Society for Comparative Studies in Society and History

A FIace Jov Menov¸· TIe InlevJace Ielveen IndividuaI and CoIIeclive Hislov¸
AulIov|s)· MicIaeI O. Kenn¸
Bevieved vovI|s)·
Souvce· Conpavalive Sludies in Sociel¸ and Hislov¸, VoI. 41, No. 3 |JuI., 1999), pp. 420-437
FuIIisIed I¸· Cambridge University Press
SlaIIe UBL· http://www.jstor.org/stable/179434 .
Accessed· 01/12/2011 17·55
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
Cambridge University Press and Society for Comparative Studies in Society and History are collaborating with
JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Comparative Studies in Society and History.
http://www.jstor.org
A Place for
Memory:
The Interface
between Individual and Collective
History
MICHAEL G. KENNY
Simon Fraser
University
Memory
is a
major
theme in
contemporary
life,
a
key
to
personal,
social,
and
cultural
identity. Philosophers
have
long regarded continuity
of
memory
as an
essential
quality
of
personhood.
But
personal
and collective
identity
are inti-
mately
linked. Classical works such as Maurice Halbwachs's The Collective
Memory,
and Sir Frederick Bartlett's
Remembering highlight
the social nature
of what we
usually
take to be individual
memory,
an
insight
reinforced
by
research on the historical consciousness of non-literate
peoples.'
Here I will
explore,
in
comparative perspective,
the social
processes through
which
per-
sonal
memory
becomes collectivized and collective
memory
is instantiated
through autobiographical
recollection.
My
interest in this
topic
is
shaped by personal
involvement with the "false
memory" controversy:
an acrimonious debate about the
validity
of certain
forms of
psychotherapy
in
restoring
memories of
forgotten
traumatic
events,
such as childhood sexual abuse.2 This is a
dispute
over the nature and bound-
aries of a
processual
self rooted in time and determined
by history;
it is framed
by
an idiom of
betrayal
and trauma
heavily
influenced
by
the rhetoric of "sur-
vivorship."
A
complex
and disastrous
episode involving European Jewry
has
become a model for
construing
the histories of other
disadvantaged
and "trau-
I thank Dr. Phil Moore of Curtin
University (Perth,
Western
Australia)
for his
suggestions
con-
cerning
this
essay
and
my colleagues,
Drs. Dara
Culhane,
Rebecca
Bateman,
and Heribert Adam
for their
benign
influence. All
interpretations
are,
of
course, my
sole
responsibility.
I
Sir Frederick
Bartlett, Remembering (Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 1932);
Mau-
rice
Halbwachs,
The Collective
Memory,
Francis and Vida
Ditter,
trans.
(New
York:
Harper
Collins,
1980).
For excellent
descriptive
and theoretical overviews of the
problems
that Halbwachs
opened
up,
see Paul
Connerton,
How Societies Remember
(Cambridge, Cambridge University
Press, 1989)
and James Fentress and Chris
Wickham,
Social
Memory (Oxford:
Basil
Blackwell, 1992).
2
Michael G.
Kenny,
"The Recovered
Memory Controversy:
An
Anthropologist's
View,"
The
Journal
of Psychiatry
and the
Law,
23
(1995), 437-60; "Trauma, Time, Illness,
and Culture: An
Anthropological Approach
to Traumatic
Memory,"
in Tense Past: Cultural
Essays
in Trauma and
Memory,
Paul Anze and Michael
Lambek,
eds.
(New
York:
Routledge, 1996), 151-71; Idem.,
"Trauma, Memory,
and Catharsis:
Anthropological
Observations on a
Folk-Psychological
Con-
struct,"
in Recollections
of
Trauma,
J. Don Read and D.
Stephen Lindsay,
eds.
(New
York: Plenum
Press, 1997),
475-81.
0010-4175/99/3201-0100 $7.50
+ .10 ? 1999
Society
for
Comparative Study
of
Society
and
History
420
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
421
matized"
groups
such as sexual
abusees,
war
veterans,
and colonized
aborigi-
nal
peoples.
An
important implication
of the literature on this
subject
is that the
consequences
of trauma
may
be
delayed,
diffuse,
and
pervasive-affecting
the
pattern
of individual and collective life in manifold
ways.
But the nature of
the link between
trauma,
pathology,
and
memory
is a controversial
subject,
as
is the nature of
memory
itself.
Personal and
political
identities are on the line in the
memory
wars.
Suppos-
edly objective
academic debate is contaminated
by "memoropolitics"-"a
power struggle
around
knowledge,
or claims to
knowledge" focusing
on the va-
lidity
of
psychoanalytic
modes for
interpreting
the relation between
present
and
past.3
It is a
morally
loaded
power struggle
about what it is that binds-or fails
to
bind-present
and
past together
in
memory.
Anthropologists
have
long
been interested in social and cultural factors af-
fecting
recollection.4 Individual and collective
experience imply
each other. All
experience
is individual in that collectivities do not have
minds,
or memories
either,
though
we often
speak
as if
they
did. Yet it is also true that individuals
are
nothing
without the
prior
existence of the collectivities that sustain
them,
the cultural traditions and the communicative
practices
that
position
the self in
relation to the social and natural worlds. That much is obvious. What is not so
obvious,
and therefore a matter of
ongoing investigation by
the human
sciences,
is the nature of the
processes through
which
personal experience migrates
into
the collective
memory
and is refracted back
again.
The
agenda
for this research
was
spelled
out
by
Halbwachs,
a follower of Emile
Durkheim,
who said that
"the collective
memory
...
encompasses
individual memories while
remaining
distinct from them. It evolves
according
to its own
laws,
and
any
individual re-
membrances that
may penetrate
are transformed within a
totality having
no
per-
sonal consciousness."5 What then are the laws
governing
social
memory?
Memory
needs a
place,
a context. Its
place,
if it finds one that lives
beyond
a
single generation,
is to be found in the stories that we tell. We wish to know
about the nature of the relation between
memory,
historical
narrative,
and self-
formation. The
phenomena
at issue in this
essay
are
widely
distributed in the
contemporary
world and
emerge
in a
variety
of
contexts,
most
notably
the eth-
nopolitics
of the
disadvantaged.
Here,
I
explore
three related instances in which
the nature of the bond between
present
and
past
has assumed considerable
po-
litical
significance.
3
Frederick
Crews,
The
Memory
Wars: Freud's
Legacy
in
Dispute (New
York: New York Re-
view, 1995);
Ian
Hacking, Rewriting
the Soul:
Multiple Personality
and the Sciences
of
Memory
(Princeton:
Princeton
University
Press, 1995).
4 And
certainly
one of the most
important
works was E. E. Evans-Pritchard's famous
ethnogra-
phy,
The Nuer
(New
York: Oxford
University Press, 1940).
Evans-Pritchard not
only
tried to show
how Nuer historical accounts are conditioned
by political factors,
but how also lived
experience
is
embedded in social relations.
5
Halbwachs,
Collective
Memory,
51.
Halbwachs,
who was
Jewish,
was
deported during
World
War II to
Buchenwald,
where he died.
422
MICHAEL KENNY
My
first
example
concerns the nature of Australian
Aboriginal
historical
memory
in the colonial
period;
the
second,
the intellectual roots of the "sur-
vivor
syndrome" concept;
the
third,
recent events
pertaining
to the
highly politi-
cized
psychological
and social
consequences
of the Indian Residential School
experience
in Canada. I will show how
changes
in intellectual and
political
cli-
mate affect the frameworks
through
which
memory
and
history
are
structured,
thereby affecting memory
itself and the
way
in which the
meaning
of the
past
is construed.
