The Cultural Genocide of the Children of the Country Road Programme and its Memorialisation in Mariella Mehr’s Stone Age and Dijana Pavlović’s Speak, My Life

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Published Apr 12, 2022
Dávid Szőke https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3197-7290

Abstract

The present paper aims to discuss the memorialisation of crimes committed by the Children of the Country Road programme in Mariella Mehr’s novel Stone Age and its monodrama-adaptation, Dijana Pavlović’s Speak, My Life. The paper will examine actions taken by the Pro Juventute organisation against the Yenish minority community from 1926 to 1970, to ‘stop vagrancy’ and purify Swiss society from the ‘genetically degenerate’, during which almost 2,000 children were taken away from their families, put into psychiatric institutions, homes, prisons, or given to foster families, exposing them to mental and physical abuse. This work identifies Mehr’s novel as a pivotal work, one of the first to reveal the crimes of Pro Juventute by a survivor, and as such,an important part of European memory culture. In her novel, Mehr deconstructs the language of stigmatisation used by Swiss authorities in the files on Yenish children, raising questions about power, racial identity, uprootedness and survival. In Speak, My Life, Dijana Pavlović reassesses Mehr’s life and work as a ‘heroicnarrative’, which has allowed room for the Yenish community to represent itself and restore a positive self-image. The paper will discuss the following questions: How can both novel and drama explore the crimes of Pro Juventute in the context of a collective European memory culture? What challenges must this memorialisation face?

How to Cite

Szőke, D. (2022). The Cultural Genocide of the Children of the Country Road Programme and its Memorialisation in Mariella Mehr’s Stone Age and Dijana Pavlović’s Speak, My Life. Critical Romani Studies, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.29098/crs.v4i1.138

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Keywords

commemoration, Yenish minority, stigmatisation, heroic narrative, monodrama, genocide

Section
Articles