chapter  7
20 Pages

Urban Memory

The anthropologist Johannes Fabian is well known for his explorations of time and memory as these relate to the craft and content of anthropology (1983, 2007). Anthropology, according to Fabian is almost defined by its specific use of time, especially its drive towards contemporaneity in practice and in presentation. In particular he talks of the ‘denial of coevalness’ and the ‘intent and function to keep the Other outside the Time of anthropology’ (1983, xi). Where time is important, then memory is never far behind. It is, however, in the generation of anthropological data, in the practice of fieldwork, that Fabian has most to say about the role of memory (2007, 132-42). Memory for Fabian sits right at the heart of the fieldwork process, ‘when one thinks about it, remembering/memory turns out to be involved in almost every imaginable aspect of ethnographic research’ (2007, 132). It is central to the fieldwork notes and diaries that are kept by the ethnographer. It is central to the data that is collected from informants in interviews or in more informal contexts. These informants are often recalling stories and other information from their memories. Memory is also central for the process of writing ethnography. It is the fieldworker’s reflection on the experience of fieldwork as the notes, transcripts, photos and other texts are brought together for analysis, that forms the experience of ethnography, and that experience is rooted in memory.