FOLLOWING THE 'WORLDS IN THE MEMORY'. THE EXILES' NARRATIVES AND HISTORICAL TRUTH IN ETHNOLOGICAL RESEARCH
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The article deals with the following problem: in what way are the memories and memoirs of the Polish exiles useful as a source for the knowledge about people's subjective attitudes and behavior juxtaposed with objective facts. The authoress supports the thesis about their usefulness for social studies. Memories of the Poles exiled to the USSR in 1940-1941 represent a particular kind of auto-narrative. Archives, both, in Poland and abroad, contain large collections of their recorded accounts. The richest are the collections in the 'Archiwum Naukowe PTL' (Academic Archives of the Polish Ethnographic Society) and in 'Archiwum Wschodnie osrodka Karta' (Eastern Archives of the 'Karta' centre). They are very inspiring as a source for studies for more than one academic discipline, ethnology among them. On the other hand, taking into consideration both the form of the documents under consideration (notes, diaries, memoirs, accounts) and their content (inevitably selective as it is not possible to tell a whole life story) they belong to specific, and in some way 'difficult' kind of documentation. They are distinguished by particular dramaturgy and reasons why they were written. More often than not they are 'life stories' rather than accounts of one particular event. That suggests the necessity of the researcher's distance and, on the other hand his/her caution and sensitivity. Vital message can be hidden between the lines. Life histories are in principle personal, but it often happens that their authors feel the need to tell them from the point of view of a witness who came into personal contact with what they write about. Particular time and events play the role of background for events from the life of families and individuals. They are obviously told in a subjective way. In the article the authoress tries to point out traps and mistakes connected with using such documents in our studies. On the other hand it is worth emphasizing that they make a very valuable source material, although often underestimated in our research. Previous criticism of credibility and reliability of biographies resulted in some important theoretical lines as well as methodological solutions, which can be applicable in ethnology too. It is worth pointing out that every researcher who uses narratives in order to reveal intrinsic meanings is at risk of unintentional 'constructing the data'. There are three elements which will let us avoid it: the researcher's consciousness, vast knowledge of the facts in question (social and historical) and deep analysis of the source material.
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