Learning through feeling: community memory maps as a tool for social healing

Authors: Sarah De Nardi*, Western Sydney University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: public engagement, community, memory-work, deep mapping, conflict
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Although coexisting in the same spaces, the memory-scapes of Italian Fascists and (often Communist) anti-Fascist resistance fighters are at odds with each other. In the northern town of Vittorio Veneto, the traces of the fratricidal war occurring between 1943-1945 were willingly erased upon the end of the conflict in order for Italy to ‘move on’ as a newly democratic country. The whitewashing, however, could not remove emplaced memories of fear and violence attached to streets, squares and buildings. Between 2011 and 2015 I undertook ‘walking memory mapping’ experiments as part of participatory fieldwork with WW2 veterans, their families and town residents. Through an attunement to the senses and a shared exploration of ‘difficult places’, the co-researchers and I ‘revisited’ the invisible yet potent remnants of a bloody conflict. This paper, then, illustrates the process and benefits of the practice of community-led memory mapping. In this particular case, communal mapping served as a tool to help heal old wounds through learning: learning about each other’s motivations, about each other’s experiences and memories. Being able to visualize and represent the geography of violence superimposed on everyday streets and squares has, in a way, exorcised the unspoken, intangible pain of muted memory. Through community memory-work and mapping, the younger participants in particular are hopeful to be able to move ‘forward’ as a town, towards a fair and less fragmented sense of place.

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