The Role and Importance of Place in Retrieving Memories

Gholamreza Azari Khakestar
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


One of the important topics in the study of oral history is its role and importance in retrieving and recalling past events. In other words, the place is reminiscent of memories and part of the personality and identity of people through which they know themselves and introduce themselves to others. So knowing the place includes the memories, feelings, views, values, preferences, concepts and ideals of men about the places which orientate their perception and behavior. These activities and memories, which stick in the human’s mind, may be individual or collective, and over time, by referring to the place several times, and the occurrence of common events at a specific time in the place, they shape a collective memory. Studying the influential spaces and places in social activities leads to the continuation of urban identity. Therefore, everything that gives identity to a place in the context of time is the existence of features and spaces which are commonly stick in collective memory of individuals. Memory plays an important role in expressing individual identity by recalling and reconstructing the image of historical moments. A sense of place is a dynamic bond that a person develops as a result of attachment to place, awareness of place, belonging to place, satisfaction with place, and commitment to place.

Most of the memories are based on places and the narrator refers to them by expressing the memory, and defines the story naturally. There are various questions for researchers and oral researchers in this field which are directly or indirectly considered in the research process. How does an event take place in a particular place and becomes a memory? What capacities has that place had? Why has that event shaped in that place? What has been the desired atmosphere in that memory? What changes have taken place in space in recent years? Is that place still reminiscent of a memory for the narrator? And dozens of other questions which can point to the importance of place in memory.

In studying the Islamic Revolution, the main centers of the revolution, including mosques, ulama houses, associations, etc., are each considered an important chapter for research related to the revolution. How does a mosque become the center of revolutionaries? To what extent can the neighborhoods, squares and streets where were the path of the revolutionaries help to evoke memories?

Studying the history and developments of the cities in the revolution shows that some neighborhoods and routes played a valuable role in the revolution. And places have been the point where events or conflicts and the martyrdom of revolutionaries took place. Therefore, focusing on important points and highlighting them at the time of the event can play a valuable role in interdisciplinary research.

For example, in the city of Mashhad, important points in the early days of the revolution were those leading to the Holy Shrine. But with the victory of the revolution, several centers emerge. Doctora intersection, Daneshgah Street, Shah (Shohada) Square, etc. each has played various roles. Exploring the events of each place during the period of the revolution is a research subject by itself and also is an important topic, but has not been much considered.

Documentation of old neighborhoods is now of great interest to oral history researchers, as changes in construction have created a new symbol of a city that is quite different from the architectural style of the past. Therefore, the approach to urban identity through documentation is an attempt which helps to collect documents and observations of the residents of a neighborhood in the process of oral history and as a documentary part of urban studies. Considering the changes taken place in each of the places during the past years due to urban developments, especially the demolition, change of street names, etc., paying close attention to the place during the interview causes an important part of the information to be reflected in the memoirs, and through these memories, memorable symbols and signs can be prepared for the events of the revolution. Although writers in the field of literature, especially novelists, describe places and neighborhoods in urban spaces with the best, based on their imaginations, but they are not significant in historical research. Interviews with the narrators of the revolution on the spot seem to play an important role in retrieving memories and documenting the scene.

The role and importance of place in local history causes to be carefully considered in the memoirs of men and personalities; and institutions and centers, where work in the field of revolution, pay close attention to the subject of place and its role in evoking memories and explaining them in urban studies, through active interviews.

Calling researchers' attention to the subject of place in compiling works related to the revolution causes a part of the urban identity to be recorded through the memories of the revolution. The occurrence of various events of the revolution in certain places makes these places to be considered in the collective memory as the identity features of that city.



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