"Keep in mind you are making memories" : narrating suburban childhoods

Dines, Martin (2014) "Keep in mind you are making memories" : narrating suburban childhoods. In: The Story of Memory : New Perspectives on the Relationship between Storytelling and Memory in the Twenty-First Century; 04 - 05 Sep 2014, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Adults all too easily forget, or overlook, the exhilaration and anxieties of childhood. For the developmental psychologist Ernest Schachtel, the tendency to forget one’s childhood is largely cultural. What he calls ‘childhood amnesia’ is a repressive mechanism which demonstrates the extent to which our former experiences and personalities are incompatible with, and even threaten, the society in which we live. The more manageable and comforting ‘myth’ of a happy childhood typically occupies a rural landscape that stands apart from history and modernity; further, a long-standing association between childhood and nature has rendered children and urban environments incompatible. But what of suburban childhoods? Perhaps because suburban childhood is the most common type of childhood in the West, it is seen by geographers to deserve only minimal attention. This paper, however, brings to bear recent developments in children’s geography – those which try to ‘bridge’ the gap between adult researcher and the experience of children – on the innovative memory work which takes place in imaginative accounts of suburban childhood. I outline a number of recent visual and textual examples from the UK, Germany and Australia before examining in more detail some recent American memoirs, including Joanne Jacobson’s Hunger Artist: A Suburban Childhood (2007). What is most distinctive about these narratives is an emphasis on the unfinished quality of the environment, and how this reflects the child subject’s own ‘becoming’. I argue these narratives are also always self-reflexive projects: the unformed landscape is a spur to imagine one’s past and present self, as well as others, anew. Indeed, what is most potent about stories of suburban childhood is their capacity to remind us that, even though often heavily prescribed, this realm of the ordinary, being also incomplete, at times volatile, is also a place of possibility, and a source of new stories.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page