THINKING THROUGH GENDER: THEORISING MIGRATION, MEMORY AND IDENTITY
This exploration of migrant women’s lives is through a dual lens: Latvian women’s own experiential accounts of their lives, supported and contextualised by a study of contemporary records and documents of the period and other narratives of movement and loss. But it also draws on recent theoretical work in the social sciences and the humanities as a framework for analysing the changing position of Baltic women, albeit guarding against making assumptions that may have little resonance with these women’s own view of the events at the time. I listened carefully to women’s own voices, aware that contemporary theoretical debates may not reflect the lives and remembered realities of these women. Recent ideas about women’s empowerment through participation in paid work, for example, may not be relevant to Latvian women’s post-war lives in Britain, nor do they see their deep commitment to rebuilding a particular form of family life from the late 1940s onwards as necessarily oppressive: some may have found it so but many did not; others were more ambivalent in their reflections. However, it is also important to know how articulate and argumentative these women are. They were not prepared to leave the interpretation of their lives solely to me. Thus, in the process of research and writing, they offered useful feedback, added additional topics to the interviews, read some of my work and made it quite clear when they thought there were errors of interpretation and representation. First, then, before their voices suffuse the book, here is a critical survey of the theoretical propositions that informed the research process. For those of a less theoretical bent, this chapter may be read later. While its main aim is to position academic readers in the contemporary literatures that influenced the book, I hope it will also interest more general readers wanting to learn more about ways of rethinking these particular set of events in European history.