Presentation on theme: " Interpretive Spaces: Narratives of Place and Space Professor David Divine Reclaiming Lost Childhoods-Seminar 1, 15 th May 2013, Glasgow Memory, Narrative."— Presentation transcript:
Interpretive Spaces: Narratives of Place and Space Professor David Divine Reclaiming Lost Childhoods-Seminar 1, 15 th May 2013, Glasgow Memory, Narrative and Identity: The Needs of Care Leavers Insight Institute Scottish Care Archive Seminar Series
Reclaiming Lost Childhoods: Reclamation of our Citizenry Places and spaces which we as individuals inhabit, willingly, or are forced to enter and and stay regardless of what we feel about it, are often akin to flies trapped in wax: fixed, immovable, silent, waiting… Canon Charles Jupp (1830-1911), founder and first Warden of Aberlour Orphanage, in the Highlands of Scotland, which operated from 1875 to 1967, stated, rather radically for the time during the Victorian era, that: ‘Every child has the ability and indeed the right, to grow up and flourish in society, notwithstanding the origins of their birth.’
Reclaiming Lost Childhoods: Reclamation of our Citizenry Part of the wax fixture relates to one’s position in society and that once ‘positioned’, it is very difficult, indeed impossible at times, to move from it. ‘Origins of birth,’ ‘life’s circumstances’, can force us into spaces and places where our rights to citizenry are compromised, questioned and indeed, at times, ‘removed’. Not explicitly; implicitly, by the may we are communicated with by others, and treated. I would humbly suggest that in addition to the reclaiming of past (s) and present (s), that we reclaim our citizenry, our rights to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from, society as equals, regardless of our origins of birth and life circumstances.
Reclaiming Lost Childhoods: Reclamation of our Citizenry One of the ingredients contributing to positioning in society, is impoverishment, predisposing one to potential difficulties throughout one’s life-course, including entering the care system. Many children from such backgrounds avoid these difficulties but further research is needed as to how this is accomplished argues Seccombe, 2002; Holmes and Kiernan, 2013. The focus however in research is largely on exploring resilience in terms of ‘individual disposition, family trait, or community phenomenon, and relegating structural factors to an ‘incidental’, an add on. It is imperative however that structural deficiencies in society, and social policies which families need in order to function ‘competently’, are addressed. ‘Poverty is a social problem not merely a personal one and solutions must be structural in nature’.
Reclaiming Lost Childhoods: Reclamation of our Citizenry In the absence of such structural solutions, I would like to illustrate how many children and young people took the lead, in spite of the system then in existence, in the 1930’s-early 1960’s, not because of it, to transform themselves from within by the power of narratives. When Canon Jupp was accused of sheltering the ‘scum of humanity’ at the Orphanage, he responded: ‘yes, but remember the scum always rises to the top’ (John Gillam White, 1868-1939, Elgin Courant, 14 th March 1936).
Process of Becoming How can we, should we, do we, construct narratives, stories, testimonies, about ourselves, creating meaning (s), senses of ‘belonging’, of ‘home’, as James Baldwin interpreted the term ‘home’ in Giovanni’s Room (1956), as ‘not a place but simply an irrevocable condition’? How do such stories make sense to us as individuals who are in care or who have been in care, and to others, of our past (s) and present (s), which facilitate our on-going journeys in life where we are active, positive, contributors, to the wider society and to ourselves?
Process of Becoming According to Bruner (2002: X) ‘Issues of interpretation (understanding) have now become pivotal to our understanding of how we bring order and meaning to our lives.’ ‘Telling stories about the past, our past, is a key moment in the making of our selves. To the extent that memory provides their raw materials, such narratives of identity are shaped as much by what is left out of the account-whether forgotten or repressed-as by what is actually told…memory work has a great deal in common with forms of inquiry which, like detective work and archaeology, say, -involving working backwards-searching for clues-deciphering signs and traces, making deductions, patching together reconstructions out of fragments of evidence.’ (Kuhn, 2002:4-5)
Process of Becoming Part of this evidence, if available, are records, case files, social work interpretations, understandings, other people’s versions of aspects of our lives as children and young people in the care system, or those of us who have left it-but never quite. Records are written narratives, stories, testimonies, about us who passed through the care system, based on memories ‘at the centre of a radiating web of associations, reflections and interpretations. But if the memories are one individual’s, their associations extend far beyond the personal. They spread into an extended network of meanings that bring together the personal with the familial, the cultural, the economic, the social, the historical.’ (Kuhn, 2002:5)
Process of Becoming ‘If in a way my memories belong to me, I am certainly not their sole owner. All memory texts….constantly call to mind the collective nature of the activity of remembering.’ (Kuhn, 2002:6) Memories and personal responses to data unearthed in the course of what Kuhn calls ‘memory work’, can ‘‘stand on their own’ as discoveries, or may feed into reflective, interpretive or analytical phases of memory work, helping at times a movement beyond ‘the purely personal response’ towards wider meanings and the responses it generates, relating to one’s ‘cultural and historical embeddedness’; wax fixtures, where one is located in society and how one is related to by others.
