Even though narrating is a universal phenomenon, there is no one universal narration model, much less a universal life story model. This is also verified by the life stories from various ethnic groups that have long lived among Latvians in the Latvian cultural space. Life stories play an important role in the research of ethnic history and social memory, because both Roma and Livonian cultures and their transmission between generations have traditionally been based on the oral tradition. Any attempt to reconstruct the history of these two ethnic groups is therefore encumbered as well as open to various interpretations. Life stories can likewise be interpreted in different ways. This article examines the creation of life stories both as a social event in a specific time and space and as one of the forms of cultural experience. The article presents excerpts from Livonian and Roma life stories, thereby revealing not only what is unique about each narrator, but also providing an insight into a certain group’s experience of reality that is expressed through narratives. The type of expression and use of language, story composition, intertextuality and presentation all contain information about the culture and society in which the narrator lives. Audio recordings from the National Oral History Archives at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia have been used for this study. Over the 20 years since its founding, the archives have amassed a voluminous Livonian oral history collection. The interviews took place in the Latvian language, in the local tāmnieku dialect spoken by the Livonians who were born and have grown up along the northern Kurzeme coast. The Roma interviews were also recorded in Kurzeme, some in the 1990s, but most just this past summer, within the project “Ethnic and Narrative Diversity in the Construction of Life Stories in Latvia”, financed by the Latvian Council of Science. Life stories are unique performances, but they are, at the same time, also created within a complicated, established social situation and are influenced by several aspects: the interview context, cooperation between the narrator and the interviewee as two separate personalities, the narrator’s abilities and individual creativity. Cultural and historical conditions have influenced both Livonian and Roma life stories, thereby revealing influences from their usual environment, traditional way of life and folklore, as well as from Latvian culture and the era in which they live.
Atsauce: Garda-Rozenberga, I. & Zirnīte, M. (2014) Elulood etniliste kultuuride uurimises: Lätimaa liivlaste ja mustlaste elulugusid. Mäetagused, Vol. 56, 103-126.