Place, memory and affect in an inner urban school

Year: 2019

Author: McLeod, Julie, O'Connor, Kate

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The concept of affect is increasingly mobilised to characterise a wide variety of interactions and reactions, variously defined as encompassing feelings, intensities, psycho-social motivations and embodied, visceral responses. In whatever ways the concept of affect is nuanced, it is never only to do with experiences in the present; as Walkerdine and Jiminez (2012) propose, affect also references intergenerational and temporal dynamics. Anxieties felt in the present, for example, are experienced individually but also arise in terms of their relation to spatialised experiences of past generations. Mayes et al. (2019) argue that ‘elemental states of affection linger and sediment across temporal territories […] relational patterns in the present are continuous with inter-generational sedimented patterns of relating, coping and surviving that live within individual bodies’ as well as communities. Moreover, we argue that beyond bodies, traces of the past persist within places, and in the multiple and diverse ways in which those places are constructed, felt and ‘lived affectively’ (Seddon et al. 2018, 14). With these debates as background, in this paper we explore the different ways in which young people attending an inner-urban school tell stories about and represent their school and its surrounding suburb and community, looking at how affective and temporal dynamics intersect. The narratives are drawn from a four-year qualitative longitudinal and intergenerational study of three contrasting school communities which followed students over the final years of secondary school and the year immediately after. The paper focuses on reflections from students attending Collingwood College, located in a much-mythologised part of inner-city Melbourne, Victoria. We examine students’ feelings and interpretations of place within the wider social history of the suburb of Collingwood, its discursive construction and social remaking over time, notably in relation to constructs of insiders and outsiders. Working beyond binary concepts of the local and the global, this includes consideration of its changing reputation and representation in response to gentrification and the recasting of place, and to waves of migration that reconfigure conceptions of and attachments to the local. The paper shows the lingering traces of this history in how students perceive their school and suburb, looking at how this is mediated in concerns about safety and security, and the racialized and gendered ways in which these are lived and felt.