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Present Pasts, Plastic Sites: Sited Memory in Paris, Algiers and Marseille

Leffler, Christopher (2018) Present Pasts, Plastic Sites: Sited Memory in Paris, Algiers and Marseille. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I use site as a prism for studying how the past persists and evolves within space, and the role played by remembering in space’s constitution and unfolding. I approach site as defined by plasticity, an understanding of matter’s morphology drawn from the writings of Malabou. The plastic site is characterised both by its resilience, its form never entirely altered from an earlier mould, and by its malleability, which ensures that whatever persists is nevertheless transformed. Embodied in its present configuration, therefore, are the many moments that have produced it over time, and it is this enduring, dynamic and heterogeneous past that I examine. My research builds on the work of memory studies scholars and the contention that we always remember within spatial contexts. It adopts a definition of site from geography, however, to more clearly identify these locations and how they are shaped through time. To understand the workings of memory, I utilise a theoretical framework developed from the writings of Didi-Huberman and Olivier, rooted in Walter Benjamin’s understanding of matter’s temporality, and emphasising an always present past. To observe this memory at work, I approach my chosen sites through what I have termed sited memory: I examine both their development and usage, and the cultural media in which they have been represented and recast. Studying a series of four case studies across Paris, Algiers and Marseille, I interrogate how different communities and cultural producers have grappled with the present past in space. I argue that memory represents both a site’s form and the activities that we carry out within it, and I conclude that an understanding of site as plastic demands that we approach it as defined both by a multiplicity of persistent pasts and by its ongoing evolution.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > French (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.778768
Depositing User: Dr Christopher Leffler
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2019 08:59
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:08
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24230

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