Mari-Ann Herloff Mortensen 1999.
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|Dwelling in routines|
|The silence of routines|
Before extending my gratitude to the various people who have helped me complete the present thesis, I would like to thank the informants without whom it would not exist. I am eternally indebted to these men and women who trusted me - a total stranger - with their thoughts and emotions.
A number of organisations have been helpful with information and material concerning the Western Latvian communities in the West, particularly The World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules Brivo Latviesu Apvieniba). A warm thank you to the staff at the federation headquarters in Riga, who allowed me to use their small library and invited me to the "happy hour -parties". After returning to Denmark, I received material and assistance from Lettische Volksgemeinschaft in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland and from Latviesu Nacionala Apvieniba Kanada (Latvian National Federation in Canada).
In Denmark, I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor, anthropologist Karen Fog Olwig, who has patiently and thoroughly read and commented on several drafts; and to anthropologist Steven Sampson who corrected my English. Sampson has, furthermore, been the driving force behind "Østeuropagruppen", an anthropological study group on Eastern Europe. The members of this group have been wonderful sources of inspiration, encouragement - and fun. They are: Pernille Hohnen, Anne Helbo Jespersen, Tom Trier, Mette Nordahl Svendsen, Peter Ulstrup Hansen, Rane Willerslev, Joel Leonard Katz and Mette Duekilde. Also members of this group are Christian Boehm, Kristina Grünenberg, Maj Olsen and Camilla Rosengaard, who have, furthermore, been my "response-group". They have read early drafts and I am grateful for their intelligent and inspiring comments. I still miss our sessions. I wish to extend a special thanks to Camilla Rosengaard, with whom I share both my interest in Latvia and various experiences in the field. Camilla has been a precious ally at all stages of the present thesis.
Finally, a loving thanks to my husband, Klaus, who has been unbelievably patient and supportive, and to my beautiful son, Konrad, who arrived in the middle of it all and put life and work in the right perspective.
Mari-Ann Herloff Mortensen
Copenhagen, April 1999
In late spring 1995, I went to the Annual Crafts Fair at the Open Air Ethnographic Museum outside Riga. It was a hot day. The Fair took place in a beautiful forest belonging to the Museum. Along the dusty paths lined with booths, a surprisingly large number of people walked slowly in the half-shadow of the trees. Here, local Latvians sold folkloristic artifacts - traditionally patterned silverware, amber artfully crafted in every conceivable way and leather belts, vests and book covers - to a crowd conspicuously dominated by visitors from the Western Latvian diaspora. In the forest space sound travelled far, and the air was filled with a hum of voices, often switching from English to Latvian and back.
I went to the Fair with Vizma, a thirty-two years old Canadian-Latvian woman who had told me that during her life in Toronto, she had heard her Latvian parents' wonderful stories about Latvia and that she had come to Latvia because she wanted to "return to the beautiful homeland" At the time of our trip to the Fair she had been living in Riga for eighteen months and was successfully making a career for herself as an attorney servicing international business corporations investing in Latvia. Nevertheless, she was seriously thinking about going back to Canada because she had difficulties dealing with what she called "the rudeness" of her local Latvian family. As we walked among the booths Vizma described her experience: "To begin with, I was absolutely euphoric. I felt like chatting to everybody simply because they spoke Latvian. I imagined us being like one big family and Latvia as our common home. It was wonderful. But I soon realized that Latvians from the West weren't Latvians in the eyes of the locals. To them, we are simply Westerners with money! They all wanted something from me. A video-recorder, a trip to Canada... We are like gold-dust to them. I usually say that in the beginning I trusted everybody, now I trust nobody! Just total mistrust! Because of my experiences with the locals I started wondering about the differences between us, about what it means to be Latvian at all. For sure, it doesn't mean the same to me as it does to them!"
Vizma interrupted herself, stopped at a booth, and started speaking Latvian to a girl selling amber and silver products. She asked her the price of an amber-bracelet, but the girl shook her head, signalling that she didn't understand what Vizma was saying. Eventually, after a few more tries, the girl insisted that they spoke in English. Vizma asked the price, got a quick answer and - gloomily - bought the amber bracelet she wanted. "God, sometimes they are so annoying!", she exclaimed. "They just won't let you speak Latvian. Like it's their language and not mine! I know that my Latvian is good, but often they just won't let you in. I really hate that ... being treated like a foreigner. I'm Latvian like they are!"
After a long, hot and dusty day at the fair we returned to Riga by bus. The ride depressed Vizma. "It is like going to the Soviet past," she said, "these are really the grey Soviet masses, it's terrible. These suburbs and the people really look like I always imagined Soviet Latvia to be."
We arrived at the center of Riga where Vizma lived, and she got off the crowded bus. She expressed her relief at leaving the "Stone age Soviet transportation system" and "all these pushy locals," and we parted. She went to her apartment in a beautiful and newly restored 18th century building situated in one of the Old Town squares. I left for the tram terminal.
While sitting in the tram, which noisily transported me to the apartment complex in which I lived, I looked at my fellow passengers and wondered about Vizma's remarks. Their appearances were not fashionable, but I found it hard to see them as "grey Soviet masses". As I travelled by tram every day, I saw them mainly as "ordinary people", many of whom, due to the fact that this particular day was a Saturday and the tram went to a large cemetery, were on their way to put flowers on the graves of loved ones.
I had rented a room in an apartment on the 9th floor, and - as the elevator was not working - fought my way up the stairs. Anna, my seventy years old local Latvian landlady, was at the door. Ignoring that I was sweaty and short of breath, she immediately wanted to know why I - once again - had been in the company of "one of those Americans". They can't tell you anything about Latvia, I have told you that!" I sat down on a chair in the hallway, and while trying to catch my breath, I told her about the Fair and about the purpose of my research, but Anna persisted: "I don't see why you want to talk to them. They only come in the summer period to buy things they can bring back to America. Last year, I had some people staying who came back from the Fair with several bags full of Latvian things ... costumes, amber, silver necklaces ... They don't want life here, they want things. They think those things make them Latvian, but they don't - and they are not Latvians, no matter what they tell you."
I gave up trying to argue with Anna about my motivations for talking to Western Latvians. Instead, I had a cup of coffee with her, listened to her views on the "Americans", took a cold shower and went to my room. Although exhausted, I had several hours of work left - fieldnotes, transcriptions, diary...
In April 1995, I arrived in Riga intending to study post-Soviet processes of identity formation in Latvia. In my project proposal, I suggested that this could be done by investigating how the resident Russian minority became what G.H. Mead (1934) termed "the significant Other" in Latvian narratives of identity. Furthermore, I wanted to investigate whether perceptions of this Russian Other depended on if informants had personal experiences with Russians. I therefore wanted to interview two categories of informants: local Latvians (who had this experience) and Latvians returning to Latvia from the West (who did not have this experience).
During my first week of research, however, local Latvian informants were more interested in criticizing the inclusion of the Western Latvians into my project than in elaborating on their perceptions of the Russian "Other". Often, they would say that the diaspora should be excluded from my study, as they were not "real Latvians". Talking with Western Latvian informants some of them told me, in tears, of their frustrations about "the locals".
At the time of my arrival, the relation between the returning Latvian diaspora and the local population was becoming strained. Western Latvians who returned to Latvia found it difficult to accept the reality of post-Soviet Latvia and its inhabitants. Local Latvians often dismissed the returnees as "rich foreigners" with whom they claimed to feel little or no affiliation.
Inspired - and encouraged - by informants and by the surge of emotions that seemed to surround the problem, I chose to redirect my research and concentrate on the encounter between the returning Western Latvian diaspora and the population of the newly independent Latvia. The initial framework (studying processes of identity-formation) was maintained, but concerning other "significant Others" and with a focus on intra-ethnic rather than inter-ethnic processes of identification. Furthermore, the theoretical framework was redesigned to include relevant problems related to the encounter: the meanings of place, global mobility (specifically the complex problems involved in "return") and the topography of power between East and West in the post-Soviet global space.
Most of the people I interviewed identified the problem of their encounter as disagreements about "Latvian identity" and its relation to place. Local Latvians were eager to convince me that the returnees had been living too long in a "wrong place" for them to be "real Latvians" anymore, and members of the diaspora would claim that the locals had lived in a "wrong Latvia" - Soviet Latvia - and therefore they were no longer possessing "the true Latvian identity".
When discussing who were "real" Latvians, local and Western Latvians created elaborated narratives on identity. These narratives are the main data of the present analysis, which aims at: (a) discussing how the relation between place and identity is thematized and made meaningful in local and diasporic narrative practices, (b) how these meanings are contested and negotiated, and, finally, (c) how the narratives are related to various characteristics of the specific context of the encounter. In order to investigate these questions, the thesis is structured as follows: Chapter One provides background information on the setting of my fieldwork and on methodology. Chapter Two, "Narratives, Place and Identity", introduces narratives as an analytical perspective within anthropology. Furthermore, recent debates concerning the relation between place, culture and identity, as well as contributions to the study of nationalism relevant to the analysis are outlined and discussed. Chapter Three, "Routes and Routines", focuses on narratives of spatial practices ("travelling" and "dwelling"). The chapter analyses how informants render experiences of places meaningful in terms of identity. Chapter Four, "Only the Transitory Has to Shout", analyzes narratives of thematized cultural practices ("silence" and "articulation"). These themes are central to a narrative construction of "Otherness" existing prior to the encounter and the uses of these themes are analyzed as strategic retellings and reinterpretations of this narrative. Chapter Five, "East and West - Rejoined with a Vengeance", relates local and diasporic narratives to questions of political, economical and discursive power and discusses the implications of trying to define an "authoritative telling" of Latvian identity in post-Soviet Latvia. The central theme in this chapter is how the encounter between local and Western Latvians was influenced by the relation between "East" and "West". The sixth and final chapter, "Homo Nationalis vs. Homo Globalis", reflects upon the implications of the present analysis on anthropological theoretical debates.
Geographically, Latvia is located South of Estonia and North of Lithuania. Throughout history, these three Baltic states have separated the great Russian mainland from the Baltic Sea and Europe, and have constituted gateways to this mainland for various European powers. Consequently, from the 12th century and until 1918, Latvia was under the domination of mainly Germany and Russia, both with profound interests in possessing this gateway, and thus becoming the two "significant Others" of Latvian historical consciousness. Until 1991, Latvia existed as an independent, geographically distinct nation-state only during The First Republic (1918-1940).(1)
In 1940 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were annexed by the Soviet Union as a result of the secret protocol attached to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in which the Baltic states were classified as Soviet "sphere of interest" (cf. Hiden & Salmon 1992).(2)
After the war, as the Allied forces negotiated the geopolitical division of Europe, the political fact of the Soviet presence in the Baltic states - combined with an Allied acceptance of the secret protocol - turned the Baltic States into three new Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Soviet annexation initiated forty-five years of profound changes in Latvia, of which the demographic changes alone were immense. On the one hand, a large number of Russians settled in the country. They were administrative and military personnel as well as workers needed in the heavy industrialization initiated during Stalin's rule (see appendix A). On the other hand, about 150.000 Latvians were deported to Russia, and an estimated 200.000 escaped to the West to avoid deportation or other forms of persecution by the Soviet state. These refugees were primarily members of the bourgeoisie, or, in the phrase of one of my Western Latvian informants, "the cream of the crop" - teachers, musicians, well-off farmers, store-owners, clerks and white-collar workers (Wyman 1989, Bilmanis 1947, Spekke 1951). The result of these demographic changes was that by 1993, official statistics listed Latvia's population as 54% ethnic Latvian and 46% non-Latvian (S. Y. L. 1993).
The changes taking place in Latvian life during the years of occupation were multifaceted and complex. Most descriptions of life in the Soviet Union concentrate on large-scale characteristics of the communist system: the totalitarian state, plan economy, bureaucracy, censorship, etc. In Latvia, as in the rest of the Soviet Union, the Russian language was introduced within state administration, schools, shops, etc. The country was industrialized and individual farms and businesses were collectivized or nationalized. The independent government was replaced by national administrative branches of the Soviet bureaucracy which, to a large extent, was controlled from Moscow. The question remains how "Soviet life"was lived in practice. How it was interpreted and made meaningful by those who lived it? Sources are limited when it comes to "thick descriptions" (Geertz 1973:6) of the lives of the inconspicuous - those who were not elite apparatchiks, victims of the Gulag, dissidents, intellectuals - those often depicted as the grey and oppressed masses. The few sources available describe how Soviet society became divided into formal/informal or public/private spheres, suggesting that in the public sphere, people used practices of manipulation and strategic mirroring of the conduct coveted by the state. In the private sphere, people learned how to make ends meet; how to obtain information about new shipments of shoes, socks, sugar; how to get the materials to build your house; how to keep your car running without the authorized spare parts, etc. (cf. Kenedi 1981, Simecka 1984, Wedel 1986, Shlapentokh 1989). However, critics suggest that this separation between public and private has been represented as too rigid. To some extent, the public sphere was an integrated part of people's everyday life, and they interpreted parts of their practices within this sphere as meaningful rather than as mere performance. On the other hand, state control and communist values did influence the private sphere (cf. Boym 1994, Borneman 1992). Although the strategic and manipulative practices of people within the Soviet Union are well documented, this seems to have baffled Western scientists so much that they have ignored the fact that many people either internalized the values of the state, or saw them simply as the framework of their everyday lives.(3)
One aspect of Soviet life that had been known in the West for years before the final collapse of the U.S.S.R. was the existence of dissent, a knowledge often provided by exiled dissidents. These people wrote of the horrors of the communist regime, of deportations and violations of human rights, of censorship and of the problems of belonging to the national minorities within the Soviet Union (cf. Solzhenitsyn 1963, Sinka 1988, Bilmanis 1951). In Latvia, the increasing popular resistance was based on a very persistent nationalism, which fought Soviet ideological claims that national identities should be replaced by a united and homogeneous identity - that of Homo Sovieticus (cf. Lieven 1992). It is beyond the scope of the present study to elaborate in any great detail on the issue of dissent within the Soviet Union.(4) Suffice it to say that in the period between 1985 and 1991 a widespread and popular form of dissent "erupted unto the social surface" in Latvia (Shtromas 1994: 106).(5) Thus, after forty-five years of Soviet rule - on August 21, 1991 - the Latvian Supreme Council declared Latvia to be independent. The same year, on September 6, Mikhail Gorbachev recognized the claims to independence made by the Baltic states, and Latvia became a truly independent state, to which the large number of Latvians who had lived in exile could return.
During the Soviet occupation 100,000 Latvians lived in the U.S.A., and an additional 88,000 in other Western countries (Sinka 1988: 51).(6) Furthermore, an estimated 50,000-100,000 deportees and their descendants lived within the territory of the former Soviet Union. In total, a quarter of a million Latvians lived outside Latvian territory, a large number considering the total Latvian population within Latvia of 1.391.469 (S. Y. L.1993).(7)
The exact number of Western Latvians living in Latvia during my fieldwork was unknown. Most of the returnees had Latvian citizenship and disappeared into the statistical category of "Latvians", and no official body in Latvia or in the host countries registered their movements. In the present context, however, the crucial matter was the fact that local Latvians regarded them as a different and significant category. For example, local informants believed that the number of returnees was rather large. The lowest estimate of Western Latvians in Latvia suggested to me by a local informant was 10,000 persons and the highest 100,000. Generally, local estimates were between 30,000 and 50,000, while Western Latvian informants estimated that between 3,000 and 7,000 returnees were in Latvia on a more or less permanent basis. However, during Easter celebrations and the summer holidays, informants suggested, an additional 10,000 - 20,000 Western Latvians would come as visitors or tourists.
To both the returnees living in Latvia and to those visiting during the holidays, a common experience was that the Latvia they encountered was rather different from that which they had known or heard of in the diaspora.
In 1995, Latvia was "in transition" from communist plan-economy and centralized state control to market economy (capitalism), and a political system based on democratic principles of political legitimacy. In Latvia, the national euphoria had subsided and many Latvians had profound difficulties finding economic security and meaning in the midst of the restructuring. At an official level, the Latvian government attempted to bridge the nationalist promises of independence with the new reality of security worries and vast social and economical problems. Some of the problems affecting Latvia in 1995 were decreasing living standards and average life spans, worsening public health, alcoholism, skyrocketing suicide rates, and a process of social differentiation so inflated that it has been termed "hyper-stratification" (LHDR 1996).(8)
During my fieldwork, Latvia's largest bank Banka Baltija, collapsed, plunging the country into a period of financial crisis and instability. Furthermore, Latvia suffered from other "usual transition problems" (ibid.), such as inefficient government institutions, widespread political passivity, corruption of the judicial system and the police force, and a "shadow" economy estimated to account for 14-30 percent of the Latvian economy (ibid.). In general, the Latvia to which the Western Latvians returned and to which I arrived in 1995 was a changing society struggling with a variety of very serious problems.
The present study is based on a one-week pilot study in Riga, Latvia in December 1994 and three months of fieldwork in April-July 1995. The fieldwork consisted of different forms of data collection as well as ongoing evaluation of methods and data (see Appendix B).
Participant observation: anthropologist and "Westerner"
During my fieldwork, I lived with a local Latvian woman in her flat outside the city center, taking part in her everyday life. Although my lack of language skills limited my access to public life, I participated by shopping at the market, travelling by tram, discussing where to find affordable shoes, etc. However, I was - occasionally - able to purchase "Western" products in the new supermarkets rather than shopping for local goods at the market. Thus, my financial status was somewhere in-between informants', as I had a lot more money than the locals and quite often a lot less than the Western Latvians. These experiences of being "a lot poorer than" or "wealthier than" were often described as being important in the relation between the groups. Apart from this type of experience, I also covered the "middle ground" when it came to other advantages and difficulties of being either local or Western. In some situations I had the advantage of being a Westerner, while in others it made life more difficult. In the latter case, I often experienced being cheated by taxi-drivers or being denied access to local knowledge on various issues. I did not, however, live a segregated life as a Westerner in Latvia. I had local Latvian friends who included me in various aspects of their everyday lives (going to government offices to renew drivers licenses, shopping for grandparents' birthday gifts, meeting friends at inconspicuous cafés where coffee was bad, but affordable). Whether I had my foot in one world or the other, I gained insight into some of the issues which either local or Western Latvians emphasized as being crucial to their life in Riga.
Besides this everyday participation, I also attended various private and public events, such as birthday parties, the Annual Crafts Fair at the Ethnographic Open Air Museum, the British Council Movie Nights and the weekly "Aliens-Night" at the Rozamunde café - all of which provided the opportunity to meet informants and collect a substantial amount of valuable data.(9)
Although I attempted to participate as extensively as possible in the everyday lifeworlds of both groups of informants, and obtained valuable data in this way, I remained alert to the fact that my presence sometimes affected the interviewees or the events in which I participated. I therefore kept an eye on the various ways I was perceived and categorized and on how these perceptions affected my work. The category which seemed to preoccupy local informants more than my status as a woman, Dane or anthropologist, and which I was consistently placed in was that of a "Westerner". Often, I felt that local informants almost expected me to be arrogant, self-absorbed, condescending, critical of everything they did - and filthy rich! I therefore spent some time at the beginning of each interview chatting and attempting to present a different image. I did not dress expensively or fashionably, and tried in every way to avoid being included in the negative category of "Westerners". The fact that I was Scandinavian would occasionally make local informants suggest that I understood them better than "the Americans" did, as they regarded Latvia as being part of the "Scandinavian culture". When I interviewed Western Latvian informants, however, I would either be perceived as "one of us" or "another one of us (European as opposed to American or Australian) or as "another nosy student" (by the older generation of American Latvians who generally dislike what they perceive as "leftist European students"). In general, my reflexivity on the relations between informants and myself provided a heightened sensitivity toward and important data about various categories and their significance in the Latvian social sphere.
The core of my fieldwork material consists of forty-two interviews (twenty-three with Western Latvians and nineteen with local Latvians), as well as a number of informal conversations. Furthermore, the material is observations registered in fieldnotes or diary-entries, documents obtained from various sources in the field, especially from the World Federation of Free Latvians, and email or telephone correspondence with informants after my departure from Latvia.(10)
During the fieldwork, informants were found in a variety of ways. Some were found by chance, some I contacted because they worked in places with a mixed local/diasporic staff, and yet others were found by my interpreter within her personal networks, asking fellow students if they or their parents were interested.(11) The main criterion for including local informants into my study was whether they had experiences with Western Latvians and were willing and able to talk about it. These experiences varied from occasional meetings with relatives from the West to being colleagues with Western Latvians. Eventually, I made contact with a substantial network of informants. The informants were men and women, young and old, but with only a few exceptions almost all well educated. It is important to note, however, that although local informants were well educated, they only rarely occupied positions normally corresponding to such levels of education.This is why I have chosen not to use the term "middle class" about local informants. Most of them had severe difficulties making ends meet and did not maintain the living standards usually associated with middle class status. The differences in age, gender, etc., which existed among informants proved to have no significant or systematic implications on their narratives on place and identity.
Western Latvian informants were usually found through the Western Latvian network, and were chosen using similar criteria: they had to have some personal contact with local Latvians. Their recommendations proved to be valuable data, as I found that, despite denials of the existence of such "networks", most Western Latvians recommended that I talked to other Western Latvians, despite the fact that I would ask for either local or Western Latvian contacts. Using the same definition of this category as in the case of local informants, I would characterize most Western Latvian informants as well educated. However, in their case, there was a much larger degree of correspondence between their level of education and level of income than was the case among local informants, a fact to which I return in Chapter Five.
The majority of interviews with informants took place in cafés or at their places of work. Local informants preferred not to meet in their private homes, which, according to themselves was because I was a Westerner (by definition accustomed to glamorous homes) and they were "poor". Even my most persistent attempts to convince them that their homes were probably nicer than mine would not change their minds.(12) However, a few informants eventually invited me into their homes and private lives, and they became both key informants and personal friends. I use a broad definition of "key informant" similar to that suggested by Bernard (1994). In his words key informants are "people who you can talk to easily, who understand the information you need, and who are glad to give it to you or find it for you."(ibid.: 166). However, as Ellen (1984) suggests, key informants can sometimes bring more harm than happiness to the anthropologist's work if he or she becomes associated with informants who are marginalized or controversial (ibid.: 224). Anna, my 70 year-old local Latvian hostess was a controversial key informant.(13) She was a retired author of children's books, called herself my "Latvian grandmother" and I came to love her somewhat eccentric personality. During the Soviet occupation Anna had been a member of the Latvian communist intellectual elite. Her late husband, who died in 1989, was a famous pro-Soviet author, which led them both to be regarded as "traitors" to the Latvian national cause - a fact that filled Anna with bitterness towards the new elite.
