Nostalgia Now: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on the Past in the Present 2019048740, 2019048741, 9780367254025, 9780429287602

This volume explores the nature of nostalgia as an important emotion in contemporary society and social theory. Situated

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Nostalgia Now: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on the Past in the Present
 2019048740, 2019048741, 9780367254025, 9780429287602

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
List of contributors
Preface and acknowledgements
Introduction: in times of nostalgia: the brave new world of a
grand old emotion
Nostalgia now
Nostalgia as ‘disease’ and ‘emotion’
Varieties of nostalgia
The commercialisation of nostalgia
The politics of nostalgia
The ambivalence of nostalgia
About this book
PART I: Conceptual and theoretical perspectives on nostalgia
1. Nostalgia: the paradoxical bittersweet emotion
Elements of the paradox of nostalgia
Research: definitions, measures and tasks
Nostalgia does not always elevate positive mood
Timeline of nostalgia
The cognitive-emotional character of nostalgia
Beyond feeling good: the impact of nostalgia
Nostalgia in daily life
Pathological nostalgia
Understanding the paradoxical nature of nostalgia
2. The psychology of nostalgia: delineating the emotion’s nature and functions
Delineating nostalgia
Functions of nostalgia
Limits of nostalgia
3. Future imaginings: nostalgia for unrealized possible selves
Our possible selves
Other possible selves
Nostalgia, possible selves and continuity of identity
Nostalgia and related concepts/experiences
4. Retrotopia rising: the topics of utopia, retrotopia and nostalgia in the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman
Utopia – the ‘activating presence’
Against ambivalence – the solid-modern misuses of utopia
Hunting utopia – consuming utopia
Retrotopia – the rise of ‘restorative nostalgia’
Bauman, utopia and retrotopia/nostalgia
PART II: Memory, politics and social critique in a mediatised era
5. Dangerous memories: nostalgia and the historical sublime
Defining nostalgia
The historical sublime
Sublime agitation
History without subjects
Historical responsibility
Taming the sublime?
Dangerous memories
6. The dilemmas of radical nostalgia: acknowledging the power of the past in the politics of the Left
The Left and nostalgia: a difficult encounter
Four dilemmas
Rethinking the relationship between radicalism and nostalgia
7. The political staging of nostalgia: neo-Ottomanism in contemporary Turkey
Historical context
Theoretical background
The Conquest Rally
Conquerors, saviours and grandchildren
Effervescence in commemoration rallies
The sandwich method – enemies, accomplishments, enemies
Populist nostalgia as an ideal-type
8. The future of nostalgia is inevitable: reflections on mediated nostalgia
What nostalgia has been
Disney and the remaking of our childhoods
Everything on television is a rerun
PART III: Consumerism, migration and everyday life
9. The dark side of nostalgic bonds: moral motivators of consumer identities, decisions and behaviours
Consumer identity
The process of nostalgic bonding
The dark side of nostalgic bonding
10. Transmigratory nostalgia: sentimentality and everyday life on the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme
The JET programme
Nostalgia and everyday life
The investigation
Transmigratory nostalgia and globalisation
Transmigratory nostalgia and cultural exchange
11. Living in nostalgia: exploring expatriate experiences of everyday nostalgia in Pattaya
About Pattaya
About the study
Nostalgia and expat everyday life
Troubles in paradise

Citation preview

Nostalgia Now

This volume explores the nature of nostalgia as an important emotion in contemporary society and social theory. Situated between the ‘sociology of emotions’ and ‘nostalgia studies’, it considers the reasons for which nostalgia appears to be becoming an increasingly significant and debated emotion in late-modern culture. With chapters offering studies of nostalgia at micro-, meso- and macro-levels of society, it offers insights into the rise to promi­ nence of nostalgia and the attendant consequences. Thematically organised and examining the role of nostalgia on an individual level – in the lives of concrete individuals – as well as analysing its function on a more historical social level as a collective and culturally shared emotion, Nostalgia Now brings together the latest empirical and theoretical work on an important contemporary emotion and proposes new agendas for research. As such, it will appeal to scholars of sociology, social theory, psychology and cultural studies with interests in the emotions. Michael Hviid Jacobsen is Professor of Sociology at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is the editor of The Contemporary Goffman, The Poetics of Crime, Postmortal Society and Critical and Cultural Interactionism, and co­ editor of The Sociology of Zygmunt Bauman, Encountering the Everyday, The Transformation of Modernity, Utopia: Social Theory and the Future, Liquid Criminology, Imaginative Methodologies: The Poetic Imagination in the Social Sciences, Emotions and Crime: Towards a Criminology of Emotions, Explor­ ing Grief: Towards a Sociology of Sorrow and Death in Contemporary Popu­ lar Culture.

Routledge Advances in Sociology

The Field of Water Policy Power and Scarcity in the American Southwest Franck Poupeau with Brian O’Neill, Joan Cortinas Muñoz, Murielle Coeurdray and Eliza Benites-Gambirazio Impoverishment and Asylum Social Policy as Slow Violence Lucy Mayblin Later Life Exploring Aging through Literature Barbara A. Misztal On the Genealogy of Critique Or How We Have Become Decadently Indignant Diana Stypinska Nostalgia Now Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on the Past in the Present Edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen Magical Realist Sociologies of Belonging and Becoming The Explorer Rodanthi Tzanelli Queer Campus Climate An Ethnographic Fantasia Benjamin Arnberg Children in Social Movements Rethinking Agency, Mobilization and Rights Diane M. Rodgers For more information about this series, please visit: Routledge-Advances-in-Sociology/book-series/SE0511

Nostalgia Now Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on the Past in the Present

Edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen

First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 selection and editorial matter, Michael Hviid Jacobsen; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Michael Hviid Jacobsen to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Jacobsen, Michael Hviid, 1971- editor.

Title: Nostalgia now : cross-disciplinary perspectives on the past in the

present / edited by Michael Hviid Jacobsen.

Description: Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2020. |

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2019048740 (print) | LCCN 2019048741 (ebook) |

ISBN 9780367254025 (hardback) | ISBN 9780429287602 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Nostalgia. | Nostalgia--Social aspects.

Classification: LCC BF575.N6 N66 2020 (print) |

LCC BF575.N6 (ebook) |

DDC 155.9--dc23

LC record available at

LC ebook record available at

ISBN: 978-0-367-25402-5 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-0-429-28760-2 (ebk)

Typeset in Times New Roman

by Taylor & Francis Books


List of illustrations List of contributors Preface and acknowledgements Introduction: in times of nostalgia: the brave new world of a grand old emotion

vii viii x




Conceptual and theoretical perspectives on nostalgia 1 Nostalgia: the paradoxical bittersweet emotion

29 31


2 The psychology of nostalgia: delineating the emotion’s nature and functions



3 Future imaginings: nostalgia for unrealized possible selves



4 Retrotopia rising: the topics of utopia, retrotopia and nostalgia in the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman




Memory, politics and social critique in a mediatised era 5 Dangerous memories: nostalgia and the historical sublime STEVEN T. OSTOVICH

99 101



6 The dilemmas of radical nostalgia: acknowledging the power of the past in the politics of the Left



7 The political staging of nostalgia: neo-Ottomanism in contemporary Turkey



8 The future of nostalgia is inevitable: reflections on mediated nostalgia




Consumerism, migration and everyday life 9 The dark side of nostalgic bonds: moral motivators of consumer identities, decisions and behaviours

163 165


10 Transmigratory nostalgia: sentimentality and everyday life on the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme



11 Living in nostalgia: exploring expatriate experiences of everyday nostalgia in Pattaya






Figures 2.1 Multidimensional scaling results in van Tilburg et al. (2018, Studies 1–4 aggregate), representing the position of nostalgia relative to 11 other self-relevant emotions in two-dimensional space. 11.1 Photograph on a wall in Sailor Bar, Soi 8, Pattaya

52 204

Table 2.1 Nostalgia features, sample exemplars, Study 1 frequencies, and Study 2 ratings in Hepper et al. (2012).



