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Evoking memory of culture, people, and place

From 'collecting information' to 'curating re-collections'

Published onAug 31, 2020
Evoking memory of culture, people, and place

I write of how the past continues to influence the present moment through each moment of remembering, and that this is a way of keeping us connected to place, to others, and to ourselves.

I am also considering ways in which the present may influence the past through each re-collection, and I’m asking the question, ‘Do we experience past events as if for the first time, each time we re-collect them?’

Currently, I am working on a project to bring into the public realm my observations and understandings —and misunderstandings—of remembering and forgetting. My approach is to write in a way that may evoke in the reader a memory of something that ‘feels like’ the thing I’m writing about, such that they are taken by it, taken into an experience of their own remembering.

Through the Research Fellowship programme, I have shifted the focus of my attention from ethnobotanical work in rural Zambia, where I was reporting ‘facts from the field’ (like a collector of information), to gathering and tending personal and social accounts of experience; and to noticing what is ‘live’ in moments of remembering.

My writing on remembering and forgetting still has a contribution to make to ethnobotanical fieldwork, particularly to the ways in which researchers gather information and record the oral transmission of traditional practices.

This relates, too, to my present circumstances in which I am a Scottish Gaelic language learner, living in a small community on the Isle of Skye where the language is spoken in day-to-day life. I have begun to research the concept of ‘tradition-bearing’ in the Gaelic culture, looking at how remembering and forgetting weave together to create a narrative about people and place.

My work has been influenced by studying at Schumacher College, and in particular by Goethean science, with which phenomena are studied in their immediacy rather than through abstraction. Therefore, in my writings about remembering, I try to stay with the phenomenon and avoid ‘explanations’, e.g., through the lens of neuroscience. Having said that, I find it fascinating how science catches up and eventually finds ways to ‘confirm’ what we have come to know through first-hand experience.

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