Apart from taking part in Anna's life, I had daily conversations with her about virtually everything, sitting in her large apartment overflowing with books and paintings, many of which were present from friends and thus remnants of a life in the intellectual elite. Our conversations would give me insight into the degradation of the old elite, and into how these changes were experienced by that elite. Furthermore, she translated radio and television broadcasts and we discussed the daily news. Since Anna rented rooms to predominantly Western Latvians on holiday, she had a broad experience with this group. Yet, due to her past and her marginalized and controversial position, I considered it best that neither local nor Western Latvian informants were told with whom I lived.(14)
Another key informant was my interpreter, Aija, a 23-year-old student of philosophy with a passion for sociology - and now for anthropology. Our cooperation quickly developed into a warm friendship based on mutual respect and shared enthusiasm for my project. She worked diligently to help me gain access to both informants and information, and she translated, explained and contextualized my data. Without her, many subtle points would have been lost on me. Furthermore, she worked as a volunteer in an NGO employing both local and Western Latvians, and provided valuable data on local experiences of having a Western Latvian boss.
Finally, I wish to introduce two Western Latvian informants included in the "key" category. One is Inese, a Canadian-Latvian woman of 34, whom I met at the Rozamunde's café and who became both a friend and a helpful informant. She had been in Latvia for two years at the time of my arrival and was profoundly interested in and reflexive about the relationship between the returning diaspora and the local Latvians. She had no formal education, had spent some time studying art history in Toronto, and was working as a barmaid in an Irish Pub in Riga. Inese positioned herself critically towards the Canadian-Latvian community and was acutely observant, reflective and articulate.(15) She introduced me to one of her good friends, Andrejs, a 32-year-old gay man born and raised by Latvian parents in Los Angeles, California. Andrejs came to Latvia in 1994 on a Lutheran mission project and stayed in the country after the project was terminated. At the time of my fieldwork he did not have a job and - as far as I could tell from his rather vague answers to such questions - lived off money sent by his parents. He had quite a large number of local Latvian relatives whom he had only known for a few years and with whom he socialized only on special occasions. He described himself as "a fierce patriot - both Latvian and American". Like Inese, he had dropped out of college, and had spent a few years studying Latvian history, mythology and folklore on his own - as well as participating passionately in American-Latvian song festivals, summer camps and other cultural events. Thus, he was what Ellen calls "the well-informed informant" (1984: 225) within the specific field of diasporic cultural practices.
I consider myself very lucky to have met and worked with these four informants. They were competent, reflexive and interested, being "experts" in their own right as individuals positioned in specific ways to my field of interest. Anna with her life entwined with the Soviet past now hosting Western returnees and Aija with her experiences of the Western Latvian "work force" - both being immersed into a local life world, in which they willingly included me. Inese would elaborate on diasporic life from a critical perspective, while Andrejs would talk for hours on end from an "inside" perspective - although he occasionally also agreed with Inese's criticism.
In the previous sections, I have used the terms "local" and "Western" Latvians when describing my informants. However, to avoid essentializing these categories, some remarks must be made on how and why I use them. The point to be made is that these categories are both descriptive (or ethnographic) and analytical.
In the present context, the term "locals" is used both ethnographically (as the term used by both groups of informants) and analytically - in the sense that it also draws attention to the cultural construction of place vs. displacement. Though both groups categorize the "locals" as such, the meanings attached to the term vary significantly.
The label of "Western Latvians" was subject to political and social negotiation. Local informants often used the terms "American Latvians" or "emigrants" - terms which many Western Latvian informants found offensive. The term "emigrants" connoted to some that their departure from Latvia was voluntary and permanent, which upset most Western Latvian informants. Neither German-Latvians, British- nor Canadian-Latvians liked being included in the category of "American-Latvians".(16) I have chosen to use the term Western Latvians partly because most informants seemed to take no offense by it and partly in order to highlight the fact that the "Westernness" of the returnees was a significant issue in the relation between the two groups. In certain contexts I use the terms "diaspora" or "diasporic" to describe the Western Latvians as a group, in order to draw analytical attention to the diasporic experiences or mythologies of displacement and return and to their implications on individual narratives of place and identity.(17)
According to informants, the distinction between "Western" and "Local" Latvians was meaningful only within the context of their encounter with each other. Whenever they described themselves in other contexts, they said, both groups simply used the term "Latvian". However, although informants differed in various ways, it soon became apparent that the only difference which influenced the structure and contents of the narratives significantly was whether one was "local" or "Western". I return to narratives as an analytical field in the next chapter, where the more general theoretical framework of the analysis is introduced.
The theoretical fields which have inspired the conceptual framework of this study are the anthropological conceptualization of relations between place and identity and recent contributions to the study of nationalism. However, as the present analysis focuses on how informants attempted to create coherent narratives of their own "Latvianness" and through this narrativization made their experience of places meaningful, I will start by discussing my approach to the analysis of narratives.
Narratives are not objective or "neutral" representations of life, reality or experience, they are ordered and means of ordering and making sense of an otherwise disordered world. Thus, telling stories is a practice which provides the anthropological analysis with a possible insight into processes of sense or order "in the making" and into processes of identification. In Riessman's words: "Human agency and imagination determine what gets included and excluded in narrativization, how events are plotted, and what they are supposed to mean. Individuals construct past events and actions in personal narratives to claim identities and construct lives" (1993:2).
In his analysis of narratives, Edward Bruner creates a distinction between "life as lived (reality), life as experienced (experience), and life as told (expression)" (Bruner 1986a: 6). The concept of experience can be further subdivided into "experience" and "an experience", where the former is the temporal flow of life "received by the individual consciousness" and the latter is the "intersubjective articulation of experience" which transforms the flow of experience into tellable units (ibid.: 6). This study focuses on narratives as experience expressed in tellable units, and on how these units are selected to form a coherent story. First, however, it is necessary to focus on the "tellable" units, on that which is included in the narratives and on how they are structured.
In most anthropological writings narratives are defined as "stories" involving a syntactic structure of temporal sequence (cf. Bruner 1986a, Peacock & Holland 1993). These are structures such as past-present-future, "beginning-middle-end" or "situation-transformation-situation" (Scholes 1981: 206). Furthermore, Bruner separates narrative into three key elements: story, defined as "narrative structure" and the "abstract sequence of events, systematically related", discourse which he defines as "the particular medium in which the story is manifested", and telling, which he defines as "the act of narrating" or "the communicative process that produces the story in discourse" (1986b:145).
When I use "discourse" it is defined somewhat broader than in Bruner's conceptualization, where the term covers merely manifestations, "the statement in a particular medium such as a novel, myth, lecture, film, conversation, or whatever" (ibid.: 145). However, various authors inspired by Foucault suggest that discourse should be regarded as complex expressive practices which "systematically form the object of which they speak" (Mogensen 1995: 21). Thus, discourse is not merely a field of expressions - it is also a practice forming the world, defining it and determining what can be said and thought about it. Thus, power to define and resistance to definitions are integrated aspects of discourse (cf. Foucault 1970).(18) Narratives are thus individual expressions, manifestations in discourse, as Bruner states, but they are also manifestations of discourse. In their narratives, individuals express their experience of discursive practices, and in the telling, they transform it - however slightly. Every narrative positions itself in discourse and as discourse, by expressing experience in a continuum ranging from confirmation to challenge of discourse.
However, although it does play a subordinate part, discourse is not in itself the subject matter of this study. Here, the main focus is on narrative structure - on how informants structure their narratives of being or becoming "Latvian". My analysis of narrative structure identifies the units of the narrative structure as being thematic rather than temporal (beginning-middle-end, etc.).
Nigel Rapport defines narratives as "stories people tell about themselves and their worlds"(1996: 7). In their telling, narratives embody and maintain a perceived order "despite seeming temporal, spatial and experiential disjunctures" (ibid.: 7). As suggested above, periodic sequentiality (past-present-future) is one such form of order. However, Rapport introduces another type of narrative ordering of experience, which can be termed thematic. Rapport is inspired by Levi-Strauss' concept of 'mythemes', defined as "elements of plot, of characterization, of symbolization and symbolic opposition" from which all myths are composed (ibid.: 12). Rapport offers a "conceptualization of 'nar-themes' (narrative themes) or 'con-themes' (conversational themes) operating on the level of the individual" (ibid.: 12). By introducing the concept of nar-themes, Rapport emphasizes individual and conscious practices of ordering experience, and thus opposes Levi-Strauss' structuralist position, from which the practice of thematization through mythemes is seen as large-scale and static representations of the social world, which express themselves through passive (or "unconscious") individuals.
The focus on narrative thematization is reverberated by John Borneman, who states that individuals "[ ] do not include all experiences or events in their stories, but rather select specific nodes which are for them the most significant in constructing a coherent narrative" (Borneman 1992: 37). Some experiences are thus emphasized as more meaningful than others. Borneman defines these as "experiential tropes", which constitute narrative "devices" for structuring experience. Linking Rapport's and Borneman's conceptualizations I will base my analysis on the practice of narrative thematization. I do this to include in the analysis those aspects of informants' experience which they themselves select as significant. Informants consistently referred to specific themes of experience which broke temporal chronology. The narratives were to a large degree structured by these themes, around which informants constructed a temporal bricolage of past, present and future. However, although I did not share past experiences with informants, I shared various present experiences with them and could put their narrativization into perspective. Thus, by combining participant observation in the present with various sources on the historical past to which informants referred it became possible to identify relevant experiences which had been omitted from informants narratives.
Although the present analysis focuses on individual narratives, most of the emphasized themes were also - to a certain extent - shared. "Travelling" is thus an analytical theme which I have introduced in order to show how not just one but many informants focus on this type of practice as crucial to their experience. Thus, although "travel" is an individual experiential theme, it is included in the analysis because it is not just individual.
The shared and the powerful
I have chosen to conceptualize such shared narrative structurings of experience as "dominant narratives". In his article "Ethnography as Narrative", Bruner defines "dominant narrative" as "foregrounded in a historical era" (1986b: 150). Although the author recognizes that other narrative structures exist, he still insists that one narrative structure "dominates" at any given time. However, this definition can be challenged at various levels. In my view, the concept suffers from a problem of scale. Bruner's "dominant narrative" describes a relation of domination between global centers and peripheries, leaving no space for local, coexisting or competing narratives of individual experience.(19) The problem of scale is connected to another problem, namely Bruner's conceptualization of the word "dominant". In his use "dominant" signifies both quantity (many similarly structured narratives) and relations of power (one narrative structure "dominates" by being connected to various power-structures). There is no clear distinction between quantity and power. As such, for the present analysis, it is useful to define dominant narratives quantitatively, that is, on the basis of the fact that they are shared, that a given narrative structure is repeated in many individual narratives. This repetition is independent of scale and can signify both large scale (or "global") and small scale (or "local") tellings. Used here, the term "dominant narrative" thus implies that a significant number of informants tended to structure their narratives by similar themes. This definition leaves space for both individual experience and for coexisting and competing narratives - in this case the two dominant narrative structures termed "local Latvian" and "Western Latvian".(20)
Dominant narratives - of course - are not detached from relations of power. What I wish to emphasize is the fact that using "dominant" (when signifying both shared and powerful) obscures the dynamics of power, its negotiable and processual aspects. Therefore, I suggest that we reserve different terms for the aspects of narrativization associated with institutions of or struggles for power. A term highlighting the relation between narratives and power is suggested by Bruner and Gorfain, namely authoritative tellings, which "sound like the words of fathers, adults, leaders, and teachers; they represent 'the official line' and are sponsored by or associated with the state". (Bruner & Gorfain 1984: 59). However, the authors suggest that the power of the state rests on its ability to make its "authoritative telling" dominant, i.e., widely reproduced.
In one sense, the power of the authoritative versions derives from the power of the state, but in another, deeper sense each authoritative telling of a national story constitutes the power of the state. Accordingly, it follows that each critical, challenging telling may be perceived as an attack on the authority of the state, on the authority of the official tellers, and on the authority of "the story". The dialogue of ideolects and ideologies embodies more than a conflict of power; the dialogue also tests the way power is defined, displayed, recognized, and changed - through narration. Every performance, then, not only expresses power but also creates it [ibid.: 59].
In reality, dominant and authoritative are not detached. When a narrative structure is "dominant", i.e., told by several people, it does hold some authority in the eyes of the tellers. However, other groups of people may recognize this narrative as dominant, but as devoid of authority. Thus, my use of the term "authoritative" emphasizes the dynamics of power struggles in narrativization. Whereas the concept "dominant" connotes a very static definition of power, "authority" opens the possibility of identifying different degrees or types of power. One type of authority exists within the group reproducing a dominant narrative, as a number of people recognize the telling as authoritative.(21) However, this authority may not be solidified in discourse, i.e., recognized by other people telling other narratives, or sponsored by institutionalized bodies of power, such as the state. Furthermore, although institutionalized, narratives of the state are not necessarily dominant - as was the case with the Soviet state narrative of national identity (cf. Jespersen 1999). Analyzing the specific relation between types of authority - be it that associated with the state, with subject positions, or with the fact that some narratives are dominant within certain groups - is a task which lies beyond the scope of the present study. Here, I analyze struggles to solidify the authority attached to different dominant narratives within discourse. By conceptually separating the dominant (shared) from the powerful (authoritative), it becomes possible to analyze struggles for power or authority between coexisting dominant narratives within any given discourse and historical context, and to conceptualize dominant narratives which are shared, but not necessarily or by definition powerful.
Narrative, context and culture
By analyzing narratives we gain insight into how people's experiences of life are being ordered, structured and invested with meaning. Narratives are not "static" expressions of experience. They are constant and dynamic reshaping, restructuring, re-tellings of the flow of experience, and analyzing narratives thus includes the processual nature of human existence. Stories are constantly retold, and in the act of telling, former versions are related to new realities in a reflexive process which transforms the story. Narratives thus imply both synchronic reflexivity (the here-and-now-ness and context of the telling, relationship between narrator and listener) and diachronic reflexivity (structuring the relation between past, present and an anticipated future; relating to previous tellings, etc.).
The narratives analyzed below were also retellings in a particular context. My fieldwork was conducted at a time and place in which the problems of the encounter between local and Western Latvians were just emerging in discourse. In some respect, this "emergence" was in a very small way enhanced by my probing into the problem. The interview situation created a frame of reference for informants' tellings in the sense that they all knew of my interest in the encounter. Therefore, it is crucial that the narratives analyzed below are understood as complex, relational, situational and dynamic representations of experience and identity, framed by the interview situation which prompted informants' reflections on the 1995 context of the encounter between the two groups.
However the narratives were not completely new, nor were they simple responses to my questions. They were manifestations of an ongoing reflexive process initiated by the return of the Western Latvians. The actual encounter was a new reality, which informants reflected upon and to which former narratives of place and identity were related. The first were instances of synchronic reflexivity, the latter of "diachronic reflexivity". Furthermore, by relating the narratives of informants to my own experiences and fieldwork observations, I am able to contextualize these narratives in ways which, as suggested earlier, prove how narrative is also a dynamic process of actively omitting specific experience from the telling. Thus, by practicing reflexivity in the present text, I can suggest possible reasons why some themes were conspicuously absent from the dominant narratives.
The importance of contextualizing narratives brings us to the question of how narratives are related to the concept of culture. In Bruner's and Gorfain's words, "every telling responds to and helps to condition its cultural and historical context" (1984:60). However, narratives and culture exist at quite different levels. Narratives are empirical practices observable to the anthropologist, while culture is an "analytical implication" (Hastrup 1989: 14) - an "invisible" space of meaning which is implied by narrative and other practices (Rosengaard 1998: 9). However, this space is also created by narratives and other practices, as each telling attempts to define how human experience can or should be interpreted and made meaningful. An individual who narrates his or her life (and experiences) "reflects upon the prevailing theories of 'possible' lives that are part of one's culture" (J. Bruner 1981: 15). Hence, "[ ] the culturally shaped cognitive and linguistic processes that guide the self-telling of life narratives achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and to purpose-build the very 'events' of a life" (ibid.: 15). Narratives are both affected by and affect the world; they are practices implicating culture and part of its constitutive processes through the re-creation, re-shaping and re-interpretation of meanings and relations. My narrative analysis thus rests on a conceptualization of culture as an implicational space of meanings and relations realized in dynamic and processual practices (such as narratives) - rather than as an empirical entity (such as "society") defined by the elements forming it and determining all its manifestations. Or, as Bruner states: "retellings are what culture is all about" (1986a:17).
As suggested, what was retold in the narratives analyzed in the present context was the relation between place and identity. However, as these are central concepts within anthropological theory, it is necessary to situate the present study and its field within anthropological discourse.
Recently, the anthropological analytical object of "culture" has been criticized as being constructed as identical with "a society precisely located in space and time" which was perceived as internally homogeneous (Augé 1995: 49). This compartmentalization of the world was part and parcel of Western nationalist thinking, through which the junction of territory, people and culture became almost commonsensical. However, this is also "an ideal type of twentieth century disciplinary anthropology" (Clifford 1992: 97). The former anthropological concept of placebound and static culture may not be as solid as the deconstructivist authors represent it. Anthropologist Hans-Rudolf Wicker suggests that it may be partially constructed - in order for it to be deconstructed. He believes, that Boas' conceptualization of culture was based on perceptions of complexity and change, culture as "a kaleidoscopic picture of miscellaneous traits" (Wicker 1996: 12). It is certainly true that the isomorphism of culture and place has been questioned for some time. However, the almost paradigmatic anthropological emphasis on hybridity, transnationality and human agency in peoples relations to places is relatively recent, and stems - in part - from critiques directed at the nationalist idea of placebound identity and culture.(22)
One such critique springs from a focus on the de - and reterritorialization of culture in processes of globalization; i.e., the - presumably increasing - global interconnectedness through communication, media and travel. Within most globalization theories, culture is understood through metaphors such as "flows", "streams" or "scapes" of cultural artifacts, traditions, services, commodities, ideas and images, usually with an emphasis of the relation between the local and the global in these processes (cf. Hannerz 1992, Barth 1989, Appadurai 1991). Culture is conceptualized in terms of process, human agency and cultural construction rather than in terms of fixity, passive cultural subjects or place-bound "scripts" determining meaning and practice.
Another critique of the notion of placebound culture comes from a renewed focus on the de- and reterritorialization of people and the research into the processes and experience of displacement among mainly diasporas, migrants and refugees (cf. Gupta & Ferguson 1992; Lavie & Swedenburg 1996; Malkki 1992, 1994; Hastrup & Olwig 1997). These studies have highlighted a number of analytical limitations inherent in the paradigm described above. The authors suggest that we leave the idea that the relation between people and a given place can be regarded as "natural". People's attachments to places demand constant construction and reproductions of the meanings attached to the place itself as well as to the meaning of their relation to the place. "Locatedness" always implies a practice of providing a place with the status of being "some-where", a locality to which one can be related. The static conceptualization of place and culture does not provide theoretical tools useful for the study of people inhabiting borderlands or - zones. It often fails to account for differences within a locality and it provides no tools for "dealing with relations that extend beyond the defined area" (Hastrup & Olwig 1997: 2). Moreover, places are not constructed within a politically neutral global (or local) space. Gupta and Ferguson (1992:8) suggest that we increase our sensitivity to the global "system of hierarchically organized spaces" in which places are constructed. They note that nationalist spatial organization has "enabled the power of topography to conceal successfully the topography of power".
The present study positions itself in various ways in relation to these writings. One problem is that - with very few exceptions (cf. Safran 1991, Bruner 1996) - they rarely address conflicts between homeland populations and diasporas/migrants/refugees, as if these relations were unproblematic. In the present study, however, it is imperative to remain sensitive to the fact that "important tensions may arise when places that have been imagined at a distance must become lived spaces" (Gupta & Ferguson 1992: 11). Homeland populations sometimes enhance these tensions by rejecting the returnees. Another difference between the present study and other writings on migrants/diasporas is that they almost all describe what anthropologist Jonathan Schwartz terms the "sending village" and the "receiving metropole" as the two "ends in the migration chain" (Schwartz 1997: 255). In short, these writings often reproduce a master narrative of displacement which I would call "Heading Hopefully North" (Chambers 1994: 6).(23) The focus is often almost exclusively on migration from the Third World to the First World and on the experience of migrants within their new (often Western) host societies. In the present case, Western Latvians travel from the First to the Second World, which implies power relations different from those experienced by, for example, Mexican or Sikh migrants to the USA (cf. Mankekar 1994). There is quite a difference between the poor seeking relief or opportunity in the world's economic centers, and well-off Western Latvians visiting their economically weak homeland in search of their roots. What is different is the context of this movement, namely, the topography of power between East and West constituted by the post-Soviet global space.
As with "culture", Hans-Rudolf Wicker states that "identity is no longer defined as a state of being but of becoming. Identity is to be fitted with the attributes of the multifarious, the incomplete and the hybrid" (1996: 17-19). Identity is always in the making and it is important to make a distinction between the static categories of identity used by informants and our analytical approach to such categories. Thus, when I use the concept of "national identity" in this study, it is ethnographically, i.e., as something informants talk about, while the analytical position is, that while talking of "identity" they are engaged in processes of identification.
However, whenever the concepts of "ethnic" or "national" identity are used, there is always the danger of essentializing collectivities (cf. Wicker 1996).(24) This "danger" may be due to a paradox inherent in the anthropological Zeitgeist: we have moved away from essentialist description, without substituting this with a convincing alternative terminology describing process and flexibility (ibid.: 10). Our critique of the concepts of culture and identity results in a blindness to the systematic restrictions of the social field which are experienced by most individuals. Fundamental to this problem is that although identity and culture are to be understood as processes of cultural construction, we still need terms which account for the obvious existence of order. We must recognize that cultural constructions are not arbitrary illusions. Constructions or not, national identities and national communities are experienced as natural facts which do not change merely because scientists prove that they are not primordial or biological. The difference between perceived order and processes of ordering is reflected in the narrative approach, with its emphasis on the ordering practice involved in the telling of stories.
My choice of "national identity" as a description of the narrative battleground of local and Western Latvians is not arbitrary. National discourse implicitly emphasizes place, which was also a recurring theme in informants' narratives. As Michael Billig states: "nationalism is never 'beyond geography'" (1995: 74). Nationalism generates the idea of "homeland", the unity and singularity of which - like national communities - must be imagined, as it stretches beyond the immediate experience of individuals. (ibid.: 74) Places are always distinct and singular, and by linking a people to a place, the people itself acquire a sense of distinctiveness (cf. Penrose 1995, Smith 1991).
In the present context, however, the concept of "place" does not merely connote the national territory. Of course, the national place is central in terms of identity, to the diaspora and to the local Latvians - but the two groups construct the national place as meaningful in very different ways, and, importantly, other places are being constructed as essential to the diaspora's identity. The definition of place inspiring the present study rests on the assumption that places are more than geography, they are also discursive projects of sensemaking. First, places are defined as geographical localities of various sizes (e.g., Latvia, Riga). Second, inextricably linked to the physical reality of places are the meanings people attach to them, i.e., places as cultural constructions and objects of human imagination and representation. Thus, I analyze narrative representations of places in terms of their ability to sustain meaning in terms of national identity.
