Appropriately, in the final week of this class we talked about nostalgia. Nostalgia is one kind of relationship to the past. And in fact as we learn from reading Svetlana Boym there are more than one kind of nostalgia. Sociologist Fred Davis also helped us to think about nostalgia and in particular the causes of nostalgia and the social functions of nostalgia. Finally, though not exactly an essay about nostalgia we considered Pierre Nora's famous writing on the memory boom and the reasons for the current popularity of the past.
Nostalgia of Life at El Mirador
The El Mirador building was originally a farmhouse; in the 1930s and 1940s, renovations occurred to transform the solitary farmhouse into an apartment complex with a community-oriented courtyard in the centre. The courtyard fostered relationships between residents, as well as community members who visited the unique space. People who lived at and visited El Mirador share a special connection with the building and, even after its demolition in 2021, continue to reminisce on memories created in the courtyard and surrounding apartments. While the building had many structural issues, the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia pushes all issues to the background while the warmer precious memories take centre stage.
Davis (1979) mentions that, in the twentieth century, the increased movements of people within “sociogeographic space has begun to dislodge man’s deep psychological attachment to a specific house” and, as a result, “home … can for so many no longer evoke the ‘remembrance of things past’” (as cited in Olick, Vinitzky-Seroussi, & Levy, 2011, p. 447). The communal remembrance of life at El Mirador shows that this sentiment does not always ring true: the community fostered by the courtyard created a social group that feels strong attachment to El Mirador as a home, and also as a backdrop for countless shared memories. The nostalgic remembrance is emphasized when previous residents “juxtapose it to certain features of our present lives” (Davis, 1979, as cited in Olick, Vinitzky-Seroussi, & Levy, 2011, p. 448), like when people compare their memories of El Mirador to living in traditionally structured apartments which have no shared communal space to connect with their neighbours. These memories are often revered as unattainable and far superior to one’s experiences of life after El Mirador, further contributing to the nostalgic yearning that permeates the stories of the inimitable building.
Contributed by EP.
The Old Soviet Union Flag/Stalin
I chose this image of the Soviet Union's flag because I think it relates to both the ideas of restorative and reflective nostalgia that Svetlana Boym discusses in her essay "Nostalgia and its Discontents." These Ideas can be seen through the lens of the current war in Ukraine. Russian President Putin wants to return Russia and Eastern Europe to the way that they used to be Pre-collapse of the Soviet Union, where the Soviet Union was a very powerful entity. This desire to return represents a kind of restorative nostalgia for the Soviet Union that Putin deeply wants to return to. While Ukraine's resistance and desire to distance itself from that time in history represents reflective nostalgia. This can be seen through the idea that reflective nostalgia casts doubt upon and fears that homeland that restorative nostalgia idolizes. By fighting back and defending themselves and the future that Ukraine wants to make for itself, it shows this fear of the past that is synonymous with reflective nostalgia. Submitted by IM
New City and New Bittersweet Beginnings
As I approach the final few semesters of my degree, I can’t help but think about the beginning of it all. Pictured here is a sunrise photo I took in my apartment when I had first moved to Edmonton from a small town. During my first year and a little bit of my second, I went through a very dark path and struggled a lot with adjusting to a new environment,routine and groups of people around me. I remember suffering a lot mentally, physically and spiritually however I had always looked forward to the sunrises and sunsets as my hometown had very pretty ones therefore whenever I saw one it had always reminded me of home. Looking back now, although it was my choice to move here for school, there was this mixed feelings of anxiousness, intimidation but excitement all combined together. I believe that everyone encounters these sorts of jitters and emotions when placed into an area of unknown and new opportunities. It is as though a collective feeling that I feel as though first year students in particular encounter especially. Author Boyum states “Immigrant's stories are the best narratives of nostalgia—not only because they suffer through nostalgia, but also because they challenge it.” (Olick et al, 2011: 456). While I am not an immigrant myself, I did feel like a complete stranger in this city and as I look back on those first few years of university, I feel proud of the hurdles I had overcome on my own. Unavoidably, those somber feelings and emotions I had felt back then are honored and are still sensed a bit when thinking about the past. Submitted by SM
Nostalgia of Summer Camp
This is an image of the lake at Camp Maskepetoon which is a camp that I went to many times while I was a teenager. Here, my friends and I had no responsibilities other than having fun all summer long. We got to kayak, swim, roast marshmallows at the campfire and have a great time without thinking about any real-world issues. It was a completely care-free time. Now, we have a group chat where we try to keep in touch to relive those memories.
In the text, Boym says “nostalgia appears to be a longing for a place but is actually a yearning for a different time—the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams”, and our group chat is no exception to this (Boym quoted in Olick et al, 2011: 452). We share pictures and stories, longing for the past. It might not be the location of the camp that makes us feel nostalgic, but the feeling of being a kid again and reliving the time when we had no bills to pay. - Submitted by KR