THE METAPHORICAL LANDSCAPE OF MEMORY
I introduce the
topic
with four
vignettes indicating
the
importance
of
socially
constructed benchmarks for
positioning
oneself in the
metaphorical landscape
of
memory.
First,
in The Art
of
Memory,
historian Frances Yates describes the
techniques
utilized
by
Classical and Renaissance scholars and orators for re-
membering
substantial bodies of material without external
props. Imagine
a
palace
filled with rooms and furniture. In each of these rooms
place
a mental
cue-say
a
picture
or
piece
of
statuary-reminiscent
of the
topic
to be
recalled;
as one takes an
imaginary
walk
through
the
structure,
material is accessed in
the
appropriate
order. Yates describes this as a
highly
effective
technology
of
memory,
a linear
filing system
based on a
metaphorical journey
from
point
to
point
that
maps
the
logical
order of an
argument.
In its most
highly
elaborated
form,
this
technology
takes the form of an
imaginary
theater,
a theater of mem-
ory. Ideally
one should be able to
freely
walk
through
the
theater,
accessing
ma-
terial at
will;
but what if there is a locked door or a corridor
leading
into the
darkness,
thus
blocking
or
impeding
the flow of
memory?6
Second,
the
image
of
blockage
runs
throughout Sylvia
Fraser's
My
Father's
House
(Toronto: Doubleday
Canada, 1987),
an influential
quasi-autobiograph-
ical narrative of the
consequences
of sexual abuse at the hands of her father.
Fraser,
a Canadian novelist and
journalist,
converts her childhood home into a
metaphorical
theater of
memory-"the
world inside
my
head"-a
place
where
public knowledge
exists
uneasily alongside
untellable horror.7
She believed herself to be cut off from the
past
because of a dissociative bar-
rier between her conscious self and an alter-self who was a witness to incest.
When,
with the
help
of
therapy,
this amnesic barrier was
finally
breached
and the
past
restored,
Fraser found she could at last move
freely through
her fa-
ther's house: "Now that
my
father's house has
given up
its secrets it has become
an old
friend,
each room a
scrapbook
of
my past.
I invent excuses to rove from
room to room ...
wishing
to
repossess
the
territory
of the child that was. Will
things
look different now that I
know,
and know that I know?
I,
an
opener
of
boxes,
of closed
doors,
of secret
compartments,
of
everything
labeled DON'T."8
6
Frances
Yates,
The Art
of
Memory (Chicago: University
of
Chicago
Press, 1966).
7
Fraser, My Father's
House,
150. 8
Ibid.,
234.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
423
Third,
Fraser's horror was
private
and,
some would
say, imaginary,
but what
about the
memory
of verifiable collective trauma? In
1864,
an Australian Abo-
riginal group,
the Yir
Yoront,
had a
fight
with white cattledrovers who re-
counted the deaths of 30 or so of the
Aboriginal party;
and
yet
some 70
years
later,
when an
anthropologist inquired
into this
episode,
not a trace of it re-
mained in Yir Yoront
memory.9
On the other
hand,
coastal
Aboriginal groups
tell of a visit
by Captain
Cook in the late
eighteenth century
that,
according
to
Cook's
logs
and other records could not have occurred.10 It seems that dire
events which should
(we might think)
be remembered are
not,
whereas
things
that never
happened
become the
object
of collective recollection.
Fourth,
Linda
Myer
Williams's
methodologically sophisticated
and much-
discussed
paper,
Recall
of
Childhood
Trauma,
looks at
forgetting
from a differ-
ent
angle.
She focuses on the memories of a cohort of urban black American
women for abuse events in their childhood verified from
hospital
records. Some
17
years
after the
fact,
many (38 percent
of 129
subjects)
had
apparently
"for-
gotten"
the
episodes
that once
brought
them to the
emergency
room,
and the
question
is
why.
Williams
reports
that her informants were more
likely
to have
forgotten
their abuse if it was at the hands of someone close to them rather than
those of a
stranger.
Did some dissociative
process
stand in the
way
of
recollection;
did these
par-
ticular
people simply forget,
while the other 62
percent
of the
sample
did
not;
or did
they
fail to remember because the
people
around them failed to
provide
a milieu in which the abuse could be recounted and take root in
memory?
Maybe,
in these social
circumstances,
trauma of one kind or another was
just
too
ordinary
to be
worthy
of comment and reflection.
1 2
The
interpretation
of these results is a matter of debate.13 Williams herself
favors an
explanation
based on some combination of
"repression, dissociation,
and
cognitive
avoidance"-amnesia in
response
to
trauma, not
just
mere for-
9
Lauriston
Sharp,
"Steel Axes for Stone
Age Australians," in Human Problems in
Technologi-
cal
Change:
A
Casebook,
Edward H.
Spicer,
ed.
(New York: Russell
Sage Foundation, 1952), 70.
10
Jeremy Beckett, "Aboriginal Histories, Aboriginal Myths:
An
Introduction," Oceania, 65
(1994),
106-11.
"l
Linda
Meyer Williams, "Recall of Childhood Trauma: A
Prospective Study
of Women's
Memories of Child Sexual
Abuse," Journal
of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology, 62 (1994),
1167-76.
12 In another
prospective study
of individuals with a documented
history
of child abuse, Widom
and
Shepard
found that 20
years
later 40
percent
of these individuals who could be located
again
failed to
report
the fact of their abuse to an interviewer. The authors
point
out that
"given
that these
were court-substantiated
cases, the amount of under
reporting
is notable. Whether these
people
did
not
report
because of
embarrassment, a wish to
protect parents,
a sense of
having
deserved the
abuse,
a conscious wish to
forget
the
past,
or lack of confidence in or
rapport
with the interviewer,
we do not know."
Cathy Spatz
Widom and Robin L.
Shepard, "Accuracy
of Adult Recollections
of Childhood Victimization: Part 1. Childhood
Physical Abuse," Psychological Assessment, 8:4
(1996),
418.
13
Elizabeth
Loftus, M.
Garry,
and J. Feldman," Forgetting
Sexual Trauma: What Does It Mean
when 38
percent Forget,?"
Journal of Consulting
and Clinical
Psychology,
62:6 (1994), 1177-81.
424
MICHAEL KENNY
getting.14
One
consequence
of this line of
argument
is her conviction that there
is a considerable host of
people
out there who were abused as
children,
and are
presently
unaware of the fact ...
perhaps
to their cost.
YIR YORONT HISTORICAL AMNESIA
While Fraser and Williams are
memory
warriors
engaged
in
vigorous
combat
with those
skeptical
about recovered
memory,
Australian
anthropologists
have
been involved in a
controversy
of their own
(albeit
less
heated)
about the mean-
ing
of Yir Yoront historical amnesia. One
explanation
for their
lapse
of memo-
ry
is that the
Aboriginal
world-view has no
place
for the
preservation
of con-
tingent
events. The
Aboriginal peoples
lived in a kind of timeless
present
where
the
only past
events of salience for their collective lives occurred in "The
Dreaming"-the mythical epoch
when the Dawn
Beings
walked the earth cre-
ating
human social institutions and the features of the natural
landscape.
What
is known from
personal experience
fades
away
in a
couple
of
generations,
be-
yond
which there is
only
a
Dreaming
that has no
place
in a
chronology
of ab-
solute time. "Neither time nor
history
as we understand them is involved in this
meaning."15
The
Dreaming
is
now, then,
and
always.