No discussion of nations, national territories and national identity, is complete without a discussion of the phenomenon of "nationalism". Nationalism has been analyzed mainly as a large-scale phenomenon - as historical, political and cultural movements; as the ideological outcome of the essentializing naturalism of the Enlightenment; as the nation-building processes initiated by local intellectual elites in the 19th century; as related in various ways to the coming of modernity, of print-capitalism, of centralized power-structures, etc. Generally, most studies focus on processes of cause and effect, establishing historical and geographical typologies of nationalisms by focusing on various ways by which culture is essentialized and politicized (cf. Anderson 1983, Gellner 1983, Arnason 1990, Penrose 1995, Knudsen 1991, Eriksen 1993). In the case of Latvia, many scholars - including local intellectuals - have focused on national symbols or on the history of Latvian nationalism (cf. Norborg 1995, Kulis 1994, Priedite 1995). In the present study, however, nationalism is not the object of analysis. As ideology, nationalism was part of the Latvian context of the encounter and is only touched upon as such: as a contextual "backdrop" and a discourse from which the narratives draw authority and within which informants position themselves. Nationalism should thus be understood as the implicational space of the narratives analyzed below.
My general perspective on nationalism is inspired by recent studies by Michael Billig (1995) and Anthony P. Cohen (1996a). The main goal of Michael Billig's book Banal Nationalism is to liberate nationalism from its connotations of extremist, right-wing political ideology. One of the problems of this use is, he states, that it always seems to construct nationalism as "hot" or irrational, and, furthermore, usually "as the property of Others" (Billig 1995: 6). Billig introduces the broader concept of "banal nationalism" in order to emphasize that all types of nations must be reproduced as nations at a mundane or banal level. By introducing the idea of the "banal", he focuses on a mode of imagining communities which is less conspicuous than those characterized by historical movements, elitist rhetoric or explicit national symbolization. Billig believes, that "[ ] the reproduction of a nation does not occur magically. Just as language will die for want of regular users, so a nation must be put to daily use"(ibid.: 6). "Banal practices" are the discursive, spatial and semantic practices which - at the level of the commonsensical - reproduce the nation.
By introducing the concept of personal nationalism, Cohen - like Billig - attempts to draw attention away from large scale political or historical models of nationalism, and toward "the association that individuals make between themselves and the nation" (1996a: 802). Whereas Billig attempts to position analysis at a level of everyday practice, Cohen positions his analysis at the level of the individual. Large scale approaches, Cohen claims, usually ignore the individual, and thus "[ ] by understating the agency of the self in the construction of the nation, they risk misunderstanding nationalism itself"(ibid.: 804). The nation, he says, simply cannot exist without being reproduced through individual identifications with it. According to Cohen, we must focus on individual "sense-making agency"(ibid.: 804); on individual ideas of national membership, and national identity as intimately connected to agency and self-consciousness. To Cohen, nationalism is "a statement of identity, the potency of which is separate from - and independent of - its more partisan political programme" (ibid.: 803). When focusing on personal nationalism, the narrative analysis has a number of obvious advantages. Bruner and Gorfain state that "there is a dialogue between autobiography and history as each person is aligned with the prevailing cultural tradition; or, to put it in other terms, the national self is constituted through national stories." (1984: 60) Thus, taking a narrative approach to nationalism, the meanings and interpretations actively attached to national identity become visible where they must be reproduced: in the mouths of those who identify with the national community.
People, things and thoughts do not stay in place. They move or are moved in space, they change places. This mobility is not a new phenomenon - in the world or in anthropology. However, it is not until recently that anthropological inquiry has been directed at these movements and their wider implications as something other than marginal or anomalous phenomena - or as the normative practices of nomads. Among those preoccupied with such phenomena is James Clifford, who suggests that anthropologists should focus on two generalized forms of spatial practice; "travelling" and "dwelling" - as well as on their meanings and interrelations (Clifford 1992: 102). Clifford briefly mentions that the meanings attached to these practices may vary, as he suggests the existence of "negative and positive visions of travel: travel, negatively viewed as transience, superficiality, tourism, exile, and rootlessness [ ]; travel positively conceived as exploration, research, escape, transforming encounter" (ibid.: 105). Western and local Latvians attach quite different meanings to the practices and experiences of travelling and dwelling, meanings expressed through narratives of the relation between place and identity.
I met 84-year-old Inara, at a cocktail party at the offices of the World Federation of Free Latvians. Inara had lived in Sweden since 1944, and had been active in the Swedish Latvian Association for many years. In 1994, she returned to Latvia. This evening most of the attending crowd was Western Latvians of Inara's age. She told me that immediately after her family's escape from Latvia, they had lived in a displaced person's camp in Germany for 4 years.(25) Initially she had refused to unpack her suitcases, refusing to believe that the Soviet occupation of Latvia was more than "just a part of the general political mess after the war".
It took me more than two years before I realized that they [the Soviet forces] were actually going to stay in Latvia. I just didn't want to realize that the camp was all we had, and that Latvia was gone. I know that a lot of us felt that way. We felt that now we were the surviving remnant of Latvians in the world, and that we had to organize ourselves in order to preserve that heritage.
Many Western Latvian narratives described this shift from being Displaced Persons hoping for repatriation to highly organized diasporic communities engaged in "preserving the Latvian heritage" in the West.(26)
In 1995, the size of these communities varied, the largest being in Toronto, Canada and in major cities in California, New York and Illinois, U.S.A. However, even if the Latvian diaspora was concentrated in cities, no permanent "ethnic neighborhoods" - such as Little Italy or Chinatown in New York - were formed as urban home spaces of the diaspora (cf. Karklis, Streips & Streips 1978, Vagners 1984). Instead of particular neighborhoods or urban "ethnic villages", the nodal points of diasporic Latvian gatherings were solitary buildings: community centers, organizational headquarters and Lutheran churches. In most Latvian diasporic publications, these buildings are often foregrounded through photos, detailed descriptions, or even time of purchase, such as: "1951 - The legation of Latvia acquired its permanent quarters at 17th and Webster Streets, Washington, D.C."; "1952 - The American National Latvian League in Boston purchased its present home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts"; or "1955 - The Kalamazoo Latvian society purchased its own building" (Karklis, Streips & Streips 1974: 40-47, emphases added). As the quotes above indicate, the purchase of buildings constituted part of a practice of constructing permanent quarters, own buildings, communal homes to the diasporic communities, places which would constitute permanent sites for the maintenance of "Latvianness" within a context of "Americanness" or "Canadianness". These purchases were thus important examples of the reterritorialization of the displaced Latvians.(27)
Informants described the local community centers as the sites of their first experiences of collective Latvianness. In these centers, or in the Lutheran churches, they participated in various cultural activities: Sunday or Saturday "Latvian heritage schools" or evening high schools which offered classes in Latvian history, culture or "heritage language programs". Furthermore, the community centers organized Latvian choirs, musical or folk dance groups and forums for literary and artistic activities. (cf. Liepins 1984)
As suggested by Inara, the organization of these communities and the activities taking place here, was based on a diasporic perception of Latvia as a homeland that was "gone". This perception must be described in some detail, as it is closely linked to the problems experienced when the imagination of the homeland clashed with Latvian reality in the event of the diaspora's return.
Latvia: an un-Latvian place
As the displaced Latvians began to realize that "The Soviets" were not leaving Latvia, their view of the homeland changed. As a place where Latvian identity could be maintained, Latvia was nonexistent. This perception was also a recurring theme in the narratives of informants born in the West.
Mac was a 39-year-old American-Latvian who returned to Latvia in 1992. He was the director of a successful advertising agency in Riga which had three local Latvian employees. Mac was married to Mirdza, a Canadian-Latvian whom he had met at a Latvian song festival in Chicago. They had built a large house on the outskirts of Riga and with their baby son they lived comfortably off the company's profits. This comfortable lifestyle, he said, was the main reason why they "didn't escape from Latvia once more". During the interview Mac was tearful with frustrations about the local Latvians and what he called their "lack of moral", "Soviet ways of cheating and lying" and "complete idiocy". He also used the metaphor of "dying" to describe Latvia as it was represented to him within the diaspora.
We all sort of felt sorry for Latvia - the communist regime, and being a dying language, a dying culture, a dying country. We were told that we had to do our part to keep it up. That we were the surviving remnant and that if we didn't preserve Latvian identity, nobody would.
As in Inara's narrative, Mac saw the DP's and their descendants as the "surviving remnant" who would think of the population of Soviet Latvia with pity. However, this form of narrative construction of the homeland represented only one side of the story. Laura, a 33-year-old American-Latvian, was introduced to me by Love, an Australian-Latvian informant. Both worked at an office connected to the American government. Laura had been politically active in the Latvian-American Association and had gone to Riga as early as 1988 to participate in the ongoing struggle for Latvian independence. She said that she had always felt a bit confused about the way Latvia was represented within the diaspora, as the "demonization" of communist Latvia coexisted with the homeland represented as an idealized and romanticized place:
Soviet Latvia was almost taboo, really. It was Soviet! It was...dead, and you don't touch that! The conservative, well, pretty much the majority of the Latvians in the West said "No, this is not what we want to talk about". Latvia was simply a bad place. Almost simultaneously, they would talk about what they called the real Latvia - about how beautiful everything was, the landscapes, life there, the culture, the people. And of how this Latvia would be revived - by us, of course.
In informants' narratives, such positive representations of "our homeland","our virtuous people", "our ancient and unique culture", "our beautiful landscapes" - were frequently used to describe the images of "Latvia" which were transmitted to them in the diaspora.(28) It seems that this side of the representation was necessary, as deeming the homeland irreversibly "dead" would cause the myth of return to collapse, as there would be nothing left to return to. Therefore, representations of that which was destroyed but should be reinstated had to be included in the narrative construction of the homeland. To some younger informants, the constant emphasis on the myth of return and its significance to their sense of identity resulted in a feeling of homelessness. One such informant was Andrejs, who had been very emotional about the prospect of returning to Latvia, partially due to the diasporic myth of return:
As a child I heard all these wonderful stories about Latvia and always, though it was never directly spoken to me, there was always this feeling that one day we are going to go back, and then Latvia would once again be like it was in my grandfather's stories. To me, America was always a temporary home, just a stop-over. We were going to go back! If not, what was the point of keeping up this Latvian Thing?
Although Latvia was narrated as a dying or lost Eden, the diaspora still represented Latvia as its "real home" which would, eventually, be restored in the future event of independence and - importantly - the return of the diaspora. This duality provided the diasporic narratives of the homeland with a meaning, an order of time and place. When represented as a "demonic" place which destroyed identity, this narrative construction legitimized the escape as well as the postponement of return and, furthermore, necessitated the cultural practices of the diaspora in the West. Latvia of the past was lost and - due to the demonization of the homeland - Latvianness had to be reterritorialized. The narrative thus constructed the Latvianness of the present to be out of the hands of the homeland population, which provided the diasporic cultural practices with a sense of urgency or purpose and almost religious meaning. Furthermore, Andrejs' narrative was only one example of how the narrative construction of the homeland was transmitted to the generations born outside Latvia. It created a feeling of urgency, and a very personal sense of exile and homelessness. It is within this perceptual framework we should situate the various spatial and cultural practices emphasized in informants narratives. Generally, two forms of practices were narrated as crucial to the survival of Latvian identity: "dwelling" practices within urban diasporic communities and practices involving "travel" outside these communities. These travels are both national (travels within mostly the United States or Canada) and transnational (travels abroad).
Routes to identity
Informants narrated their travel routes in the West as essential to their sense of belonging to a "national" community rather than merely to the "local" community of Latvians in their hometown. The practice of travel was often depicted as either travels within an organized network of cultural sites (which I term "culture routes") or visits to members of the diaspora, described by informants as an "extended family" (which I therefore term "family routes"). Both types of routes were narrated as providing a "passage to identity" - be it organized and collective or individual and spontaneous passages.
The culture routes consisted of group travels to "cultural sites", often arranged by the diasporic organizations. My use of the term "cultural sites" is inspired by Karen Fog Olwig, who defines these as "cultural institutions developed in the relationship between global and local ties" (1997: 17). Cultural sites are places in which people rarely live, but to which they attach significant cultural meaning. They are "focal points of identification", constituted by the fact that although people leave them behind and live elsewhere in the global space - they still define and visit them as important sites of cultural identification (Hastrup & Olwig 1997: 11; Olwig 1997: 34).(29) In informants' narratives, the most frequently mentioned cultural sites were: the yearly Latvian song festivals; the Latvian summer camps; the summer high schools and; (for the younger generations) the Latvian gymnasium in Münster, Germany and (for college-aged youth) the Latvian University in Michigan or the Latvian Cultural Seminars. The latter were yearly events taking place in North America, and consisted of an "intense ten-day immersion program into Latvian language and culture". Miezitis states that "many a youth has rediscovered his ethnic roots during one of these Latvian immersion experiences" (Miezitis 1984: 115). Informants also narrated the summer camps and the gymnasium in Münster as being such sites of "cultural immersion" into what they called "The Latvian Thing". Here they experienced a virtual heritage bombardment in the form of language-classes, teachings on Latvian culture: folk dances, the Dainas, folk music, folk art, etc.(30)
Aleksanders was only 31 years old at the time of my fieldwork, and though without formal journalistic education, he was a very influential news editor. He had been in Riga since 1992 and was married a local Latvian woman with whom he had a child. Aleksanders had quite wealthy parents, and had been educated at Harvard. Like Guntis, he was the manager of a mixed staff. He told me of his experiences with the diasporic culture routes:
In a sense, all these activities, the summer high schools, summer camps in a lot of ways these places kept the language alive, but its main effect was that it created sort of a group consciousness for a lot of the people involved and solidified their identity as being Latvian. That was strong even for those who didn't speak Latvian. They all felt that they were part of this group. You know, you and me, every year, in all these different parts of the world.
Andrejs attached the same meanings to his experience of this type of travelling:
I went to my first Latvian song-festival and saw more Latvians than I ever knew existed. That was my national re-awakening! I met all these Latvians and sang all the songs and just got in touch with all this culture that I never really knew existed. Within my own family, we did all the same things, but it was only 20 people and this was Latvians all over!
The collective travels to cultural sites were in general interpreted and narrated as strengthening informants' social ties to the diaspora as a collectivity, due to the fact that the sites were defined by the collective presence and activities of the Latvians. Informants emphasized the significance of socializing exclusively with other Latvians for an extended period of time as an important experience of Latvianness as something shared. This social aspect of the cultural sites was often narrated as the most important addition to the cultural activities taking place there. As Vizma put it: "In a very real and wonderful sense I felt at home..."
Even though I didn't speak very much Latvian, I could see all the things going on around me, all the emotion and all the cultural aspects. And just among the people I found groups of people that I got along with very well, and I just felt really, really at home! Even among total strangers! The usual culture and history stuff became something which wasn't just happening in evening classes in Toronto, where the same people would talk about the same things. In the camps I realized that there were actually people I didn't know at all, who knew the same songs!
As mentioned, the travels along culture routes were organized by the Latvian diasporic organizations. The various media of the Latvian diaspora - newspapers, magazines, web-sites, etc. - charted the where and when a cultural site - a nodal point in time and space of Latvian collectivity - would emerge. If you went there at that time, you could maintain or discover your Latvianness and feel "at home" among other Latvians. Thus, the relation between place and identity emphasized in the theme of travel was that the diasporic organizations defined and created "chronotopical maps of Latvianness" in a global space (see Appendix C).(31) However, travels within this highly organized grid of "cultural chronotopes" was not the only form of spatial practice which informants narrated as important to their sense of belonging.
The sense of togetherness and shared identity experienced in the cultural chronotopes occasionally resulted in travels along family routes, which were narrated as being made alone or with a friend. As described below, the destinations of these routes were other Latvians in the West, sometimes "friends of friends of relatives"; people who by the sheer fact that they were Latvians became "part of the family" and their homes natural destinations for Western Latvian travellers.
Guntis was a 32-year-old American-Latvian political scientist, who had created a career for himself in Riga. By 1995 he had been living in Latvia for three years and was the head of an internationally sponsored NGO office with a mixed local/Western Latvian staff. He was married to a Canadian Latvian artist, and together they regarded life in Riga as "a challenge". Guntis was very self-assured, politically alert and constantly seeking influence through his position or participation in Latvian public debate. When talking about what he called his "evolution as a Latvian", he told me that his 1989 trip along family routes in Europe was what converted him:
After graduating from college I discovered my being Latvian for myself. I travelled around Europe for 5 months, staying mostly with Latvians in various places...with other Latvians in Munich, in France, in Sweden and in Bonn. I didn't really know them, they were friends of friends of relatives. But they were Latvian, and so was I.
Although critical towards various practices within the diaspora, Inese was also very positive about her feelings of belonging to an extended Latvian "family":
The thing is that within the Latvian community in the West it is "if you're Latvian, then you are part of the family. You can literally call these people up, who are not close family, and because such and such knows such and such, you're instantly invited in.
Informants recounted their travels to other Latvians as very intense experiences and often emphasized these travels as being individual routes, which were not on any "chronotopical map" created by the diaspora and thus providing a more "authentic" and "personal" feeling of belonging to a community.(32)
In summary, both travels along culture routes and travels along family routes were thematized as processes of discovery, of experiencing "Latvianness" as meaningful. However, although informants narrated their travels as a combination of the two types of routes, a distinction was made between the types of experience these routes provided. The family routes were narrated as giving an intimate and personal experience of belonging, while the culture routes - via the emphasis on cultural immersion and intense social interaction with a large number of people - provided a sense of belonging to a collective identity.
Identification in cultural chronotopes
As suggested in Chapter Two, the present study defines the concept of "place" relationally by focusing on how people relate to and make places meaningful. Such a definition is close to that made by Marc Augé, who introduces the concept of "anthropological places", which are " places of identity, of relations and of history" (Augé 1995: 52). These are places characterized - through human practice - by residence, by relations between inhabitants, by a certain permanence in time (history), and by the fact that they are made meaningful by inhabitants as "having" a certain identity - and simultaneously "giving" inhabitants identity. Anthropological places are defined by the ways people relate and apply meaning to them, and furthermore in relation to the concept of "non-places". Augé describes the distinction as follows: "If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place." (ibid.: 79). Non-places are various forms of "transitory sites", which we all, according to Augé, encounter with increasing frequency in our postmodern lives: hotels, airports, train stations, waiting rooms, refugee camps, etc. Augé warns, that these concepts should not be understood too rigorously, as "place and non-place are rather like opposed polarities: the first is never completely erased and the second never totally completed; they are like palimpsest on which the scrambled game of identity and relations is ceaselessly rewritten." (ibid.: 79). I believe that if we construct a continuum of relations to place stretching from these two - never erased or completed - extremes, one of the parameters of such a continuum would be time. The "cultural chronotopes of Latvianness" created by the diaspora could thus be described as a type of relation to place constructed in between "anthropological" places and "non"-places. The Latvian summer camps or the hotels where the Latvian song festivals are held are transitory, but - as they are sites of identification, of reproducing identity and history - they are not as transitory as motels or airports. Concepts such as temporary cultural sites or, as suggested above, "cultural chronotopes" can be used instead of anthropological places. At these sites, the history and "culture" related to another place (Latvia) is retold and staged in order to create temporary - or precarious - sites of social relations and identification. The camps and the hotels are sites in which the mentioned properties of anthropological places are temporarily reconstructed in order to create a sense of community. If you travel there two weeks after the event, it is once again a non-place, existing only in diasporic memory as a cultural site connected to the reproduction or transmission of Latvian "heritage".
Related to these spatial practices was the fact that many Western Latvian informants used the concept of "The Latvian Thing" to describe everything from internal feelings of belonging to cultural practices and politics in the diaspora. A few informants said that this was just a matter of speaking. However, most suggested this as one of their main motivations for going to Latvia: to escape Latvianness as a conscious and compartmentalized practice - a "thing" - taking place in cultural chronotopes. Instead, they said, they wished to feel Latvianness as an integrated and all-encompassing identity and to experience a different and more permanent relation to place - to Latvia.
Latvia - the place to go
Before the 1991 independence, Latvia was not a central site in the circuits of diaspora's routes. When Latvia "emerged" from the Soviet space, it immediately became the place to visit. Five was 42 years old at the time of my fieldwork and was born and raised in Canada by Latvian parents. She had come to Latvia in 1992, and had stayed only because she met and married a local Latvian man. She did administrative work in a college-level educational institution, which was funded by the European Union. We met at her office, and she appeared rather confused and slightly frustrated about her situation, as life in Latvia made her both euphoric and depressed. Therefore, she frequently returned to Canada "when things got too depressing". However, contrary to the mixed feelings she was experiencing in 1995, she said that her motives for going to Latvia in 1992 were emotionally univocal:
I used to be very preoccupied with Latvianness, with the community and our identity and I travelled everywhere to keep this thing up. But the biggest moment was one day, when the Latvian independence movement was growing, and you would see Latvia with its boundaries on TV, it was very touching and it moved something within me, the whole Latvian thing became more real. And I felt that I really had to go here.
Five's motivation for going to Latvia resemble Bruner's findings on the African-American diaspora's visits to the slave dungeons in Ghana: such a visit to the homeland is regarded as a "necessary act of self-realization" (Bruner 1996:291). As is the case in Bruner's study, the Western Latvians often expressed their expectations of a visit to (or stay in) Latvia in highly emotional terms. Especially when informants had no previous experience with Latvia, the imagination played large role in the narratives of what one was to achieve at this ultimate - and permanent - immersion site. In the narratives, the meanings and expectations attached to the trip had the pathos one would expect to find in connection with religious pilgrimages. However, in the case of the Latvian diaspora, rather than religious enlightenment the goal of the pilgrimage was the quest for the experience of a pure "Latvian identity".
Although rarely mentioned in narratives of this and other types of "pilgrimage", money is involved in almost all types of travel. As mentioned in Chapter One, the majority of Western Latvian informants were middle class or upper middle class and in some ways the spatial practices described above may have had some influence on this fact. However, informants disagreed as to whether or not this is the case. Some informants claimed that the Latvian diaspora was upper middle class and that this was the reason for their over-representation in Latvia. According to Inese: "Latvians are very versatile, they are like cats, they land on their feet, they will get somewhere and as I said now they are presidents of important organizations and doctors and architects. Very hard-working". This tale was told by other informants and seemed to be a widespread self-representation within the diaspora. However, other informants claimed that lower class stories were excluded from this representation, and that the reason for this and for the "capsized" class representation among the returnees was simple: travelling to the various cultural chronotopes to participate in key events was a costly affair and constituted a substantial burden on a family's economy. Alexanders explained:
In the Western Latvian communities I was told that all Latvians were upper middle class. But there was a natural selection, because The Latvian Thing wasn't cheap. If you were going to different songfestivals each year, most of them would not be in your city or even in your country - you had to fly and stay in a hotel. It was only the upper-middle class who could really afford to maintain all these social ties, which was actually quite an expensive proposition. So over the years, quite a lot of families have stopped participating, and they have simply disappeared from these extended Latvian social circles.
Diasporas live in a complex space constituted by practices of both dwelling and travelling and neither of these practices alone can be said to characterize the experience of the Latvian diaspora. Informants narrated their practices of identification as being connected to relations to various places; the homeland, the local community centers and the cultural "sites" or "chronotopes" in the West. As a result of this central role of travel in the diasporic processes of identification, the economy of the individual family became one of the factors which would ultimately determine whether or not you could "stay Latvian" in the United States or in Canada.
