«Little, Hannah Mary (2010) Genealogy as theatre of self-identity: a study of genealogy as a cultural practice within Britain since c. 1850. PhD ...»
While I briefly explore the influence of the American diaspora, more research could be carried out into this and other diasporan influences. In particular, there is scope to comparatively analyse the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish diasporas and their genealogical activities and notions of identity in more detail. In the field of cultural and human geography some work has already been completed on Irish and Scottish diasporan identity. Susan Kelly and Stephen Morton have investigated the commemoration of Irish immigration through an analysis of the sculpture of Irishwoman Annie Moore, who aged fifteen was the first immigrant to America to be processed through Ellis Island. They argue that such commemoration represents a form of “archivization”, a process which has in turn produced an “exemplary US citizen.”36 Recently, Nash has published an investigation of what it means to be of Irish descent, which explores contemporary notions of nationality, diasporan identity, ancestry and belonging.37 In a similar fashion, the anthropologist, Paul
Donald H. Akenson, Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself (Montreal:
McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007); Howard Wimberley and Joel Savishinsky, 'Ancestor Memorialism: A Comparison of Jews and Japanese', in Community, Self, and Identity, ed. by Bhabagrahi Misra and James Preston (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), pp. 115-31.
Susan Kelly and Stephen Morton, 'Annie Moore and the archives of displacement: towards an immigrant history of the present', Social & Cultural Geography, 5:4 (2004), 633-50, p. 647.
Catherine Nash, Of Irish Descent: Origin Stories, Genealogy & the Politics of Belonging (Syracuse:
Syracuse University Press, 2008).
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 14Basu has investigated the role of genealogy and the construction of identity within Scottish heritage tourism.38 Others have taken a more practical approach to analysing genealogical tourism. In 1980 Taylor called for small pilot collaborative projects between the tourist industry, government tourist departments and cultural institutions. He suggested that provincial museums, archives, historical and heritage societies could work together to provide richer local genealogical services, such as tourist maps and local tours. 39 Some have focussed on the economic affects of online genealogical sources upon tourism. Emily Heinlen draws a causal line between the increased accessibility of online genealogical sources and a decline in ‘real’ visits to genealogical heritage centres in Ireland. However, in doing so she overlooks other significant and complex factors that have affected trans-Atlantic tourism, most importantly, 9/11.40 My thesis contributes to these studies of genealogical tourism at a more theoretical level by investigating genealogy as theatre of self-identity, which can be seen as a significant touristic mode of engaging with the past.
Whilst this study does investigate the genealogical imagination within British culture, it also takes a historical approach by treating genealogy itself as a historically contingent object.41 This enriches work already done in this area. In addition to the historiangenealogist Sir Anthony Richard Wagner’s pioneering historical overview,42 Simon TitleyBayes’ doctoral research is a historical analysis of genealogy in the post-Second World War period. Building upon Lambert’s research, he interprets family history as a way of Paul Basu, 'Sites of memory - Sources of identity: landscape-narrative of the Sutherland Clearances', in Townships to farmsteads: rural settlement studies in Scotland, England and Wales, ed. by John A.
Atkinson, Iain Banks, and Gavin MacGregor (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 2000), pp. 225-36;
Paul Basu, 'Hunting Down Home: Reflections on Homeland and the Search for Identity in the Scottish
Diaspora', in Contested Landscapes: Movement, Exile and Place, ed. by B Bender and M. Winer (Oxford:
Berg, 2001), pp. 333-48; Paul Basu, 'Route metaphors of 'roots-tourism' in the Scottish Highland diaspora', in Reframing pilgrimage: cultures in motion, ed. by Simon Coleman, John Eade, and European Association of Social Anthropologists. (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 150-74; Paul Basu, 'My Own Island Home: The Orkney Homecoming', Journal of Material Culture, 9:1 (2004), 27-42 ; Paul Basu, 'Macpherson Country: genealogical identities, spatial histories and the Scottish diasporic clanscape', Cultural Geographies, 12 (2005), 123-50; Paul Basu, 'Roots tourism as return movement: semantics and the Scottish diaspora', in Emigrant homecomings: the return of movement of emigrants, 1600-2000, ed. by M. Harper (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), pp. 131-50; Paul Basu, Highland homecomings: genealogy and heritage tourism in the Scottish diaspora (London: Routledge, 2007).
Hugh A. Taylor, 'Family History: Some new directions and their implications for the archivist', Archivaria, 11 (1980-81), 228-31, pp. 230-31.
Emily Heinlen, 'Genealogy and the economic drain on Ireland: Unintended consequences', First Monday, 12:1 (2007), 1-12, http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_1/heinlen/index.html [accessed 24 January 2007].
Martin Saar, 'Genealogy and Subjectivity', European Journal of Philosophy, 10 (2002), 231- 45.
'The Study and Literature of Genealogy', Anthony Wagner, English Genealogy. 3rd edn (Chichester:
Phillimore, 1983), pp. 351-407.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 15dealing with mortality and explores the connections between religious and spiritual belief and family history. My work is also historical, but it differs from Titley-Bayes’ approach in that I investigate the archivization of genealogical knowledge before 1945 in order to explain its connections with antiquarianism.43 Such an investigation is a fruitful exercise, if an uncomfortable one, because it has also forced me to consider the relationship between eugenics and genealogy. Yet it is a necessary avenue of research, especially if one is to understand the role of recording technology and science in the development of genealogical practice, new developments such as DNA-genealogy and the discourses of race and national belonging.