Without
chronological
benchmarks and the
capacity
for
sequential
narrative,
the
history collapses
into
a black hole of
forgetfulness.
From a Western
standpoint,
events did
happen,
and
Aboriginal society
does
change
and can be demonstrated to have done
so,
but a
singular
mode of his-
torical consciousness effaces
any recognition
of the fact.16 There is no mean-
ingful story
in which events like the Yir Yoront
fight
with the cattlemen
might
find a
permanent place,
and so
they
are lost.
Is it
really
that
straightforward?
Critics have maintained that such a view
oversimplifies
the
processes shaping Aboriginal
historical
perception
and also
runs the risk of
"identifying
a whole
people
with
mythic
consciousness.""7 It
has been observed that
Aboriginal history
can be
told,
but
only
in an
Aborigi-
nal
way.'8 History
must bear reference to a
physical place;
it is a narrative
mode,
a
"structuring
of
experience
[that]
firmly
binds
story
and dream to
par-
14
Williams,
"Recall of Childhood
Trauma,"
1182.
15
W. E. H
Stanner,
"The
Dreaming,"
in White Man Got No
Dreaming,
W. E. H.
Stanner,
ed.
(Canberra:
Australian National
University Press, 1979),
23.
16 W. E. H.
Stanner,
On
Aboriginal Religion (Sydney:
Oceania
Publications, 1966).
17
Alan
Rumsey,
"The
Dreaming,
Human
Agency
and
Inscriptive
Practice," Oceania,
65
(1994),
119.
18 Renato Rosaldo's
study
of the
Ilongot,
a
Philippine hunting-gathering people,
draws conclu-
sions similar to those
coming
from
Australia,
with the
landscape
and the
places
where
people
set-
tled at
given
times in their
wandering
existence
being
of
paramount importance
to
memory
. Ac-
cording
to
Rosaldo,
Ilongot
are uninterested in historical accounts that no one can
verify
out of
personal experience
or out of the
experience
of
trustworthy persons
known to them. All
else,
as the
courts
put
it,
is
"hearsay." Among
other
things, Ilongot genealogical memory
is
exceedingly
shal-
low;
Renato
Rosaldo, Ilongot Headhunting
1883-1974: A
Study
in Society and
History, (Stanford:
Stanford
University Press, 1980).
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
425
ticular,
spatial
loci-actual
places
which can be
directly
encountered outside
the
story (or dream)
context."19 The
Aboriginal
"art of
memory"
is rooted in a
land alive with
geographical
mnemonics-an encounter with a
supernatural
be-
ing
or a white man at this
hill,
that
watering
hole,
this streambed.20
But there is no
story
without someone to tell it. The transmission of histori-
cal
memory
is therefore
contextual,
partial,
and
subject
to self-interested ma-
nipulation
and obfuscation. The Yir Yoront are far from the
only Aboriginals
to
have
experienced deadly
confrontations with whites. The
Ngalakan
of North-
ern Australia did so as
well,
and once more there is
documentary
evidence bear-
ing
on these encounters.
Though
the
present-day Ngalakan
have accounts of
some of these events that match
up
in certain
respects
with the white version
(but interestingly
differ in
others),
until
lately they
failed to
identify
with the
Aboriginal protagonists-the
"Wild Blackfellows" of the violent 1870s con-
tact era. In recent
generations
these
people
have come to see their ancestors
neg-
atively
as other and
quite
different from themselves.
One
possible
reason for such a
perception
is that
Aboriginal history
is itself
fragmentary
since
Aboriginal-white
relations were never a
unitary
affair in the
first
place.
Some
Aboriginals
"collaborated" and were
grafted
into the outback
cattle station
economy,
even to the
point
of
helping
to hunt down their "wild"
relatives. This
depended
on which
Aboriginal groups already
lived in
proxim-
ity
to where the whites chose to settle and which lived in more remote areas.
"Aborigines,
far from
being
united
against
a white
invasion,
were divided in
their attachment to
country,
relatives and white bosses" and this affected their
perspective
on
history.21
These memories
are not "recollections of times
past"
but
part
of
present understandings
of the
past
that
need bear no relation to what
actually happened
or was.
History
is
important...
not as
a record of events but as a means of
understanding
how the
relationship
between the
past
and
present
has been
continuously
reconstructed and how the
myths
about the
past
fit
the conditions of the
present.22
One of these shifts in historical
perception
was
occurring
before the
ethnog-
raphers' eyes.
Older
Ngalakan
informants who had been alive in the 1930s and
1940s had a
perception
of
Aboriginal-White comity
and
interdependence
dur-
ing
that
time,
even of a kind of Golden
Age.
However,
economic
change
had
since set in
accompanied by
a rise in
Aboriginal
ethno-national consciousness
driven
by
the
dynamic
of the official land claims
process
and the
emergence
of
an Australia-wide
Aboriginal political
voice. The
myth
of mutual
comity
is
19
Nancy
D.
Munn,
Walbiri
Iconography: Graphic Representation
and Cultural
Symbolism
in
a CentralAustralian
Society, (Ithaca:
Cornell
University
Press, 1973).
20
See Keith
Basso,
Wisdom sits in Places:
Landscape
and
Language among
the Western
Apache, (Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico
Press, 1996)
for an
engaging
account of the re-
lation between sense of
place
and sense of self.
21
Howard
Morphy
and Frances
Morphy,
"The
'Myths'
of
Ngalakan History: Ideology
and Im-
ages
of the Past in Northern
Australia," Man(ns),
19:3
(1984),
475.
22
Ibid.,
462.
426
MICHAEL KENNY
eroding
in such a
way
as to force even
memory
of it
underground
and to ulti-
mately
drive it into extinction because of its
untellability
and irrelevance:
Through
the land claim
process Aborigines
are
again
in an
adversary
situation with
many
of the whites in the area and one in which "traditional
culture",
as a means of demon-
strating rights
in
land,
can be used to
advantage
in
redressing
the balance. It is
possible
now for the "wild blackfellow" to be reconnected to
history,
for his or her
image
to be
filled out and viewed
positively,
and to be
rejoined
to the
present
as an earlier
fighter
for
Aboriginal rights against
colonisation. Continuities
may
be established with the
past
that
have the
ideological
force to
wipe
out the Golden
Age
for
good
in the consciousness of
people
of the
region
and to redefine the role of
Aborigines
in the
process
of colonisa-
tion.23
In
place
of the Golden
Age
a new
story
has arisen-a
story
of white
op-
pression
and
Aboriginal
resistance-that has little lineal connection to the
events that it
recounts,
and is
very
much an
ideological
reflection of the
pre-
sent situation. It is no less "true" for all that. This new narrative contains "re-
covered" memories of the contact era
(or perhaps "repatriated
memories" is a
better
term).
The
past
did indeed have its share of atrocities: The whites were
aggressive
racist
intruders;
many Aboriginals
were
killed;
the
living, exploit-
ed;
and their
culture,
deliberately
or
inadvertently
undermined. Members of
the
present generation
are survivors of this
process
and are
strongly
reassert-
ing
their
rights
to be themselves and to claim restitution for what was done to
their ancestors and
ultimately
to them. But the nuances and
ambiguities
of the
past
are lost beneath the rhetoric of a
present
that screens
ambiguities
of its
own.
As I
write,
Australia has
just
held its first
Sorry Day
to make a collective
apol-
ogy
for White treatment of the
Aboriginal population,
and most
particularly,
the
removal of
Aboriginal
children from their families in a
program
of forced ac-
culturation.