The narratives of Western Latvian identity were thematically dominated by extra-ordinary practices: travels to various sites, cultural events or activities taking place at weekends or during holidays rather than during the working week. Dwelling in "Western" everyday life was generally omitted from or backgrounded in the narratives. However, as will be shown below, local informants generally rejected any of these types of travel as practices capable of reproducing identity, and emphasized that which was played down or omitted in diasporic narratives: the fact that they had lived an everyday life outside Latvia.
Before going further, my use of the term "dwelling" must be clarified. It is used broadly - signifying both the practice of inhabiting a place as well as the various meanings attached to this practice. By using this definition, I wish to make the narrative construction of place as meaningful central in my analysis by looking at how informants emphasized specific relations between themselves and their "habitat". Dwelling thus functions as an analytical frame for the various meanings local Latvians attach to the fact that they - unlike the diaspora - have lived and live in Latvia. Furthermore, I analyze how this is made meaningful in terms of national identity.(33)
Kolja, a 25-year-old local Latvian, was attending a course in engineering at the time of my fieldwork. He was a gentleman in a quite "old fashioned" manner, and insisted on bringing coffee for "the ladies" (Aija and I). When he finally sat down, he said, loudly, to make himself heard above the disco music from the café's speakers: "You don't become a Latvian by travelling in America!" According to him, the "natural fact" that leaving your homeland inevitably leads to a loss of identity had been proven by his experiences with his American-Latvian aunt and uncle, who had just been staying at his parents house for two weeks:
It is clear that one can only keep one's identity for some time outside Latvia. Those who escaped to the West might say that they are still Latvians, but really, I think that is a little sad, because when they come to Latvia, everybody can see that they have lost that identity. They have lived abroad for too long, they are Americans now, Westerners. You can see it in the way they act and talk, in the way that they just don't understand things here.
In general, local informants positioned themselves in opposition to the idea that identity could be maintained outside Latvia and their comments were often explicitly directed at the fact that the diaspora lived (and travelled) in "foreign" places. Furthermore, they usually dismissed the idea that travels to Latvia would change what they saw as an assimilated identity.
Kara, a 54-year-old local Latvian ecologist (by education) and nationalist politician dismissed the Western Latvians' claim that they had preserved and cultivated their Latvian identity in their Western communities. She transformed the metaphor of roots into a biological reality:
I have a very clear idea of what Latvianness is. I think in categories of people, species of people who are made, influenced by their environment. The place is mirrored in the people. That is what is meant by being rooted somewhere. When you have lived in a given territory for many generations, you are formed by this territory. You keep your "Latvian form" for one or two generations - even if you are living in other places, if you have lost your roots. It's like a flower - it can only live for some time outside its soil. After a long time away from Latvia, you must return before it is too late. For most of the Latvians coming from the West, it is too late. I can feel that - and see it too. I can feel when somebody is Latvian, but I can't tell you how I do it. I have this knowledge from living on this territory, from my roots. You have to live in a place if you are to have the identity of that place. You can only destroy that identity by forcing people away from the territory, by cutting off their roots.
In the event of displacement one becomes uprooted. This is why, in Kara's view, the diaspora could only be separated from Latvia for a given period of time. After that, the Latvian identity erodes and becomes substituted by the "identity" of the other place. In Kara's narrative, the symbiotic relationship between place and identity is determined by a person's actual presence in the "identity-place".
Latvia: a Latvian place
A recurring theme in local Latvian narratives was the notion that staying "at home", in what was narrated as the true and proper place of Latvian identity, was crucial to its maintenance. Despite the fact that informants often emphasized the symbolic and political deterritorialization resulting from the Soviet occupation, they usually narrated Soviet Latvia as having remained a place of Latvian identity, and thus countered the diaspora's claims that Soviet Latvia was not a place in which Latvianness could survive.
Einars was a 45-year-old local Latvian writer and journalist. He lived from various free-lance jobs, giving courses for aspiring writers and writing columns or essays for various newspapers and magazines. Einars said that he had been discussing the issue of "identity" with both Western Latvian relatives as well as with various Western Latvians he had met in his capacity as journalist. He said that he had disagreed with most of their claims, and he opposed the Western Latvian representation of a "dying Latvia" with an account of his own experience of flying from Riga to Moscow:
It's not true that one could not be Latvian here! During Soviet times, I flew from Riga to Moscow and I could tell where the border was just by looking down. The difference between the mentality of the Russians and our mentality was very obvious from above. You could see how we have always been hard-working, and how the Russians are too lazy to work on the land. In Latvia everything looked kept and cultivated, there were lots of beautiful farms. And all of a sudden there's this wasteland, Russia! It is very visible, where Latvia stops and Russia starts. And that is because we are very different in our natures when it comes to work.
Einars narrated his experience of the "border" between Soviet Russia and Soviet Latvia as an experience of crossing a "boundary" between identities, between Latvian and Russian "natures". This construction of Latvia as a distinct place in which a distinct Latvian identity was reproduced during the Soviet occupation was also put forward by Raitis, 39, a local Latvian computer specialist, who had worked in various locations within the Soviet Union. At the time of my fieldwork, he was "temporarily without employment".(34) According to Raitis:
We always kept being Latvian. After all, even in Soviet times, Latvia was still here, wasn't it? I mean, the landscapes, the buildings, the language our Latvian identity. When I went to Lithuania, I always knew that I wasn't in Latvia anymore, and that things were different there, the language, the customs it was a different place and people there were just different. Of course, some things were the same because we were oppressed by the Soviet Union - but even then, Lithuania and Latvia were still two different nations.
Raitis linked the continuity of Latvian identity to the continuity of Latvia as a distinct place. Furthermore, in his narrative, the place became synonymous with identity. Most local narratives reproduced this essentializing notion of territorial identities, very often indirectly through descriptions of what they perceived as substantial differences between national identities within the Soviet Union.(35)
It is worth mentioning that Soviet ideological discourse on the national question often emphasized that within the Soviet socialist state the boundaries between nations were substituted by borders signifying nothing but territorial demarcations of administrative units: "While capitalism [marks] boundaries, Lenin stressed, socialism demarcates borders [ ]" (Fedoseyev 1977: 207). According to anthropologist Anthony Cohen, the difference between borders and boundaries is that borders are "matters of fact", geographically demarcated lines, whereas
boundaries are the subjects of claim based on a perception by at least one of the parties of certain features - diacritical features - which distinguish it from others. Whether it refers to a collective condition, such as ethnic group identity, or to a more ephemeral 'personal space', boundary suggests contestability, and is predicated on consciousness of a diacritical property [Cohen 1994: 63].
While Soviet discourse claimed that only geographical borders existed between territorial units, Einars' and Raitis' narratives suggested a continued reproduction of boundaries which was invested with meaning in terms of identity. The "border" between Soviet Latvia and Russia was narrated as a boundary, a meaningful marker of distinction and difference between the "natures" on either side.
Some local informants narrated Soviet Latvia as an identity-place "threatened" by cultural and demographic changes - by the influx of Russians and other Soviet "foreigners". Nevertheless, the implications of this were usually backgrounded, and almost all local informants narrated Latvia as having survived as an "anthropological place" in the face of this threat. This narrative of survival was often connected to a specific spatial practice which I - inspired by Clifford - call "dwelling".
Identity in dwelling
In almost all local narratives on Latvia and Latvianness, informants foregrounded the experiential themes of "being at home","everyday" or "ordinary life" - themes which suggested a specific perception of the relation between place and identity. The notions were frequently used to express experience of Latvia as an ordinary and familiar lived space - a type of experience which was explicitly contrasted with both the Soviet system and with the practices of the diaspora.
Mara was the 67-year-old sister of my landlady, Anna. She was a pensioner, having retired from her position as a medical doctor. She had met several Western Latvians at Anna's place, which she frequently visited. She said about life and Latvianness during the Soviet occupation:
I didn't walk around feeling like a Soviet person. It was just ordinary Latvian life. I'm Latvian, I always knew that. When I got on a tram back then, it was in Riga, right? It was in Latvia, so this tram was Latvian. I didn't think, that this tram has been built after the Soviet occupation, so it must be a Soviet tram. That's stupid. Things were Latvian here and most of the ordinary things we did were Latvian.
A similar narrative concerning this issue was presented by Einars, who said: "Perhaps you can say that some of my life was Soviet. But to me it was Latvian. When I was a member of Komsomol(36) it was just part of life, meeting other young people, going to different places and so on. Inside ourselves we know that back then a lot of the time it was just everyday life." Einars narrated his activities in Komsomol as practices which did not turn him into a "Soviet" person. He stated that it was simply part of an "ordinary life" which he then framed as being "Latvian". In both Mara's and Einars' narratives, living in Latvia was characterized as "ordinary" experience, a type of experience which they refused to define as "Soviet". Inhabiting Latvia, going to school, to work, shopping, falling in love and getting married - all these practices were narrated as "Latvian life".
Constructing everyday life as a field in which the locals retained control, if not over the shape of things or practices, then over the meanings attached to them, is comparable to Anthony Cohen's idea of "interpretive subversion" (1996: 807). Cohen states, that there is a difference between the representations of states and individual interpretations of these, and continues: " [ ] we listen to our leaders' vacuous rhetorics and render it meaningful by attributing our own sense to it, so that the sense we hear in the words being uttered is ours, not theirs. We hear their voices but listen to ourselves." (ibid.: 807). Cohen's statements concern rituals and symbols, but can be transferred to the local Latvian narratives of everyday life practices. The examples above are Mara's and Einars' "Latvianizing" interpretations of joining Komsomol or riding the tram. Their everyday life was a realm of life in which they had control over the meanings they attached to this life - and over their interpretations of it. They claimed to have been, with Cohen's terms, "listening to themselves" in their capacity as Latvians.
In other local narratives, the notion of everyday life was constructed in more direct opposition to the practices of the returning diaspora - as well as to the Soviet system. One such narrative was presented by Vackins, whom I met while exchanging money at the exchange "booth" he was working in. Besides this job, he studied economics at the Eurofaculty, a college level education sponsored by the EU. Vackins was 24 years old and lived with his parents in the suburbs. He had met quite a large number of Western Latvians at his job, and on a few occasions in private, when "some distant American relatives" had visited during the Easter Holidays:
They are simply American tourists! When they come here, they go to the part of Riga around the Freedom Monument, Hotel de Rome and McDonalds, this more...bright side. This is Latvia, this part, for them. Even if they live here, they act like tourists. They only like all the restored things in the center. The rest is bad, ugly, not like they want it to be. Of course the nice places in Vecriga are also Latvia to me, but it is in a way not the real Latvia. It is all restored, painted and almost unreal. I would like them [the diaspora] to go to the other side of the Daugava and see how ordinary people are living there.(37) If they were to be Latvian, they should have followed me, step by step in my footsteps every day of my life and have lived through my whole life, my experience day by day, then they'd see what being Latvian really means. It's not something I can explain - neither to you and nor to the Latvians coming from the West. You are only visiting, so you can't know what it really means to be Latvian, because no matter how long your visit is, you never see ordinary life, you don't live it the way we do.
From Vackins' point of view, the diaspora were returning to the "nice places in Riga", which were not "the real Latvia". Vackins emphasized that Latvian identity was created through life in the less attractive parts of the city, which he narrated as being more "Latvian" and more "authentic" than the city center. Vackins was thus constructing a spatial separation between ordinary experience of life in the suburbs and the diaspora's experience of the representation of Latvia constituted by the restored city center. Furthermore, to Vackins, dwelling as "ordinary life in real Latvia", involves a certain temporality. Everyday life is lived with both permanence in place ("step by step") and in time ("day by day"). This type of experience is inherent in the very concept of the every-day, which implies that something new or unfamiliar does not happen every day. Everyday life connotes repetition and routine existence, and to Vackins an intimate familiarity with Latvia as a lived space. Vackins said that their evident ignorance of quotidian Latvia was what made the returning diaspora "un-Latvian" to him. He saw the returning members of the diaspora as visitors, as temporary dwellers in the parts of Riga which were extra-ordinary (restored and "Westernized").
Vackins used Riga as a spatial metaphor for describing a type of diasporic experience and practice which he called "touristic", and was quite obviously using the term as "a derisive label for someone who seems content with his obviously inauthentic experience." (MacCannell 1989: 94). Furthermore,Vackins used an implicit distinction between "false fronts" and "intimate reality", a well-known problem in touristic experience. This is often constructed as opposed to a perceived "connection between truth, intimacy and sharing the life behind the scenes" (ibid.: 95). And in Vackins belief, the returnees only experienced a false front; a "show"; a restored, Westernized and less "real" Latvia. He thus reproduced what MacCannell (1989: 94) calls a "commonsense polarity of social life: the putative 'intimate and real' as against 'show'."
"Intimacy and closeness are accorded much importance: they are seen as the core of social solidarity and they are also thought by some to be morally superior to rationality and distance in social relationships, and more 'real'. Being 'one of them', or at one with 'them', means, in part, being permitted to share back regions with 'them'. This is a sharing which allows one to see behind the others' mere performances, to perceive and accept the others for what they really are" [ibid.].
Vackins and other local informants emphasized that the returnees were unable to share the true and authentic back stage Latvian experience which was narrated as that of everyday life.
The meanings of everyday life
In her article "The Transformation of the Norwegian Notion of Everyday Life"(1991), anthropologist Marianne Gullestad suggests that everyday life is rarely explicitly or uniformly defined. As shown, this is also the case in the narratives of local Latvians. Attention must therefore be drawn to the variety of meanings this frequently used and ill-defined notion is made to carry, and to possible reasons why "everyday life" was such a significant theme in local narratives of national identity.
Gullestad's analysis shows that the notion of "everyday life" used to be constructed as a realm of life opposed to festivals and celebrations. Now, it is most often used as opposed to "the system", as a "true reality" opposed to "alienation, fragmentation, and anomie" (ibid.: 487). "Everyday life" thus connotes a type of experience (routine or ordinary experience contrasted with the colorful and extraordinary) as well as a realm of life ("true" intimate and familiar existence contrasted with the alienation and strategic existence of interaction with "the system"). However, Gullestad writes, it is important to emphasize that both these usages - and others - coexist at any given time. In general, everyday life should be analyzed as a "significant symbol" because it is laden with such a multiplicity of meanings. Gullestad states, that
"the notion of everyday life is rich, polysemous, and full of tension - and it is, therefore, a significant symbol. Its magic relies precisely upon the fact that its meanings are not isolated and identified. Although the notion of everyday life appears to be self-evident, plain and transparent, it contains a cloud of contradictory meanings."[ibid.: 493].
In local Latvian informants' narratives, the notion of "everyday life" was often contrasted with "Soviet" experience. This opposition was rarely narrated as expressing direct political resistance against the Soviet system. Rather, it was narrated as framing the experience of ordinary life as Latvian rather than Soviet. Local Latvians' use of everyday life must be separated from the scientific distinction between public and private in socialist states, as the local narrative includes public and so-called "Soviet" practices and private or "informal" spheres of life, both of which informants claim to have invested with a "Latvian" content and meaning.(38) By invoking everyday life as a sphere in which they were in control of meaning and identity - local Latvians transformed what could be seen as an everyday life controlled by Soviet ideology into a realm of political and interpretive agency and empowerment. By labeling everyday life as "Latvian", and by emphasizing its significance as an almost untouchable haven of identity and "interpretive subversion", locals contradicted the diasporic narrative of a Sovietized Latvia. Locals thus narrated the spatial practice of "dwelling" as a field of possible agency and control over the meaning of everyday life. In this sense, the narrative construction of everyday life was a "revitalization" of the Latvia deemed "dead" - as a place of identity - in diasporic narratives.
Besides being characterized as a realm in which local Latvians had control over interpretation and meaning, the notion of everyday life was used as a symbol of the national community. Local informants narrated everyday life in the singular and not in the plural as everyday lives, signifying that even though everyday life is experienced by individuals, it was simultaneously a realm of life which was shared - and in which one had to participate if one was to be "really Latvian". Gullestad suggests that this usage of the notion implies that there is one basic everyday life, regardless of social class, age group, and region (ibid.:486). Everyday life connotes unity and closeness, intimacy and integration, and ultimately creates a bridge between individual experience and ideas of the collective. The Latvian everyday is something all inhabitants of Latvia practice, and it serves as a symbol of the national community. In the words of Gullestad, "[ ] promoting everyday life to a political symbol implies creating an imaginary unit with boundaries and an almost organic quality" (ibid.: 493). And, one could add, in local narratives furthermore an imaginary unit which exists only through residential permanence. Importantly, as it is constructed in local Latvian narratives, everyday life is a distinctly exclusive notion in terms of community, as the returning diaspora is characterized as being unfamiliar with quotidian Latvia - and is thus classified as non-Latvian or "foreign".
Even when the experiential theme of everyday life was described in negative terms, it was still represented as a unifying and authentifying experience. In narratives on life after the independence, the everyday was narrated as a type of experience which often had to be endured rather than enjoyed.(39) Aija said:
They [the diaspora] only want the best of Latvia, and I know that they often leave when they have to live like we do. I have a friend, whose American relative came to Latvia in the summer time and when this lady got lonely in the winter, she went back to America. I can't go to a nice place across the globe because I get lonely - or because it gets too cold or because the elevator isn't working!
The fact that most of those from the diaspora were seen to come and go, to leave Latvia "when they felt like it", was frequently narrated as a proof that the diaspora weren't "real Latvians", as they didn't have the ability to endure everyday life in Latvia. When a person was part of a community - defined by place - he or she was a participant in its destiny, its fate, its everyday life. You "lived Latvia" for better and for worse, and it was the temporal permanence in the relation to a place which local narratives constructed as essential to identity.
Although the local informants I interviewed all constructed their narratives of place and identity as described above, I encountered other local voices. However, such voices were not very loud in the post-independence Latvian nationalist atmosphere of 1995. I learned of them only indirectly, as descriptions of "dissidents" from the dominant local tellings.
In general, such views were associated with young local Latvians or with specific intellectuals and politicians. The former were described by Raitis as young people with a "Westernized" approach to life and a desire for a more "cosmopolitan" lifestyle. They wanted to travel, to see the world and did not, according to Raitis, understand "the importance of being connected to one's roots, one's place in the world". I also learned from my interpreter Aija how difficult it was to be a young person with such a "cosmopolitan" or "globalist" (as she called it) view on life in 1995. She told me that a friend of hers had participated in a radio show on literature, in which he had stated that the nationality of an author was completely irrelevant to whether a novel was good or bad. The following day, she said, all hell broke loose! The remarks caused a heated debate on the radio and in the newspapers, the general reaction being that her friend was either a communist internationalist (i.e., corrupted by the Soviet antinationalism) or "Westernized beyond repair", as she put it. Almost all the reactions claimed that Latvia would not survive as a nation if the younger generations did not learn the importance of their national identity. Aija herself was quite confused about this debate. On the one hand, she said, almost all the young people she knew were "quite nationalistically minded", and so was she. On the other hand, many of them were extremely fascinated with the West and everything it signified to them - including "cosmopolitanism". She claimed that after my arrival she had experienced a phenomenon which she didn't know about before:
One of my friends said that after I started working with you, I was becoming a snob! You see, because I translate all these texts for you, and the interviews, and our conversations...I sometimes speak Latvian with a slight English accent. I don't think about it, but apparently, I do. And my friend said, that he had heard other Latvians do that and that they were trying to sound like the Western Latvians to make others think that they were Westerners. And although nobody wants to admit it, these people think that being a Westerner is more prestigious than being a Latvian. I don't, though.
Thus, although marginalized, some local Latvians narrated the meaning of place rather differently than the dominant local Latvian narrativization described above. Another such "dissident" position was represented by local intellectuals and politicians who emphasized the importance of introducing Latvia into the global cultural and economic space. However, due to the fact that no local informants associated themselves with or commented on this narrative position, it is beyond the scope of the present study to analyze this in any great detail. Suffice it to say that a few politicians and intellectuals were regarded as having rather controversial views, claiming in public debate that Latvia should leave its nationalistic path and open itself to the influences of the outside world.(40)
In summary, in the dominant local narration of place and identity, the concept of everyday life was narrated in different ways: as a haven outside Soviet control; as the socio-spatial locus of a true, controllable and coherent Latvian identity, and, ultimately, as a way of disqualifying the diaspora's experience of Latvia as unreal and un-Latvian. In a condensed form, the logic of the local narratives on the relation between place and identity might be represented as follows: Dwelling was narrated as everyday life. Everyday life was narrated as a temporally extended and common relation to the national place. Identity was constructed as intimacy, familiarity, and the everyday inside the national place versus the distance, unfamiliarity, and transitoriness of travel which - from their perspective - characterized diasporic experience as touristic.
This local narrative construction of the empowering properties of everyday life also shows the active selection of experience taking place in the telling of stories. As was the case in Western Latvian narratives, local narratives quite conspicuously backgrounded or omitted experiences which disputed the meaning they wished to convey in their telling. Thus, aspects of everyday life which were altered or controlled by the Soviet presence were omitted from the narratives. Some such aspects became obvious to me in my own everyday life during my fieldwork - such as the large Russian minority and their conspicuous and often quite dominant presence in Riga's quotidian space.(41) Other such omissions concerned the actual impact of the Soviet occupation on Latvian everyday life, such as restrictions on travel and on access to accommodation and goods; the substitution of the Latvian language with Russian in shops, markets and schools; or the general fear of being reported as a "nationalist". However, within this specific context of negotiation with the diaspora, omissions or backgroundings were necessary in order to construct a meaningful narrative of local Latvianness - i.e., a "cleansed" version of everyday life designed to counter diasporic claims of russification or sovietization. Everyday life remained a contested notion, and Western Latvian informants seemed more than willing to "fill out" the voids in local narratives on "quotidian Latvia".
Western Latvian informants' narratives of "ordinary Latvian life" differed from those of the locals on one particular point: they rejected the idea that "everyday life" had been separated from the Soviet system. Andrejs' narrative was but one example of the diasporic view, that in "everyday life" the sovietization of Latvian society was particularly apparent. Andrejs described his view by an analogy:
My dad bought a beagle when he first moved out to Long Island away from the city. This dog was one year old and had been tied to a tree in a very small back yard all her life. When my dad brought her home, he hoped to see her just run free. But all she did was run in circles! Because that's all she knew how to do! She just ran in circles. And I see a lot of that same attitude going on here. I see people running around in circles. Because that's the way they've done it for 50 years. And that's all they know how to do.
In Western Latvian informants' experience, quotidian Latvia was - even in 1995 - dominated by bureaucratic habits, suspicion, dishonesty, laziness and passivity - habits which they always presented as "Soviet legacies". Thus, Western Latvian informants also saw "dwelling" as significant to local Latvian identity - but it was a dwelling which had shaped this identity into something "Soviet".
In practice, many Western Latvian informants often avoided local everyday life. They stayed within the "Western ghetto" (the restored city center), within which they could almost completely avoid the hardships of "local experience". The justification for not involving oneself in this type of life was usually done by deeming it "Soviet".
