The 12th European Social Science History Conference was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the first week of April 2018. Chaired by Dr Heide Glaesmer (University of Leipzig), a group of CHIBOW ESRs had the chance to present preliminary results from their research on Children Born of War in different historical and geopolitical settings in the 20th century. Heide Glaesmer, CHIBOW’s Director of Training introduced the research network and presented on psychological consequences of growing up as a child born of war in the post-war period in Germany and on the impact of life story research on its participants.
ESR Michal Korhel explored the life stories of Czech-German children in relation to post-WWII Czechoslovakia, with a view to identifying key factors that could have played a significant role in the lives of Czech-German children and the extent to which they were persecuted in the post-war period. His analysis highlighted several significant factors: the gender of the German national within a mixed family; the date of the parent’s marriage; as well as the location or role played by the parents during the war.
ESR Sophie Roupetz discussed the mother-child attachment representations of Occupation children born of rape after WWII in Germany using a qualitative approach. Analysis shows that these children describe their mother-child relationships across the lifespan troublesome - often with a retrospective desire of reconciliation and feelings of gratitude towards the mother.
Focusing on oral history in Vietnam and US, ESR Nastassia Serste presented preliminary data analysis from interviews conducted in France among Vietnamese and mixed-blood children born during the Vietnam War. She discussed the two different methodologies being used to conduct interviews: Cognitive Edge Sensemaker® software for both Vietnam and the US; and semi-structured interviews in France. Followed by some results showing the diversity of social experiences among the children born of Vietnam War reflecting the diversity in life context and the environment (country, city or town, family, community, etc.) where they grew up and where they live now.
ESR Lukas Schretter presented his research on how children of British soldiers and Austrian mothers interpreted their experiences and their family histories during the occupation period and beyond. His findings are based on interviews he conducted in Austria and in Great Britain. In addition, an analysis of letters and memoirs allowed Lukas to gain an insight into how the children have dealt with their biological background and when and how – if at all – they began searching for their “roots”. Rising public interest has encouraged many children of British soldiers to share their personal memories in public. In return, their narratives have had an impact on how collective memory of the postwar period has been constructed, shared, and passed on.
ESR Jakub Galeziowski in a panel specifically focused on ethical problems and reflections, discussed the concept of vulnerability not only when working with oral history interviewees but also with traditional written sources – records of tragic events, descriptions of brutal and violent behaviours or traumatic experiences. Based on his experiences from the research on Children Born of War in Poland Jakub shared his emotional insights and responses, an integral part of the research process, and highlighted that we as researchers are also vulnerable. In conclusion he put forward a number of strategies researchers can take to cope with sensitive topics.