice, the books that shaped the poet-persona of Yeats, and the people and the places of Ireland that keep Yeats immortal and alive (lovingly and warmly referring to Yeats as W. B., rather than W. B. Yeats)!


Interestingly, I was given an accommodation in Blackrock, which is close to both Sandymount (the birth place of Yeats and the house of Seamus Heaney) and Sandycove (known for the Martello tower owned by James Joyce). The daily ritual of walking through the lanes of Blackrock for taking the DART was a blissful and memorable experience: I stand inexplicably enriched just by walking past the local market, the Church, the primary school and the art activity center, the beautiful houses, the small shops, the gentle smiles
of complete strangers, and the soothing strokes of the wind blowing over the Irish Sea. It was like walking though Joyce’s Dublin and Dubliners.

Most of my work involved conducting extensive research in the National Library of Ireland
(NLI), and I fondly look back to every single day of my archival research, primarily because of the hassle free system of the library and the supportive staff at NLI. Although going through Yeats’s Vision Papers, Occult Papers and especially his mammoth library collection seemed a daunting task, but with the help of dexterous and extremely helpful librarians, I was successful in achieving the target I had set out to achieve. In fact, while going through Yeats’s manuscripts, I realized that there are numerous areas in Yeatsian scholarship which are hitherto unexplored, especially if one is working on Yeats from an Eastern perspective. This, in turn, inspired me to keep wading through the ocean of material available at NLI. Additionally, I was extremely fortunate to be in Ireland at a time when NLI organized a series of lectures on W. B. Yeats, and to witness their ongoing Yeats Exhibition, which I think is a must-visit for any Yeats researcher and scholar.

The scholarship also gave me the golden opportunity to participate in the fortnight-long
Yeats Summer School in Sligo. This was the highest point of my scholarly engagement with Yeats during my stay in Ireland: listening to and discussing my doctoral research with experts on Yeats, meeting other young scholars working on Yeats, watching performances of Yeats’s plays and poetry in various theatre houses in Sligo, taking numerous walks  along the Atlantic (especially at Rosses Point and Strandhill), seeing and experiencing locales associated with Yeats, in short, soaking in the spirit of Yeats.


To add to this, I also attended various talks, seminars and conferences organized by the Long Room Hub, my host at Trinity College, Dublin, and needless to say, they aided my
understanding of the various intricacies of research and acquainted me with the numerous new researches going on in Humanities and Social Science. I am thankful to the LRH for providing me a conducive space and ambience to conduct my research. To my relief, the library of Trinity College houses almost everything that a Yeats scholar may possibly require, especially rare books related to Yeats’s mystical and esoteric aspects. The aspect of LRH which benefitted me enormously is the fact that one can exchange ideas with people across disciplines and get valuable suggestions and inputs from scholars, professors and faculty members.

It will not be an overstatement if I say that I have learnt innovative research skills during my six months of stay in Ireland, and that the scholarship offered by SPECTRESS has really helped me in collecting invaluable and previously inaccessible material for my research, thereby giving me greater clarity about W. B. Yeats’s politics and philosophy, and providing a strong ground to my doctoral research.


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Märt Läänemets: UT SPeCTReSS fellow in New Delhi

I had my three-month secondment in September-November 2015 in India at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Looking back from the time distance of more than one year to this period I only can wonder how intensive it was full of academic work, lecturing, visits, meetings, mini expeditions etc. many of the impacts and outcomes only being in the process of developing and maturing.

It was not my first visit to India. Due to my academic interests in Indian religions and culture I have studied and researched some 30 years I had had few trips and expeditions in this country earlier and generally knew what India is and did not face much surprises or culture shock there. But this was my first experience to live a longer period of time in the genuine vibrant Indian urban neighborhood sharing my everyday life with local Indians from which I learned a lot what I didn’t know or even expect before.

As my formal host institution – the Centre of History at the School of Social Studies (SSS), JNU – left me freedom to arrange my time I gratefully used this rare opportunity and made my schedules by myself. Mainly I shared my time between writing and reading and trips outside New Delhi, lecturing, making contacts, sightseeing, and simply enjoying the thousand-faced Indian life.