Zupa, a 32 years old British-Latvian, born in England by Latvian parents, was the Baltic coordinator of an internationally financed education project.(42) When I suggested to her that we met at a café close to where I lived and in which I had met with a number of local informants, she refused to go there because she found life outside the city center "depressingly Soviet". We ended up meeting in an expensive restaurant in the Western "ghetto". Another example of such a rejection of local everyday life was Mac, who paid his local employees to endure everyday inconveniences on his behalf. Thus, whenever he needed a renewal of various licenses, in fact, whenever he "had to wait in line", as he put it, he paid his employees to go to the license office or the supermarket and wait in line for him. Most of the Western Latvians who avoided local everyday life could afford to do so - either by paying people to vicariously suffer the drawbacks of this life - or by staying within the restored city center, which was so expensive in terms of both the prices of everyday commodities and housing, that it had become accessible only to the economically privileged.
Other Western Latvian informants, however, positioned themselves differently and thematized everyday life in ways similar to the local Latvian narratives. These informants wished to experience local everyday life, which they saw as more authentic, more in touch with the "real Latvia" than the isolated and affluent Western ghetto. This position was represented mainly by Inese, Zupa and Love, whom I have chosen to call the "immersionists" due to their wish to become completely integrated into local life. These informants expressed great frustrations about their desire for "immersion", as the sheer foreignness of local life was experienced as a serious obstacle to the idealized intimacy. Often they would complain that they felt unable to endure the "attitudes" of local desk clerks, bureaucrats and bus drivers or the "rudeness" or "greediness" of their relatives or of people in the streets. As was the case when some Western Latvians "paid their way" out of local life, money was also an issue to the immersionists - or rather, a lack of money. In their view, being poor was closer to local everyday life, and to some informants living off a "local salary" was the ultimate test of whether or not one experience Latvia in the "authentic" way. However, although "living off a local salary" was considered to be a cultural capital within "immersionist circles", local Latvians rarely saw it as such. Zupa regarded herself as an immersionist and insisted on living off a local salary, but she became frustrated by the fact that the locals didn't "appreciate that sacrifice":
They thought I was stupid - a Westerner living off a local salary. They didn't get the solidarity I was trying to express that I was really willing to live an everyday life here. So I thought "what the hell" and got me a proper income.
To local Latvian informants, it was the unwillingness or inability to immerse themselves in everyday which ultimately proved that the Western Latvians were not "really Latvian". However, as suggested by Zupa and as will be further described in Chapter Four, local Latvians also actively blocked the diaspora's access into the type of experience which they narrated as essential to identity.
The problem characterizing the 1995 coexistence of the dominant narratives of place and identity was, that each of them rejected the other as false. One explanation for the passion and anger with which these rejections were made may be that the meanings attached to places are inextricably linked to strong emotions or values (cf. Buttimer 1980). In both Western and local narratives "Latvianness" was the fundamental value associated with experiences of place. Therefore, the narratives on how you were supposed to be relating to place was also a contest between two forms of identification. The dominant local narrative defining "identity" as irreversibly attached to a particular quotidian experience of place was a direct challenge to the diasporic narrative of maintaining "Latvianness" without this type of experience. However, the dominant diasporic narrative also constituted a threat to the fundamental values attached to the local experience of place, by narrating Latvia as un-Latvian and thus challenging the local theme of "dwelling in Latvian routines" and its claim to identity. Furthermore, when negotiating each other's narratives, both local and Western Latvian informants tended to emphasize experiences of place which - in the Other's narratives - were either completely omitted or minimized as insignificant.
Active selection is a significant aspect of narration - especially in contexts in which experiences are contested. Our analysis must, therefore, include the idea that not all experiences are equally meaningful or strategically suitable in all contexts, and that individuals select those experiences which are. Furthermore, in such contexts of negotiation, individuals may create commentaries on the narratives of "opponents" in which they emphasize that significant experiences have been omitted from the Other's story. Narratives are, therefore, not static representations of experience, but stories which are actively and strategically structured.
However, as I will show in the next chapter, the selection of themes of experience is not completely subject to individual creativity. Some of the themes selected to structure the dominant local narratives were neither arbitrary nor created "on the spot" in the encounter with the returnees.
Winds whip. Winds beat.
(Vizma Belsevica, quoted in Lieven 1991: 1)
The poem by local Latvian poetess Belsevica was written during Soviet rule. The poet presents what she calls the "silence" of Riga as a strategic practice of the eternal: - the permanent and legitimate residents of Latvia. Belsevica furthermore opposes the silence of the Latvians to the "shouting" practice of the transitory: those who are temporarily and illegitimately in Latvia. It is a poetic opposing of the passing versus the lasting; of having to justify one's transitory presence versus being - eternal, legitimate and untouched by the "whipping and beating" of the "passing winds".
Belsivica's poem is not a narrative which merely describes Soviet hegemony and the "silence of Riga". It is also a retelling of a narrative structure, which can be found in many Latvian historical narratives. It expresses a construction of Otherness, which evolves around the relation between "silent" Latvians and various "shouting" Others who have dominated Latvia throughout recorded history, mainly in the shape of shifting foreign occupants, rulers and elites - those who by the logic of power dominate discourse and thus - in Belsevica's poetic interpretation - "shout". In writings on Latvian history the reader is typically presented with a narrative of foreign domination coupled with heroic Latvian "resistance". The latter may be presented as "traditional" types of resistance such as the (mainly intellectual) "national awakening" of the late 1850s or during the 1905 peasant uprisings against Baltic German landowners (cf. Hiden & Salmon 1992). However, Latvian resistance is also presented as what might be called a strategic heroic individualism, which has helped to preserve national uniqueness by "keeping to oneself". (cf. Kulis 1994, Bilmanis 1947, Spekke 1951). In this type of narrative, the Latvians are represented as preserving their "national identity" or "mentality" by practicing a selective and strategic involvement and (importantly) non-involvement with various historical Others - mainly Russians and Germans. To reverberate the themes structuring this narrative: it thematically connects "loudness" (or discursive domination), transitoriness and Otherness on the one hand - and permanence in dwelling, legitimacy and "silence" on the other.
The present chapter will not concentrate on the "genealogy" of this narrative structure. Rather, it will focus on the fact that it was retold by local informants in the encounter with the returning diaspora. What is of interest here is how - in the 1995 encounter between local and Western Latvians - the spatial practices of travelling and dwelling were linked to practices of articulation, represented in Belsevica's poem by the metaphors of "silence" and "shouting".(43)
I begin by describing the practice of articulation described in both local and diasporic narratives and how it related to processes of identification. I then analyze how "silence" constituted a discursive field, in which informants negotiated the complex meanings of identity, knowledge and experience.
A general feature of local narratives was that they dismissed articulation as a necessary practice connected to the "preservation" of identity. Instead, the local narrative mentioned a general idea that articulation was not to be trusted. Although local informants usually emphasized "silence" as a practice connected to their own "Latvianness", I will concentrate briefly on local perceptions and practices of cultural articulation, as they are important in the context of the encounter with the returning diaspora.
On May 22nd, 1995, I sat on a bench in a park in the middle of Riga. I had an appointment with Kolja and, as the weather was beautiful, I was looking forward to conducting the interview in open air. As he arrived and sat down beside me, Kolja eyed my tape recorder with some skepticism, and said, that even though he knew that "things were different now", he still felt rather doubtful about my motivations for conducting the interview. When I asked him why, he explained:
When you have to say or do things, you might be suspicious or afraid. Even when I was on my way to this interview - deep inside me I was a little bit suspicious, because I didn't know how you were going to use the things I said. You might change my words in ways that would be harmful for me. Perhaps it sounds strange to you, but that's what we are used to. Latvians have always been protecting themselves, their national identity this way, by keeping their mouth shut.
Kolja's statement reflects a characteristic feature of most local narratives: the fact that in a few sentences he maneuvered his narrative from speaking of protecting himself to a collective protection of national identity by taking a cautious stance towards articulation. Furthermore, Kolja's remarks are just one example of how local informants feared that "Latvian identity" could be manipulated, politiziced and altered according to interest.
One possible reason for this fear can be found in the socio-political context of the Soviet Union. According to several writers on the communist bloc, the reality experienced by the populations of the communist states was visibly manipulated (Simecka 1984:119). As a result of this, Simecka states, the "citizens of socialism naturally take everything with a grain of salt. If they have personal experience, they prefer to trust that" (ibid.:121). An example of the manipulation of cultural articulation was the fact that the communist states attempted to "control folklore and tradition for its own legitimizing purposes" (Hann 1994: 233). However, local informants rarely explicitly foregrounded the Soviet context as influencing their views on articulation. Whenever they mentioned the Soviet Union, it was most frequently in connection with descriptions of their general distrust in the truth of articulation per se.
Raitis, the computer specialist, was very explicit about what he saw as a disconnection between articulation and one's "real identity":
Now, these so-called Latvians [the diaspora] come here and talk about being Latvian, about folk songs, about folk costumes and about how they have preserved the real identity. They don't understand that we've been singing here too, and that we have heard so many smart and emotional speeches that we have stopped listening. I mean - identity isn't talk, it isn't folk costumes - it's what you are, not what you say. I mean, you can say you're a woman and even look like one, but you still really are a man. You can't trust talk. And you don't become a Latvian by singing songs.
In Raitis' view, articulation could be manipulated, while experience could not. Therefore, it was sensible to take a cautious or skeptical stance towards articulation. In general, informants agreed that articulation was a realm of life which was both insecure and vulnerable.
These very skeptical narratives on cultural articulation were puzzling, as Latvians did participate in song festivals or wore Latvian folk costumes during the Soviet period when the "diversity of the united Soviet Republics" was on public display.(44) This apparent contradiction between local Latvians' narratives of articulation as a realm of manipulation and danger and their practices seemed even more conspicuous considering the fact that articulation and symbolization of national identity was at the core of the Baltic struggle for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s, and often, informants expressed great pride in their "cultural" forms, especially in the Dainas (cf. Norborg 1996, Priedite 1996).(45) Furthermore, many intellectuals and politicians were still using the articulation of identity as the main vehicle of their nationalist projects of defining and articulating Latvian history, identity and culture.
Most informants, however, made a clear distinction between politicized "folklorism" on the one hand and "real life" national identity on the other. In 1995, nationalist rhetorics and extreme emotionalization of "Latvianness" were viewed with increasing skepticism, as folklore, song festivals and emotional speeches were seen as being redundant in relation to the problems dominating life. Informants suggested, that the intellectual and political elite's preoccupation with folklore and other forms of articulation was a sign that they were trying to escape the responsibility of addressing and solving real life economic and social problems."Our songs are beautiful, but they are not that important anymore", Mara said:
Reality is different now. Some people haven't figured that out, though. Sometimes I think they continue the same pattern ... keep talking about Latvian identity and the songs and the dances... simply because they don't understand or don't want to look at the real problems of the common people today.
Like Mara, local informants generally narrated the practice of articulation as "a means to an end", be it manipulated by the Soviet powers, by themselves, by the political or intellectual elite or, - as they claimed was the case in 1995 - by the returning diaspora. Thus, the apparent contradiction between narratives and experience did not change the fact that most informants narrated the articulation of national identity as an instrumental practice - as a realm of agency, interest, politization and manipulation. Furthermore, the skepticism towards specific forms of nationalist articulation did not in any sense mean that local informants rejected nationalism as an emotional or discursive framing of their experience. What they rejected were the forms within which it was articulated and who did the articulation.
This attitude toward the meaning and significance of cultural articulation, was reproduced in local narratives describing the returning diaspora. This was partially due to specific practices of cultural articulation which had been central to diasporic experience, but which in the encounter with the homeland population made them involuntary "targets" of retellings of the narrative represented in Belsevica's poem. Therefore, before analyzing these retellings, we must look at the role of cultural articulation in diasporic identity-formation.
Most Western Latvian informants were very conscious and explicit about the role of articulation in the Latvian diaspora. They related this practice to the spatial practice of travel, as cultural articulation was seen as an imperative if "Latvianness" was to persist. Solvita, the American-Latvian psychologist, told me that her own sense of being Latvian was "very strong", and that this had been "transmitted without any territorial ties". Her "mobile home" she said, was the Latvian "culture", and for this "home" to exist - for culture to be transmittable - it had to be articulated.
Diaspora informants also related the practice of articulation to the specific historical and socio-political context of their host countries. One important aspect of this relation can - in a simplified manner - be described as North American or "Western" state supported multiculturalism.(46) As the majority of informants are citizens of either the United States or Canada, I will focus on the North American context, specifically on the issue of being "ethnic" in these countries.
Multicultural policies in both Canada and the United States allow for people of certain "ethnic origins" to receive preferences in grant disbursement, university admissions, recruitment policies, hiring practices, etc. According to informants, these forms of multicultural policies also influenced life in the Latvian diaspora - especially various practices of cultural representation and articulation. Andrejs was quite aware of the practical advantages of articulating his "Latvian background" in various institutional or educational contexts. He said: "There are certainly some very pragmatic benefits to being Latvian in the States":
For instance, when you have to fill out financial aid forms for college and so on, you have to put down culture or ethnicity. And I never check down "Caucasian". Because you never get any grants that way! [laughs] I always check "Other" and write "Baltic-American" or "Latvian-American". That really pays off because of all the affirmative action programs.
According to Western Latvian descriptions, due to the relative dominance of multiculturalism in North American policies, articulating one's "Latvianness" entailed advantages in the form of easier access to universities and to various other types of resources. Thus, being "ethnic" was in itself a political capital, mainly insofar as it was articulated and made visibly distinct from more inclusive categories, in Andrejs' example "Caucasian". According to him, being "silent" rendered you invisible to the policies and practices of multiculturalism.
The articulation of one's "ethnic roots" was also narrated as a social capital. Laura told me that she enjoyed the social status and prestige connected to "being ethnic" at school.
"I remember that whenever there was a Show-and-Tell at school, I would be paraded around in a folk costume as "The Little Latvian". I simply loved that. Later, in high school and college, it was neat to be ethnic - especially if you weren't coloured. It was kind of prestigious to have European roots, so I often wore a 'Free Latvia' T-shirt and as nobody knew the country, I had to explain about the Soviet occupation and all that. Most people thought that was really cool".(47)
Laura's experience of staging cultural difference in school by parading as "The Little Latvian" is an example of the fact, that representing one's "roots" in reified form was encouraged in various ways by the practices of multicultural "political correctness" in the American school system. In general, both Laura's and Andrejs' narratives constructed articulation as an affirmative and positive relation between the identity-projects of the diaspora and its North American context. Articulating Latvianness was an empowering practice, which allocated both real and symbolic (political, cultural or social) capital to the diaspora. Here, I find Bourdieu's concept of "symbolic capital" useful. Bourdieu expands the concept of "capital" in order to include other forms of hierarchically structured and structuring forms of stratifying principles than "pure" economic capital. Symbolic capital can be sub-defined as forms of capital such as educational, cultural or political capital which are needed in order to gain access to - or power and resources within - various fields (cf. Bourdieu 1977).
In addition to this allocation of capital, the Latvian diaspora created one more articulation of what John Western terms "The Romantic American Immigrant Saga" (1992: 5) thus confirming the American multicultural identity-project.
The relation between the diaspora and host country was not just mutually affirmative, however. A few Western Latvian informants also narrated the North American context as a threat of assimilation and loss of identity. In this "negative" relation between the diaspora and its host country, articulation was highlighted as a counteragency against assimilation and as essential to the survival of "Latvianness". As suggested in Vizma's narrative below, a failure to define and articulate Latvian identity was seen as inevitably resulting in its disappearance.
The Latvian community in Canada was very preoccupied with the preservation of identity. You see, in the organizations we always tried to define "Latvianness". That was absolutely necessary if we were to preserve it. There were a lot of discussions on that issue. If we didn't know exactly what being Latvian meant the original Latvian phrases, costume patterns, songs, the Latvian mentality then preserving it would be impossible. We all had this sense that if we didn't define it, it would sort of dissolve into Canadian life. I think the idea of Latvian identity becoming something vague and obscure really haunted us.
Besides being narrated as crucial to the preservation of Latvianness in the diaspora, articulation was also narrated as critical to the transmission of identity, because this practice made the "Latvian Thing" tangible to those born in the West. However, to these generations, the schism between identifying with "The Latvian Thing" or "American life" was always an issue. Laura said that she and her siblings were offered "the whole Latvian package", but that American life always composed an enticing alternative:
To many of us, it became more and more of a conflict to actually choose. During the summer period, your American friends would be doing all kinds of things together, and you had to choose between them and the Latvian summer camp. I chose the summer camps, but my younger brother was a swimmer, and all the important athletic competitions took place during the summer, and he opted for swimming. For a long time he was completely uninvolved and uninterested in the Latvian thing. However, a few years ago he started feeling that he had lost something, so he enrolled in summer courses and tried to get back into the Latvian community. But still, there's a big difference between how we see things because well, he's an American now.
To Laura the danger of losing identity through a loss of interest in "the Latvian Thing" was a very concrete threat, which she experienced within her own family. Often, Western Latvian informants divided their families into the lost and the Latvians, and many therefore experienced and narrated the danger of assimilation into American life as being a very tangible threat.
Whether the relation to the North American context was narrated as positive or negative, articulation was so critical to the diasporic identity-project that the cultural forms in some narratives became synonymous with identity itself. To Solvita, Latvian identity was "rooted" in cultural forms. Latvianness was transmitted "naturally" through "traditions", which she narrated as the Latvian Dainas:
This whole Latvian identity is so strong in Latvians. In the community as such and in individuals. When I compare to someone I know whose ancestors are from the Ukraine, to them being Ukrainian is more or less meaningless. But within the Latvian community it's just been so perpetuated. I think it is the folk tradition. It's a very deep tradition and because it's rooted in these folk songs - and the folk songs themselves transmitted generation to generation.
The fact that identity is "encapsulated" in these specific forms was what made it "natural", transmittable and unchangeable. Solvita was a representative of the largest group of my Western Latvian informants, who positioned themselves positively toward the practices of the diaspora, and who, when coming to Latvia, often constructed themselves as "culture-experts". They engaged themselves in heated discussions with local Latvians about subjects such as the correct patterns of folk costumes and were generally critical towards the discrepancies between the cultural forms they had been introduced to in the diaspora, and the "local versions" which, according to them, had been changed into something unrecognizable - and therefore "un-Latvian".
Longing for silence
Though many informants regarded themselves as "culture experts" and described the diaspora's dependency on articulation as a positive experience in their lives, some narrated it as a moral or emotional burden or as an obstacle to a more personal and integrated sense of belonging and identity. These informants belonged to the relatively small group of informants whom I termed "immersionists" in Chapter Three. This group narrated the constant focus on articulation in the diaspora as one of their main motivations for wishing to "immerse" themselves into Latvian life.
Inese blamed her loss of interest in the diasporic activities on the fact that articulation in itself had become "Latvian identity" - and identity which she therefore regarded as stagnated and "dead".
In the Latvian community all the culture-stuff became primary, and life became secondary. And I mean pure Culture with a capital C. It can't change, because people think that our Latvian identity is the language, the songs and the dances. I've heard that so many times, that "you'll-lose-your-identity-if-you-don't-sing" kind of threat. But I don't want to have that preconceived notion of what Latvian identity should be, that's a dead identity. When you are living a culture, you don't think about it! Your life is your primary concern, culture is secondary.
According to Inese, the diasporic emphasis on articulation led to a "constant paranoia" of silence, change and, ultimately, to a very static and anxious view on Latvian identity. In her view, when identity was narrated as form, it became impossible to change these forms without jeopardizing identity itself. Inese interpreted the relation between articulation and identity inversely. To her, the static character of diasporic articulation had resulted in the "death" of identity. Inese was an example of what might be regarded as a paradox: the heavy diasporic reliance on form and articulation was meant to create second or third generation Western Latvians by pulling them into "The Latvian Thing". But the very emphasis on articulation in some cases alienated these generations from the practices of the diaspora and consequently created "first generation Canadians or Americans". Other informants than Inese, however, expressed less criticism and more personal weariness about these problems. An example of this position on articulation was Five, who said that she felt the expense of her travels as a moral pressure:
God, sometimes it was so heavy, just thinking about all the money and all the hope they invested in these trips. Of course it was all voluntary, but the pure thought of how disappointed our parents would be - and the waste of money if we dropped out - that has been a pressure for a lot of us, I'm sure. I just wanted to be Latvian, to belong without having to think or talk about it.
Five's final thought was echoed by Zupa, who often returned to her feeling of being "tired of the constant pressure to discuss and define Latvian identity". Zupa stated that one of her main motivations for going to Latvia was to free herself from the pressure of articulation because, as she said, it was "quite an emotional burden":
I was dying to go to Latvia, because I felt that here you didn't have to constantly talk about your Latvianness, as we did in the UK. Always having to talk about it influenced the way that you look at yourself, your relation to other people and to the universe, to death no matter what, being Latvian is the bench mark, it is the thing that you measure all things by. I hoped that going to Latvia would free me to make choices which didn't always have to include whether I was letting down this Latvian thing or not. I thought that here, I could relax. But here I have to justify myself and believe me - it was easier before."
To Zupa, locating identity in cultural articulation and reification implied conscious or reflexive practices of identification. She, and other "immersionists", felt uncomfortable with the constant reflexivity that was part of the diasporic bargain. They all described a longing for silence, for unreflexive being. This longing for silence was usually expressed when informants narrated how they imagined Latvia as an "ultimate immersion site" - as a place in which the pressure of articulating Latvianness would be replaced by an experience of being Latvian - in "cultural silence".
Local Latvian informants seemed generally reluctant to share their "cultural silence" with the "immersionist" returnees. Local informants tended to categorize the diaspora as a homogenous group, making the most visible segment of the returnees representational. Most locals categorized all the returnees as "loud", as a very conspicuous group of "culture experts" who insisted on discussing, defining and representing "real Latvianness". Within this local categorization - and much to their own frustration - the "immersionists" would disappear as a distinct (and perhaps "quieter") category of returnees.
Western Latvians were generally very concerned with the role of articulation within the diaspora, and were often quite eloquent on the issue. However, in these narratives, informants usually backgrounded the ordinariness of their lives in Canada or America. When talking about their identity, they talked about Latvianness, about their travels, etc. They were in Latvia, of course, so the context naturally suggested this focus. However, being in Latvia also made this backgrounding rather conspicuous, as the Western Latvians looked and sounded like "Americans" or "Canadians". This conspicuousness was not ignored by the locals.
