(S-ite)rations: Memory, Forgetting and the Temporal Architecture of Place

Posted on January 24, 2020


This part of my series of posts on conference presentations, that I have filmed. This is another one from the TAG conference:

Session Info

Place is constructed through located practice; through ongoing engagement, it is in a constant state of becoming. Place presents and draws together multiple temporalities, allowing the emergence of conceptions, articulations and subversions of temporal rhythms. The significance of place as a locus for creating temporal consciousness and multiple temporalities has informed the development of diverse conceptual frameworks such as ‘the past in the past’ (Bradley and Williams 1998), social memory (Jones 2007), and residues (Lucas 2012). Recent discourse situated within a broadly new materialist agenda argues for the entanglement of phenomena in an unfolding web of becoming (Hodder 2012; Fowler 2013; Olsen 2012). These perspectives enable the development of different, more nuanced understandings of the relationships between place and time. Place and material remains are memory-making works that simultaneously reference the past, make sense of the present, and permit projections into the future. But the emergence of place is not limited to (re)active construction; the significance of pause (McFadyen 2006), anthropogenic hiatus, and active forgetting are also significant. Indeed, the affective qualities of ruination, absence, and forgetting are emerging as important areas of research (Olsen and Petursdottir 2014). In this session, we will explore these themes further. We invite papers that consider and problematise the ways in which place and situated memory produce, and are products of, different temporalities, and encourage contributions from practitioners working across all time periods. We are interested in examining ideas including but not limited to:

• The role of place in the emergence and maintenance of a sense of past

• The co-constitutional nature of time and place, building on notions of architecture as performance

• Place as a convergence of multi-temporal practices

• The intersections of remembering and forgetting through situated practice

• Memory, place, and the creation and maintenance of identities

• Ideological appropriation of place

Organisers: Emily Banfield (University of Leicester) and Philip Hughes (University of Leicester)


A New Career in a New Town: Locating sites of pilgrimage


In 1191, the monks of Glastonbury Abbey ‘discovered’ the tomb of King Arthur beneath a lead cross carrying the inscription ‘Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia’. On January 10, 2016, many people flocked to Tunstall Road, Brixton to leave flowers and offerings in front of a mural depicting Aladdin Sane, a character developed by David Jones (aka Bowie), who had died that day. There are more things connecting these events than first meets the eye. Firstly, both Arthur and Bowie are figures of myth, not to say fictions. The latter was one of many dramatic characters created by David Jones. Moreover, both Bowie and Arthur have connections with multiple locations; Heddon Street in Westminster has been a place of Bowie pilgrimage since the 1980s, Beckenham, where David Jones grew up, has attracted his fans since the 1970s (Graves-Brown and Orange 2017). More generally, Bowie and Arthur are just two of the many figures on the boundaries between fact and fiction who are celebrated in sites and monuments where their status remains ambiguous; the Sherlock Holmes ‘museum’ in London’s Baker Street or the Ianto Jones memorial in Cardiff Bay (Beattie 2014) being other UK examples. In this paper, we want to explore the social and cultural forces which lead certain locations to be sites of pilgrimage and reverence. In particular we will explore the reasons why certain places acquire fame through the appropriation of famous figures, real and fictional. Whilst not necessarily dismissing the claims made for these sites, we find that the creation of such shrines tells us a good deal about attitudes to death, commemoration, and celebrity.

Paul Graves-Brown (UCL) and Hilary Orange (UCL)

The Palmyra Arch: Places, memories and ideologies


In April 2016 the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) first set up a replica arch of Palmyra’s destroyed Triumphal Arch in Trafalgar Square, London. In this paper I will present responses to this replica arch that were gathered in my ‘Postcard to Palmyra’ project (independent to the IDA), focussing on those who commented on the appropriateness of the location chosen, in terms of its history and ideology. In addition, I will explore some of the issues that might be raised by the potential setting up of replicas such as these on the original site in the future. I will attempt to tease out the various strands of remembering and forgetting that are implicated in these reconstructions. Key questions that will be posed, then, include: how did place affect the replica arch in Trafalgar Square? How might a replica affect the sense of place and of ‘pastness’ in Palmyra in the future? In what ways are the processes of remembering and forgetting enhanced or disrupted by these actions?

Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway)

Reconstructions in Ruins: The practice of building and dismantling contemporary prehistoric dwellings in Japan


This presentation introduces the practice of architectural ‘reconstruction’ at prehistoric sites in Japan. The stateled archaeological system in Japan has brought about thousands of new federal or municipal managed public spaces (e.g. site parks) since the 1950s. An ongoing survey has found over 300 sites that have constructed some 900 ‘prehistoric dwellings’ over the past 70 years. While issues of authenticity generally dominate discussion on reconstructions, this presentation focuses upon their ‘disappearance’ from sites. In contrast to their construction – which are based upon detailed evidence, have funding solicited in council meetings, and are celebrated with dedication ceremonies – there are generally no records of them being dismantled. This presentation introduces several examples of deconstruction that range from natural disasters, vandalism, lack of materials or craftsman, budget limitations, to experimental burning. The absence of active recording of these buildings’ ‘life histories’ is problematic for a number of reasons, but most importantly it reflects an ongoing discomfort in archaeology’s role in the creation and recreation of the contemporary (physical and social) landscape.