Courtney Nations Azzari is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of North Florida, United States. Her research interests include consump­ tion and rites of passage, transformative service research, consumer vul­ nerability and well-being. Stacey Menzel Baker is Professor of Marketing at Creighton University, United States. She studies consumer attachment, vulnerability and resi­ lience in contexts such as collecting behaviour, disaster recovery, disability in the marketplace and community development. Krystine Irene Batcho is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psy­ chology, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, United States. Her areas of research cover nostalgia, memory, emotion and cognition. Alastair Bonnett is Professor of Geography Newcastle University, United Kingdom. He has published on anti-racism, whiteness, nostalgia, the idea of the West and the avant-garde, and written a series of travel books. Sharleen Estampador-Hughson is a tutor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, United Kingdom. She has published on topics such as: nostalgia, everyday life theory, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, soft power and Japan Michael Hviid Jacobsen is Professor of Sociology at Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University, Denmark. His areas of research cover: death and dying, emotions, deviance, crime, utopia, social theory and ethnography. Yagmur Karakaya is a PhD candidate at the Sociology Department at the University of Minnesota, United States. Her dissertation research examines Ottoman nostalgia in contemporary Turkey. Ryan Lizardi is Associate Professor of Digital Media and Humanities at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, United States. He has published extensively on contemporary mediated nostalgia, generational differences, interactive media and remakes.

List of contributors


Steven T. Ostovich is Professor of Philosophy at the College of St Scholastica, United States. He has published generally on Critical Theory, German Studies, higher education reform and the philosophical study of time; more specifically and recently on critical responses to the Shoah and other his­ torical disruptions, everyday life in modern Germany and political theol­ ogy and its dangers. Constantine Sedikides is Professor of Social and Personality Psychology at University of Southampton, United Kingdom. His work is on self and identity, including the self-relevant emotion of nostalgia. Tim Wildschut is Professor of Social and Personality Psychology at University of Southampton, United Kingdom. His main research interest is in emo­ tions, in particular nostalgia. Janelle L. Wilson is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota Duluth, United States, where she teaches courses primarily in social psy­ chology and deviance. Her primary research interests include the sociology of everyday life, nostalgia and generational identity.

Preface and acknowledgements

Increasingly, I must admit to myself that I am most likely an incurable nos­ talgic. Perhaps I even suffer from nostalgianitis. I remember the old days, I like the old days, I sometimes even, for better or for worse, miss the old days (the ‘old days’ for me referring to the 1980s and 1990s, the decades con­ stituting my youth). For many years, I denied any mention of it, and in my ongoing internal conversations I adamantly told myself that only sad and miserable people, people who are incapable of dealing with the harsh realities of life, are nostalgics. They long for the past because they cannot handle living in tumultuousness of the present. Now I know better. I have come to believe and accept that nostalgia is a constant in our individual lives and our culture, something immensely important that even though it most often is hiding in the dark, it is nevertheless still an important source of our being­ and-well-being-in-the-world. All books have a personal history. They are triggered by something in the author/editor – often a collision of something internal with something exter­ nal that suddenly draws his/her acute attention to a topic that may have been simmering beneath the surface for quite some time and then allows it to crystallise. The ‘something’ in the case of this book was as mundane as participation in an academic conference. The idea behind this book was specifically conceived during a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland – the BSA Emotion Network event in August of 2018. Listening to so many inspira­ tional presentations and sitting there leaned back on the chair with the afternoon sun radiating through the window and warming my face, I decided that this book needed to be done. And so, here it is – 18 months later. It has been a short but also rather intense journey, academically as well as personally. During the preparation of this book, I suddenly and permanently lost half of the vision on one of my eyes. Our eyes are not just ‘the windows of our souls’, as the old proverb would have it; they are also our main access point to the world. This unex­ pected experience made me nostalgic (even more so than I ever was before), remembering fondly the time, not so very long ago, when I had no eye problems and when technical ophthalmological notions such as retinal detachment, cataract, iridocyclitis, macula pucker and the like had not yet

Preface and acknowledgements


entered my vocabulary or imposed themselves upon my life. Especially due to these circumstances, I am thrilled that we – the book’s contributors and myself – made it. So thank you to the contributors for teasing out in their chapters all the many wonderful variations and unacknowledged depths of nostalgia as a phenomenon to be taken seriously in social research. Moreover, as always, I also want to extend my warmest wishes to my two editors at Routledge, Neil Jordan and Alice Salt, who have allowed me to strut and fret freely in the process of completing this book. I hope that the result of our joint endeavours will not prove to have been in vain and that the book will now begin to live a life of its own. Michael Hviid Jacobsen Aalborg University, autumn 2019

Introduction In times of nostalgia: the brave new world of a grand old emotion Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Introduction Nostalgia, it seems, has somehow earned itself a rather bad name. It is something surrounded by the stagnant and musky smell of the past and of that which has been left behind on the road forward. It is not associated with the glittering new, the talk-of-the town or the most prized possessions in a modern society. It does not stand for or denote progress, advancement or future-orientation. It is rather shrouded in the mist of the past and is backward-looking to that what has been but is no more. It is seen as obsti­ nate, reluctant and unwilling to accept change. It creeps out when the world is experienced as dangerous, confusing and incomprehensible. As Fred Davis once observed in his sociological introduction to nostalgia Yearning for Yes­ terday: ‘Nostalgia is more a crepuscular emotion. It takes hold when the dark of impending change is seen to be encroaching, although not so fast as to make a monster loom where but a moment ago stood a coat tree’ (Davis 1979:110). However, despite its seemingly regressive connotations, reactionary associations and apparent outdatedness, nostalgia is still with us and perhaps even more so now than ever before. It seems as if the self-same past, which modern society wanted so hard to leave behind on its way forward, continues to stay with us, perhaps because the present and the future makes little sense without a solid anchoring in the stories of the past. In fact, nostalgia is a constant in the human way of being in the world, an indelible part of the way humans connect the present and the future with the past. Whether regarded as a negative or positive thing, nostalgia is here to stay. Nostalgia as a positive valorisation of the past is an important yet often overlooked emotion in much of the research done on emotions – as is, in fact, also its opposite emotion of ‘nostophobia’ (see, for example, Strangleman 1999) – the repugnance or dislike of the past. Social scientists interested in studying emotions – which became a particularly thriving and promising research concern from the 1980s and onwards (Bericat 2016) – have to a large degree neglected nostalgia and focused more intensely on emotions such as fear, love, trust, shame, guilt, anger, envy and so on (see, for example, Jacob­ sen 2018). At least this was the case until quite recently, when nostalgia


