‘I Can Feel It, That's Where I Belong': Using Nostalgia and Authenticity in Telling Stories of Belonging in Place

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Julia BENNETT, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Belonging in place is perhaps increasingly hard to achieve as people are more likely to move away from their place of birth than in the past. In urban areas especially residential mobility is a feature of, particularly, Western lives in the twenty-first century. However, for those who do remain living in the same place throughout their lives, changes to the built environment can also cause disruption to a sense of belonging. One of the ways in which the self/place relationship is created is through telling stories of the place and one’s own place within that story. These stories tend to draw on tropes of both nostalgia, to evoke empathy and tap into standard story-telling tropes, and authenticity, to position the storyteller as a proper, or moral, member of the local place/community.

This paper examines how people evoke themes of nostalgia and authenticity in stories of places over time in order to negotiate change and create a continuous story of belonging. Individuals place themselves in an explicit moral relationship to a past community through eliciting memories that are distant enough to create a distinct sense of ‘otherness’ with the present. ‘We’ then become the group who can ‘remember’, and ‘they’ are those who cannot. Only the authentic ‘we’ can draw on the nostalgic tropes of memories of ‘our’ past. Whereas nostalgia positions the present in opposition to the past, authenticity brings past and present together through ongoing, inalienable relationships often embedded within objects and places.

A collection of biographical narratives and photo-elicitation interviews with people who have ‘stayed put’ all their lives will be used to show how discourses of both nostalgia and authenticity are used to justify affective belongings through material objects, buildings and specific places in order to create an ‘authentic’ belonging to the community.