Tihomir Cipek: FPZG SPECTRESS Fellow in Sao Paulo


I’m starting the report on my visit to Brazil with “Bom Dia” (Good Morning) which is the most common greeting in Brazil and Sao Paulo – the fascinating town with great university. In this city “Bom Dia” may however last up till around 3 pm, but in spite of it or specifically because of it everything functions just perfectly.

The Road to Knowledge

The Road to Knowledge

My stay in Brazil offered me a possibility to share the preliminary results of my research with Brazilian colleagues. For that purpose I gave the lecture titled “Trauma and Cultural Memory” for the participants of Irish Studies at Sao Paulo University. I tried to present the main theses laid down by Jan Assman who introduced the notion of cultural memory in his book “Das kulturelle Gedächtnis”. Assmann and Andreas Huyssen have identified a general interest in memory and mnemonics since the early 1980s, illustrated by phenomena as diverse as memorials and retro-culture National identity results directly from the presence of elements from the “common points” in people’s daily lives: national symbols, language, national colours, the nation’s history, national consciousness, national trauma, etc. In my lecture I tried on the Croatian example to answer the questions such as: What is national trauma? Who is a hero? Who is a victim? I concluded with demonstrating the deficiencies of Kansteiner’s and Haraldweilnboeck’s line of argument which completely rejects the concept of cultural trauma.

Lecture Poster

Lecture Poster

I was also honored by opportunity offered by the colleagues from the study of political sciences to give a visiting lecture. I named the topic as “Disappointment with Democracy? Right Wing Populism in Europe”, starting my lecture with the thesis that what we are witnessing today is a conflict between elites that are becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy and angry publics that are becoming increasingly illiberal. I also tried to argue for an opinion that populists are democrats but they are not liberal. The junction with the SPECTRESS program I based on the fact that specifically the right wing populism usually uses in its propaganda the narrative of cultural trauma or – if there’s no such – fabricates it itself.

I was really privileged to learn from Brazilian colleagues. I had an exquisite opportunity to get know with the two excellent analysis of cultural narratives. I faced the first one within the Irish Studies whose main occupation is specifically the explication of reasons and circumstances of social and religious conflicts that had been developing in the Irish context as a national conflict as well. Especially useful for me were the analysis that dealt with the models of establishment of national traumas within the Irish literature. That helped me to follow the similarities and differences between the Irish and Croatian case, as both are the examples of the small nations that have won their independency in a war. As well in the many other European nations the war appears as the crucial collective trauma. The discussions and lectures given by Brazilian colleagues motivated me to make for SPECTRESS project an analysis of how the Croatian war trauma is been addressed on the film. Particularly valuable for me were the methodologies and methodological models used within the theory of literature that I had an opportunity to be informed with, on which I’m especially grateful to the professor Laura Izzara.

At the site of Brazilian glory and trauma

At the site of Brazilian glory and trauma

The stay in Brazil also made me realize the typical cultural traumas for Brazilian society. It’s an interesting fact that the war doesn’t represent the core traumatic memory, which in fact isn’t very surprising as Brazil didn’t take significant role in neither of great world wars. From the other side the fact that the defeat from the Uruguay football team represent a real traumatic memory for Brazilian people really surprised me, albeit having in mind that the main Brazilian achievements are the football ones. Coming with rather superficial knowledge about Brazilian social situation I was truly amazed when I realized that traumas and traumatic memories have been in fact very slightly used in the process of national establishment – maybe with the exception of Tiradentes’ execution. The main narrative that establish Brazilian identity is formed around the Brazilian way of life, around the joyful mood, good spirit and samba, which beside the language and ethnic toleration really function as one of the main identity concepts. In that sense, it was very useful to see the Museum of language and Afro-Brazilian Culture for example, but the other Brazilian museums as well. All in all, my stay in Brazil was more than instructive experience, for which I’m very grateful to SPECTRESS and my Brazilian colleagues!

To all the members of SPECTRESS project I wish therefore to accomplish their work on the project’s programs in the manner of the Brazilian term “Borogodo”! As it had been explained to me, this term signifies the specific dance-step in samba, but also the capability to achieve your goals with a help of a little bit of luck. Hence, Borogodo!


About Jennifer Edmond

Dr Jennifer Edmond, is the Director of Strategic Projects in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Trained as a scholar of German literature, Jennifer is mostly engaged professionally with the investigation of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Humanities research and in particular the impact of technology on these processes.
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