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

gradually stated to attract the attention of scholars working within the social sciences and humanities. Sociology, psychology, anthropology, historical sci­ ence, political science, literary studies, business studies and so on have now discovered nostalgia as a potent and inexhaustible source of knowledge about individual behaviour as well as about ongoing cultural changes. According to Zygmunt Bauman (2017), we now live in the ‘age of nos­ talgia’. In fact, it seems as if in recent years we may have witnessed nothing less than a ‘revival of nostalgia’ in many quarters of the academic world with numerous new books published on the topic and an increasing number of journal articles testifying to the fact that nostalgia is indeed still with us and alive and kicking. It is no longer regarded as outdated or irrelevant to take an interest in nostalgia, but rather it seems to be an increasingly fashionable topic to study. Perhaps there has also previously – back in the 1960s and 1970s – been such a revival of academic interest in nostalgia, although it is quite incomparable in scope to the most recent revival. As the main character, the old Dr Barnes, in Mickey Hess’s novel The Nostalgia Echo observed when discussing a book he had once written on the topic of nostalgia with one of his readers: It took thirty years for people to even read it. I just missed the revival of nostalgia studies. 1975 was the end of the resurgence of academic interest in nostalgia. Mine was a year too late – the war had ended. I could have got some attention if I’d published a year or two earlier. Nostalgia is always tied to war. (Hess 2011: n.p.) I am unsure if there in the period prior to 1975 was in fact any noticeable upsurge in nostalgia research as suggested by Hess’s fictional Dr Barnes – at least I have been unable to locate this specific literature or to document any booming at that particular time. I am, however, sure that Hess’s character is absolutely right in insisting that nostalgia is often associated with war – with struggles and conflict over territory, identity, politics, values, history, memory and so on. Nostalgia, it seems, often pops up in history and spreads whenever the world, the nation or the community experiences a sense of crisis and unrest and when forces start to talk about ‘the good old days’ before every­ thing went wrong. In this way, and looking at the state of affairs in our contemporary ‘interregnum’ (Bordoni 2016), it is perhaps unsurprising that nostalgia in recent decades has started to attract renewed attention within as well as outside the world of academia. This introductory chapter will briefly outline the background for and overall purpose of this edited volume book as well as specify its structure and content. It will present some of the main reasons for the renewed interest in nostalgia within social research, politics and marketing, marking a new ‘golden age of nostalgia’, and it will provide a compact introduction to what may be called ‘nostalgia studies’. Moreover, the introduction will present and discuss some of



the conceptual terminology and categories often invoked in studies of nostalgia such as ‘personal nostalgia’ and ‘historical nostalgia’, ‘critical nostalgia’, ‘restorative nostalgia’ and ‘reflective nostalgia’ and so on. The introduction ends with a summary of the included contributions in this volume.

Nostalgia now Although it is perhaps difficult to admit, we probably all feel a bit nostalgic every now and then. Total immunity to nostalgia is apparently not a very common condition. The reason for this is undoubtedly the fact that every­ body every now and then fondly and longingly remembers certain things or experiences from their past making them feel good, providing them with hope, meaning and direction in difficult and troubled times or allowing them to reconsider who they were/are and where they are heading in life. These ‘certain things’ so fondly and longingly remembered, as documented in experimental research, can range from nostalgic recollections of home, child­ hood and family to birthdays, reunions and holidays, all of which involves and may be triggered by the bodily sensations of taste, smell and sight (see, for example, Holak and Havlena 1992). On the other hand, nostalgia can also create divisions and strife, for example when it is used for political purposes by postulating an imagined past that never actually existed or by claiming and favouring a disputed cultural, national or ethnic heritage at the expense of all others. Nostalgia can do this – and so much more. In recent years, the gradual rise and consolidation of the so-called ‘sociol­ ogy of emotions’ has inaugurated a torrential interest in the study of emotions in social life. There is thus seemingly almost no emotion that has escaped the attention of inquisitive social scientists interested in teasing out the meanings, purposes, changes, trials and tribulations and manipulations of emotions in contemporary society. Hatred, love, anger, loneliness, freedom, trust, envy, remorse, regret, loyalty, shame, pride, embarrassment, laziness, despair, hope, courage, contempt, anxiety, rage, vengeance, stress, depression, melancholia, boredom, desire, excitement, grief, fear, disgust, you name it! These emotions and many more are now increasingly made the object of intense scientific scrutiny and are being studied, dissected, analysed, typologised and written about within many different disciplines and by way of invoking a number of different theoretical perspectives. Nostalgia has also not escaped this general tendency towards studying emotions, even though it has – as mentioned above – taken quite some time for a more sustained and systematic interest in nostalgia in itself began to develop within the social sciences. Nostalgia is an emotion that over the past few years has started to attract the interest of scholars and researchers from a variety of social science and humanities disciplines such as sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology, political science, organisational theory, human geography, psychology, design studies and business studies. The reason for this interest in nostalgia is not only due to a general and longstanding neglect


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

of nostalgia in much of the existing emotions research (by now time-hon­ oured classics such as Davis 1979 and Boym 2001 are still some of the key references), but perhaps also relates to the fact that nostalgia seems to be returning as an emotion in contemporary society and thus appears as a rele­ vant and powerful topic for understanding many social and political trans­ formations taking place in recent years such as the rise of populist movements and nationalism within many different parts of the Western world. Nostalgia literature is indeed a booming phenomenon (however perhaps not yet qualifying as an ‘industry’) within social research and literary analysis, this current book adding to a long list of recently published pieces of sub­ stantial work within so many different academic contexts (see, for example, Armbuster 2016; Austin 2007; Angé and Berliner 2014; Becker and Georgiou 2020; Bevan 2019; Bolzinger 2007; Bonnett 2010, 2015; Cassin 2016; Ceisel 2018; Clewell 2013; Cross 2015; Dika 2003; Dodman 2018; Fritzsche 2010; Garrido and Davidson 2019; Illbruck 2012; Łaszkiewicz, Maszewski and Partyka 2016; Leggatt 2017; Lizard 2015; Niemeyer 2014; Pallister 2019; . Routledge 2015; Rudaityte 2018; Salmose and Sandberg 2018; Sprengler 2009; Wesseling 2018; Wilson 2005/2014). And this is just the tip of the ice­ berg. Looking at the catalogues from leading academic publishing houses, the topic of nostalgia is suddenly in the limelight within political studies, media studies, migration studies, memory studies, urban studies, historical studies, heritage studies and so on. Many illuminating book titles have thus been published within the past decade. Moreover, new material is constantly emerging in journal articles, chapters in edited volumes and PhD theses tes­ tifying to the theoretical and empirical sanguinity existing within nostalgia research. There is now apparently something called ‘nostalgia studies’, even though – at least judging from the rather scattered evidence found on the internet – it is not yet a very institutionalised endeavour with its own pub­ lication outlets and organisational setup. No doubt, some scholars regard themselves as ‘nostalgia researchers’, however they are still part of a relatively small and incoherent group of individuals devoted to the study of different dimensions of nostalgia without the backing of any formal international organisation, any research centre or any academic journal dedicated solely to the study of nostalgia (the only Nostalgia Journal I have come across has been a comic book series from the 1970s). In the aforementioned novel by Mickey Hess (2011), the main character Dr Barnes did in fact mention a journal titled Nostalgics: An International Journal of Nostalgia Theory. Sadly, how­ ever, this journal does not exist (yet) – it is purely fictitious – but had it exis­ ted, it would, I am sure, attract the interest of many contributors and readers alike. Moreover, there is still no Society for the Study of Nostalgia or anything similar. But despite lacking the strength and muscle of organisational back­ ing, at the moment nostalgia research is thriving in a heretofore unprece­ dented degree, and several journals have in recent years published special issues specifically devoted to the topic of nostalgia (e.g. Iowa Journal of Cul­ tural Studies, 5(1) in 2004; History and Theory, 57(2) in 2018, and Humanities,



