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Critical Psychosocial Mnemonics as a Decolonising Participatory Method: Towards Reclaiming and Refiguring the Archive Through Memory, Stories and Narratives

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Part of the Peace Psychology Book Series book series (PPBS)

Abstract

For writers such as Fanon, Smith, Freire, Martín-Baró and Maldonado-Torres, a central task for historically oppressed and marginalised communities within the decolonial project is to disrupt and redefine the partial colonial histories that have and continue to occlude their voices of experience in the postcolonial context. In this regard, archives are central sites of contestation, given that they tend to truncate the totality of human experience by generating official histories that in turn shape grand narratives and public discourses that frequently elide and negate these experiences. This chapter focuses on the psychosocial and psychopolitical mobilisation of memory through storied and narrational accounts of ordinary peoples’ experiences of oppression, as a participatory method that facilitates a reclamation and refiguring of archives. Using the idea of a critical psychosocial mnemonics, it argues that storied accounts provide a converging psychosocial space in which critical analyses of the relationships between materiality, socioculturality, memory, narratives, history, subjectivity and identity can help to destabilise historical, existing and future hierarchical relations of power through deconstructing and de-ideologising them. Here, storytelling facilitates memory recall and its articulation, comes to restructure and shape such memories and their articulation, and dialectically serves to reinforce and “create” such memories. Ultimately the aim of a critical psychosocial mnemonics is to utilise personal and collective memory to disrupt taken-for-granted understandings of the world, to seek forms of incoherence or discontinuity in the grand narratives of history, in the service of destabilising existing hierarchical relations of power. Drawing on the Apartheid Archive Project as an exemplar, the chapter illustrates how such a method may contribute to a transformative and decolonising praxis that involves reclaiming the archive, refiguring the archive, generating inter-communal spaces, fostering public mobilisation, and building an insurgent citizenry. While recognising that there are limitations to memory and storied accounts, the chapter argues that they are nevertheless critical to offsetting the totalising effects of official histories and helping to foster a decolonial ethic of historical witnessing, recognition and inclusion that challenges existing relations of power, forms of knowledge and ways of being.

Keywords

Apartheid Archive Project Critical psychosocial mnemonics Decoloniality Decolonising participatory methods Archives Stories Narratives Memory 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the work of the Apartheid Archive Project, the core team of researchers, and all those who have contributed their stories to the project. In particular, I would like to extend my thanks to Prof Norman Duncan, Prof Christopher Sonn, Prof Derek Hook and Dr. Hugo Canham—all of whom I have co-authored several publications with, and from which I have drawn upon extensively in the writing of this chapter.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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