What Is the Memory, Space and Place Working Group?
The “spatial turn” has brought new dimensions of research in the humanities and the social sciences, highlighting the importance of space, place, cities and the built environment in the study of the social, the political and the cultural. As Foucault put it, our obsession with time has long obscured interests in space, but space has been also coming to the forefront. There has been a serious engagement of memory scholars with the spatial and material dimension of memory. This MSA working group builds on this work and aims to bring together perspectives from different disciplines that address the intersections of memory and space, to bring in dialogue theories, methods and research directions, and to open interdisciplinary discussions about the practice and activism of memory in place. We seek to discuss both the spatial turn in memory studies as well as the interest in memory in the “spatial” disciplines (ie. geography, architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture).
The working group will explore different dimensions of the relationship between memory, space and place. We consider space and place in the light of the theoretical work that looks at space as an abstract concept, while place is a situated one, and we thus open up to a discussion of both theories of place and specific places.
A first direction is to see space and place as a starting point for thinking about memory practices of different actors interacting within the dense complexity of symbolic readings and forms of commemoration. We welcome scholars who address the multiple and often contradictory memories that are related to a wide range of different historical layers, geographies, and collectivities. One key question is whose memories are being privileged and shared while other memories are marginalized or excluded from the public realm through acts of memorial design and commemoration in urban space.
A second direction is to examine how space and place are mediators of memory, by exploring how materiality and visuality shape, reflect, but also condition memory.
Here, we welcome scholars exploring the relationship of space, place and memory through lenses such as affect theory, STS (Science and Technology Studies), material culture, and embodied or extended cognition. In this instance, space and place are not just mere backgrounds, but can be seen as actors/mediators of memory.
Third, we explore different modes and practices of spatial engagement with memory – design of memory sites, art practices, community organizing, performance, and landscape interventions. We explore the significant reciprocities between landform and cultural restoration, seeing as culture and land are alive and dynamic, continually reconstituted in relation to the present. All in all, by looking at theory and practice, we explore the multifaceted relationship between space, place, and memory.