"Aboriginal
elders were handed
Sorry
Books
signed by
300,000
Australians. Other events included ... an announcement that
Botany Bay,
where
Captain
James Cook first
landed,
is to be
given
a
new,
aboriginal
name."24
HISTORICAL MEMORY AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
What I have said thus far
pertains
to collective historical memories and narra-
tives,
not to the individual
"psychological"
effects of trauma.
But,
as mentioned
above,
historical
memory
and
personal experience
interact in
complex ways.
Holocaust memories have become a
paradigm,
as has the rhetoric of
genocide.
This
episode happened
to individuals and to families all over
Europe-to
ur-
ban Dutch as to rural Polish Jews who otherwise were
quite
different from one
another.
Only
with time did the Holocaust become
part
of the collective histo-
ry
of the Jewish
people,
articulated thereto via the
powerful
Levitical
image
of
a burnt
offering,
an
image
memorialized and reinforced
by
museums,
in tours
23
Ibid.,
476-7.
24
Vancouver
Sun,
(May
27, 1998), p.
A5.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
427
to the
concentration-camp
sites,
and
by
the establishment of the state of Israel.25
Those Jews who made it
through
this event are the
archetypal
"survivors,"
and
what has been made of their fate is at the root of the "survivor discourse" of our
time-a discourse
implying
a search for both
personal
and
political redemp-
tion.26
In much the same
way
as
Kempe's
1962
paper
on "The Battered Child
Syn-
drome" became a charter document for the
raising
of social consciousness
about child
abuse,27
so
psychoanalyst
William Niederland's 1960s work on
"the survivor
syndrome" helped
to establish not
just
the
popularity
of 'sur-
vivorship'
as a
concept,
but also as a model for
interpreting
the
generic long-
term
psychological consequences
of trauma.28 The
parallels
between Nieder-
land's formulations and much
contemporary thinking
about
trauma,
memory,
and
recovery
are
striking
indeed.29 The same can be said for Bruno Bettelheim's
observations on
surviving
in the Nazi
camps,
and in
particular
the role of emo-
tional detachment as a defense mechanism.30
Niederland became involved with Jewish survivors because of the war
repa-
rations
program
established
by
the West German
government.
For there to be
financial
reparations,
harm at the hands of the Nazis had to be demonstrated
and-when the harm was taken to be
psychological
in
nature-psychiatrists
inevitably
became involved
pro
and con as
expert
witnesses. Since this was al-
ready quite
some time after the War, Niederland found himself
testifying
as to
the
long-term
or
delayed
effects of the
camps,
which on the basis of his clini-
cal
experience
he believed to take the form of a more or less coherent "survivor
syndrome"-a delayed
"traumatic neurosis".31
25
Jack
Kugelmass,
"Missions to the Past: Poland in
Contemporary
Jewish
Thought
and Deed,"
in Tense Past: Cultural Esays in Trauma and Memory, Paul Anze and Michael Lambek, eds. (New
York:
Routledge, 1996); James Edward
Young,
The Texture
of
Memory: Holocaust Memorials and
Meaning (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1993); Ian Baruma, "The
Joys
and Perils of Victim-
hood," The New York Review
of Books, 46 (1999), 4-9.
26
Linda Alcoff and Laura
Gray,
"Survivor Discourse:
Transgression
or
Recuperation?" Signs,
18:21
(1993), 260-90.
27
C. H.
Kempe,
"The Battered-Child
Syndrome,"Journal of
the American Medical Association,
181 (1962), 105-12; Joel Best, Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern about Child-Victims
(Chicago: University
of
Chicago Press, 1990).
28
William Niederland, "Psychiatric
Disorders
among
Persecution Victims," Journal
of Nervous
and Mental Disease, 139 (1964), 458-74; "The Problem of the Survivor," in Massive Psychic Trau-
ma, Henry Krystal,
ed. (New York: International Universities Press, 1968), 8-46.
29 There is also a
major
difference. Niederland
deployed
Freudian and
ego-psychological
con-
cepts
when
analyzing
the effects of the concentration
camp experience.; now, in an intellectual cli-
mate
antipathetic
to
psychoanalysis, parallel
notions tend to be
phrased
in more "scientific" neu-
robiological terms, a
tendency
reflected in North American
psychiatry
at
large.
30
See Bruno Betelheim, The
Informed
Heart: Autonomy in a Mass
Age (New York: The Free
Presss, 1960); Surviving
and Other
Essays (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1979).
31
Here Niederland made reference to the work of Abram Kardiner on the traumatic neuroses
noted
among
soldiers in World War II. But, whereas Kardiner saw this kind of neurosis "as a short-
term, self-limited
syndrome,"
the concentration
camp syndrome
did not seem to have obvious tem-
poral limitations, that "under certain
emergency
situations the traumatic neurosis may
not become
apparent
until some time later, when the individual confronts himself
belatedly
with
frightening
or
428
MICHAEL KENNY
A forensic
problem
arose because various features of this
putative syn-
drome-depression,
delusions of
persecution, sleep
disturbances,
pathological
guilt, anxiety,
somatoform
complaints-were
attributable to
endogenous
men-
tal illness rather than to the traumatic effect of the
camps per
se. Since some
survivors had
apparently
been
"relatively symptom-free"
for "a
period
of
months or
years following
their arrival in the
U.S.A.,"
there had been more than
enough
distance from the War for an
"ordinary"
mental illness to have mani-
fested itself in the interim.32 The ends needed to be
brought together,
an etio-
logical
link established between the
present
and an
increasingly
distant trau-
matic
past.
The "survivor
syndrome"
was a
bridge
across time.
Disturbances of
memory
were one of the central features of the
syndrome.
The survivors had
hypermnesia
for certain
experiences:
accompanied by memory
defects with
respect
to
others,
and the whole traumatic se-
quence rarely emerges clearly.
Denial and
guilt feelings
are
constantly
in
operation,
and
what
emerges
is
usually
revealed in fits and
starts,
slowly
and
painfully. Possibly
this is
the reason
why
the
inexperienced
or
impatient
examiner is
prone
to miss the crucial el-
ements in the massive traumatization
picture."
33
In Niederland's
view,
massive
repression
and denial were at the root of the
many quasi-hysterical
somatic
complaints
seen in such
patients.
As an
analyst
he was accustomed to
long-term
verbal interaction with his
clients;
but sur-
vivors
represented
an unusual
problem given
their
memory problems
and ten-
dency
to somaticize. He therefore found himself
advocating
unorthodox tech-
niques
in order to
penetrate
the resistance-to
bring
back memories of terrible
events-as a
necessary prelude
to the real
analytic
work focused on the
"guilt,
shame and fear associated with these
experiences."
Here Niederland had best
speak
for himself, since in what he
says
we see the recovered
memory
contro-
versy virtually
at the moment of its
conception:
I believe that the
only way
of
psychotherapeutically removing
the burden of
guilt
is to
take the survivors back to the
nightmarish type
of life
they
led under the incubus of
per-
secution and
threatening annihilation, and have them work
through, against
enormous
resistance, the traumatic
experiences
and situations. To
bring
back the
traumatizing
events via direct
approach
to the
persecution
era and to work
against
the
patients'
ten-
dencies to
deny, repress
and
suppress, may
sound like an old-fashioned
type
of
psy-
chotherapy:
it has the
ring
of reliance on
psychocathartic procedures.
But
re-experienc-
ing,
in relation to the
therapist,
the
pain, anxiety, grief
and
guilt
connected with those
guilt-provoking perceptions, experiences
or acts, which remain
repressed
for the duration of the
emergency" (Niederland, "Problem of the Survivor," 25).
