‘The Missing Picture in Holodomor Discourse: An Analysis of the Representation of Women in The Black Deeds of the Kremlin’ will be presented at the International Association of Genocide Studies conference in July in Phnom Penh.
This research examines the representation of women in the collection of testimonies published under the title The Black Deeds of the Kremlin: A White Book. The text discusses a currently under-researched genocide that took the form of a man-made famine in 1930s Ukraine, known as the Holodomor. The Holodomor has become highly politicised by the Ukrainian diaspora communities in the West, evident in the dual narratives of martyrdom and exile found in the testimonies of The Black Deeds. Martyrdom and exile narratives are traditionally tied to political activism and nationalism, which have long been male-dominated spheres of East European literature. The research draws on methods of visual sociology in its analysis of the photographs and images in The Black Deeds to reveal patterns of gendered memory that have become characteristic of Holodomor discourse. The overall findings of the research suggest that women’s experiences of the Holodomor are under-represented in The Black Deeds and that women’s memory is constructed primarily through two visual frames: women as mothers and women as embodied subjects of Soviet atrocities. As a site of collective memory, the Holodomor reveals the complex ways in which women’s experience is recalled through gendered narratives that reify these traditional representations of women. In particular, the research suggests that, in the pursuit of political interests, traumatised societies ought to be wary of creating narratives that exclude certain voices and exploit the memory of the dead.