Sketching the contours of a phenomenology of migrant nostalgia
(Max Planck Institut for Social Anthropology)
Paper short abstract:
In this presentation I will attempt to tackle nostalgia’s multi-facetted character by building a bridge between nostalgia as an immediate, lived phenomenon and as a discursive construct embedded within a very particular history of knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
In a world often characterised by migration, fluctuation and instability, nostalgia is on everybody's lips. In anthropology, it appears in the form of people's mournful relation to lost or destroyed places - be it through objects, narratives, or institutionalised memory-sites. Yet, while nostalgia resonates with some of the most pressing questions of our time, it has been widely under-theorised. It is a phenomenon characterised by such ambiguity that theorists seem to shy away from tackling it directly, leading to an often uncritical and taken-for-granted use of the term. In this presentation I will attempt to tackle nostalgia's multi-facetted character by building a bridge between nostalgia as an immediate, lived phenomenon and as a discursive construct embedded within a very particular history of knowledge. Giving glimpses into the historical development of nostalgia as a discourse I will show how it has come to be inextricably linked to ideas of displacement and loss. Juxtaposing this metaphorical treatment of loss and nostalgia with the perspective of someone who has experienced displacement firsthand, my aim is to establish a better understanding of how displacement, memory and nostalgia overlap in everyday life. I will suggest that it is exactly because of its ambiguous nature and its capacity to shed light on the links between place, self and time that nostalgia needs to be considered as a phenomenon that is of critical theoretical importance, particularly (but not only) in the face of displacement and migration.
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