The victim
may respond
to mnemonic
cues that takes one back to the
camps;
for
example, being caught
in a house fire
may
stir
up
hid-
den memories of the crematoria. Niederland
explored
the
long-term consequences
of trauma
along
another dimension in his
study
of Daniel Paul Schreber, the
paranoid schizophrenic
who became
(though vicariously)
the
subject
of one of Freud's most famous case studies. Niederland
interpret-
ed the content of Schreber's bizarre delusions in terms of the
rigorous
and
painful child-rearing
methods used
by
his authoritarian father (Niederland, The Schreber Case:
Psychoanalytic Profile
of
a Paranoid
Personality [New
York:
Quadrangle/the
New York Times Book
Company]).
32
Niederland, "Problem of the Survivor," 13.
33
Niederland, "Psychiatric Disorders," 461.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
429
events can
help
at least some of these
patients,
and can lead them if
only temporarily,
out of the
apathy
and
brooding preoccupation
with somatic
complaints
and other
symp-
toms.34
To this
end,
Niederland
proposed
"the formation of survivor
groups"
in order
to overcome communication
problems
between
patients
and doctors who
might
be seen as all too reminiscent of
authority figures
from an evil
past.
By
1964
virtually
all the elements were in
place
that would lead downline to
the recovered
memory controversy
of the 1990s.
Psychoanalytic
hermeneutics
were
coupled
to
highly
emotive abreactive
techniques
that take one back to the
early
Freud. The notion had arisen that survivors were frozen in
time,
"that in
a certain sense
they
still live in the concentration
camp."35
It was therefore a
question
of
getting
time
moving again,
an
image frequently
encountered in our
contemporary trauma-recovery
literature. Since the true clinical
picture
was
easily
missed
by
clinicians unfamiliar with the survivor
syndrome, support
groups
had come to be seen as an
important adjunct
to traditional
therapies; pa-
tients
might
tell one another
things
that
they
would be loath to tell
anyone
with-
out direct
experience
of the
camps.
Thus
emerged
the
public
confessional
and,
with
it,
suggestive possibilities
for the
genesis
of
pseudo-memories.
Most
important,
an
etiological
link had been established between a rather
vaguely
defined
array
of
present symptoms
and the distant events held to have
caused them. A new
interpretation
had arisen of what the
past
can mean for the
present,
thus
allowing
the
rewriting
of
personal
and collective
history.
It had
become
necessary
to revisit that traumatic
past
so that there could be a future.
What still awaited was
generalization
of these
propositions
to survivors or oth-
er kinds. In
fact,
they
were
generalized
to survivors of
virtually any
kind.
SURVIVORS OF INDIAN SCHOOLS IN CANADA
Among
them was a
population
similar in certain
ways
to that of the Nazi
camps:
"survivors" of the Indian residential schools in Canada. An
important study
re-
cently published
in Canada
by
the
Assembly
of First Nations
typifies
these
schools as "total
institutions,"
a term
originally
used
by Irving
Goffman when
writing
on the
sociology
of
psychiatric hospitals.36
There is a
good
deal of truth in this.
Boarding
schools were seen as a
practi-
cal
necessity
if Indian children were to be acculturated to the new
European
or-
der. Government and church authorities
thought
it best for children to be taken
away
from their families and cultural milieu so that
they
could be
"civilized,"
meaning
that
they
would be
taught
to work and to be
good
Christians. While
the Nazi concentration
camp guards regarded
Jewish inmates as
Ungeziefer
(vermin),
Native children often remember
being regarded
as
dumb,
dirty, lousy
34
Ibid.,
473.
35
Ibid.,
469.
36
Assembly
of First
Nations,
Breaking
the Silence: An
Interpretive Study of
Residential School
Impact
and
Healing
as Illustrated by the Stories
of
First Nations Individuals
(Ottawa: Assemby
of
First
Nations, 1994),
3.
430
MICHAEL KENNY
Indians.37 Seen in a certain
light,
the schools were a Dickensian horror:
squalid,
oppressive,
and violent.
The Canadian Federal Government has
responsibility
for Native affairs. Giv-
en the vast size of the
country, underfunding,
and the absence of constitutional
barriers
limiting
sectarian involvement in
public
education,
the Canadian state
in effect farmed Indian education out to the
churches,
and most
particularly
to
the Roman Catholic Church
(the
United Church of Canada and the
Anglican
Church were also
involved,
among others).
The schools were often
highly reg-
imented,
a
discipline
of much work
and,
at least at
first,
little
play,
insufficient
food,
and a
high mortality rate-particularly
from
tuberculosis-brought
about
by
the harsh and overcrowded conditions. Children were taken from their fam-
ilies,
sometimes with
consent,
sometimes
coercively.
While in
school,
boys
were
separated
from
girls, sibling
from
sibling.
The
speaking
of
indigenous
lan-
guages
was
prohibited,
and little
place
made for Native culture.
This
widely
shared school
experience
has in recent times led to a sense of
collective victimization
and,
inversely,
to renewed self-assertion
among
Cana-
dian Native
peoples:
"The residential school issue has united Native
people
across Canada like no other issue in recent
history."38
But the
way
in which the
residential school
story
has come to be told is a
sign
of our times. Sexual abuse
allegations
about what went on in the schools have
multiplied, accompanied by
numerous confessions and
convictions,
extending
even to a Roman Catholic
bishop:
"What
people
make of their
places
is
closely
connected to what
they
make of themselves as members of
society."39
What Native
peoples
now make
of the residential schools has been
accompanied by
a
sea-change
in
political
consciousness.
It is now
possible
to
speak
of a Residential School
Syndrome,
of Native
peo-
ple
as its
survivors,
and of what Euro-Canadians tried to do to them as "cultur-
al
genocide."
Political and
therapeutic
discourse have become
thoroughly
in-
tertwined around the central
metaphor
of
"healing."
It is said
that,
as the white
world tried to
deny
Native
history,
so
recovery
of the hidden
history
of the res-
idential schools affirms the
persistence
and constitutional status of the First Na-
tions as a
necessary step
toward the restoration of
integral personal
and cultur-
al
identity.
One such account
actually attempts
to
drop
the
"healing" metaphor,
since,
in the view of its
authors,
it tends to
psychologize
what is at root a
polit-
ical issue. What
happened
in the schools was not the
product
of an honest mis-
take on the
part
of
misguided
churches and a
paternalistic government;
instead,
it was
attempted genocide,
as defined
by
the U.N. Genocide Convention-an
37
Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence, 26; Niederland,
"Problem of the
Survivor,"
21. See Noel
Dyck,
What Is the Indian 'Problem':
Tutelage
and Resistance in Canadian Indian Administration
(St.
John's: Institute of Social and Economic
Research, 1991).
38
Elizabeth
Furniss,
Victims
of
Benevolence: The Dark
Legacy of
the Williams Lake Residen-
tial School
(Vancouver,
B.C.: Arsenal
Pulp
Press, 1995).
39
Basso,
Wisdom Sits in
Places,
7.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
431
Indian Holocaust.40 To
recognize
this is to reconstruct
history
as it
actually
was,
stripped
of illusion-but what
emerges
instead is the
history
of Native Cana-
dians as
metaphorical
Jews:
With the ethnocentric bias of the
times,
only European-based history
was deemed im-
portant enough
to be
taught
in schools. When a culture is
being
attacked in an effort to
dominate it or to
replace
it with an alternative
way
of
life,
an effective tactic includes
lack of
acknowledgment
of that culture's
history.41
Scholarly
endeavor to restore that
history
is a
political
act.
