Accepted Paper:

Objects and the Materiality of Memory  
Orkideh Behrouzan (SOAS University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Iranian youth of the 1980s, remember and performatively enact, mobilise, and embody cultural forms that reconstruct the collective memories of their generation; I focus here on the materiality of these memories, by providing a sensory reading if the much circulated memorabilia of the 1980s.

Paper long abstract:

Iranian youth, particularly the children of 1980s, continue to remember and performatively enact, mobilise, and embody cultural forms that reconstruct the collective memories of their generation; such cultural practices quietly inscribe past experiences (such as those of wartime) in their perceptions of, and interactions with, the self and the world around them. I focus here on the materiality of these memories, by providing a sensory reading if the much circulated memorabilia of the 1980s. Asking questions about the persistence and repetitions of such memory-work and performativity through objects, I examine the underlying individual desires as well as shared meanings that compel this generation to return to the 1980s; they recall and reconstruct this era as a time of, on the one hand, sociopolitical anomie, double binds, and internalized anxieties, and on the other, of utopian dreams, solidarity, and lost hopes that shaped their childhood. I focus on objects, sounds, and images that serve to historicise and witness to historical ruptures long overlooked while also evoking a sense of uncanny and simultaneous nostalgia and anxiety. These cultural productions, online and offline, serve as affective sites for the reconstruction of and working through childhood memories of social ruptures. I use 'rupture' as an alternative conceptual framework for understanding these generationally negotiated, diffused, and politically configured iterations of memory. Clinical renditions of trauma too, however, have become a cultural resource for young Iranians; they serve to resocialize and re-politicise the otherwise medicalised and de-politicised discourse of post-war trauma.

Panel P043
Performance, design and aesthetics