13 SES 17, “When Are We Ever at Home?”: Nostalgia for the future, for Europe and elsewhere
This paper examines the educational role of the museum in relation to matters of identity and the problem of nostalgia. Following Cassin, I try to show that nostalgia is in part oriented (paradoxically) towards the future. I begin with the idea of authenticity, which has become prominent in museum studies (Reisinger and Steiner, 2006), the search for which has become a reason for visiting museums and heritage sites. The paper problematises any sense of fixity in the dichotomy between authenticity and inauthenticity. It moves on to discuss the fragile nature of identity in the museum setting in the light of issues of temporality, commonly expressed in the construction of the museum building and the (re)presentation of its objects. It brings the idea of ‘nostalgia for the past’ and ‘nostalgia for the future’ together in the senses of history and of collective and individual identity. The process involves the reassertion of memory through the sustaining of pictures or other signs and symbols. These construct the collective memory of the past in the midst of an absence, which I relate to as nostalgia for the past. There is another sense of nostalgia, however, that is oriented towards the future: the sense of identity asserted in the museum fails to achieve what it claims for the present; it can only assert the sense of identity in terms of a future anterior, i.e. it will have been achieved. The assertion of national identity represented in the museum expresses the absence of what it at present claims, and this I refer to as nostalgia for the future. The museum becomes a reminder of the nature of the human condition, in oscillation between fixity (the display at present) and “the not-yet” (the absence of the essence to which the display lays claim).
Cassin, B. (2016) Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home? Trans. Brault, P-A. New York: Fordham University Press. Reisinger, C., Steiner, J. (2006) Reconceptualizing object authenticity, Annals of Tourism Research, 33(1), pp. 65-86.
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