The diasporas "fluency" on Latvian cultural identity was often commented upon by local informants in terms which bore significant resemblances to the narrative represented in Belsevica's poem. They often mentioned on what they called the "talk", "waving their arms" or "hollow words" of returning members of the diaspora, and as a rule, these phrases were put forward in a rather condescending and dismissive tone of voice. Locals narrated their views on "the talk" differently, but all seemed to agree that the diasporic emphasis on articulation was a sign of superficiality and "vulgarity", and ultimately, a sign that they were not "genuinely Latvian". Yet no informant could explain why talking about being Latvian was regarded as making one less Latvian. However, I was fortunate to meet an informant who helped me understand that, as anthropologist Perle Møhl also suggests, "Principles of silence [are] evoked through expressions about talking" (1997: 74)
This informant was Ojars, a local Latvian university lecturer whom I met at the opening of an Irish Pub in Riga. Ojars was 39, had been studying in London, spoke excellent English, and he agreed to my taping our conversation. We sat in a quiet corner of the pub and I told him of my puzzlement. He laughed and said: "I guess you have to be one of us to understand that ":
Those from the West... they talk a lot about "being Latvian" and "loving Latvia" and parade around in folk costumes during the song festivals - they are very emotional, very loud and very visible. But most locals see all that as a cover-up for very little reality. You see, when we don't speak about being Latvian now that we are free, or when we do, with very few words - these words, songs, costumes they are just the top of the iceberg. Being Latvian is something you can't see because it's below the surface of the water. It's just there, you see. But all their talk about so little, so few experiences - it's like a pyramid standing upside down. And, if you think about it, there's no doubt about which will fall, is there? I mean, a pyramid standing upside down is not as stable as a floating iceberg, is it? In a way it is funny - but also sad because I think those from the West believe that they can keep the pyramid standing by talking and singing and dancing. Like they think the pyramid is standing normally and talking makes it heavier in the foundation. Perhaps they are trying to avoid looking down and discovering that the pyramid is upside down. But avoiding that is becoming difficult after the independence, and especially for those coming to Latvia, because they can see that they are strangers here, that they are not Latvian in the natural way, Latvian inside. So their talk is getting louder now. And to us it sounds false, all this "Latvia, Latvia, Latvia"... [Ojars laughs] If they had lived here, they would have known what it is like to feel Latvian. To have a stable foundation. When you have that, you don't have to talk that much. So to us all their talk seems a bit desperate - like there's nothing inside, no real identity, like they have nothing but words."
When talking about the returnees, Ojars reproduced the narrative themes of the "silent and authentic Latvian nation" vs. the "superficial and loud Other", those who have to justify their presence in Latvia. Ojars believed that the diaspora's discovery of their own foreignness after their arrival in Latvia made them "talk even louder". Ojars used this opposition to construct a positive vision of local Latvianness. This vision was based on the idea that the local silence was a sign of a "stable foundation" rather than a means of constructing such a foundation. The narrative of silence thus became a narrative of the legitimacy of identity, a legitimacy which Ojars connected to a perception of everyday experience and permanence in place, similar to that analyzed in Chapter Three.
Ojars' retelling of the old narrative - a retelling which constructed the diaspora as "Other" - was central to understanding local narratives. It became clear to me that "silence may be devoid of sound, but it is not devoid of meaning" (Møhl 1997:74). In local narratives "silence" was usually linked to the issue of national identity in positive terms - both as an empowering and subversive strategy against Soviet control over articulation, and, as suggested below, as a form of empowerment vis-á-vis the returning and "culturally articulate" diaspora. The opposition structuring the "old" narrative was reproduced in the sense that when locals narrated "silence" as being connected to the issue of national identity, they very often did so by commenting explicitly on the diaspora's "loudness". This contrast can be illustrated in two examples:
Einars: "Their talk makes no sense - they say that they love the homeland, but how can they when they don't know it? They wave their arms because they have to prove to everybody that they are Latvian but we keep quiet because we just know. About Latvia, about what it means to be Latvian. "
Anna: "The Latvians from America talk a lot about 'Latvia, Latvia, our homeland' and so on, but that is just talk, and I can talk the same way: 'Oh how I love Latvia'. You can talk like that too, but that does not make you a Latvian. In fact, to us, talking like that makes it even more obvious that you're not, that you're a Westerner, just as they are, a Westerner who doesn't understand things here."
Einars separated identity from articulation by stating that the "waving their arms" of the diaspora to him signified an absence of a "real Latvian identity", and it is due to this absence that they had to resort to articulation as an attempt to prove themselves. However, Einars believed that words "prove" nothing. In their view, the talk of the diaspora was, so to speak, a substitution for, rather than expressions of real Latvianness.
Anna suggested that a problem of diasporic articulation was that words could be uttered by anyone. They could as easily be uttered by those with as by those without the experience to which they claimed to refer. The points Anna made were, first, that talking about Latvia does not make anyone Latvian, and, second, that you have to experience a given reality in order to know it and consequently to be capable of expressing it truthfully. She - and all other "real" Latvians who share experience - know if someone merely plagiarizes or "mimics" the reality in question. Hence, Anna identified experience - and the lack of it - as the difference separating true Latvians from those who are not. And, to complicate things further (for the articulate and "loud" diaspora) real Latvians do not have to talk, due to their mutual recognition of shared experience and, ultimately, identity. This experience is, furthermore, not any or all experience - it is the specific experience of everyday life.
A general feature of local narratives was, that informants could use the notion of "everyday life" as an exhaustive description of how identity was formed, supporting this with statements that the "knowledge" or "understanding" derived from this realm of life.
Anna: "I can't explain why I am Latvian and they [the diaspora] are not - I just know. If you had lived here through your whole life you would know what I mean."
Mara: "This is not something you can learn. Being Latvian is - well - it is just that, being Latvian. It is something you are, deep inside you - you just know that."
Einars: "They can't say what is wrong and what is right in Latvia, they haven't lived here. They don't know that in the same natural way that we do."
During many interviews, it proved impossible for me to make informants elaborate further on their experiences of Latvianness without being told the exact same phrases again and again: that their identity was a "state of being" or as a specific type of "local knowledge" derived from experience, from inhabiting Latvia. This local knowledge was invariably defined as unspoken, existing outside the realm of articulation. One could say that local narratives of identity, in Kathleen Stewart's words, "unname the practices of the social world so that they look like nature" (1988: 227). This "nature" was simultaneously thematized as inaccessible to both the diaspora and to Soviet attacks. Thus, the local narrative constructed "articulation" as a practice which could be manipulated according to Soviet interests, and the theme of "silence" was, as in Belsevica's poem, constructed as a form of resistance against discursive and other forms of hegemony.(48)
Local Latvians' retelling of the narrative of Otherness was well-known to Western Latvian informants. In their interpretation, the "silence" of the locals was either a result of Soviet oppression or an offensive strategy and practice used to exclude the diaspora. An example of the former is Solvita, who said:
In the Latvian American community there was this constant emphasis on the culture, the folk culture. Everybody who was part of the Latvian community knew folk dances, it was so strongly perpetuated. Here, most people have lost that identity due to the Soviet oppression. For instance, my husband's relatives don't sing folk songs, which to me was like, well, everybody sings folk songs, and it feels really wrong that Latvians in Latvia don't. And I feel sad, because this really proves that in the end, the Soviet system succeeded in destroying their identity. I really feel that the locals haven't cared or fought hard enough to keep these things up.
Solvita regarded the absence of local practices of cultural articulation as a direct result of Soviet oppression. To her, their "silence" was a sign of "lost identity". Solvita thus, metaphorically speaking, answers affirmatively to the question posed in Belsevica's poem of whether this silence is "indifference" or "cowardice".
This type of diasporic narrative may be one reason for the absence of local Latvian references to the Soviet system - or for the subtlety with which such references are made. If locals referred to the Soviet system as the cause of their having perceived identity as "silent", they would indirectly substantiate the diasporic view of local identity as muted or even destroyed by the Soviet presence. In this way, by backgrounding the Soviet influence in their narratives, locals constructed "silence" as a strategy of empowerment, rather than as a proof of oppressed identity.
Another diasporic view on "the local silence" was that it was an offensive strategy of rejection rather than a defensive strategy of resistance. In some Western Latvian informant's experience, it was a practiced silence directed at and hostile to the diaspora. It was mainly Western Latvian informants working together with locals who expressed this view about the local's silence. Guntis, for example, who said that if I wanted information I should stick to members of the diaspora who had been living in Latvia for a while. "The locals have quite a different definition of the term 'information' than we have. To them, if you have information or knowledge about something, you have it...in the sense that it's yours!". Guntis found the local's reluctance to share information annoying, but also rather amusing, and he believed he had overcome the problem himself by a practice of contacting his network of Western Latvian friends. Other Western Latvian informants with similar experiences, however, had profound difficulties in overcoming this barrier of silence.
Love, a 45-year-old Australian-Latvian woman, had been working in a variety of secretarial jobs in Riga since her arrival in 1992.(49) Her educational level was lower than that of most other diasporic informants, and she had quite a lot of trouble making ends meet. Furthermore, she had experienced some rather hard times during her stay in Riga, and according to her, these were often caused by local Latvians. Her local family members - whom she did not see anymore - had nearly "robbed" her of everything she had brought with her, and her two teenage daughters had been harassed quite viciously at school. In a very sad voice Love said that in all her work places in Riga, she had been confronted with what she called "a very hostile silence":
They won't help me find out how things work, how this or that form has to be filled out, which office to call for information. They're so protective, like they'll lose something by telling me things. I've felt so isolated in all the places I've worked, like I'm there to take something away from them and all they can do is resort to this silence about what they know, how things are done, who they are. They look at each other with this "knowing" look on their faces, like I'm proving myself to be a stranger every time I ask about something. Really, I still have nights where I come home and cry myself to sleep. I know it's a small thing, but it feels like they are telling me that I'm not a Latvian every time they do that - they have this "real-Latvians-would-know" kind of attitude. It's extremely frustrating, but I think that this is their way of getting the upper hand in this relationship.
Love narrated the local silence as an intentional tactic of blocking her way into an integrated experience of everyday life in Latvia. She often returned to the idea that their silence was one way of securing that she kept feeling "like a foreigner". Local narratives of everyday life experience and the inherent knowledge produced by this can thus be regarded as a way of justifying a practice with its own strategic logic and intent. As Møhl (1997) suggests, silence can be understood using the basic principles of exchange. Within this frame of understanding, silence implies "knowing, possessing something known":
If a person does not 'have' knowledge, his or her silence is insignificant; there is nothing unsaid, no withholding going on. Silence, like exchange in general, requires having something, however basic. Within this frame of analysis, silence is having, but withholding. It is an essential part of the dynamic of word-exchange [Møhl 1997:74].
An important aspect of the diaspora's frustrations is that narratives do not merely express the world, they are also an essential part of our experience of it. The construction of Otherness represented by local narratives can be regarded as a practice of exclusion, which is very much part of the reality and experiences of personal encounters between Western and local Latvians. Other forms of exclusion were more subtle. Thus, Western Latvians consistently complained about being treated like "tourists". Locals would consistently focus on their Otherness; their accents, their clothes, their wealth, their "talk" and generally "foreign" conduct.(50)
For both local and Western Latvians, the key question was how long it actually took for someone to obtain this quotidian knowledge. When asked to suggest a more or less exact time-span, some local informants talked about several "generations" of residence in Latvia and others spoke of living in Latvia "from birth". Some informants included the elderly members of the diaspora in the Latvian community, other stated, that they had lived for "too long" outside Latvia to possess the silent knowledge of Latvia as a lived and everyday space. Thus, the temporality of the local construction of the relation between place and identity was flexible. However, all informants agreed that nobody obtains the inherent knowledge of "Latvianness" by living in Latvia for a short period of time, and most of them reproduced the logic presented by Anna above, that it "takes one to know one", i.e., that Latvians born and raised in Latvia know whether or not somebody is Latvian.
In Anna's narrative construction of identity, as in most local narratives, the resident Russians were backgrounded or completely left out of the telling. As a large part of this group have been "born and raised" in Latvia, narratives such as Anna's constructed a "logic of Latvianness" which in many aspects included the Russians into the Latvian nation. However, they would often also reproduce the narrative of "loudness" and "transitoriness" as rejection of the Russians by talking of them as being dominating and arrogant in the streets or by dismissing their legitimacy by calling them "foreign occupants". Thus, different themes were used in order to construct a narrative of "Otherness" depending on whether the locals "aimed" at challenging the legitimacy of the Russians or the returning diaspora. The retellings of the basic structure of the "loud and illegitimate" were actively and situationally constructed to exclude one or the other.
Although expressing individual experiences, the narratives analyzed above were often inherently coherent in accordance with the themes emphasized in either of the narrative structures which I have termed "dominant". One emphasizing the active and transnational process of identification with and articulation of The Latvian Thing; and one construcing this Thing as and inherent and silent essence connected to life on Latvian territory. The dominant narratives, however, were not synonymous with static categories. They were parts of a narrative space in which any informant could choose to emphasize and omit interpretations of experience according to interest. The themes would be different if actors and context were different. Dissenting narratives were also present within each "group", as individual informants occasionally conceptualized their personal experiences in controversy with the dominant narrative of "their" group. Therefore, instead of classifying or essentializing local and diasporic narrative constructions of "Latvianness", we must use a flexible analytical approach emphasizing the narratives as constituting different positions in a narrative space of possible selections of experience. A significant number of Western Latvian informants constructed the place/identity relation in accordance with a certain set of themes. However, those wishing for "immersion" into local everyday life, positioned themselves closer to the dominant "local" narrative thematization. And while the majority of local informants tended to construct place/identity as described in the chapters above, there were local Latvians who emphasized mobility and the global aspect of identification so as to resemble the dominant narrative of Western Latvian informants.
However, although subject to strategy and agency, the selection of experience was not arbitrary. Local informants transformed and reinterpreted a pre-existing narrative of Otherness as an opposition between the local residents and the returning diaspora. The informants thus practiced diachronic reflexivity by relating past tellings to present experiences. The diaspora practice of having left and returned and their self-ascriptions as "culture experts", meant that they involuntarily became trapped in the historical category of the Loud Other. However, the narrative theme of "silence" was both a retelling of authentic identity, and a practice of blocking access to local knowledge. The selection of certain themes in local Latvian narratives was a manifestation of diachronic reflexivity; a retelling of a preexisting narrative structure concerning the characteristics of "Latvianness" vs. "Otherness". Therefore, even if individuals are actively engaged in selecting themes structuring their stories of experience, they sometimes - consciously or not - do so with reference to already existing thematizations. However, this retelling, as well as the general rejection of diasporic identity, also implied synchronic reflexivity; a reflection on and relation to a particular present - a relation which will be discussed in Chapter Five.
During an "Aliens-night" at Rozamunde's café, Andrejs seemed to be in a rather bad mood. I asked him what was the matter, and he said that he had celebrated the Latvian mid-summer festival together with some of his local Latvian relatives. During the festivities someone had commented on the fact that he did not speak Latvian very well, a comment which ended in a heated discussion between Andrejs and his relatives about whether or not he was a "real Latvian". Andrejs was quite sad about the hostile tone in the debate: "They kept insisting that I was an American, it was really frustrating. Personally, I think we're all Latvians! But neither side really wants to accept that. The argument between the locals and us is that "We're right, you're wrong". So the fight continues: "you're Soviet" "you're American". It's so sad... and somehow, although I know that my Latvian is bad, I've always felt that I was Latvian, and now these people make me doubt that, make me feel well, American! What sordid pleasure do they get from making me feel like that?"
As shown in the previous chapters, negotiations of identity between local and Western Latvians were not only positive self-ascriptions constituted by "co-existing" dominant narratives of place and identity. As Andrejs' experience exemplifies, they were also attacks on the narrative and experiential Achilles heel of the Other's stories. The question remains why the encounter between the homeland population and the returnees had evolved into a trench warfare about ethnic authenticity. Why did local Latvians define the returnees as significant Others? What was at stake when local Latvians insisted that Western Latvian identity was "Americanized" - and when returnees labeled the local Latvians as "Soviet"?
One way to address these questions is to examine the relation between the narratives and the 1995 post-Soviet context in which they were told. I have chosen to focus on two interconnected aspects of this relation: (1) the construction and negotiation of authoritative tellings of identity in a context characterized by change and uncertain power structures, and (2) the complex images of "East" and "West" circulating in global space both before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In Chapter Two, I suggested that - for analytical purposes - we create a distinction between on the one hand narratives which are "dominant" in the sense that they are told by many informants and "authoritative tellings" which are in various ways associated with power.
During my fieldwork, narrative authority was in a process of intense restructuring - as was much else in the post-Soviet Latvian transition. Political power and institutionalized positions were still fragile constructions under constant negotiation. Importantly, as these struggles were ongoing, discursive power had not yet been solidified, and therefore, it was difficult to identify narratives which were both authoritative and associated with existing power structures. One example of this was how the state version of national identity expressed in the citizenship laws included the diaspora into the national community.(51) We have seen, however, how the dominant local narrative of national membership expressed what might be called a "folk model" of jus solis (thematized as dwelling in everyday life), which excluded the diaspora from the national community. Thus, in 1995 there was a widening gap between the Latvian state version of belonging and identity and the version told by local informants.(52) The struggle for authority could therefore also be seen as a struggle between two types of nationalism: the political nationalism of the state and the personal nationalism of informants.
For several years before the 1991 independence, and during my fieldwork in 1995, the atmosphere and discourse in Latvia were dominated by a very emotionalized and messianic type of nationalism. In the present analysis the interesting aspect of this discourse was that it imbued the concept of "Latvianness" with an almost sacred aura. Thus, during the restructuring which took place after 1991, being a "true Latvian" was canonized into being a powerful position per se. "Latvians" were constantly constructed as the only truly legitimate actors in Latvia - a resurrected nation with the right and power to define and control the status of various Others.(53) In the present case this implies that struggles over tellings of national identity was also a struggle over who could be authoritative tellers. The position of the teller was also what the narrative was about, and the basic shared parameter for the authority of a narrative was whether or not the narrator was "Latvian". The narratives analyzed here were not only expressions of narrative positions, they were also attempts to construct or challenge such positions; struggles to make one's "narrative space in discourse" authoritative (Bruner and Gorfain 1984: 60).
In the present analysis, I have chosen to highlight specific aspects of the context, in which the narratives were told, mainly the nationalist discourse and atmosphere described above as well as the complex pre- and post-Soviet topography of power between "East" and "West". Connected to this topography is a field of dichotomized images and identity formations used by both local and Western Latvians to construct or challenge subject positions and the authority of tellings.
The splitting of the European continent into Eastern and Western "halves" had been in progress long before the Cold War. According to some since the sixteenth century (cf. Gerner & Hedlund 1994, Kideckel 1994). However, apart from formalizing the splitting of Europe into East and West in political, economic, diplomatic and academic structures, the Cold War also "froze" this relation into a discourse of almost caricatured dichotomization of images and representations of both "self" and "other".
In her article "The Transition from Socialism" (1992), anthropologist Katherine Verdery describes how in the West, representations of the Communist bloc were used to depict the virtues of capitalism by opposing it to the consequences of "too much government and too little consumption" (ibid.: 17). During the Cold War, most Westerners became used to vivid televized accounts of totalitarian practices of censorship and state control or images of the grey masses waiting in line in front of virtually empty shops. Conversely, in the Soviet Union the capitalist West became the most crucial identity-forming construct in official discourse as a demonized place of "violence, insecurity, unemployment, drugs, and every other ailment that socialism was out to cure" (ibid.: 18).
Construction of identity through a creation of exaggerated and simplified images of Self and Other is a well-documented phenomenon within anthropology. This type of identity formation is usually done both through positive representations of one's own as "clean and hardworking" or "innocent victims" and the Other as "dirty and lazy" or "arrogant aggressors"; and negatively by representing the Other as "perfect" and seeing one's own as contemptible (cf. Boon 1982, Verdery 1992). The latter type of image construction became relevant in the case of the East-West dichotomization due to the fact that as the populations of Eastern Europe in time became increasingly alienated from their governments, they tended to invert the official and negative image of the West. In Verdery's words: "Communism's demon (the West) came back to haunt it, as the idol of East Europeans who demonized their Communists" (ibid.: 19). However, this inversion was not based on information or knowledge about the West, but solely on the demonization of the Communist governments. Like many such idealizations, the "love" of the West "flourished in the hothouse atmosphere of near-total ignorance" (ibid.: 19). The West simply meant everything the East Europeans did not have. The Cold War thus created a most powerful "politics of images" consisting of crude caricatures blocking the possibility to grasp the realities of life on either side (ibid.: 15).
As anthropologist David Kideckel describes, the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989-91 rejoined East and West "with a vengeance", as "Easterners and Westerners [were] roughly injected into each other's territorial space, daily conceptual framework and fears of the future" (Kideckel 1994: 136). In this "rejoining", the dichotomized images of the Cold War have played a major role. Partially due to the construction of "The West" as the object of East European longings and desires, the idea that the former communist societies should "ultimately approximate a Western model has, in fact, been elevated to an unquestioned dogma by many in both the West and East" (ibid.: 134). This "Western" model is a multifaceted and complex notion, encompassing fields such as lifestyles and consumption patterns; intellectual models of democracy and capitalism (the dirty word for "market economy"); and even "cultural identity" (ibid.: 134; see also Sampson 1994, 1996).
However, even if the one-sided and positive image of the West was still reproduced in Latvia in 1995, as both Verdery and Kideckel suggest, this image was also in a process of transformation. Only a few years into Latvian independence, the notion of a widespread acceptance of Western society was becoming hard to sustain. Verdery concludes on the problem, stating that: "If [the West is] not to be duped a second time by ideologized images of the East, we should recognize that people over there are not now becoming just like us, and that many resist Westernization with good reason" (1992: 21-22)
Although Cold War images were changing, they often remained caricatured. However, in contrast to the Cold War ignorance of "the other side", some were constructed with references to the social realities of post-Soviet East-West encounters - in various contexts, with various meanings and for various political ends. The 1995 encounter between local Latvians and members of the returning diaspora was also an encounter between "East" and "West". Thus, the complex - and caricatured - imagery of these global "entities"constituted a context for both the structure of the narrative space described in the previous chapters and for negotiations about the authority of these tellings.
In 1995, a whole range of Western skills which had been either unnecessary or heavily politiziced in Soviet Latvia had now become essential. During the period of my fieldwork, the skills in demand were also in short supply. Local Latvians were still in a process of acquiring the cultural, educational or other symbolic capital needed for manoeuvering within the restructured sociopolitical and economic hierarchies of transitional Latvia.(54) Although many local informants had higher level education, this was regarded as useless and marginalized as "Soviet" on the post-Soviet labor market. In general, I found that there was more correspondence between educational levels and the jobs occupied by Western Latvian informants. Some of these had university level degrees within political or business disciplines (office administration, management and market economics, etc.). However, in some cases returnees occupied high level jobs for which they had no specific training or education. It was obvious that even when Western Latvians did not possess the required educational capital, the "cultural capital" obtained by living in Western type systems was sufficient to give them privileged access to various positions in Latvia. This capital consisted of fluency in English, service-mindedness or various computer skills.(55) Another example of such a general "Western-type" knowledge was given by Laura, who explained how, after arriving in Latvia that she realized that she had a "natural" knowledge of the basic principles of democracy. Laura was quite happy about this realization: "Sometimes I was surprised about what I actually knew. Especially when I was asked questions about democracy. It's all there, but its never been taught me, it's just in me somehow. That made me realize that I actually knew things which are really valuable here."
Whether the Western Latvians possessed the educational or the cultural capital needed in the Latvian transition, they had access to positions which were often both well-paid and prestigious.(56) In May 1995, I obtained an unofficial list of the 450 returnees in Latvia known to the WFFL.(57) On the basis of the occupations described on this list, it was possible to identify various fields in which the returnees were represented in large numbers. One such field was the "transition industry" (Sampson 1996:121), which was constituted by mainly Western agencies engaged in the restructuring of Latvian society (e.g., UNDP projects or inter-governmental programs of aid, democratization development and exchange). In this field, some returnees worked as "local counterparts", i.e., as representatives of Latvia in various bi - or multilateral projects. Western Latvians also worked in both grass-root organizations and more institutionalized and international NGO's. Another major field in which Western Latvians were employed was in the Latvian parliament and government administration. The Western Latvians were employed mainly in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also in ministries and offices involved with policy-making, finance and economy. Some Western Latvians worked in the private sector, either as owners of private businesses or as employees in Latvian branches of multinational businesses. Other fields in which Western Latvians were visible were education and the written media.