7(4) in 2018 and 8(1) in 2019). Adding to this, interdisciplinary seminars and conferences on nostalgia are organised at intervals, making it possible for nostalgia researchers to connect, develop collaborations and exchange ideas. It seems as if the academic world is now starting to sense that there is still a lot of untapped potential in the topic of nostalgia. So better late than never. However, it seems as if we, at least 20 years too late, are now starting to recognise the complex roots and causes of the revival of nostalgia in contemporary society. The new millennium so far has been characterised to a large degree by ground-breaking and ground-shaking events such as the rise of global insecurity, international terrorism, financial crises, immigration crises, border-crossing crime, potentially irreversible cli­ mate changes and so on. Obviously, each historical era has its own troubles and problems to deal with – but it seems as if in our current era the problems and troubles have become almost endemic. Nowadays, the world thus appears to be a container full of unpleasant things just waiting to crawl out. In such a world, people start to long for a time when things were simpler, less complex, more predictable, more controllable and more meaningful. In a global age, in an age when the global is brought into our homes and minds almost instan­ taneously through the multitude of information technologies and social media now available, no one seems to be able to predict, control or otherwise make sense of the way the world is working. As already Roland Robertson observed in his treatise on globalisation: ‘Twentieth-century globalization, particularly its current phase, has exacerbated the nostalgic tendency’ (Robertson 1992:162). One of the main reasons why globalisation seemingly exacerbates nostalgia is that fact that globalisation threatens to uproot and dissolve many of the certainties and habitualised practices that made life predictable, con­ trollable and meaningful to past generations. In a globalised world, no one can apparently tell right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal any­ more, as the many recent cases of ‘fake news’ show. In his treatise, Robertson quoted Jean Baudrillard’s poignant observation from Simulations that ‘when the real is no longer what it used to be nostalgia assumes its full meaning’ (Robertson 1992:161). This may be one of the reasons why nostalgia seems to be attracting attention again in our time and age. Obviously, nostalgia has always been there, sometimes put on public dis­ play as a tantalising spectacle and a promising prophylaxis, at other times hiding in the dark as an embarrassment. But it has, in some idiosyncratic yet recognisable shape or form, probably always been there. What has been called our contemporary ‘nostalgia boom’ is actually not really all that new. If we move further back in the annals of history, the longing for a lost national greatness or for a glorious past is a recurring phenomenon in many social and political contexts. For example, we witnessed it in Denmark (from where I am writing) in the period after 1864, when the country had lost large parts of Southern Jutland to Prussia, we saw it in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s when the Nazi Party rapidly rose to power with the pro­ mise of restoring past greatness, we have seen it a multitude of political,


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

social and cultural movements (often with a nationalistic agenda) through­ out the world and most recently and flamboyantly we have witnessed it in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign declaring an ambition to ‘Making America Great Again’ and in the Brexit campaign’s mottos of ‘Let’s Take Back Control’ and ‘We Want Our Country Back’. In either case the choice of words says it all: it is about bringing/taking back something that was lost, something that was there before but which is now found missing. Promising a return to a pristine and unproblematic past is probably one of the most ancient and recurrent political strategies. Nostalgia – at least understood as such a collective emotion affecting and embracing large groups of people – particularly seems to pop up whenever problems and troubles can no longer be kept under the lid. So nostalgia is not a new thing – but what is new is our interest in trying to understand what nostalgia is, why and how it develops and what purpose or function in serves in the lives of individuals and in political and social life. So even though a detailed history of nos­ talgia needs still to be written, what we do already know is that nostalgia – as all other emotions – has a history.

Nostalgia as ‘disease’ and ‘emotion’ As with so many other words, whenever we invoke the word ‘nostalgia’, we seldom stop for a moment and contemplate the actual meaning or etymology of it. In his discussion of the notion and emotion of nostalgia, Jean Star­ obinski once observantly noted: An emotion can attach itself to a word (especially to a word in fashion), but this does not occur without rather important consequences. On the one hand, as soon as the name of an emotion is brought to light, the word, through its very efficacy, helps to fix, to propagate, to generalize the emotion which it represents. Emotion is not a word, but it can only be spread abroad through words. (Starobinski 1966:81) The point is that as soon as the notion of the emotion of ‘nostalgia’ is being invoked or used, we already seem to have a clear-cut and uncritical concep­ tion of what is meant. It almost becomes self-explanatory and self-evident. We can feel, as it were, the word. In his still highly recommendable previously mentioned sociological introduction to nostalgia, Fred Davis also remarked: So easily and ‘naturally’ does the word [nostalgia] come to our tongues nowadays that it is much more likely to be classed with such familiar emotions as love, jealousy and fear than such ‘conditions’ as melancholia, obsessive compulsion or claustrophobia. (Davis 1979:4)



Davis was here specifically hinting at the gradual transformation of our understanding of ‘nostalgia’ by way of which it had gradually lost its origi­ nal connotations and its relation to the realm of pathology and disorder and over time had moved into the academic world alongside so many other human emotions. There is thus no such thing as a history-less emotion. All emotions are embedded within a historical, social and cultural context that provides a spe­ cific meaning to the way we feel, experience, express and evaluate them. Like all other emotions, nostalgia has a history – personal as well as historical histories. And it did not start out as a collective, movement-based or politi­ cally motivated emotion as described above. One can almost summarise the by now elongated and changeable history of nostalgia in the following way: nostalgia was born as a pathology or medical condition and later matured into an emotion. After briefly reviewing the most important changes in our understanding of nostalgia, Tiffany Watt Smith thus observed: ‘From deadly disease to health-giving pastime in less than a century: nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’ (Smith 2015:187). So what did nostalgia then use to be? According to German historian Achim Landwehr, ‘the concept of nos­ talgia has an invaluable advantage: In contrast to other cultural concepts, it has an exact date of birth’ (Landwehr 2018:251). Thus, within the research literature, the origin of the notion of ‘nostalgia’ is usually traced to the dis­ sertation published in 1688 by the nineteen year-old Swiss medical student Johannes Hofer of Basel. The exact title of his dissertation was nothing less extravagant than: ‘Medical Dissertation on Nostalgia or Homesickness, which with the Everpresent Aid of the Highest Divine Power, with the Per­ mission and Accordance of the Eminent, Most Distinguished, and Most Beloved Ranks of Physicians: Johannus Hoffer’. Despite the very sublimity of this title, the disease of nostalgia was, however, already described prior to this publication during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) as an outbreak of mal de corazón – the sickness of the heart – among a number of Spanish soldiers stationed in Flanders (Beck 2013). In Hofer’s piece, however, the ailment was described as particularly prominent among Swiss mercenaries based far away from home and missing their Helvetian homeland. In his short, poetic and admittedly rather speculative piece, Hofer decided on combining the Greek words of nosos (meaning ‘home’, at times described also as nostos) and algos (meaning ‘ache’) to coin the ailment of ‘nostalgia’ meaning Heimweh or ‘homesickness’ (although he expressed reservations about these specific concepts; see Davis 2017). As Hofer testified, he ‘first considered it necessary to apply a name’: Nor in truth, deliberating on a name, did a more suitable one occur to me, defining the thing to be explained, more concisely than the word Nostalgias, Greek in origin and indeed composed of two sounds, the one of which is Nosos, return to the native land; the other, Algos, sig­ nifies suffering or grief; so that thus far it is possible from the force of


Michael Hviid Jacobsen the sound Nostalgia to define the sad mood originating from the desire for the return to one’s native land. If nosomanias or the name philopa­ tridomania is more pleasing to anyone … it will be entirely approved by me. (Hofer 1688/1934:380–381)