"History provides
a
context for
understanding
individuals'
present
circumstances,
and is an essen-
tial
part
of the
healing process."42
Native
people
who endured the schools have
a
story
to
tell,
but
only lately
has a
space
been
opened up
for the
story
to be not
only
told,
but
heard,
and not
only
heard but
perpetuated
in the collective
memory.
Thousands of Native
people carry
such stories in their hearts and minds. These are the
stories that must be told to all our children and
grandchildren
so that
they
too can come
to
recognize
and
appreciate
the
history
of the
people
who came before them and the
pow-
er of their
legacy
of survival.43
Awareness of this
history
both derives from and
helps
to create the memories
of individuals. It
was,
after
all,
individuals
who-depending
on
perspective-en-
joyed,
survived,
or
simply
endured the schools. But what one is to make of the
schools
depends very
much on awareness of their
history
and the wider social
context. The schools have come to mean
something very
different in the 1980s
and 90s than
they
could have done in the 1940s and 50s. Accounts of the schools
compiled by
historians and Native
organizations recycle
back into the collective
consciousness and
shape
a new
story keyed
to the rhetoric of
oppression
and heal-
ing-a story
told both
by
Native
people
and
by sympathetic
whites,
a
"reframing
[of] thoughts,
beliefs,
and
understandings
about oneself and the world".44
These new frameworks create the memories themselves in so far as
they
are
dependent
on an
acceptable
narrative frame for their
telling-a place
for mem-
ory,
and a
merging
of individual and collective
history.
One of the crucial
elements in the creation of such a framework was an elision of the concern of
the
non-Aboriginal community
for the sexual abuse
issue,
and the
developing
Native
critique
of the residential schools.45
40
Roland
Chrisjohn,
Sherri
Young,
and Michael
Maraun,
The Circle Game: Shadows and Sub-
stance in the Indian Residential School
Experience
in Canada
(Penticton,
B.C.:
Theytus
Books,
1997),
61.
41
Celia
Haig-Brown,
Resistance and Renewal:
Surviving
the Indian Residential School
(Van-
couver,
B.C.: Tillacum
Library, 1988).
42
Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence,
141.
43
Haig-Brown, Resistance,
129.
44
Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence,
130.
45
Royal
Commission on
Aboriginal
Peoples, "Looking Forward,
Looking
Back",
vol. 1 of the
Report of
the Royal Commision on
Aboriginal Peoples (Ottawa: Ministry
of
Supply
and Services
Canada, 1996), 378;
Suzanne Fournier and Ernie
Crey,
Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction
of
First Nations Children and the Restoration
of Aboriginal
Communities
(Toronto: Douglas
and
432
MICHAEL KENNY
This creative
process
is
particularly
evident in the
Assembly
of First Nations
study
entitled
Breaking
the Silence.46
Though
derived from interviews from
thirteen Native individuals who went
through
the
schools,
the
organization
of
the
study
is
keyed
to the model of survival and
healing
advanced
by
Judith Her-
man in her well-known book, Trauma and
Recovery.47
Herman,
with
family
connections to the
psychoanalytic
tradition,
also owes much to research on
psy-
chogenic
trauma: Herbert
Spiegel
and Abram Kardiner on war
neuroses,
Niederland and Robert
Jay
Lifton on
survivors,
more recent work on Post Trau-
matic Stress Disorder.
Remembering, telling, healing, reconnecting
are the leitmotifs of this
particu-
lar vision:
"moving away
from
feeling, thinking
and
acting
as a
victim,
to feel-
ing, thinking
and
acting
as a survivor."48 And this itself can be
redemptive.
As Ju-
dith Herman
says,
some "survivors
recognize
a
political
or
religious
dimension
in their misfortune and discover that
they
can transform the
meaning
of their
per-
sonal
tragedy by making
it the basis for social action. The trauma is redeemed
only
when it becomes the source of a survivor mission."49 Native
peoples
have
their own Elie
Wiesels,
their own witnesses to
atrocity, accompanied by
a neo-
traditional
religious
revival. "When considered in a broader
sense,
all of
this,
in-
cluding
the
political breakthroughs
which are
being made,
is
part
of
healing."50
In 1996 the Canadian
Royal
Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples,
after five
years
of work, published
a
highly
influential
report
that had much to
say
about "heal-
ing,"
while
being
at
pains
to situtate this idea in a wider
political
context:
The word
'healing'
is familiar to
non-Aboriginal people,
of
course,
but the idea that Abo-
riginal people
have in mind when
they
use it is
likely
not.
Healing,
in
Aboriginal terms,
refers to
personal
and societal
recovery
from the
lasting
effects of
aggression
and
sys-
temic racism
experienced
over
generations.
The idea of
healing suggests
that to reach
'whole health',
Aboriginal people
must confront the
crippling injuries
of the
past.51
McIntyre, 1997).
Elision with the sexual abuse issue was also behind the revival of the
psychiatric
concept
of
Multiple Personality
Disorder
(MPD)
in the late 1970s after a
fifty-year
absence from
the literature. MPD now was attributed to the
sequestration
of traumatic
memory
in the
keeping
of
hidden
alter-personalities.
To access these memories was to learn the historical truth of childhood
sexual abuse. The
psychological
theories behind this
approach
have
spread
far and
wide, though
of
late-via the recovered
memory controversy-they
have received much criticism. See Michael G.
Kenny,
The Passion
of
Ansel Bourne:
Multiple Personality
in American Culture
(Washington
D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986);
Ian
Hacking, Rewriting
the Soul.
46
The
metaphor
contained in this title has a certain
currency. Perusing
local
library catalogs
turns
up
entries like the
following:
Breaking
the Silence: Art
Therapy
with Children
from
Violent Homes
Breaking
the Silence on the Abuse
of
Older Canadians
Breaking
the Silence: Redress and
Japanese
American Ethnicity
47
Judith Herman, Trauma and
Recovery (New
York: Basic
Books, 1992).
48
Assembly, Breaking
the Silence, 131.
49
Herman,
Trauma and
Recovery,
207.
50
Assembly, Breaking
the Silence,
159.
51
Royal
Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples, "Gathering Strength,"
vol. 3 of the
Report of
the
Royal
Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples (Ottawa: Ministry
of
Supply
and Services Canada,
1996),
109.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
433
Because of the
Royal
Commission
Report,
the Government of Canada has
established a
$350
million
"healing
fund,"
coupled
with an
apology
for the en-
tire residential school
system
that has
just
been reiterated via a
privately
initi-
ated
apology
in
Australia,
where similar
things
took
place.52
However,
the in-
stitutionalization of
guilt
tends to
expand
the
pool
of the
victimized,
especially
if-as in the
present
instance-the
consequences
of abuse are believed to echo
down the
generations.53
Following
the
Royal
Commission,
an
Aboriginal Healing
Foundation was es-
tablished to administer the fund in the form of
program grants
for
projects
"to ad-
dress the
healing
needs of
Aboriginal people
affected
by
the
legacy
of
physical
and sexual abuse in residential
schools,
including intergenerational impacts
...
on
individuals,
families and communities."54 The effects
may
take the form of
"lateral
violence,"
emerging
as
"family
feuds,
gossip, jealousy, organizational
fighting,
divisions and
disputes
based on blood
quantum,
to name a few."55
Thus,
even the factional
politics
of what are often small and
impoverished
rural com-
munities can be attributed to the
delayed
effects of the residential schools.