The height of my time in India undoubtedly was my two-week expedition to Bihar and Varanasi to visit famous historical sites connected with life and activities of historical Buddha more than two thousand years ago. I visited them first time and all of them – Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Rajgir, mountain peak of Ghridrakuta, ruins of ancient monastic university Nalanda – surpassed my expectations. A new exploration for me was the Jethian Valley or Buddha Valley, an ancient pilgrimage road between Bodhgaya and Rajgir, where you literally in every step can stumble on the remains of ancient stupas and artefacts. The day I spent there with my wonderful guide Deepak Anand from the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara University visiting sites and meeting with local people was unforgettable.

From the thousands of photos I shot there I compiled a photo exhibition „Buddha’s Footprints in Bihar“ in my home institute in Tartu that was open more than six months in the first half of 2016. The pictures exhibited there are still available online as well, unfortunately with explanations only in Estonian language: http://www.eao.ee/pildid/buddha-jalajaljed-biharis/

Another valuable contact and co-operation project was established with a private Hindu university – Dev Sanskriti University – in the holy city of Haridwar. I visited that institution twice invited by very enthusiastic pro-vice-chancellor of it Prof. Chinmay Pandya. My deepest bow to him. During my visits, I wondered how profound Hindu religious spirituality has harmonically merged with modern scientific approach in research work and educating people there inspired by the late visionary and holy man Shriram Sharma. I hope this is the most viable vision for the future India. Last, but not least, this private Hindu university is first in India which has established its own Centre of Baltic Culture and Studies in order to advance Baltic studies and I am happy to contribute in this work.

I may continue my story in many pages as all the impressions, meetings, conversations seem to be unnecessarily important to express and share but I stop here and express my deepest gratitude to SPeCTReSS administration, to hosts and colleagues in JNU, to all Indian people I met there for offering me such a wonderful and unforgettable opportunity and experience.

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Magdalena Heydel: JU SPECTRESS Fellow in Sao Paulo

I spent a month as a SPECTRESS scholar in Sao Paulo between June 25th and July 25th 2015. My time at USP which was my host institution was devoted more to my own work than to collaboration and interaction with colleagues and students. The period of my stay coincided with Brazilian winter break, so there were not many people around. Still I had a couple of very valuable meetings in Sao Paulo.

My mentor was prof. Laura Izarra and we had a long and interesting conversation on the related fields of our research and translation project we both undertake. Professor Izarra together with a team of collaborators and students translated into Portuguese and edited the journals of Roger Casement, which was of great interest to me as a translator of Joseph Conrad’s prose (my translation of Heart of Darkness into Polish was published in 2013).

I also met Prof. John Milton whose work is in Translation Studies, the area of my own research. Another interesting meeting was with Silvia Cobelo, also a TS scholar. But definitely the most valuable contact in Sao Paulo was Eda Nagayama, who took the role of my “guardian angel” and helped me with so many various aspect of my residency: from mundane practicalities of everyday life to introducing me to fascinating multicultural life of Sao Paulo. I am very grateful to her for her generosity: the time she offered me, all the wonderful conversations and the fun we had together. I am very glad to be able to return her friendship at least partly during her secondment in Kraków in 2016.

Thanks to the SPECTRESS scholarship I was also able to take part in the world congress of IATIS (International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies) which took place at the University of Belo Horizonte and coincided with my stay in Sao Paulo. This was undoubtedly a very fruitful part of my residency, not only in terms of academic discussions but also as far as networking goes.

My presentation at the congress was devoted to Czesław Miłosz as self-translator in the context of intercultural mediation. Miłosz’s practice as a translator of Polish poetry into English, which played an influential role on the literary plane as it created the phenomenon known as “the Polish school of poetry”, was an effect of his forced emigration to the US where he actually spent more than half of his long life. Basing also on my research at the Beinecke Library, Yale (2014) where Miłosz’s archives are kept, I looked at the relation between the personal, poetical and political and at the ways in which traumatic life experience colours the poet’s translation practice.

The time in Sao Paulo gave me a unique chance to work on this project as well as other related topics. I spent a lot of time at the Biblioteca Brasiliana (the Mindlin Library) which offered a perfect quiet place for my work.


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