After deciding on the name of the disease he had observed, Hofer – based on a few case examples – detailed some of the main symptoms evident in those suffering from ‘nostalgia’ such as, more broadly, ‘an afflicted imagination’. Even though we may be prone to consider nostalgia – as in the aforemen­ tioned mal de corazón – as a sickness primarily related to the heart, a heart aching for that which is lost, Hofer instead believed it to be an affliction of the brain manifested as ‘the quite continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibres of the middle brain in which impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling’ (Hofer 1688/1934:384). The more specific symptoms and diagnostic signs individuals suffering from ‘nostalgia’ would display were, for example, according to Hofer that they would frequently wander about sad, if they scorn foreign manners; if they are seized by a distaste of strange conversation; if they incline by nature to melancholy; if they bear jokes or the slightest injuries or other petty inconveniences in the most unhealthy (frame of) mind; if they fre­ quently make a show of the delights of the Fatherland and prefer them to all foreign (things) … Moreover … especially continued sad­ ness, meditation only of the Fatherland, disturbed sleep either wakeful or continuous, decrease of strength, hunger, thirst, senses diminished, and cares or even palpitations of the heart, frequent sighs, also stu­ pidity of the mind – attending to nothing hardly, other than an idea of the Fatherland. (Hofer 1688/1934:386) Following this, others have insisted that ‘a too lenient education, coming from the mountains, unfulfilled ambition, masturbation, eating unusual food and love’ made one particularly susceptible to suffering from nostalgia (Beck 2013; see also Roth 1991, 1992). Hofer also outlined some of the experiences and sensations that might espe­ cially trigger the disease of nostalgia from developing or worsening among those based far away from home such as, for example, the variety of the weather, foreign manners, diverse kinds of food ‘and one might add six hun­ dred other things’ (Hofer 1688/1934:386), thereby making the diagnostic causes and symptoms rather unspecific. According to Hofer, there was an obsessive dimension to nostalgia as a disease as it ‘has attention only for a return to the Fatherland’ (Hofer 1688/1934:387). Fortunately, despite its severity and possi­ ble fatality, he nevertheless believed that the disease was indeed curable ‘if an appropriate remedy can be administered … the afflicted imagination must be corrected and the symptoms soothed’ (Hofer 1688/1934:388).



Although the scientific foundation for Hofer’s proclamations may perhaps easily be dismissed today as far-fetched or purely speculative, the fact that he invented the basis for contemporary nostalgia studies makes his work a worthwhile read as a historical record of how nostalgia was initially conceived as a pathological state requiring the assistance of medicine in order to be cured. By the middle of the 18th century, due to many scholars and physi­ cians relying on and referring to the work of Hofer, nostalgia had become a well-established and frequently mentioned phenomenon within medical and later also psychological discourse (Rosen 1975). Constantine Sedikides and colleagues have summarised how nostalgia was thus ‘regarded throughout centuries as a psychological ailment’ (Sedikides, Wildschut, Arndt and Rou­ tledge 2008:307). Gradually, however, along with other ‘diseases’ so gener­ ously diagnosed at that time such as melancholia or even homosexuality (just think of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s seminal work on ‘sexual psychopatholo­ gies’ from 1886), nostalgia gradually disappeared from the medical lexica but instead began to appear within other non-medical contexts (see also Illbruck 2012; Dodman 2018). So things have changed quite considerably since Hofer’s dissertation appeared more than three hundred years ago. Few, if anyone, today regard nostalgia as a deadly disease, as an ailment that needs to be cured or for which prescription medicine is required. Nowadays, even though nostalgia (perhaps particularly within a political context) is still surrounded by a certain negative assessment, nostalgia is mostly seen as a benign (yet perhaps somewhat embarrassing) and sentimental emotion that is a normal part of everyday life. It is seen as an emotion triggered by the sense and/or experience of loss – something missing that was there before. Bryan S. Turner once suggested four main dimensions of this emotional response to loss in nostalgia showing the broad spectrum covered by what he termed ‘the nostalgic paradigm’: 1 2 3 4

a sense of historical decline and loss, ‘involving a departure from some golden age of “homefulness”’; ‘the sense of the absence or loss of personal wholeness and moral certainty’; ‘the sense of loss of individual freedom and autonomy with the dis­ appearance of genuine social relationships’; and ‘the idea of a loss of simplicity, personal authenticity and emotional spontaneity’. (Turner 1987:150–151)

In this way, today nostalgia – individually and collectively – can generically be seen as representing an emotion pertaining to many different types of loss whether cultural, personal, moral or other. If anything, as Janelle L. Wilson thus rightly testified, ‘nostalgia today is most typically regarded as an emo­ tion’ (Wilson 1999:297), rather than as the illness, ailment or suffering as intended with its original usage. Apart from claiming that nostalgia today is regarded as an emotion, Wilson also went on to suggest the following about the changing understanding of nostalgia:


Michael Hviid Jacobsen While [nostalgia] began – conceptually and experientially – as a very private phenomenon centred on one’s longing for home, it has become – due in large part, no doubt, to commercialization and the realization that nostalgia sells – a more public experience. (Wilson 1999:299)

Hence nostalgia is not only something private or subjective, belonging to the emotional and experiential sphere of the individual, as it were. Nostalgia is indeed a very socially shared and culturally charged phenomenon, and Fred Davis once rightly observed how ‘nostalgia, despite its private, sometimes intensely felt personal character, is a deeply social emotion as well’ (Davis 1979:vii). Even though this transition in the understanding of nostalgia from illness to emotion did seemingly happen in the early parts of the 20th century, it has been suggested that it was not until the transition from the 20th to the 21st century that we witnessed ‘the gradual disappearance of the nostalgia of psychiatric nosography’ (de Diego and Ots 2014:209). Instead nostalgia, as we shall see below, has now to a large degree been reinvented and re-appro­ priated not by medicine or psychology as before, but by consumer capitalism as well as political movements as an important vehicle for selling products and gaining support. It seems that the meaning of nostalgia has changed from an individual ailment to nowadays being primarily a cultural phenomenon. However, we need, as Jose van Dijck has once so rightly contended, to remember that nostalgia is not either – or, it is in fact always both – it is simultaneously ‘individually embodied’ and ‘culturally embedded’ (van Dijck quoted in Dauncey and Tinker 2014:9); it is something that we may feel individually and/or collectively, but it is always something unfolding within specific historical, cultural and social circumstances. So throughout its his­ tory, there have been numerous twists and turns in our understanding and appreciation of nostalgia.

Varieties of nostalgia Despite its seemingly inconspicuous and almost innocent nature, nostalgia is not an easy phenomenon to capture or describe. It would thus be a grave mistake to try and narrow down the meanings of nostalgia to any definitional one-liners or simplified one-dimensional meanings. There are many different types and expressions of nostalgia: political nostalgia, personal nostalgia, economic nostalgia, religious nostalgia, cultural nostalgia, technological nos­ talgia, ecological nostalgia and so on. Nostalgia, despite its apparently unpretentious appearance and usage, is in fact a rather complex and multi­ faceted emotion with many different causes, expressions, processes and con­ sequences. There are many ways of trying to reduce such complexity. As with any other phenomenon being processed through the theoretical stamping machine of science, also nostalgia has been proven to contain many different dimensions and layers. Within nostalgia research, scholars have thus tried to



tease out and develop various typologies of different ways of conceptualising and understanding nostalgia, and they have thus excelled in developing typologies of nostalgic experience that each in their way captures some of the internal lines of division contained within the seemingly umbrellalogical notion of ‘nostalgia’. A first and obvious place to start out would be to reintroduce the afore­ mentioned differentiation between nostalgia as ‘disease’ and as ‘emotion’. This line of separation between nostalgia as either pathological or normal has been a longstanding and ongoing concern within nostalgia research (see, for example, Werman 1977; Nikelly 2004). As we saw earlier, nostalgia research­ ers today have gradually moved away from the pathological perspective so prominent among the early writers diagnosing nostalgia among homesick soldiers stationed abroad towards a more normalising perspective that now regards nostalgia as one among a plethora of other normal and common emotional experiences important for living in and for understanding everyday life and society. It is interesting here to speculate if nostalgia might perhaps suddenly return again to the realm of the pathological, as we for example have seen within research on grief – an emotional experience that is today with the notions of ‘complicated grief ’ or ‘prolonged grief disorder’ gaining foothold in clinical settings increasingly regarded as a medical and psycholo­ gical phenomenon (see, for example, Jacobsen and Petersen 2019). A second line of conceptual distinction to introduce would be the one between nostalgia as a ‘private’, ‘individual’ or ‘personal’ experience on the one hand and nostalgia as a ‘public’, ‘collective’ or ‘cultural’ emotion on the other. This line of division was initially proposed by Fred Davis (1979), along with other conceptual typologies to which we return below. According to him, the former refers to ‘those symbolic images and allusions from the past which by virtue of their resource in a particular person’s biography tend to be more idiosyncratic, individuated and particularistic in their reference, e. g., the memory of a parent’s smile’ (Davis 1979:222). Contrary to this, the latter instead refers to a ‘condition in which the symbolic objects are of a highly public, widely shared and familiar character, i.e., those symbolic resources from the past which can under proper conditions trigger off wave upon wave of nostalgic feelings in millions of persons at the same time’ (Davis 1979:222). So nostalgia can work on different levels or within different domains of social life as well as finding use at different levels of social analysis as either something pertaining to microsocial settings or to more macrosocial scenarios (see also Snyder 1991; Wildschut et al. 2014). A third typological model to mention here was also suggested by Fred Davis, who distinguished between respectively ‘simple’, ‘reflexive’ and ‘inter­ preted’ nostalgias. The first simple form is the often sentimental and unex­ amined idea that the past was better than the present and relying on a fond remembrance of the past without critically questioning the validity or veracity of one’s memory. The second reflexive form is more critical and considers the accuracy, completeness and representativeness of one’s memory and is thus


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

concerned with the way in which the past is often altered in the process of remembering. Finally, the third interpreted form takes this a step further by inquiring into why one feels nostalgic in the first place, which is a process that can ultimately create critical self-awareness (Davis 1979:18–24). One of the in recent years most cited ways of internally separating between different versions of nostalgia was proposed by Svetlana Boym (2001) when she – undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Davis (1979) – proposed a dividing line between ‘restorative’ and ‘reflective’ nostalgia. By the former she referred to a type of nostalgia that ‘puts emphasis on nostos (returning home) and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’ (Boym 2001:41). This return to the past and tradition was according to her not just an idle thought experiment, but rather something actively pursued, because, as Boym stated, ‘restorative nostalgia takes itself dead seriously’ (Boym 2001:49). Contrary to this, the reflective type of nostalgia ‘dwells in algia (aching), in longing and loss, the imperfect process of remembrance … Reflective nostalgia dwells on the ambivalences of human longing and belonging and does not shy away from the contradictions of modernity’ (Boym 2001:41). Boym believed that reflective nostalgia is more concerned with individual narratives and with cherishing scattered fragments of the past, contrary to its restorative counterpart often constituting a hotbed for collectivist and/or nationalist sentiments and presenting the past as an incon­ trovertible ‘truth’. By mixing longing with critical thinking, reflective nos­ talgia instead calls the past into question by adopting an ironic and humorous attitude towards and warning against aspirations to resuscitate the past. I would also like to take the opportunity here to propose a distinction between ‘political’/‘ideological’ and ‘non-political’/‘phenomenological’/‘exis­ tential’ nostalgias as a useful yet admittedly simple model for theorising the different degree to which nostalgia is being pre-packaged, promoted and publicly proliferated in contemporary social life. Whereas the non-political/ phenomenological/existential nostalgia is reserved – as the notion indicates – for non-political areas of social life (e.g. the fond remembrance of individual experiences in the past that does neither lead to political mobilisation nor contain any immediate ideological igniter), the political/ideological version of nostalgia is instead purposefully pursued by powerful groups in society play­ ing on creating a collective emotional effervescence (Émile Durkheim’s term) or a ‘social stir’ that can lead to desired social changes. This latter political variant of nostalgia is obviously a collective endeavour that may contain a specific mixture of ‘simple’, ‘reflexive’, ‘interpretive’, ‘restorative’ or ‘reflec­ tive’ nostalgias within its concrete political or ideological program. As a final example showing how to possibly differentiate between different forms of nostalgia, let me briefly introduce the separation between ‘past­ oriented’, ‘present-oriented’ and ‘future-oriented’ nostalgias (Nawas and Platt 1985). Whereas the first refers to the conventional backward-looking type of nostalgia that dwells in either the real or imagined past such as one’s child­ hood (or in a psychoanalytic context represents a wish to return to the womb



of the mother), the second type is described as an individual’s reactions and feelings when unsuccessful in adapting to his or her present surroundings. This second type can be triggered by feelings of insecurity and unease, feel­ ings of guilt or experiences of loss in one’s life (see, for example, Howland 1962). The third type, the future-oriented nostalgia, may perhaps sound paradoxical; however, it is informed by notions of anticipation, futuristic aspirations, intentions, goal-orientation and rests on the idea of the self as a process of becoming – something guiding life by looking to the future instead of merely dwelling in the past (see also Smith and Campbell 2017; Wilson 2015). In this way, nostalgia may relate to different understandings and uses of memory and time, and to narrow down nostalgia merely to the former retrospective and past-oriented type is thus to risk reducing the explanatory and exploratory potential of the feeling. These typologies and distinctions are obviously not exhaustive of the abun­ dance of conceptual, theoretical and analytical tools within nostalgia research, but they are good to think with as they provide us with a conceptual map with which to locate specific instances and experiences of nostalgia. Besides the typologies presented admittedly in a compact and superficial manner here, there are undoubtedly many other ways of distinguishing one form or type of nostalgia from another, however here I have only aspired to show some of the conceptual and theoretical diversity of the phenomenon as a warning against over-simplified, uncritical or straightforward uses of the notion of nostalgia.

The commercialisation of nostalgia Like all other phenomenon in the contemporary social world, nostalgia is incapable of escaping the strong and relentless influences of commercialisation and commodification. In a society of consumers, everything – not only the shiny and new but also the old and worn – can become coveted objects of consumption (Bauman 2008). The recent ‘nostalgia fetish’ is without any doubt to a large degree explainable and fuelled by the ambition of maximising profits, promoting products and selling experiences to consumers looking for a quick ‘nostalgia fix’. Already back in the 1990s within consumer research studies there was a pre­ occupation with the way in which nostalgia was fast becoming a successful marketing strategy (see, for example, Havlena and Holak 1991; Naughton and Vlasic 1998; Stern 1992). Keith Naughton and Bill Vlasic specifically related this situation to the changing demographic and economic realities stemming from the post-World War II baby boomer generation now reaching a mature and historically unprecedented affluent age during the 1990s: Middle-aged boomers obsessed with their youth and movin’ down the highway toward retirement clamor for retro roadsters such as Porsche Boxster. Walt Disney Co. developed an entire town, Celebration, Fla., on the notion that Americans are pinning for the look and feel of 1940s neighborhoods. Baseball fans step back in time by piling into Cleveland’s


Michael Hviid Jacobsen Jacobs Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards – new ballparks designed to look like they’ve been around since the turn of the century. Meanwhile, kids have reclaimed mom and dad’s bell bottoms and platform shoes and brought back Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. (Naughton and Vlasic 1998:58)