From the Foundation's
point
of
view,
anyone
who attended residential school
can be considered a survivor and
recalling
one's
experience
as a survivor is the
topic
of a section in its
Program
Guide entitled "Honour and
History":
An
important component
of the
community healing process
identified
by
survivors is
the creation of a historical record of the residential school
experience. Sharing history
is an
aspect
of
prevention
as it will allow
Aboriginal
children to understand the reasons
behind their actions and those of
family members, and will
help prevent
these children
from
continuing
the
cycle
of abuse when
they
become adults.... The disclosure of res-
idential school abuse and the validation of the abuse is itself
part
of the
healing process.56
This is a
necessary part
of the
healing process
because a trauma untold is a trau-
ma unresolved. Unresolved trauma occurs when a child or adult is not
given
the
52
The official Canadian Government
apology
reads in
part:
"one
aspect
of our
relationship
with
Aboriginal People
over this
period
that
requires particular
attention is the residential school
sys-
tem. This
system separated many
children from their families and communities and
prevented
them
from
speaking
their own
languages
and from
learning
about their
heritage
and cultures. In the worst
cases, it left
legacies
of
personal pain
and distress that continue to reverberate to this
day. Tragi-
cally,
some children were the victims of
physical
and sexual abuse" (statement of the Hon. Jane
Stewart, Minister of Indian Affairs, Vancouver Sun
(January 8, 1998, p. A3).
53
Various Native
advocacy groups
in Canada have
requested
or demanded the extension of
compensation
for the abuses of the residential schools to the children of the
original
abusees and
beyond.
As one claimant stated:
"My grandparents
were in those schools and I was raised
by my
grandparents.
I still suffer from the effects of residential school trauma" (Toronto Globe & Mail,
May 8, 1998).
54
Program
Handbook (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 1999), 5.
55
Program Handbook, 37. The reference to "blood
quantum"
has to do with who is to count as
a
legitimate
member of a
recognized Aboriginal Band, and this is often decided on the basis of
per-
centage
of native
ancestry
as decided
by
the band itself. This can be a
very tendentious issue, since
personal
status and access to resources are both involved here; the descendants of mixed
marriages
are at
particular
risk.
56
Program Handbook, 7.
434
MICHAEL KENNY
opportunity
to release emotions or when emotions are blocked. Trauma cannot
be laid to rest until the trauma has been addressed
mentally, emotionally, phys-
ically
and
spiritually,
which is to
say
seen for what it was and
openly
acknowl-
edged.
But
remembering
is not
necessarily
a
straightforward
matter-it is not
just
reminiscing
at a school reunion or
talking
about one's
past
in an oral
history
seminar.
Memory
of trauma is
painful,
and takes work to access:
These schools were so traumatic for some that attended that there are those who re-
member
getting
to the
schools,
but have blocked out from their memories
years
of their
time
spent
there.
They
have
very uneasy feelings
about
trying
to
remember,
and do not
want to
bring
those memories back. For these
people
it is
just
another
way
of survival.57
Even if the residential schools were not
important
on a conscious
level,
they
be-
come so when one tries to remember what
happened
there:
Remembering
means a commitment to
recalling parts
of the
experience
which have been
lost to
memory. Regardless
of how this is
accomplished,
whether it is
by visiting
the site
of
[the]
old
school,
or
by joining
a
"healing
circle" residential school becomes an im-
portant
event
from
this
point
on.
Remembering your past
and
discussing
it with others breaks the code of silence and for
that
reason,
it is the moment when residential school first
appears
as an
important
event
in the lives of those who attended residential schools. It is the moment
when,
for the first
time,
an individual sees
clearly
the
possibility
that residential school was more than
"something
that
happened
in the
past",
and
consequently, "something
that was not worth
thinking
about at all."58
Whatever one makes of the
psychological processes
that we term
forgetting,
repression,
dissociation,
or
amnesia,
it is
apparent
that this
politicized approach
to
remembering
entails a re-evaluation of the
past's meaning.
"Trauma is
pro-
duced not
only by
the event
itself,
but also
by
the individual's
perception
of
the event and his or her
response."
Once
memory
of residential school is
reclaimed,
having
been there "becomes an
important
event from this
point
on."59 Yet
failure
to remember has the same
interpretive ambiguities
that arise
with
respect
to the memories of the black American women studied
by
Linda
Meyer
Williams'
group.
It
really
is difficult to
say just why people
do not re-
member.
Yet,
with an
interpretive
frame in
place
and fellow survivors
gathered
in a
healing
circle,
recollection becomes easier. All the more so since in some in-
stances there are
physical places
to which the memories
may
be attached if one
cares to revisit them: the residential school
buildings
themselves,
houses with
much to tell
(Father O'Malley's
house,
Reverend Thomas's
house).
These are
theaters of
memory
wherein-if one
opens
the
right
doors-a dark
chapter
of
the Canadian
past
is
exposed
to the
light.
One self-defined survivor did
just
that
57
Quoted in
Furniss,
Victims
of
Benevolence,
126.
58
Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence, 125-6; original emphasis.
58
Program
Handbook,
36.
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
435
in
returning
to the now abandoned Catholic school of her
youth
where
things
happened
that until then she had
scarcely
remembered:
by returning
here,
I wanted closure and this is
exactly
what I
got.
It was at this school
that I learned to stuff
my feelings
that I carried for the rest of
my
life-I learned how to
survive-to shut out the
pain
of losses.
Standing
and
looking upward
at the
steeple,
I
stared at the cross and
thought
of how God must have loved me to block out so much
trauma.
The
healing
is
ongoing
and
grieving
takes a
long, long
time. It is
getting
better
though.
Each time I take a
step
toward the restoration of the
past
and
present,
it
gets
better.60
NATIVE RESISTANCE AND CULTURAL RESURGENCE
In an
essay
on
changing
trends in
ethnographic writing, anthropologist
Edward
Bruner notes that where once
anthropologists
told a
story
of Indian cultural dis-
integration
and
assimilation,
now
they
are much more
likely
to write of Native
resistance and cultural
resurgence.
As he
says,
one
"story
became discredited
and the new narrative took over." This
change maps shifting political
and moral
commitments
among anthropologists
themselves,
as well as a revitalization of
Native
political
and
religious
life. Bruner observes that both narratives-assim-
ilation and
resistance-"carry policy
and
political implications."61
Memory,
as I have
said,
is
always
the
memory
of
individuals;
but individual
psychology
is
inadequate
to the task of
explaining
it. When individual memories
derived from interviews with informants or from
autobiographical
reflection are
compiled
into "histories" then there is
always
an
organizational principle
behind
it.
Contemporary
writers on the residential schools have taken an
"interpretive"
approach
to what
they
have heard from survivors.62 One
author,
for
example,
uses
a
quilt metaphor
and
speaks
of her own role as that of
quiltmaker,
a
person
who
gathers
bits of colored cloth-in this case individual stories-and stitches them
into a
design:
"the stories form our
quilt,
made of
people's strength,
resistance,
pain, change
and
adaptation."63 Interpretation
means
selection,
and in this case
selection means focus on
resistance,
pain,
and
adaptation,
a
story
that Native
peo-
ple
have themselves come to tell because
they
too are immersed in the cultural
ambiance of a time when
political
and
therapeutic
themes have become linked.64
As with the
Ngalakan
of Northern
Australia,
it
might
have been
possible
to
tell a different
story.
And,
as
always,
there are nuances that
any given story
fails
to
pick up.
