Confusing feelings: Place memory and memories of place in a qualitative longitudinal study of schooling and community

Year: 2016

Author: McLeod, Julie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation leaps off from readings undertaken in our Reading Group to consider themes of hope, nostalgia and place as they arise in reference to a current longitudinal and cross-generational project ‘Making Futures: generational change, youth values and education’. The study is exploring young people’s hopes for their future in conjunction with their parents’ recollections of their own hopes when younger. Engaging the notion of ‘affective practices’ ((Wetherell 2012) this paper looks to how attachment to and memory of place, and the sedimented meanings attached to particular places and communities, shape such feelings of hope and of nostalgia. The three communities are an old, much mythologised inner-city suburb, an outer suburban, ‘fringe’ new suburb, and a regional town in a tourist area. It seeks to introduce an historical and situated dimension to understanding hope in the present, looking at intergenerational dynamics and the movement of hope and hopefulness across time and in between generations, and in particular places. In doing so, it considers the work hope does in the present, not only in looking forward but also in normatively holding people in place. That is, while hope is implicitly and typically future-oriented, it also invokes and builds on the past, forcibly bringing into the present the interplay of longing, memory and generational dynamics. In contrast, nostalgia, is typically thought of as principally backward looking, but it is understand here as not simply an emotion directed to lamenting a lost past or to crafting a more romantic memory of earlier times. Rather, nostalgia, as Svetlana Boym has argued, ‘can be retrospective but also prospective. Fantasies of the past determined by the needs of the present have a direct impact on realities of the future’ ((Boym 2001) These arguments point to the colliding and ‘multiple temporalities’ of feelings, the ‘plurality of times inherent in the plurality of social phenomena’ (Jordheim 2014, 509), and in doing so suggest new approaches to understanding some of the mainstays in educational research regarding student aspirations, futures, and place-based inequality.Boym, Svetlana. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.Jordheim, Helge. 2014. ‘Introduction: Multiple Times and the Work of Synchronization’. History and Theory 53 (4): 498–518. doi:10.1111/hith.10728.Wetherell, M. 2012. Affect and Emotion: New Social Science Understanding. London: Sage.