Since then, with most of the boomer generation having now reached retire­ ment, old-age or have even passed away, this development has ostensibly only gained ever more momentum with Generations X, Y and Z taking over from their parents and grandparents. In recent years, ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ has thus increasingly become hot topics within many different branches of consumer life. The so-called ‘nostalgia wave’ (Davis 1977) has now been supplemented by a ‘retro galore’ (Brown 2018) that has flooded for example the design, music, gastronomic, interior decoration, film and television industries, which has opened up new and promising avenues for marketing nostalgia, satisfying consumer needs, targeting advertising strategies, attracting investments and increasing sales. Notions of ‘nostalgic marketing’, ‘nostalgic advertising’ and ‘nostalgic consumption’ are today thus well-established (see, for example, Cevellon and Brown 2018; Cross 2015; Cui 2015; Grainge 2002; Guffey 2002; Reynolds 2010; Rutherford and Shaw 2011; Veenstra and Kuipers 2013). There is, and perhaps always has been, a strong and intimate connection between capitalism and nostalgia (Chrostowska 2010). Capitalism is not just a cold, calculative and rational economic system – it is also an emotional and moral system, that thrives on and derives legitimacy from appeals to the way consumers feel about their consumption choices (Campbell 1987). The socalled ‘new spirit of capitalism’ is not only about production, but also about consumption and about how consumers are being constantly kept in the con­ sumption race, particularly through new ways of marketing and selling them­ selves (Boltanski and Chiapello 1999). In such a capitalist consumer society, a society also marked by an incessantly accelerated pace of every aspect of individual and social life (Rosa and Scheuerman 2008), nostalgia for the past may provide people with a sense of stability and comfort and a sense that they may still be able to slow down life. In this way, in consumer capitalism nostalgia may perhaps even contribute to re-enchanting a world that was increasingly disenchanted (as Max Weber described it) throughout classical capitalism (Hartmann and Brunk 2019). Feelings of nostalgia and senti­ mentalism, it has been shown, are indeed important motivating factors when people decide what to put into their shopping carts either in the physical or virtual shop. This connection between nostalgia and capitalism is perhaps more than ever before evident in the rise of contemporary global consumer capitalism. According to Roland Robertson, compared to the more existential kind of nostalgia characteristic of the period prior to modern globalised capitalism – an existential nostalgia fuelled by feelings and experiences of estrangement and alienation – contemporary nostalgia is much more inter­ woven with consumerism and global economic interests. As he observed:



Compared to wilful, synthetic nostalgia as an ingredient of late 19th and early 20th century cultural politics, contemporary nostalgia is both more economic – in the sense of being a major product of global capitalism (which is itself bound by the global play between the universal and the particular) – and more ‘democratically’ cultural (or ‘simulational’). This, of course, does not mean that wilful, politically driven nostalgia has been overwhelmed … So my point is that politically driven nostalgia is now embedded in – although it has been partly responsible for – a more per­ vasive and diffuse consumerist type of nostalgia. There is now a definite demand for and certainly a large supply of nostalgia. (Robertson 1992:159) Whenever, as in this case, demand and supply mutually satisfy and reinforce each other’s needs, the outcome is often a dramatic increase in available assortments of consumer goods as well as in the potential for winning new important market shares for those willing to invest in developing and pro­ moting nostalgia within different branches of consumption. It seems that the sky is the only limit nowadays in the ambition to cater for people’s demand for nostalgia, and this tendency even extends into the realm of childhood with kids’ books, toys, music, movies and media gadgets aimed particularly at the younger generations (see, for example, Wesseling 2018). So there is indeed a very strong link between the emotion of nostalgia and the economic ration­ ality of contemporary consumer capitalism. As rightly observed by Andrew Higson: ‘Nostalgia is not a singular phenomenon; it is multi-layered, diversely experienced and variously exploited’ (Higson 2013:120). One of the main ways in which nostalgia is being exploited in contemporary society is, as shown, through the market. Nostalgia, however, has not only been taken hostage by the economic system but also by the world of politics.

The politics of nostalgia ‘Nostalgia’ is indeed a contested concept – it is highly emotionally charged. Either it makes one feel good or the opposite when the word is expressed. As mentioned earlier, nostalgia is often associated with a deep-seated longing for a past – sometimes perhaps even for an imagined past that never really was the way it is remembered, reconstructed or represented by those longing for a return. There is little doubt that nostalgia is therefore almost a perfect tool for any kind of political ideology or movement trying to pave its way through the burning barricades and accumulated debris of contemporary social uncer­ tainty and turmoil. For example, in Don DeLillo’s White Noise, one of the characters captures this driving force behind many political nostalgic senti­ ments: ‘Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It’s a settling of grievances between the present and the past’ (DeLillo 1984/1998:258). Or as Fred Davis observed, nostalgia occurs particular in times marked by ‘present fears, discontents, anxieties and uncertainties’ (Davis 1979:34). To its


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

supporters and adherents, nostalgia thus seems to provide a safe haven in what is believed to be a heartless society, and it promises to take them back to a time before the world became an insecure and increasingly intolerable place. At the end of the day, they are becoming, as David Lowenthal (1996) once so aptly proposed, ‘possessed by the past’. To them, nostalgia – and with it all the forgotten traditions, seemingly outdated values and ridiculed mores of the past – is thus seen as the most effective prophylaxis against the many dangers, anxieties and ailments haunting their lives and societies. It seems as if many contemporary scholars who study the relationship between politics and nostalgia agree that the politics of nostalgia is a negative or regressive social force primarily associated with the current rise of rightwing radicalism and populism, reactionary conservatism or post-communist Ostalgia – in short, a longing for the good old authoritarian and totalitarian days (see, for example, Gest, Reny and Mayer 2018; Hochschild 2016). As Nauman Naqvi in his discussion of the critical category of nostalgia thus remarked: ‘“Nostalgia” as a critical category is usually employed to target the valorization and manipulation of the past that is a feature of a range of exclusionary and oppressive political projects’ (Naqvi 2007:5). Nostalgia, the argument often goes, is thus something that paints an unnecessarily bleak picture of the present, something that is pointing backwards instead of showing the way ahead, and something threatening the ideas of an open, multicultural, globalised and liberal-democratic society. For example, Marc Augé critically insisted in his book Everyone Dies Young: Nostalgia is a powerful, and therefore potentially dangerous, force … Traditionalists and reactionaries are combatants of the imaginary, uto­ pians devoted to a past as illusory as the utopia of progressives, but those of the former category are more hypocritical, founding the new order to which they aspire on a non-existent or shameful past. (Augé 2016:81) Moreover, in one of his last books before his death, Retrotopia, Zygmunt Bauman (2017) insisted that a new nostalgic ghost is haunting our world in the shape of ‘retrotopia’ (the backward-looking utopia), to which we return in more detail later in this book. Also others have pointed in a similar direction. For instance, Diego Rubio dated this tendency to the post-financial crisis years in Western democracies from 2008 and onwards, claiming that this new type of nostalgia was evident in the ideas that brought the Trump adminis­ tration to power as well as within the Brexit camp: ‘In the wake of austerity measures, new/revitalised parties and populist leaders emerged ready to capi­ talize on pessimism and foster nostalgia for a halcyon past to gain support and transform the status quo’ (Rubio 2017). A similar line of argument is found in many writings – academic or non-academic – on the topic of ‘politics of nostalgia’ and many others have thus voiced the same concerns (see, for example, Gaston and Hilhorst 2018). In the search for a communal home (for