Some Native
parents
and
political
leaders
certainly
once
thought
that
a Western education was the best
thing
for their children and even
petitioned
60
Margaret Lawrence, My People,
Myself (Prince
George,
B.C.: Caitlin
Press,1996), 244, 246,
248,
251.
61
Edward M.
Bruner,"
Ethnography
as
Narrative,"
in The
Anthropology
of
Experience,
Victor
W. Turner and Edward
Bruner,
eds
(Chicago: University
of Illinois
Press, 1986),
139.
62
Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence,
5.
63
Haig-Brown,
Resistance and
Renewal,
143.
64
It seems that all of the informants in the
Assembly
of First Nations
study
were in
therapy
of
one kind or another at the time of their interviews.
436
MICHAEL KENNY
the Government for schools to be established
among
them;
other Native
peo-
ple
look back on the residential schools with
nostalgia.65
Children had differ-
ent
experiences:
Not all schools were the
same,
nor were all Native children the
same,
being
divided
by
class,
age,
social
rank,
ethnicity,
and
language,
all of
which had an
impact
on the internal
workings
of the schools out of
sight
of the
church-connected
people
who ran them.
These considerations tend to be overwhelmed
by
the rhetoric of
survivorship,
and whatever
positive
side the schools
may
have had
largely
rendered,
as with
Ngalakan experiences
of whites in the Golden
Age,
untellable and irrelevant.66
And
why
not? It is
perfectly
true that the schools were
explicitly designed
to
bring
about the
absorption
of the Native
population
into the
general population
of Canada; it is also
perfectly
true that
they
failed in their assimilationist mis-
sion,
that
many
bad
things happened
in
them,
and that
they represent
a chroni-
cle of
neglect
on the
part
of a remote Federal
bureaucracy
and the
financially
strapped
church
organizations
that
actually
administered them. The overall ef-
fect was "that the
public
could see the schools but not see into them."67
It is also
recognized
that the social
problems commonly
found in
many
re-
serve and urban Native
communities-alcoholism, underemployment,
suicide,
family
violence-are due to much more than
just
the effects of the residential
schools,
which in
any
event
only directly
touched about one-third of
Aborigi-
nal
youth during
the
period
at issue.
Nonetheless,
the schools have assumed a
symbolic importance
driven
by
the fact that
they
were so
patently
an
agency
of
cultural
"genocide." They
are
something tangible-mnemonic
benchmarks-
that, as with the sites of Australian
Aboriginal mytho-geography,
one can
point
to and
say
"it
happened
there!" A visit to the school can
provide
a
trigger
or cue
that takes one back to the
past
almost as if there
again-a redemptive pilgrim-
age
to an
aboriginal
Auschwitz.68
Perhaps
it is all a bit too
easy.
William Niederland and his
colleagues
noted of Holocaust survivors that "we
65
James R. Miller, Shingwauk's
Vision: A History of
Native Residential Schools
(Toronto:
Uni-
versity
of Toronto Press, 1996).
66
Breaking
the Silence, though overwhelmingly negative
in its evaluation of the
schools,
nonetheless
points
out that
experiences
differ: "communities need to
acknowledge that, although
some of their
people
will assert
they
had
positive experiences,
it is
important
to allow those who
did not have
positive experiences
to break their silence and not suffer in isolation. In the
interviews,
those who were involved in
organizing
residential school reunions and those who had disclosed
their sexual abuse in the schools noted that this
topic
became an issue of contention
among
fami-
lies and communities.
People
who had
positive experiences
could not
comprehend why
others were
making
an issue of sexual abuse.
They
also had a
very
difficult time
hearing
that
physical
and sex-
ual violence had occurred in their schools. There were other
people
who had
negative experiences,
but did not want to talk about them and also wanted others to remain silent"
(Assembly, Breaking
the Silence, 155-6).
67
Royal Commission, "Looking Forward, Looking Back," 371; Miller, Shingwauk's Vision;
Noel
Dyck, Differing
Visions:
Administering
Indian Residential
Schooling
in Prince Albert,
1867-
1995
(Halifax:
Fernwood
Publishing;
Prince Albert: The Prince Albert Grand Council, 1997).
68
"For some, remembering
is
triggered by
a
disturbing
event. One
person,
for
example, began
"thinking
about what had
happened
to me in school" after she went
through
several of the rooms
A PLACE FOR MEMORY
437
have little correlation between measurable
severity
of
persecution
and the
severity
of
postpersecution pathology.
To
expect
this
simple
cause and effect
relationship
would be to lose
sight
of the fact that the
person
has to
interpret
and live his
experiences
in terms of his
psychic reality."69
The
pattern
of one's
previous
life
coupled
with
present
circumstances affects the
way
life is viewed
now. Is it to be a
story
of
victimization,
of
failure,
of
transcendance,
or what?70
The rhetoric of trauma and
recovery
lends itself to the sort of linear
thinking
that
Niederland,
with his
psychodynamic perspective,
cautioned
against.
The
"survivor
syndrome"
establishes a tendentious deductive link between
present
pathology
and
past
cause,
and
may
even lead to
therapeutic
interventions that
induce time to run backward in search of
spurious etiological
events-a
bridge
to an
imagined past.71
With
proper guidance, present
misfortunes become ex-
plained by
a traumatic
past
in the
schools,
thus
providing
a
comprehensible
and
non-stigmatic interpretation
of
why-like
Niederland's Holocaust survivors-
one has had such a miserable time of it since then. Activists in the trauma-
recovery
field stress that
sewing
a
quilt
out of the ill-assorted
fragments
of a
life is in itself a
step
toward
healing.72
Here I have charted an interaction between
personal
and collective
history
whereby autobiography
becomes articulated to influential cultural narratives
about the effects of
oppression.
The themes discussed in this
essay
have elided
through
mutual intellectual and
political
influences that have
produced
a
crossover between
psychological
and
political
discourse. New structures of
memory
have
emerged
that
guide
what is
memorable,
how it should be com-
memorated,
and what kind of
story
to
place
it in. The
personal
histories of mem-
bers of various
disadvantaged groups
have been
reinterpreted
in the
light
of col-
lective trauma. The theme is in the
air,
producing
new
retrospective
visions of
history ranging
from
apartheid
South
Africa,
the
Japanese occupation
of Chi-
na,
the internment of
Japanese-Canadians
and
Japanese-Americans
in World
War
II,
to the cases discussed here.
It is
necessary
to also
recognize
that in certain
respects
the
past
is
up
for
grabs.
It is
really
the
meaning
of the
past
that is of issue. The
examples
I have
given
above illustrate the various
social, moral,
and
political
factors
implicat-
ed in the stories we tell about
history.
Personal and collective remembrance and
forgetting
are
aspects
of the same
complex process.
in a
building
which had
previously
been "residential school student dormitories". She found her-
self
"feeling
sick to
my
stomach and
wanting
to
pass
out"
(Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence, 125).
69
Niederland,
"Problem of the
Survivor,"
2.
70
"The
way people
define their
early
childhood
experiences
is
important
and
meaningful
in
terms of
understanding
their current
functioning" (Cathy Spatz
Widom and Suzanne
Morris,
"Ac-
curacy
of Adult Recollections of Childhood Victimization: Part 2. Childhood Sexual
Abuse," Psy-
chological Assessment,
9:1
[1997], 34-46).
71
Alan
Young,
The
Harmony
of
Illusions:
Inventing
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(Prince-
ton: Princeton
University Press, 1995); Kenny, "Trauma, Time, Illness,
and Culture."
72
Kenny,
"The Recovered
Memory Controversy"; Assembly, Breaking
the
Silence,
159.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful