Negotiations about identity, homeland and attachment to place are often at the root of investigations of contemporary migrations and politics in conflict regions. But it is rare that the impact of the physical world and its role is brought into consideration. The main aim of De-placing Future Memory is to understand the nature of the bond which ties memory into place. Is it possible or even desirable to shift or cause a break in that bond?

In identifying what it is that strengthens and weakens such ties, it has considered theoretical debates on identity and materiality from a number of disciplines and brought these together with a case study of Iraq and the Middle East exploring the very real experiences of the dis-placed and the de-placed.

De-placement is the idea that in particular situations individuals and communities can be removed from place altogether, or have place removed from them, without necessarily having to physically relocate. This could be the result of a complete transformation of the physical place, causing a disjuncture between the memory-place and the material fabric that embodies that memory, forcing an over-writing of place, e.g. in Baghdad after the Iraq War. Alternatively, de-placement could result from the transfer of people, as for example into the ‘permanent’ refugee camps in Palestine, which disallows place to exist through the suspension of the bond and the possibility of future memory.

In light of such a hypothesis the project considered the notion that there is no authentic or original bond between physical place and identity. But the physicality of a place is only one of its characteristics, which can be weakened or strengthened, depending on the socio-cultural context in which it exists. Place is also performative and relational, and in that sense does not exist without memory. Within De-placing Future Memory, a discourse focusing on these issues was carried out through an innovative fusion of historians, archaeologists, geographers, curators, anthropologists, and scholars from politics, drama and film, as well as practicing artists and musicians.

The Main Investigator was Dr Elena Isayev of the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter.

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