Thus, to many Western Latvians, the homeland was also a land of opportunity."You can do anything here!", as Guntis enthusiastically exclaimed during one of our conversations:"Earlier it was 'Go West, young man!'. Now, it's 'Go East, young man! There are so many possibilities here, this is the time - here, now! - because there's hardly any competition. Just speaking English can get you somewhere. And having a Latvian background also helps if you are competing with an American Harvard graduate who can't get the jobs requiring a Latvian citizenship." It was this (state-supported) claim to Latvianness, which ultimately legitimized Western Latvian entry into Latvian political, economic and social life and provided their narrative positions with the authority of belonging. However, it was their Westernness, which gave them a virtual carte blanche access to positions in Latvia. They possessed "the 'magical' power and cultural competence" (Sampson 1994: 25) which, in the rush to "leave the East", was connected to being a Westerner. As the following incident shows, this occasionally made the returnees represent themselves in ways which were not particularly well liked by local informants.
* * * * *
On my second day in Latvia, I met with Guntis in his office, which was located in the center of Riga, in the Old Town. On the walls of the office hung posters with descriptions of human rights seminars, democratization projects and courses in minority rights. I turned on my tape-recorder and began the interview. First, we talked casually about Riga, about my study and about where to find information and contacts. Karla, a local Latvian member of the NGO staff, was doing some paperwork at a desk behind us. On a few occasions she commented on our conversation.
"You should go to the Western Latvian organizations here in Riga", Guntis said. He spoke American, and unlike other Western Latvians I would meet, he never spiced his statements with Latvian phrases, although he insisted that he spoke the language fluently. "We have sort of a network, so when we want information, we usually call other Western Latvians. So it would probably be a good idea if you went to the World Federation of Free Latvians."
"Are they freer than the rest of us?", Karla interrupted from behind her desk. Her voice sounded strained. Initially, I didn't understand why her expression and tone of voice seemed slightly hostile. Guntis made no comment. Instead, he continued talking of the personal adjustments he had to make while trying to settle in Latvia. He told me of the problems of having to deal with the "terrible bureaucracy" and about how he coped with "local stereotypes" of Westerners as being arrogant, bossy and complaining. "I've had to become a much more patient person", he said, "but being a Latvian helps me to survive this place. Well, I like a good challenge, and if there's anything that this place is, it's a challenge - even if there's plenty of opportunities for us here. It's easy to get jobs because we are, well, Latvians with an edge."
Karla interrupted Guntis a second time: "You should ask the locals about how they feel about the Westerners and about them coming here! It's no use asking them about the Russians. They think they know about the Russians, but they don't. They don't even know about Latvia."
Guntis sighed, gave me a "knowing" look - and asked if I wanted coffee...
* * * * *
Guntis was Karla΄s superior and this type of local-Western relation was quite common in 1995. When local Latvians encountered returnees, it was frequently as bosses or heads of offices - positions to which some local informants aspired, but which were virtually inaccessible to them due to their lack of the competencies mentioned above. In many cases, the local Latvians and returnees were competing for various types of positions.(58)
In 1995, creating stories of a dominant Other was becoming complicated, as the new Other was "The West" which had, so to speak, been invited. A problem related to this dilemma was that the Cold war positive image of the West made many Latvians resort to what Verdery calls "magical thinking" - the idea that the Western lifestyle would be introduced by a quick and painless "fix" - which of course did not happen (Verdery 1992: 19). Instead, many experienced "the transition to the West" as privileging the elite and various "foreign experts" flowing into the country and were offended by the fact that these groups had gained such easy access to both the new and well-paid jobs within the transition industry and to powerful positions in politics and discourse. Kideckel suggests that due to such experiences the image and meaning of "the West" has become aligned along a continuum ranging from "its full embrace" through a "grudging and ambivalent acceptance" to a "wholesale rejection"(ibid.: 134-35).
Implicit in these views on the privileges of Westerners were also different positions on "The East", and although the Cold War image of East as negative and West as positive was changing, the practice of dichotomization remained, a practice which was central when informants challenged the narrative authority and positions of the Other.
The power of hybridity
When encountering local Latvians, returnees were presented with the view that they might have "an edge" on the Latvian labor market, but they were not legitimate actors in discourse and did not have a natural right to influential or powerful positions in Latvia because they were not Latvian. Thus, the encounter became a field of competition both for access to jobs and, as suggested above, for subject positions narrating identity in "the voice of the father".
As mentioned above, the returnees narrated their identity as Latvian, and thus legitimized their access to influential positions in Latvia. However, when encountering local rejection, Western Latvians sometimes put forward specific interpretations of their "Westernness" as that which provided their position and narrative with authority. This construction of authority was usually subtle and indirect, and implicitly referred to the dichotomization described above.
As shown in the previous chapters, the diasporic narratives tended to emphasize that which was backgrounded as insignificant in the local tellings. When opposing these tellings, Western Latvians described an almost caricatured image of local "Sovietization", an image directly implying or indirectly framing their own status of having lived in the "Free Western World", which was invoked as the only space in which Latvianness had successfully been reproduced. In doing so, they simultaneously created and emphasized their own "moral capital", which was presented as a complete purity from the stains of possible collaboration with the communists, a fact which some returnees did not shy away from mentioning at every possible occasion.(59)
Within such narrative constructions of diasporic political - and identificational - purity were also references to the topography of power structuring the post-Soviet global space. As suggested earlier, within this space the capitalist world is discursively constructed as the "winner" of the Cold War. Kideckel describes this discourse as being dominated by "'Western triumphalists' who give Western policies the lion's share of responsibility for the East European 'revolutions' and who, therefore, negate the actions of East Europeans themselves in this struggle." (1994: 138). Kideckel continues to describe how the dichotomization of images of East and West influence post-Soviet Western discourse, stating that:
the renunciation of socialism has given some Western leaders an over-blown sense of their own power and influence. This is evident in the ever-widening stream of high-toned articles and speeches about what the Eastern problem is all about and what the East ought to do to resolve it [ibid.:139].
How this discourse influenced diasporic self-imagery in relation to the locals was exemplified by Western Latvian journalist Ojars Celle, who wrote in a diasporic publication: "As Latvia rapidly heads toward the West, we have already lived there for decades" (Celle 1995: 4). Within this discourse of the East-West relation, the diaspora is well ahead of the local Latvians and represents itself as Latvia's human resource of both civilized Westernness and well preserved Latvianness - and towards whom local Latvians ought to be welcoming and grateful. Furthermore, many Western Latvian informants indirectly displayed the attitude that their position as "winners of the truth game" legitimized their influence and conduct in Latvia as well as provide their tellings with authority - simply because the "East" was wrong. The authority of the Western Latvian narrative was thus based on a construction of a hybrid position: they constructed their authority of being Latvians within the nationalist discourse and constructed their Westernness as authoritative with reference to the post-Soviet topography of power. This hybrid position thus constructed the diaspora not only as Latvians, but, due to the dichotomization of East and West, as better Latvians, freer Latvians, who had reproduced true Latvianness outside the demonized Soviet space. The diaspora thus associated itself with what Safran (1991) calls "host countries more advanced than the homeland":
While the homelands are grateful for [diaspora] support, they view the diaspora with a certain disdain for having been enticed by the fleshpots of capitalism and for retaining a vulgarized ethnic culture. This is among the reasons why homelands do not necessarily want to welcome their diasporas back from abroad. Returnees, particularly from host countries more advanced than the homeland, might unsettle its political, social and economical equilibrium [Safran 1991: 93-94].(60)
Although problematic in many respects, I have included the quotation in order to highlight how the post-Soviet topography of power constructed the West as more advanced than the East, which was part of the context of the encounter. While the diaspora narrated their life in the "Free West" as a guarantee of the purity of their Latvianness, the invocation of the West also exposed the diaspora to local narratives defining their Westernness as Otherness.
The power of locatedness
It was quite obvious to me that local informants felt very ambivalent about the complex experience of Westernization. On the one hand, they wanted to become part of the West in the positive sense of freedom, democratic institutions, access to consumer goods, etc. On the other, although Latvia was "heading West", many local informants felt that Latvia had - once again - been invaded by "loud foreigners" dominating Latvian space. In the words of Raitis:
What the Soviets didn't accomplish in fifty years in terms of destroying our identity, it seems that McDonalds will accomplish in just five. I think it is about time that we wake up and start questioning if we really want to be Westernized this way, if that is the right thing for us or if we will lose the identity that we have been preserving for so many years.
Observers on East European transitions suggest that the positive images of the West has been transformed into encounters with arrogant Westerners displaying a "crusader" and "spread the truth" mentality, which in some cases have created widespread anti-Western sentiments (Gerner & Hedlund 1994:9). Such a "mentality" was also observed in the encounter between Western and local Latvians, where the diaspora saw itself as "spreading the truth" about not only Western type capitals, but also about Latvian identity. Closely connected to such local Latvian skepticism towards uncritical and almost "epidemic" Westernization was the problem that a full embrace of the West as the social, cultural and political model of future life to which they aspired also entailed an acceptance of their own role as aspirants. Implicit in this "role" lay a potential for what Kideckel terms "a collective inferiority complex" (1994: 142) based on a complete dismissal of pre-1991 experiences as useless in the rush towards the West. Verdery describes the dilemma of many East Europeans quite vividly by quoting a character in the play The Mad Forest, who says "Twenty years of experience, and now I'm a beginner" (1996: 12). This view was expressed by many local informants who felt that a complete acceptance of the West would entail a marginalization of all their previous experience as well as their education.
Thus, reproducing the dichotomy of the "Good West" and the "Bad East" in the encounter with the diaspora would seriously disempower and marginalize the position of the locals. However, although local Latvians recognized both the diaspora's "moral" and "Western" capital, they did not accept them as giving the diaspora sole authority to narrate identity. If local Latvians accepted the Western Latvian narrative of identity, they implicitly had to accept that a Western Latvian was a better Latvian, a Latvian with not just the right type of education but also with the legitimate right to occupy the positions formerly held by Russians or the Soviet party elite. Furthermore, local acceptance of the East-West dichotomization as a shared frame of reference would imply feelings of inferiority, of shame for having lived a Russified and Sovietized life and of failure to preserve identity. Therefore, besides being connected to economic and political competition, local narratives refusing to accept the diaspora's Westernness as an authoritative position were also rejecting the humiliating and disempowering self imagery inherent in such an acceptance.Some informants aimed at challenging the Western Latvian position by suggesting that the returnees were returning simply because they hadn't "made it" in the West - and that they were actually Western losers trying to "make it in the East".
As suggested earlier, local Latvians did in some contexts narrate their experience of life in Soviet Latvia as problematic. However, in the context of their encounter with the Western Latvians, local informants attempted to resurrect and empower their experiences and provide them with meaning by constructing an authoritative position based on other types of capital than that promoted in Western Latvian narratives. The local narratives thus redefined Soviet space and empowered a "localized" type of capital. This capital, as described above, was derived from the authentic experience of a quotidian space defined as "Latvian". Furthermore, the capital was defined as "moral" due to the fact that the local Latvians had not "abandoned" the homeland in times of trouble or discomfort.
Such local constructions of moral capital authorizing their tellings and positions simultaneously inverted or opposed the diasporic construction of identity and authority. Besides defining their own position as authoritative, local narrative aimed at dismantling the positions created in diasporic tellings of the place-identity relation by challenging their experience as superficial and inauthentic, transitory and "touristic". The authority of the local position was narrated as based on a moral capital constituted by silence, endurance, loyalty, as well as authenticity of everyday life. In the dominant local Latvian view, Western Latvians could be accepted as high-status guests because they came from the West, while in the narratives they were marginalized as "foreigners", and to be subsequently excluded from politics and discourse because their positions were not authoritative and did not have the right to claim power or influence in Latvia.
I have briefly mentioned two discourses concerning place and identity dominating the context of the tellings and from which the narratives draw both authority and opposition to authority: (1) the global construction of the post-Soviet topography of power and its complex East-West images and (2) the "hot" nationalism dominating Latvian discourse. As shown, these discourses are "wide" or flexible enough to both support and challenge the construction of authoritative positions.Thus, the local narratives used a "secular" space in Latvian nationalist discourse to authorize their positions as Latvians. Simultaneously, they used the dichotomized discourse of the East-West relation to provide Western Latvians with the negative attributes of "Westernness" (arrogant, ignorant, greedy and too powerful foreigners with malevolent intentions), and through this, challenge the authority of their tellings. On the other hand, the Western Latvians used the official nationalist discourse to authorize their Latvianness, while they reproduced the discourse of "the West as the winner" to authorize their positions as those who "were right".
The present analysis has shown that in the encounter between local Latvians and returning Western Latvians, certain aspects of informants' experiences were either emphasized or omitted from the narratives of place and identity. Furthermore, the present chapter suggested partial reasons for these selective - and strategic - practices by relating the narratives to the complex context in which they were told.
In general, narratives should be regarded as instances of meaning and authority "in-the-making" through practices of dynamic, relational and situational selections closely linked to the context of the telling and to the position of the teller. The narratives were ongoing processes of identification as well as constructions and challenges of the authority of subject positions. We thus come to dismiss a definition of narratives as "static artifacts with rules unto themselves" (Bruner & Gorfain 1984: 58) and instead view them as open, context-sensitive tellings of experience made by historically situated agents - with sometimes very specific agendas. However, the individual creativity of the narrator is also - to a certain extent - limited. Although the narratives were individual, they were also to a certain extent shared, i.e., dominant. Informant's selections of experience were also subject to more or less systematic restrictions. On the one hand, themes used in the past were recycled and used for present purposes (diachronic reflexivity). On the other, the field of possible themes was restricted by the context of the present, as informants related themselves to the 1995 Latvian reality (synchronic reflexivity). If their narratives of identity should be meaningful and authoritative, informants had to select themes of experience suitable for obtaining these goals within this specific context, the political economy of Latvian discourse. Situated in the creative space between individual experience and discourse, informants thus practiced both diachronic and synchronic reflexivity when negotiating the relation between place and identity.
The Latvian discourse of nationalism and the global topography of power were both fields within which informants positioned themselves and by use of which they attempted to construct authoritative positions and thus authoritative tellings. However, these are also fields within which anthropology must constantly position itself. As described in the final chapter, this positioning requires constant reflexivity and self-awareness on the part of the Western anthropologist.
Upon my return from Latvia, I found it difficult to read anthropological writings celebrating the creative qualities inherent in diasporic or "hybrid" identities. One reason for this was that a substantial amount of this material seemed to be written by "diasporic" authors. After listening to informants' emotional accounts of their experiences, I automatically read the texts as another evidence of one of the parties in an ongoing struggle between place-bound and displaced tellings of identity - and wondered how they would be received in the author's "homeland". However, the homeland population were hardly ever mentioned (cf. Rubchak 1992, Mankekar 1994).
As described in Chapter Two, Cohen suggests that nationalism and the idea of national identity are constructions based on the sense-making agency of individuals. In the present analysis, I have shown how individual informants make sense of their experience of place in ways which aims at constructing their identity as Latvian. However, questions which have not been answered are: What happens when such "sense makings" enter a competitive relationship? Is one informant's version "truer" than the other's? How is the anthropologist positioned within this competitive discursive space?
Anthropological sensitivity to cultural construction and human agency seems to have no apparent effect on popular claims to supra-subjective entities and to the "natural" attachment of these to specific territories. It is "the irony of the times [ ] that as actual places and localities become ever more blurred and indeterminate, ideas of culturally and ethnically distinct places become perhaps even more salient." (Gupta & Ferguson 1992: 10). Nationalistic beliefs are becoming increasingly prominent - particularly within the former Soviet Union. This dichotomy between the beliefs of the anthropologist and those of our informants highlights ethical problems of representation, as well as the need to turn our reflexive gaze upon ourselves.
Jonathan Friedman suggests that we relate our ideas of hybridity and globalization to the global decline of Western hegemony. "The margins" (in the shape of post-colonial Others) engage in self-representations which challenge anthropological authority (Friedman 1994). Thus, anthropology's hegemony of representation is collapsing and we respond with conceptualizations such as "fragmentation" and "cultural construction". Representing this anthropological position placed me in direct opposition to the beliefs of informants. The problem was, that if "national identity" was analyzed as an identity constructed and reproduced through human agency, it lost the authority of being a fact of nature - an authority relied upon especially by local Latvian informants. Jonathan Friedman describes the problem thusly:
If one is engaged in "negotiating culture", that is, involved in the construal and interpretation of ethnographic or historical realities, then one is bound on a collision course with others for whom such realities are definitive. Culture is supremely negotiable for professional culture experts, but for those whose whole identity depends upon a particular configuration this is not the case. Identity is not negotiable. Otherwise it has no existence [Friedman 1994: 140].
In line with Richard Handler (1985), I believe, that instead of considering this discrepancy an ethical problem of representation it may be appropriate for the anthropologist to critically situate informants' narratives of "national identity". If the anthropologist does not question the commonsensical assumptions of nationalism, these assumptions will constitute a shared frame of reference between informant and researcher. If such a frame is questioned by the anthropologist, should this doubt remain hidden in an attempt not to cloud the "native voice"? Handler suggests a form of representation which explicitates the anthropological views on national identity:
Yet if cultural distinctiveness and boundedness are arbitrary constructions, products of a particular narrative and rhetorical strategies, it will be unrewarding for both anthropologists and natives to go on believing them to be objective features of the "natural" world. Perhaps a destructive analysis of our shared presuppositions can become the anthropologists contribution to a dialogue that respect natives rather than romanticizing them [Handler 1985: 181].(61)
Handler's position is useful for overcoming problems of representation. However, when the anthropologist writes of cultural constructions as opposed to their informants' claims to authenticity these writings may result in a dis-empowerment of more powerless groups. Thus, the problem of power and authority within discourse remains, and we need to reflect upon both our own position in discourse and upon the positions our voice aims at either constructing or deconstructing.
Anthropology's deconstruction of the nationalist paradigm of placebound identities is a production of knowledge situated within a given historical context. The anthropological production of knowledge has never been completely isolated from global economical interests. As Hans-Rudolf Wicker states, "Deconstructing classical concepts for the understanding of social reality and tracing them back to once dominant norms and values only makes sense if one is ready to do the same thing with new theories and concepts" (Wicker 1996: 25). The construction of Homo Nationalis was thus closely connected to specific economic forms, capital's need for protected and closed national markets or the construction of a placebound work-force. Thus, the present anthropological construction of flexible, hybrid, and trans-national identifications - Homo Globalis - should be reflected upon as being connected to the internationalization of economic activity and its inherent needs for this conceptualization of place and identity within the global space. Indeed, as Wicker states, "globalization as a way of reading the world has its roots in contemporary marketing and management strategies" (1996: 24). Canonizing the flexible, hybrid and transnational, anthropology as a production of knowledge is in no way detached from global capitalism, which needs spatially detached work forces and open, global markets. As seen in the present analysis, the hybridity of Western Latvians was regarded as a form of globally useful capital. They were occasionally engaged in "selling" their combined Westernness and Latvianness as a product, as a source of income and using it as a means to appropriate national discourse and enter Latvian political life.
Anthropology (and late capitalism) embraces diaspora, as it mirrors the present global vision of hybridity and cultural complexity. Defining diasporic experience as "the truest eye" in a world dominated by globalization conveniently authentifies and disalienates the gaze of the anthropologist. In doing so, anthropological discourse not only disempower those insisting on nationalist naturalisms (which may be their only claim to authority within various topographies of power), it also canonizes a specific telling of identity as that which in the closest way represents our own experience of displacement as well as our perception of the world. In short, we produce Homo Globalis as a substitute for Homo Nationalis, and we must be ready to acknowledge that this production has consequences.
Deconstructing place-bound identifications gives the transnational elites an upper hand in their relation to the inhabitants of the places they go, i.e., those who do not always possess the magic of the "trans". It is therefore crucial that anthropology not turn a blind eye to other forms of power relations than those characterizing the experiences of poor migrants "Heading Hopefully North". We must also focus on the roles of the elite travellers, such as anthropologists, politicians, businessmen or privileged pilgrims of identity as well as on possible consequences of their powerful positions in discourse and politics. If not, we risk mystifying transnationalism and disempowering the "dwellers" of the world by canonizing globalization and hybridity as the New World (dis)Order.
Fieldnote no. 11:
I leave Aija and head home. I walk across the square. Tevzeme un Brivibai, the inscription on the foundation of the statue says - "Fatherland and Freedom". "Brivibas" was one of the first Latvian words I learned when I visited Riga in December 1994 - it is written everywhere. From the square and to the North-East runs Brivibas Bulvari, Freedom Boulevard. It runs parallel to the street in which I live, and I look at the map to find out where to turn. Brivibas Bulvari is long - extending into Brivibas Iela, Freedom street. It is filled with expensive shops - Benetton clothes, antiques and Motorola mobile phones. Actually, Brivibas Iela continues to the very edge of the city map, disappearing into the unmapped suburbs. Brivibas Bulvaris is monumental, as a tribute to freedom itself.
Fieldnote no. 217:
I accompanied Vizma on one of her shopping sprees today. My feet are aching from walking up and down Brivibas Bulvari with her. She must have spent an amount equal to what I pay Anna during my entire stay. Aija said the other day, that most of the people she knows use a "trick" when walking on Brivibas: they simply don't look at the things in the windows. Otherwise they'll simply get depressed, she says, because they can't afford anything there. "That street is for Westerners and for the mafia, not for ordinary Latvians", she said.
The further I go in my study, the more the meaning of Brivibas Bulvari - as a symbol or metaphor - seems to change. In my mind, from being a monument to freedom, independence and unity, it is becoming a symbol of division, of disappointment and feelings of exclusion. Cutting the city in two, freedom and independence divides rather than unites. A universal division with a vast field of connotations attached to it - identity, personal emotions, politics, hopes and fears - and extending beyond the limits of the city map and into a global, post-Soviet space.
|week 14, 1995|||||||||||||-|||||
|week 50, 1994|||||||||||||-||-|
|ACTIVITY *)||Interviews||P. O. **)||Events||Transcript|
*) Interviews : | = 1 interview
P.O.: | = intensity (|/||/|||/||||/|||||)
Events: | = 1 event
Transcript: | = 1 interview fully transcribed
**) In charting the intensity of P.O., I have chosen to split this activity from actual events in which I have participated. This is done in order to show the number of events in which I joined and in which my lack of language skills played no significant role. The variations in the intensity of participant observation is defined by the intensity of fieldnotes resulting from P.O.
The number of interviews, the transcriptions and events have all been noted in my field-log, on the basis of which the present chart is constructed.
(Examples of Latvian cultural activities in the United States)
June 16-August 8: The Fourth Baltic Studies Summer Institute takes place at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian languages will be offered. Cultural enrichment will consist of Baltic Culture (first 4 weeks) and Baltic History (second 4 weeks). For further information, [...].
