‘Emotive Language as Identity Performance in Miron Dolot’s Execution by Hunger‘ was presented at the Ukraine and the World Conference on 13th of July 2018 at Monash University.
The Holodomor was a significant famine in Ukrainian history and one that was heavily linked to Soviet politics. Inadequate documentation at the time has led to death toll estimates of anywhere between 2.4 to 12 million people. Those affected by the famine suffered a number of traumatic experiences, perhaps the most unspeakable of which was cannibalism. Many of the survivors left their homeland to form communities in parts of the West, including North America, where their identities have been shaped by their memories of the past. Using an approach that combines politics, identity and affect, this paper explores the re-creation of Miron Dolot’s encounter with cannibalism during the Holodomor through personal narrative in Execution by Hunger (1985), and the ways in which emotive language is used to express a collective ‘victim’ identity. Personal narratives have long been regarded as a site for human action and reaction, and a medium for people to “work through” trauma (LaCapra 2001). Emotive language provides a means of sharing experiences with others and revealing what Felman and Laub (1992) call “higher truths”. For the Holodomor, this means delineating the collective ‘self’ as victim from the ‘other’ as perpetrator. This dichotomy forms a key part of collective identities in the Ukrainian diaspora and has contributed to the ways in which these experiences are remembered not only by survivors, but by future generations.
Keywords: affect; emotive language; identity; memory; narrative; trauma