It is often said that we carry our childhoods with us into adulthood, our past resonating in our present and future to a greater or lesser extent. Longitudinal research, such as cohort studies, is often concerned with how past and present experience will influence the opportunities we have in life (science journalist Helen Pearson’s book The Life Project is a wonderful journey through some of these studies); and psychoanalysis is built on the premise that we are the constellation of not just of our own past patterns of relating to primary and significant others but also an accumulation of patterns sometimes carried through more than one generation.
But how often do political encounters, experiences and engagements feature in such temporally inspired research and practice? And how often do they explicitly feature in our biographical narratives?
In July of this year we launched a small public engagement activity online soliciting ‘earliest political memories‘ as one way of starting to address these questions. The Connectors Study is concerned with the relationship between childhood and public life and our ethnographic research design locates us in the everyday lives and lived experiences of a small sample of contemporary city children in Athens, Hyderabad and London. As a qualitative longitudinal study we are also interested in how that relationship with public life changes over time. This has led us to consider the topic of the political from a generational perspective as well as from a child’s perspective. Over the last couple of years we have been experimenting with different ways to make ‘the political’ visible in childhood and to think about how it might travel across temporal, spatial and relational trajectories in the family and beyond.
Collecting earliest political memories has been part of re-imagining the relationship between childhood and public life in a way that takes the temporal into consideration and broadens past experience to include the political. The original impetus for thinking about earliest political memories was born out of necessity. Taking the activity online now is a bit of methodological experimentation on our part. We are inspired by the Listening Post methodology, a group-based face-to-face methodology with a background in group therapeutic practices that is designed to encourage reflection and a tuning into the affective pulse of a society (Hoggett, 2006). We are adapting this approach to use online as a publics creating methodology. At a later date we plan to analyse these memory fragments for what they can tell us about the relationship between childhood and public life, and how those early experiences may resonate across the lifecourse. We are also interested in evaluating the methodology used for eliciting the memories in terms of its strengths and weakness as a ‘publics creating methodology’ (Nolas, Varvantakis and Aruldoss, in preparation).
The launch of our call in July was met with enthusiasm, curiosity and lots of support from colleagues, friends and strangers near and far, and we are very grateful to all who have so far contributed an ‘earliest political memory’.
Starting on Monday 12 September we will be re-blogging one earliest political memory a day until all have been released. Memory collection will remain open until February 2019 for anyone who is inspired to contribute. We are keen to broaden the demographic of those contributing their earliest political memories and as such, would encourage anyone coming across this page, who is interested to do so, to forward the activity to friends, family and colleagues.
New memories can be submitted here: https://connectorsstudy.wordpress.com/earliest-political-memories/.
You can receive a daily earliest political memory by following the blog.
You can read all earliest political memories that we have published so far here.
Comments and discussion around the blogged memories are most welcome. We will be moderating any comments and discussion using The Guardian Community Standards and Participation Guidelines.