June 29-August 9: Latvian children's camp at Garezers near Three Rivers. Three two-week periods are scheduled. For further information [...].
June 29-August 10: Latvian high school at Garezers near Three Rivers. For further information, [...]
August 10-17: "3X3"(62) Latvian cultural camp at Garezers near Three Rivers. [...]
Latvian folk dancing takes place regularly at the Kalamazoo Latvian Social Center (KLSC) , [...]
September 13: First day of class for the Latvian School of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The day begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Latvian. Ev.-Lutheran Church of Minneapolis and St. Paul, [...] New students are welcome throughout the year.
November 26-30: The 45th annual congress of the American Latvian Youth Association takes place at the Holiday Inn Metrodome in Minneapolis.
July 20: The musical "Laimes reiboni," based on the Rudolfs Blaumanis play "Launais gars," will be performed at noon and 5:30 p.m. in the Hostos College Theater, [ ]. The musical also will be performed twice during the 10th General Song Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.
August 10-17: The Latvian cultural camp "3X3" is scheduled in the Latvian camp near Elka Park
July 25-27: The 10th General Song Festival in the United States will take place in Cleveland. [...]
June 9-August 9: Summer high school "Kursa" at the West Coast Education Center near Shelton.[...]
September 3-December 18: Spend a semester studying at the University of Latvia through a cooperative arrangement with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Source: Internet website "Latvians in America" (http://www.tc.umn.edu/nlhome/m321/a-stra/kalendars.html.), downloaded 1.8.1997. This is an edited version, excluding various events, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
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1. After Latvian independence, The First Republic was constructed as The Golden Age in Latvian history, and the Constitution of this period was instantly reinstalled as the legislative foundation of the new state. This caused many problems, especially in the fields of minority-protection and human rights, as Latvia in the 1920's and 30's - like so many European states - was dominated by politics with strong anti-democratic and antisemitic trends. The process of updating and revising this Constitution was still going on during my fieldwork, a revision which constituted a field of intense negotiation, eg., between the Latvian government and various international organizations (mainly the United Nations Development Program).
2. However, while claiming to act in the interest of the Baltic Germans in the country, in June 1941 Nazi Germany invaded Latvia. Though the pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was thus breached, it nevertheless formed the basis of Soviet claims to the Baltic territories, which the Red Army repossessed in 1944.
3. For example, local Latvian informants would sometimes describe "communist" experiences, such as being granted Soviet medals or orders with both pride and pleasure - while they simultaneously describe themselves as "nationalists". I return to local informants descriptions of everyday life in the Soviet Union in Chapter Three.
4. For a recent and thorough analysis of the complex problems of dissent, see Jespersen (1999).
5. During this time the Soviet Union went through changes initiated by Communist Party Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev These changes known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction), included economical and political reforms and also a softening of the restrictions on travel and communications between the Soviet Union and the West.
6. Western countries with Latvians include Australia (33,000), Canada (18,000), Brazil (6,000), West Germany (12,000), Britain (10,000), Sweden (5,000), New Zealand - (4,000) and other "noncommunist" countries (Sinka 1988: 51).
7. Of course, demographic categories can be deceptive. Not all those of 'Latvian descent' in the West still categorize and represent themselves as 'Latvians'.
8. As I have downloaded the report from the internet, page numbers are missing (see bibliography for internet address)
9. I discovered the gatherings at Rozamunde's through an advert that read: "Rozamunde's. Tired of being a Martian? Feeling like an alien? Coffee, talks, verse for North Americans, Monday nights 19:00-22:00." It was a gathering where "Westerners could meet and get a chance to talk about Star Trek, Steven Spielberg and other homely subjects," as Inese, a Canadian-Latvian woman and one of the organizers, put it. More important, here Western Latvians felt free to express their frustration about the realities of returning to their homeland'.
10. The WFFL is the umbrella organization of: the ALA (The American Latvian Association), LAAJ (Latvian Federation of Australia and New Zealand), DLA (Latin American Latvian Association). Furthermore, the RLA (Western Europe Latvian Association) includes all European national sub-associations.
11. Although the snowball method proved efficient due to the short time frame of my fieldwork, it has its drawbacks. In one case, I had to discard the data obtained from a young informant, as I - in the middle of the interview - realized that he was hopelessly in love with Aija, my interpreter and that most of his answers were quite clearly designed to please or impress her.
12. My interpreter called it excuses and stated that this was a common practice: "Latvians never invite strangers to their homes!".
13. All informants have been given or have chosen code-names. Anonymity was important to most informants, and I have therefore disguised descriptions of work places and other easily recognizable information.
14. Anna had somehow managed to keep the truth about her past from her Western Latvian guests. "When they ask about all the books by Lenin and Marx, I simply say that we were forced to have them here, just in case the KGB dropped by. They love hearing such stories of the terrible oppression", she said. I overcame the problem by a general practice of discretion, and avoiding being associated with any position concerning the issues of my project. However, in one instance the practice of discretion was impossible. Aija, who had found accommodation for me through the World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) initially did not know of Anna's past as a communist. Nor did the WFFL. When she learned about this Aija became very worried that Anna should be telling me "communist lies." Anna did not approve of my cooperation with Aija either, calling her a "super-Latvian" and a "nationalist". However, I managed to convince Aija that she should not tell the WFFL about Anna, as this would have made them refuse to use her as a future hostess - a fact that would have deprived Anna of this extra income.
15. Furthermore, our sessions were often mutually beneficial, as she regarded my questions as a way of getting to terms with her "mixed-up feelings about identity and about coming to Latvia".
16. I differentiate between"German" and "American" Latvians only in descriptions of informants. An analysis of the possible differences between the Western Latvian communities and their narrative constructions of identity will not be included in the present study. Suffice it to say that Western Latvian informants disagreed as to whether or not such differences existed at all.
17. This is also the reason I occasionally use the term "returnees", which suggests the actual movement informants had made by coming to Latvia as well as the problematics of return.
18. Perle Møhl (1997) defines discourse as all-encompassing, as including speech, actions, and in many cases silence... all that can be conceived of as signs. She suggests that "other aspects of society can only be conceived of through discourse." (ibid.: 25). Foucault's definition of discourse is based on his attempts to reach that which exist outside it, or which is excluded from it ((homo)sexuality, madness, crime, etc.). Thus, the power exercised in discourse and the restrictions this power imposes on thought and knowledge is absolutely central to Foucault's conceptualization. However, he also suggests that the power of discourse is not absolute and that the boundaries it imposes on thought are constantly being challenged and - however slowly - moved. He writes: "Discourse is not once and for all subservient to power or raised up against it. We must make allowances for the complex and unstable process whereby discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy (op.cit: 51).
19. For a further critique of the problem of local/global relations in Bruner's conceptualizations, see Mogensen (1995).
20. It should be noted, that this analytical/ethnographic use of the term "local" is of course different from that signifying the relation between the "local" and the "global".
21. People telling such dominant narratives may, however, also recognize that competing dominant narratives are more solidified and more powerful in discourse.
22. It should be noted that while the academic discourse has deconstructed nationalist constructions and placed the concept of culture within the realm of processuality and human agency, the positivistic and static concepts of culture and nationality have become paradigmatic outside academia. Nationalism is on the rise, and talk of "culture" as an almost biological aspect of human life has been the order of public discourse in recent times.
23. Chambers does not use this phrase to identify a "narrative". He simply uses it as a wide, sweeping description of people in motion. Thus, he reproduces the main thematic structure in writings on displacement.
24. It has been increasingly difficult to separate the concept of "ethnicity" from ideas of "the national". However, it is not the object of the present study to participate in the intricate discussions of the relation between the two concepts of collectivity. Suffice it to say that some theorists regard ethnicity as the most general concept, of which nationalism is just a special case. Others believe that ethnicity is a concept which is created by and therefore subsumed nationalism as political ideology (cf. Vermeulen & Govers 1994:7).
25. Many of the World War II refugees were gathered in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. In informants narratives, the DP camps were represented as being the first places outside Latvia in which the Western Latvians would reproduce (and "preserve") what they regarded as their distinct cultural and ethnic identity. They created events and temporary institutions within the camps, explicitly in order to articulate and save Latvian identity. Based on a number of interviews with former Latvian DP's, historian Mark Wyman concludes:"Many were convinced [ ] that they, in exile, represented the heart, the living soul, of their people. They were now the sovereign nation - they in the crowded camps, far from the hills, the coasts, the fields of home. I]f the Latvian language was to be retained in its purity and beauty before being Russified, it [had to] be through the lips of the DPs" (Wyman 1989: 157).
26. I have chosen to use the term diaspora to describe these communities in the West. My use of the term is inspired by Clifford, who writes, we must strive to create a flexible conceptualization which encompasses the fact that the meanings of diaspora are often "ambivalent, even embattled" (Clifford 1994: 306). The concept of diaspora should be made to encompass the complexity of multi-locale attachments, both when it comes to the "myth of return" and the relation between diaspora and host country. This conceptualization opens a complex analytical space emphasizing different relations to homeland and host country and changes in diasporic experiences. Thus, the displaced Latvians' perception of the homeland influenced their practices in their diasporic communities in significant ways.
27. One form cultural reproduction took place within the family home. This was mainly language teaching and celebration of Latvian Christmas (Ziemassvetki ), Easter (Lieldienas) and Midsummer festival (Jani). However, one had to go out of the home and into the cultural centers to reproduce Latvianness as something other than a family business.
28. Such representations of the homeland are often highlighted in anthropological writings on diaspora. According to Gupta & Ferguson, homelands are often "symbolic anchors of community" or "the most powerful unifying symbols" for mobile and dispersed peoples (Gupta & Ferguson 1992:11)
29. However, it should be noted that the sites described by Olwig often exist as permanent localities in a global space, whereas most of the cultural sites described by informants were temporary and could be defined as "cultural chronotopes". I return to this difference below.
30. The Dainas is the very large collection of Latvian folk songs. During the mid 19th century national awakening in Latvia, the Dainas were assembled and codified by Latvian scholar Krisjanis Barons. Of some 1.5 million collected, 217,996 items were published. The Dainas, and the equivalent Estonian and Lithuanian collections of folk songs, have since then been heavily politicized as nationalist projects of resistance through song festivals and as expressions of the (Herderian) national genius, or soul. (Lieven 1992: 113). Thus, Baltic resistance against Soviet oppression has been termed "the singing revolutions". For detailed analyses of the scope and significance of these songs, their cultural and political impact on Baltic history, see Lieven (1992), Trapans (1989) and Norborg (1996).
31. CHRONOTOPE: from Greek: chronos = time and topos = place.
32. This spatial practice of travelling to "one's own kind" is similar to that described by Jonathan Friedman in his writings on Hawaiian travel. He describes how Hawaiians "go holoholo, travelling", and how they do so "in clearly established conduits within which they meet only their own kind, either family or perhaps other local Hawaiians" (Friedman 1997: 288). He describes this practice as "endosociality", which "entails a high level of intensity in social life. At any one time there are a number of activities concentrated to several different places and several different networks. The core of these networks are kinship based, often part of an extended family and a network of less closely related relatives and friends" (ibid.: 289). In the present case, the endosociality characterizing the "family routes" is extended to include the whole Latvian diaspora, which is narrated as an "extended family".
33. I do not intend to categorize the local Latvians as non-travelers or static subjects tied to their habitat. Many informants have travelled within the Soviet Union, have studied in Leningrad or in Moscow. However, in the present context, the fact that locals choose to represent themselves and their experience as characterized by dwelling is foregrounded in my story as it is in theirs.
34. Raitis had worked together with Western Latvians at a new computer firm in Riga and was ultimately replaced by one of them, a fact which made him talk of the returnees with bitterness and a hint of resignation. "I cannot compete with them", he said.
35. Thus, locals talk of Latvians as "Whites" (In Latvian 'balts' means 'white'), as more "civilized", educated, refined and less vulgar than the Russians or "the blacks down south" in the Muslim republics. Furthermore, the geographical location of the Latvian territory is often used in informants narratives to signify that the Latvia within the Soviet space was "the West of the East", possessing a more "European" or "Western" type identity fundamentally different from that of the "Slavs" .
36. Komsomol: the Communist Party Youth Organization.
37. Vackins was referring to the difference between Vecriga and the suburbs. These suburbs mainly consist of concrete blocks built in a Soviet architectural style - a conspicuous contrast to Vecriga's newly restored 18th and 19th century Germanic architecture. Vackins' beliefs about the residential habits of the returning diaspora was similar to my own observations. Most of my Western Latvian informants lived either in the center or in houses by the seaside, usually in Jurmala, a beautiful - and expensive - summer resort south of Riga. Due to the post-independence privatization of the housing stock in the city center and the costs of its renovation, rents in Vecriga are rapidly rising, and - consequently - still fewer local Latvians can afford to live there.
38. For a critique of the sharpness of the public/private dichotomy see Svetlana Boym 1994. Though my data substantiates such a critique, a further discussion of private and public life lies beyond the scope of the present study.
39. Though the present study is based on a fieldwork in 1995, I am still in touch with Anna, my landlady, and she tells me that most of the problems described here are the same in 1999 as they were during the time of my stay. Things do change, though slowly. An "everyday" difficulty often mentioned by locals is the inefficient supply of heat and water. A central agency turns the heat on in October and off in April - independently of the weather conditions during these months. The radiators in the various buildings do not have thermostats, making it impossible to regulate temperatures. The heat is either there - or it is not. Due to pollution, the water is undrinkable and stops running without warning. The temperature of the water is something people have to figure out daily, a fact which can be especially problematic in the long, cold winter.
40. For a general debate of such nationalist/"cosmopolitan" positions in the former communist bloc, see Kideckel 1994.
41. When I asked about this presence, local informants tended to emphasize experiential themes which excluded this group. This could be the fact that the Russians had different "traditions", that they were generally "un-Latvian" in their conduct and world-view or that they never really engaged themselves in the type of everyday life which locals narrated as "Latvian". And, one informant said, they didn't speak Latvian, so they didn't have access to real Latvian ordinary life. The Russians, in other words, may have lived in Latvia, but not in Latvia. The local narratives on place and identity often proved rather paradoxical when applied to the resident Russians. More than anything else, this implied that the narratives are directed and situational. For a further discussion on this, see Camilla Rosengaard's MA thesis, "En Verdens Vaklen" on the Russians in Latvia and their experience of a collapse of identity after the Latvian independence (1998, Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen).
42. "Zupa" was a code name chosen by Zupa herself. It means "soup", and she laughed at the not too subtle reference to the Latvian national dish, a soup which consists mainly of hot water and lumps of fat.
43. I use the term "articulation" inclusively, signifying the practice of giving form, sound or shape to something. In this sense articulation includes words, cultural artifacts, monuments, ritual, performance, etc.
44. Within the Soviet Union, "legal" forms of cultural articulation were aimed at representing the diversity of nations "unified under the Soviet Socialist State". Without some form of visible reproduction of diversity, the hollowness of the rhetorics of "unification" would have been too evident. In Soviet official discourse as well as in public perceptions (as suggested in Chapter Three), cultural "homelands" were officially staged through controlled forms of articulation.
45. An interesting aspect of the Dainas is that they suggest a Latvian reserve towards expression. Anatol Lieven writes: "A Latvian emigré scholar, Vaira Vikis-Freibergs [ ] has said, that the dainas have an essential 'coolness' of style, reflected in a 'strong reserve and retinence towards the direct expression of deep emotions', which has been passed on to Latvian literature. She contrasts this with Russian folk-style and culture, which she says are at the extreme 'hot' end of the scale" (Lieven 1992: 114).
46. Multiculturalism originated in the political and cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. In postmodern thought the critical focus lies in the power of discursive and other defining practices. As Amit-Talai writes, "postmodernism, in its rejection of positive universalism, has privileged positioned discourse"(1996: 108). The struggle against the dominance of WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant - and Male) discourse has led to a constant emphasis on the position (race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality) of the subject. Multicultural policies include affirmative action and education programs in the United States and the Multicultural Act in Canada (ibid.: 90-91). For further discussions on these issues, see Lutz (1993), Turner (1993) and Amit-Talai (1996).
47. The hierarchization of "ethnicity" inherent in Laura's remarks on being "ethnic" and not "colored" is a subject of great complexity in itself, but analyzing the Latvian-Americans' position within such hierarchies (political, racial, etc.) is beyond the scope of the present study. Suffice it to say that when "joining America", "in the joining some are more equal than others" (Western 1992: 6).
48. Silence as a form of resistance is also described by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard (1987). Baudrillard talks of the "strategy of the object", of which "the most beautiful example is the masses: they do not at all constitute an object of oppression and manipulation. The masses do not have to be liberated, and they cannot be. All their (transpolitical) power is constituted by being there as a pure object, i.e., rebutting any political inclination to establish a dialogue with them with their silence, their lack of desire" (ibid.: 104). Baudrillard suggests that "the silence of the masses" can be seen as a "a sinister and ironical revolution" (ibid.: 105). And, he suggests, the more silent the masses become, the more desperate are the measures (opinion polls, statistics, questionnaires, etc.) taken to make them speak and enter the realm of discursive control and visibility. In the present context, this implies that the almost desperate Soviet articulation of the success of the communist system, the parades, tractors, harvests, factories and the (forever smiling) United Soviet People was a discourse based on fear of the masses; a discourse attempting to establish a dialogue with the masses, who remained ominously silent. In Baudrillard's world view, the local narratives of everyday life and silence could be understood not as a result of oppression, but as a strategy, as the masses giggling ironically and almost inaudibly in the shadows created by the searchlights of Soviet discourse (my translation from the Danish edition).
49. During my interviews with her, Love was very emotional about her ambivalent relation to "the homeland" and to the locals. Twice she started crying. She selected the pseudonym "Love" herself, explaining that it was "because I love Latvia". "But as you can probably tell", she says, "it's a rather heart breaking love affair".
50. Thus, tourists seeking "backstage experiences", anthropologists and other "immersionists" come to understand that boundaries and exclusive practices are often found in the seemingly banal details.
51. The Latvian citizenship law is based on kinship or jus sanguinis (the right of the blood) rather than on jus solis (the right of the land), by which citizenship is granted on the basis of long-term residence or birth in the national territory. This definition of citizenship has had two major effects: the exclusion of the resident Russians, and the inclusion of the Latvian diaspora.
52. In 1995, I encountered a widespread local skepticism concerning the government and state apparatus. Informants expressed either a complete indifference toward the Latvian government or criticized it sharply. The state was viewed not as a democratically elected institution, in which informants themselves had 'a stake' by means of their vote - but as a clique of individuals who were, as Anna said, "in it for the money and to advance their personal interests". (For a further analysis of the problems of electorate indifference, see the UNDP Latvia Human Development Reports 1995 and 1996). The discrepancy between legal and "popular" tellings of identity is not unique to the Latvian context. It is, in the words of Eriksen, not uncommon to find discrepancies between "nationalism as ideology" and "nationalism on the ground" (1993: 116). The former tends to claim clear cut, digital boundaries between "nationals" and "foreigners" based on unambiguous legal classifications; the latter refers to an analogue social reality, where perceptions of national membership are based on experience and interaction. In the present case, it was at this latter "level" that the competition for authoritative tellings took place, but with the twist that "nationalism on the ground" constructed boundaries where the state version did not.
53. These others, as suggested earlier, were the large Russian minority who had fallen from Soviet grace, but Otherness was also increasingly defined as "Westernness".
54. Today, part of the aid provided by the West to the East consists of promoting specific forms of symbolic capital developed in democratic and capitalist systems. For an elaborated analysis of Western export of "know-how" to the former Communist bloc, cf. "Too Much Democracy" - on democracy projects in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgystan (Boehm 1997) and "The Social Life of Projects" - on the "transition industry" in Albania (Sampson 1996).
55. In the field of information technology, the Soviet educational system and research was very advanced. What is needed now is not so much skills in programming, etc., but knowing the types of software which are essential within democratic and capitalist systems. This form of software varies. Examples are: government level systems of voter registration and taxation; global communications software and business-type forms of software designed to make private business administration and budgeting more efficient.
56. In quite a few cases, diasporic informants had been hired by other Western Latvians. One such case was a woman I met at the happy hour party at the WFFL. She was about 35, from Canada, and was educated as a musician. Her former work experience had been teaching children in kindergartens in Canada. Nevertheless, in Latvia she was the (well paid) editor of an international newsletter published by a Ministry. She was offered the job, she said, by a high ranking Canadian-Latvian she knew in the Ministry's Information Department. Later I talked to Inese, who said that she had turned down the very same offer because she "wasn't qualified for it" and "didn't agree with the Western Latvian nepotism".
57. The list contained names, addresses, phone numbers and occupation of about 450 returnees. The list was far from complete, and only 5 of my Western Latvian informants were on it. It proved to be rather controversial, as none of the Western Latvian informants knew of its existence. When I told them of the list, some reacted by asking for a copy, so that they could contact "their own kind" when needed - others were quite angry, saying that it was a sign of a "Big Brother mentality" within the diaspora. This reaction came from informants believing to be in Latvia in cognito , but whose name and address appeared on the list.
58. As suggested in Chapter One, most of the local informants were well educated. The relation between the returnees and less educated local Latvians is therefore not central to the present thesis. One could, however, expect this type of relation to be somewhat different, as competition for the same positions would not be an issue. Again, this would probably depend on the general attitude and conduct of the returnees. If they consistently referred to the "better West" or to changes that had taken place in Latvia, less competitive local Latvians might still regard their Western Latvian visitors with skepticism.
59. Especially the older generations of Western Latvians frequently mention their own moral capital. In a special election issue of the diasporic publication Latvian Dimensions 4(4) 1995, all the parties and candidates running for the Latvian Saeima are listed. Besides general election issues, LD provides information about which candidates are "Communists", "Agents" ("candidates who have been agents or collaborators with the KGB or other security forces"), or "Western Latvians"(LD, 4(4) 1995: 4).
60. Safran uses the expression "more advanced than" without explaining or criticizing the term. I regard his use as an example of how topographies of power are constructed and maintained in academic discourse. Another reservation in relation to Safran's analysis concerns his use of the term "equilibrium". Disregarding the fact that this is generally quite problematic, as it connotes a static conceptualization of society, it is specifically problematic as a description of the post Soviet Latvian society which encountered the diaspora. Here, as almost everywhere else within the former communist bloc, change was the rule.
61. Handler's use of the concept of "destructive analysis" is inspired by Sapir, and means "exploration of the grammatical underpinnings of commonsensical categories"
62. 3x3: (in Latvian tris reis tris.) Camps with the participation of three generations. Occasionally, the Latvian diaspora also arranges 2x2 camps for parents and their children.
63. Daugavas Vanagi (The Hawks of Daugava) grassroot level organization founded in 1946 in Germany as welfare organization caring for "disabled servicemen, their families, war widows and orphans". However, "soon it became a national body concerned for the material and spiritual welfare of all Latvians in the West"(L&L 1978: 43-44). In 1978, 'Daugavas Vanagi' had 10.000 members and 133 branches. DV is furthermore involved in "guarding Latvian culture", eg. by publishing the weekly newspaper Latvija Amerika (Latvia in America).