However, my approach is not completely historical. This thesis is focussed upon the enactment of genealogy within the archival space and its articulation and mediation. Rather than interpreting genealogical activity first and foremost as a branch of history, I analyse genealogy as a form of semi-autobiographical narrative about the self. Instead of viewing the use of archives primarily as a marker of historical scholarship, I investigate the archive as a shared space or horizon in which stories about the self and one’s descent are enacted, a theatrical space in which the ‘narratability’ of the self and of others is exposed. In turn, I take this process to be historically contingent and culturally defined. The shared space of the archive could be domestic or public and national, real or virtual. As such, I interpret genealogy primarily as a historically and culturally-grounded practice of semiautobiographical storytelling which has its own temporal orientation which is operated through a sense of familial and generational time. It is in this sense that this work is an investigation of the archive as a ‘theatre of self-identity.’ My thesis is divided into three main chapters. The first chapter provides in John R. Gillis’ terms, a ‘heritagraphical’, overview of genealogical knowledge.44 It seeks to establish what ‘genealogy’ is by outlining how various terms have been used to describe different kinds of genealogical activity within Britain. These include a discussion of ‘antiquarianism’, ‘family history’, ‘personal heritage’ and ‘DNA genealogy’. Most critical analyses of genealogy, such as Timothy and Guelke’s, dismiss genealogical activity before the Second World War on the grounds that it was principally concerned with the compilation of pedigrees and the transmission of property and title.45 This earlier genealogy is typically
contrasted with the ‘new’ post-Second World War genealogy or ‘family history’ which is linked with developments in social and economic history and is characterized as possessing a broader interest in the wider context in which one’s ancestors lived.46 Yet this interpretation is grossly simplified and overlooks the fact that genealogy is a diverse cultural practice that has its own history, its own historical agents and situated communities. This chapter argues that the pre-war history of genealogy is worth investigating and that such an investigation enriches our understanding of the history of British archives and historiography.
The second chapter, entitled the ‘Archivization of Genealogical Knowledge’, switches from a ‘heritagraphical’ to a historical approach. I investigate the circulation of genealogical knowledge between various bodies through the archival and recordkeeping practices that emerged in Britain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Firstly, I explore the production, consumption and circulation of genealogical knowledge in the public sphere of antiquarian print culture. This section demonstrates that genealogical practice and the development of British archives are interdependent.
Secondly, I discuss genealogy as gendered activity which is associated with the feminine sphere of the home and family. Thirdly, I offer an analysis of the mapping of the private body to the national, social body, which was achieved through the utilitarian discourses of eugenics, statistics and photography. I interpret this as a move which contributed to the development of both national archives through civil registration, and to the development of domestic archives, such as family photograph albums. I also discuss how the notion of biological heredity became more widespread and the body in terms of eugenics – and later genetics – was framed as a kind of immutable archive. Finally, in this chapter I investigate the influence of the American diaspora upon the production and consumption of British genealogical knowledge. I argue that this period to some extent anticipates some of the features of current genealogical discourse. This chapter provides a contextual foundation for the analyses of identification narratives in the third chapter.
The third chapter, entitled ‘Narrating the Genealogical Self’, takes a more theoretical turn.
It develops the metaphor of the archive as a theatre of genealogical identification. In doing so, ‘the archive’ is expanded to not only include the traditional notion of an institutional repository of written documentary sources, but also more recent conceptions of the archive as a body of immutable biological code, as the consignation of unique hidden traces, or as the compilation of autobiographical memory. Firstly, a theoretical outline of narrative in Samuel P. Hays, American Political History as Social Analysis (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1980), pp. 406-15.
Hannah M Little, 2009 Introduction 17relation to genealogy is introduced. This draws upon the theories of Paul Ricoeur, Adriana Cavarero, Hannah Arendt and David Carr. In the rest of the chapter I develop the analysis by focussing on several genealogical texts. The first text is a privately published book that resembles a printed archive of private family papers, letters and memoirs. Entitled, A Family Record, this work was published by Lady Wemyss in memory of her two sons who died in the First World War. Works such as this can be seen as a continuation of the Victorian family memoir and as part of a tradition of feminine memorialisation. The second text is Alex Haley’s Roots which is broadly accepted as the most influential text of 1970s post-war, ‘new’ genealogy. The significance of Roots was that it offered a different cultural genealogy for black Britons and Americans and provided a blueprint for the modern epic tale of genealogical research. Whilst genealogically and historically inaccurate, Roots, I argue, was metaphorically genealogical in that it had the power to “father-forth” and reconfigure people’s lives. 47 The other texts are taken from television and online media which were in turn influenced by Roots. These include the popular BBC television series, Who Do You Think You Are?, which is generally credited with contributing to the recent upsurge in British genealogical activity, and Motherland: A Genetic Journey which traces the story of several British people in search of their African heritage. Throughout these texts, individual narratives – the story of ‘who’– is examined in relation to master-narratives of war, slavery, the Holocaust, migration and homecoming, and special attention is paid to the use of archives in the construction of such storytelling.
I conclude the thesis by arguing that genealogy can represent a desire for semiautobiographical narrative which includes archives as necessary evidentiary ‘other witnesses’ or traces, through which the self is publicly revealed as both a unified self and as a ‘unique existent’. This is how archives show us who we are. In this way, my thesis demonstrates that archives have another function than that of providing tangible evidence of business transactions; they have an ontological function of being necessary ‘other’ evidentiary witnesses, revealing the narratability of who we are as unique historical beings who, nevertheless, do not stand alone. The definition and interpretation of the archive, its redundancy and fragmentary nature, in this way has both philosophical and political import.
As described, the thesis employs an interdisciplinary approach and as such shifts in focus between each chapter, from a ‘heritagraphical’, to historical, to a more theoretical and critical examination of genealogical texts. More research could be done employing just one Edward W. Said, Beginnings: Intention and Method. 1985 edn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), p. 138.