9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS07 Memory, Culture and Public Discourse

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Constructing Collective Memory in City, Suburb, and Country Building I, 1E7

Mining the past to manage the present: place, memory and identity in the city and the suburbs

This paper explores the role of place memories in personal and collective identity construction, and community building both in inner-city and suburban locales. Attachment to place is frequently bound up with ideas about the nature of place as construed through signifiers in the built and natural environment, and mediated through particular imagery, memory and tradition. Bridger points out that heritage narratives are of particular importance in this respect, because they provide a version of a community's history that forms what he calls a "constitutive rhetoric" (1996: 353). Borer suggests that "social, public, collective memories are stored and transmitted in and through places. As such, narratives about past occurrences in particular places help shape the identity of the place and the people who use it, care about, or are affected by the decisions made about and to it" (Borer, 2006: 186) Drawing on field work data gathered from inner city neighbourhoods in Dublin and new suburban developments on the fringe over the past ten years, I demonstrate empirically that collective representations and memory traces provide residents with the tools through which they can interpret and make sense of their environments. Sentiment plays an important role in developing an attachment to place. This sentimental attachment to place may be based both on symbolic representation or "markers" but also on myths, narratives and collective memories. These various sources of attachment are frequently overlain on each other, acting as a resource that can be drawn upon at times when a place is changing or is under threat. The paper demonstrates how cultural symbols and artistic codes for representing place operate not just at the national level but also at the local level, on the street, in the housing complex and in the suburban neighbourhood.


Borer, Michael Ian. 2006. "The location of culture: the urban culturalist perspective" in City and Community, Vol. 5, no 2. pp. 173-197.
Bridger, J.C. 1996. "Community Imagery and the built environment" Sociological Quarterly, 3: 353-74