Process of Becoming Such memory work can be a tool of ‘concentisation:’ the awakening of critical consciousness, through their own activities of reflection and learning, among those who lack power: and the development of a critical and questioning attitude towards their own lives and the lives of those around them, is a possible, I would argue positive, outcome of ‘memory work.’ Raising the Bar, CELCIS, 16 th April, ‘Changes’, Debate Project (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum), was a wonderful example of this. Such critical consciousness ‘embraces the heart as well as the intellect, one that resonates, in feeling and thinking ways, across the individual and the collective, the personal and the political.’ (Kuhn,2002:9)
Process of Becoming ‘Memory work is a method and a practice of unearthing and making public untold stories, stories of ‘lives lived out on the borderlands, lives for which the central interpretive device of the culture don’t quite work.’ ‘These are the lives of those whose ways of knowing and ways of seeing the world are rarely acknowledged, let alone celebrated, in the expression of a hegemonic culture’. ‘Practitioners of memory work may be concientised simply through learning that they do indeed have stories to tell, and that their stories have value and significance in the wider world.
Process of Becoming ‘At the same time, as an aid to radicalised remembering, memory work can create new understandings of both past and present, while yet refusing a nostalgia that embalms the past in a perfect, irretrievable, moment’ (Kuhn,2002:10-11) According to Bruner (2002), a story ‘requires a cast of characters who are free agents with minds of their own…These characters have recognisable expectations about the ordinary state of the world, the story’s world, though these expectations may be somewhat enigmatic. The story begins with some breach in the expected state of things…Something goes awry...
Process of Becoming ...otherwise there is nothing to tell about. The story concerns efforts to cope, or come to terms with the breach and its consequences, and finally there is an outcome, some sort of resolution... there needs to be a narrator, a teller and there needs to be a listener, a told.’ (Bruner, 2002:17) ‘It is the conversion of private Trouble...into public plight that makes well-wrought narrative so powerful, so comforting, so dangerous, so culturally essential.’ (Bruner,2002:35) Dominelli (2008), coined the term ‘narratives of place and space’, to illustrate how discourses, ‘authoritative written or spoken communication, sets up people in particular locations in society…
Process of Becoming …intimately associated with the idea of ‘belonging’. ‘Narratives elaborate themes about one’s individual and collective place in the world and how people act in and upon it. Expressed as narratives of place and space, these become narratives of inclusion and exclusion. Inclusionary ones focus on belonging and acceptance; exclusionary narratives on the reverse. Assumptions that underpin these narratives can be explicit or implicit as taken for granted nostrums that do not have to be articulated or justified.’ (Dominelli, 2008: 50-51) The European Union (EC, 2004), defined social exclusion as ‘a process wherebye certain individuals are pushed to the edge of society
Process of Becoming ...and prevented from participation fully by virtue of their poverty, or lack of basic competencies and lifelong learning opportunities, or as a result of discrimination. That distances them from jobs, income and education and training opportunities, as well as social and community networks and activities. They have little access to power and decision making bodies and thus often feel powerless and unable to take control over the decisions that affect their day to day lives.’ (Dominelli, 2012: 131) This EU definition links exclusion to marginalisation and highlights a critical point which is disenfranchisement, based on structural factors such as poverty, preventing individuals from exercising their rights to participate in society’s decision making structures…
Process of Becoming ...and resource allocation systems. Such excluded individuals are often seen as culpable for the position they find themselves in. ‘Class discrimination-pathologizing poor people-is central in the lives of working class people, especially those without paid employment.’ (Dominelli,2012: 130). Class discrimination is not specifically identified as an attribute of discrimination that is outlawed in the UK. This brings me gently to the Children of the Poor, who we are usually talking about, when we refer to Looked After children and Young People. Allow me to return to my current research on Aberlour Orphanage.
Aberlour Narratives of Success Hope, Faith, Optimism, Triumph, Renewal, Recycling, New Growth Reflexivity, Interpretive spaces and Meaning Making Learning to be able to travel on one’s own in life Making opportunities and taking stock Taking Risks Building oneself, creating self (ves) step by step