This article explores the attachment of older veterans (born before 1950) to their materialised memories which led them to bring photographs and other items, unprompted, to interviews and workshops. Through considering the performative potential of sharing of material objects at workshops and interviews, the research shows that older veterans mobilise their materials to make unknown personal histories knowable, and forge communities of remembering.
Materials have long been used by individuals reflecting on personal histories, and researchers have evidenced the associated therapeutic value particularly among older populations. In this article, we consider older veterans’ reminiscence through attending interviews and workshops, focusing on the performative potential of engaging with materials collected throughout their service lives. By considering their use of in situ and post-hoc materials, two themes are explored: the use of materials to build a sense of belonging; and making unknown histories knowable. We consider how their sharing of materials (re)produces their past and present military identities, simultaneously drawing boundaries of inclusion and exclusion around what it means to be military or non-military (civilian). Through sharing materials, veterans facilitated discussions with both military and non-military persons, enabling feelings of connection and belonging.
Long E, Edwards A, McWade B, Clark S, Brewster L. Older veterans: The materiality of reminiscence, making unknown histories knowable and forging social connections. Memory Studies. June 2021. doi:10.1177/17506980211024317