John Ertl (Kanazawa University)

Beyond the Functional: Palimpsests of memory and the significance of place in Middle Palaeolithic occupations


Middle Palaeolithic occupations are often only evaluated with regard to their functional purpose; discussions focus on the subsistence activities performed by a hominin group at the site. However, a more in-depth study into the behaviour at Middle Palaeolithic sites can reveal intricacies regarding the societies that once inhabited the site. Both intrasite patterns and palimpsests contain information about the socio-cultural behaviours of Middle Palaeolithic hominins. Intrasite patterns reflect behaviours ‘frozen in time’; one can observe the patterns of a group’s most intimate behaviour, from their sleeping areas to intragroup social relations. Consequently, hominins repeatedly returning to sites over thousands of years would have encountered the behaviours of their ancestors. Palimpsests will therefore reflect not only the repetition of group behaviours, but also hominins interand re-acting to their ancestors’ behaviours. This research aims to unlock these palimpsests of memory to provide an insight into the significance of place in the Middle Palaeolithic and reveal information regarding sociocultural behaviours within Neanderthal occupations.

Isobel Wisher (University of York)

Archaeology, Place Theory, and Process Philosophy


This paper outlines an intellectual framework for approaches to place within archaeology, explicitly building upon place theories developed within humanistic geography and philosophy (Tuan 1974, 1977; Relph 1976; Casey 1997; Malpas 1999), as well as the principles of Process Philosophy (Whitehead 1978). Although archaeologists have been influenced by the ideas emerging from the rich discourse on place theory (Tilley 1994), explicit engagement with the primary sources of this extra-archaeological discourse has been more limited, and we have largely failed to directly contribute back into this discourse. This paper, thus, addresses the following questions: how has place been theorised outside of archaeology, what are the implications of these ideas for archaeological research, and how can archaeologists make meaningful contributions to interdisciplinary understandings and appreciations of place? Process Philosophy has also received little direct attention within archaeology, although it can be argued that it has been (ironically) implicit in many post-processual approaches. Recently Gosden and Malafouris (2015) have directly advocated for a Process Archaeology (P-Arch) approach, using pottery making as an illustrative casestudy. This paper also critically considers place theory from a Process Philosophy perspective, focusing on the perpetually iterative nature of place and the relationships between locations, human experience, and memory.

Darrell J. Rohl (Canterbury Christ Church University)

On the Edges: Boundaries as places


Boundaries are transitory and ever-changing locales where interactions between people, places, and their associated routines happen. Those interactions are key in the understanding and perception of space by the people who built it and lived it, making the space they occupied a patchwork of overlapping places in relation to each other. As places constitute a central part of the human experience since they are a synthesis of physical space, memories, feelings, and lived experiences, looking into the nexus of places through their boundaries is a way to better understand people through their use of space. Mapping boundaries therefore consist of reconstructing the place-making process within a definite geographical space. Place making is central in the search for boundaries since they may very well be immaterial or faintly materially defined. In effect, because places are made of routine, time, and memory, the actions performed in places through time tend to define their limits even though it is no straightforward process. The proximity between actions or the superimposition of activities in a same geographical space transform places through their use and modify what a place is according to the person experiencing it. In this paper, the exploration of boundaries takes place in a longhouse from the Maritime archaic of North Eastern Canada.

Laurence Ferland (Universite Laval)

Scaling Ideological Time


‘If different processes and phenomena become apparent at different scales of observation, there can be no single unified history…only a multi-scalar [one] written from many different points of view.’ Presenting a nuanced narrative that resolves such ontological divides is often the task of heritage practitioners – but what happens when public practice overrides all offerings from empirical observation? When emergent waves of tangible data and expert opinion are deliberately rejected in the resilient maintenance of an ideological appropriation of place and time? This paper comments on just such a dilemma, using the Welsh Government initiative ‘Year of Legends’ (http://gov.wales/newsroom/culture-tou…) as a case study, where local identity has been founded upon a reuse of the ‘past within the past’ and socially situated memory is reliant upon an active process of forgetting.

Erin Kavanagh (University of Wales Trinity St David)

Giants’ churches: Stone Age megastructures as multi-temporal architecture


Until the 19th century the actual concept of the Stone Age, or prehistory, did not exist. The study of the human past was almost entirely based on textual remains, which were thought to record the entire past. Even in historical studies written during the 18th century, when new ideas about the human past were already bubbling under, material remains of the distant past were often treated with disregard. However, Stone Age architectural remains are a different kind of material residue. They are often too big and too visible in the landscape to be ignored. Since they could not be fitted into the familiar text-based timeline of history, their origins were often thought to involve supernatural beings. Ancient architecture forms an important bridge between the past and the present, since the structure and its place can be envisioned to exist in all times. This is often mentioned in relation to Roman and Medieval ruins kindling interest in past during the late 18th and early 19th century, but also Stone Age structures and ruins attracted attention, still retaining some of their mystic aura today.

Liisa Kunnas-Pusa (University of Helsinki)

Commemoration and change: remembering what may not have happened


The paper discusses the early Irish texts concerned with the significance of place names – dinnshenachas –which account for the historical importance of ancient monuments and other features. They are illustrated by the Medieval poem ‘Tara noblest of hills’. I compare the archaeology of the Hill of Tara with two reconstructions offered on the basis of early texts and contrast the different interpretations of this evidence by Jim Mallory and John Waddell. Although they share little common ground, the differences between their accounts help to identify the features that were rapidly forgotten and those that retained a little of their original significance. There is an important distinction between memory – the attempt to recall past events and practices – and commemoration – actions in the present inspired by the remains of the past.

Richard Bradley (University of Reading)

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