About

FAMILY LINE-UPS. Trans-generational Encounters in Family Photography  is a visual project which is part of a wider research venture conducted by a group of academics in the American Studies Program at the University of Bucharest, Romania. (The project is organized by Dr. Dana Mihailescu, Dr. Roxana Oltean and Dr. Mihaela Precup as part of PN-II-RU-TE project no. 64 / 2011, Cross-Cultural Encounters in American Trauma Narratives: A Comparative Approach to Personal and Collective Memories.) Our aim is to examine the role of family photography in the process of the inter-generational transmission of memory, with a focus on the manner in which exile acted on the structure of the family and the coherence of its genealogy.

Some of the entries on this site will be part of an exhibition to be organized in Bucharest, Romania, in 2013. The broader, long-term aim of this site is to create an archive about (diasporic) traumatic memory in family photography that offers access to personal and communal artifacts/photos/documents/stories of everyday life under traumatic historical contexts in order to better assess the past and hopefully create new spaces of concord in the future.

To that end, FAMILY LINE-UPS entries address one or several of the following questions:

  • How do we relate ourselves to a family history that we have inherited through family photographs and storytelling, but which we were for the most part unable to witness?
  • How does family photography work to relate us to an unlived family history in the case of various generations of immigrant families having lived through multiple layers of geographic dislocation and relocation to another cultural space (particularly the situation of transatlantic movement from (Eastern) Europe to the United States, as problematized, for example, by Nancy K. Miller)?
  • What role does ”genealogy” (usually read as ”blood ties” but also as ”resemblance”) play in the way we project ourselves visually and verbally?
  • In what way does photography, especially family photography, enable a dialogue with the dead or absent (cf. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida)?
  • How do we negotiate the scarce narrative force of photography against the social imperative that we possess a coherent story about our past, our ancestors etc.?
  • How do we reconcile the fact that the conventions of family photography predicate that the family is a coherent, happy unit, but sometimes family narratives contradict this narrative?

 

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Dana Mihăilescu is a Lecturer of English/American Studies at the University of Bucharest. She earned her Ph.D. in Philology at the University of Bucharest in January 2010, with a dissertation entitled Ethical Dilemmas and Reconfigurations of Identity in Early Twentieth Century Eastern European Jewish American Narratives. She was a Fulbright Junior Visiting Researcher in 2008-2009 at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.
Her main research interests include Jewish American Studies, trauma and witnessing, ethics and memory. She has so far examined how memory and the ethics of remembrance function for the immigrant generations of Eastern European Jews coming to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, as reflected in narratives of authors born in the Pale of Settlement (e.g. Mary Antin, Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska) or Romania (Konrad Bercovici, M.E. Ravage, Maurice Samuel). She is also interested in how memory works for Holocaust child-survivors and for the 2nd and 3rd (plus) generations, and how its complex paths influence fiction writing and history-making.

Roxana Oltean  is Associate Professor in the English Department, the Faculty of Foreign Languages, The University of Bucharest, and holds a Ph.D. in Philology. She has published articles in international journals of American literature and culture, and two books on transatlantic and global imagology in the works of Henry James (Spaces of Utopia in the Writings of Henry James, 2005 and Eternal America. Henry James and the Globalizing Imagination, 2007, both with the University of Bucharest Press). She teaches courses in American utopian models, in Transatlantic Relations and in nineteenth century American literature and culture, and her main areas of expertise and publication include the cultural and ethical impact of globalization, the transatlantic imaginary, and utopian spaces and representations. She was a Fulbright scholar in 2001-2002 at Pennsylvania State University, doing research on Henry James, nineteenth-century literature and the utopian tradition.

Mihaela Precup is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Program at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Her main research interests include autobiographical and post-traumatic narratives, comics, and family photography. She is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship with the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Yale University (2006-2007). She edited a volume of essays entitled American Visual Memoirs after the 1970s. Studies on Gender, Sexuality, and Visibility in the Post-Civil Rights Age (Bucharest: Bucharest University Press, 2010). She wrote her PhD thesis on Sites of Memory and Trauma in the American Graphic Memoir.


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Each participant in this project is responsible for securing copyright clearances (where applicable) and/or permission to reproduce the photographs posted on this website. All participants are also responsible for securing clearance from their family members and/or other acquaintances to include information about them in their submissions. Please make sure you secure permission to use these images and the information you decide to include before you submit your work; the organizers of the Family Line-ups project will not be responsible for the failure of the participants to secure copyright clearance and/or permission to reproduce any of these images and use any information included in each submission.