‘feeling at home’) and national and cultural homogeneity in contemporary society (see, for example, Duyvendak 2011), there is often a nostalgic longing for what is increasingly found missing, and this longing is routinely used for ulterior political purposes. It seems as if nostalgia within the realm of politics is now almost singularly – perhaps especially by left-wing commentators or cri­ tically-minded social scientists – seen as something dangerous and threatening the sacred values of freedom, equality and community. But perhaps nostalgia can also serve other and nobler causes and ideals, perhaps even those of trying to recover the freedoms lost, to bolster equalities threatened or to salvage and reclaim communities destroyed? So perhaps the contemporary political (and social scientific) mockery of nostalgia – and the association of nostalgia only with right-wing populism – is as unjustified as it is often rigid. It is, however, obvious that the longing for the past within contemporary politically correct politics is mostly regarded as a negative phenomenon and as an undesirable feeling. In this way, nostalgia is often – rightly or wrongly – depicted as a passive, regressive and reactionary kind of sentimentalism without any critical sensibility. As once observed by Nikos Papastergiadis: Nostalgia is conventionally understood as a passive or negative emotion, it is thought that because of nostalgia one’s presence in the present is hampered, one holds back from an active engagement and prefers to wallow in the infinitely regressing recesses of the past. Nostalgia is something people suffer from, it is not normally seen as a gift, let alone a whetstone upon which critical insights can be sharpened. (Papastergiadis 1993:166) Indeed not a very flattering description of nostalgia. However, nostalgia may also as hinted at above be understood as a positive or progressive social force – some­ thing providing meaning and hope in a world that to its adherents has lost its allure and magic. As Ralph Harper once stated in his classic existential explora­ tion of nostalgia in the modern world: ‘Unfortunately, nostalgia is still mis­ conceived by a remnant of shallow optimism, as sickly, illusory, unprogressive.’ In opposition to this view he insisted that ‘nostalgia is a moral sentiment’, because ‘through nostalgia we know not only what we hold most dear, but the quality of experiencing that we deny ourselves habitually’ (Harper 1966:26–27). These opposing views and competing evaluations testify to the continued and perhaps even innate ambivalence of nostalgia.

The ambivalence of nostalgia As should be obvious from the above, nostalgia is a multifaceted and poly­ morphous emotion that contains many different – at times even mutually opposing – dimensions and connotations. Nostalgia can be a pleasant emo­ tional experience full of fond, happy and heart-warming memories, but it can also be a tormenting, frustrating, painful and invaliding reminder of the


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

forever irretrievable past. If anything, nostalgia oozes of ambivalence – an innate ambivalence that was well-captured by Ralph Harper when stating: ‘Nostalgia combines bitterness and sweetness, the lost and the found, the far and the near, the new and the familiar, absence and presence’ (Harper 1966:120). This is also the reason why nostalgia is often characterised as a ‘bittersweet’ emotion, because it encapsulates and embodies the diametrical opposites of the bitter and the sweet, happiness and distress, joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, and so on. So the very idea of ‘bittersweetness’ thus captures the complexity and ambiva­ lence contained within the emotion of nostalgia and points to the inextricable connection between happy and fond memories with the melancholic and dis­ heartening realisation that a return to this past period in time – historical or personal – is in fact impossible (see, for example, Batcho 2013; Sedikides and Wildschut 2016). Also others have pointed to this internally conflicting character of nostalgia. For example, Elihu Howland once deemed nostalgia a ‘confusing emotion, full of paradoxes. It is painful and yet in the pain there may be a peculiar sweetness defying description’ (Howland 1962:198). Also Adam Muller stated that ‘[n]ostalgia is something we do not understand very well; indeed it is a concept that even the most sophisticated of its critics acknowledge is para­ doxical’ (Muller 2006:739). In this way, nostalgia is a ‘mixed emotion’ – it is both ambiguous and ambivalent at the same time, ambiguous because it refers to ‘a situation to which we do not know whether something is this or that, since it appears like each’, and ambivalent because it illustrates ‘the mixed feelings we have toward an object, such as attraction and repulsion at the same time’ (Wei­ gert 1991:17). It is thus a compound, combined and complex emotion – one that is and means many different things at the same time to many different people. This also means that the meaning of nostalgia, its individual as well as social ‘value’, as it were, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. Either you embrace and treasure nostalgia or you don’t. Either nostalgia is regarded as an ailment or it isn’t. Either nostalgia is socially supported or it isn’t. And so on. In the apocalyptic treatment of and rather obscure warning against nos­ talgia by Goldberg Ekwelle in The Dangers of Nostalgia, he observed: As scientists and environmental groups constantly warn governments about global warming, psychiatrists, social workers and medical experts should also warn them against the dangers of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a desire for something or a period that has passed. It is a sentimental attachment to something gone – a longing for the good old days. To some people, it serves as a springboard to move higher. It gives them pleasure and a time of reflection. To others, it is a source of regrets, sorrows, depression, destruction and death. (Ekwelle 2015:1) Ekwelle is indeed right in pointing to this inherent duality or split personality, as it were, of nostalgia, albeit his strong warning against it seems somewhat unfounded. Obviously, this inherent duality begets the question: is nostalgia



then a positive or negative emotion? Despite its apparent straightforwardness, the question is in fact deceivingly tricky. Positive for whom and negative for whom? Positive or negative in what sense of the term? Positive for the individual but negative for society or perhaps vice versa? Fred Davis, for example, insisted that nostalgia is a ‘positively toned evocation of a lived past’ (Davis 1979:18), whereas many others – as we saw above – have played particularly on the nega­ tive connotations and consequences of nostalgia. In this context, it is interesting to note that a lot of the recent psychological research on nostalgia – mostly relying on experimental methods with groups of individual respondents – pin­ points many of the positive dimensions of nostalgia such as subjective well­ being, comfort and mental health (see, for example, Rao et al. 2018; Routledge et al. 2013), whereas a lot of studies on collective nostalgia conducted within poli­ tical science, cultural studies or sociology either implicitly or explicitly ends up testifying to nostalgia’s problematic potentials such as intergroup strife, manip­ ulation and the misrepresentation of history and truth. I think it is important to emphasise that nostalgia, like most other emotions, is simultaneously a positive and a negative emotion. It ultimately depends on who is deciding and for what reasons. As an existential as well as a political and cultural force, nostalgia is thus a Janus-faced phenomenon – it has probably always been that way, but perhaps it is become even more so throughout the past half a century (Beunders 2011). It thus makes good sense to repeat the insightful consideration of Michael Pickering and Emily Keightley when discussing respectively the regressiveness and progressiveness of nostalgia: The critical use of nostalgia has been centrally concerned with the emer­ gence of a new way of relating to the past in modernity that has gen­ erally, for various reasons, been considered regressive. We hope to have shown that it can just as feasibly be considered as progressive. (Pickering and Keightley 2006:938) This book aims to follow this line of reasoning by documenting and discuss­ ing the inherently double-edged nature of nostalgia – its simultaneously negative/regressive/problematic and positive/progressive/promising potential – within different conceptual, theoretical and empirical contexts. Focusing exclusively on one part of this duality/ambiguity/ambivalence means running the risk of missing out on something important hiding on the other side that makes nostalgia such an intriguing emotion to study.

About this book Above it has been shown how the notion of ‘nostalgia’ contains many differ­ ent layers, depths, dimensions and nuances making it a not-so-easy-to­ narrow-down phenomenon as one might perhaps have been expecting. This edited cross-disciplinary volume is about nostalgia as an important emotion in contemporary society and social theory. In this way, the book seeks to


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

inscribe or locate itself somewhere between the ‘sociology of emotions’ more generally and more specifically within ‘nostalgia studies’ with its focus on nostalgia as an emotion. It will seek to tease out some of the main reasons for nostalgia becoming a seemingly ever more important and debated emotion in contemporary late-modern culture. It needs to be stressed that this book is primarily a contribution to emerging ‘nostalgia studies’ rather than to the socalled field of ‘memory studies’. Often, it seems as if nostalgia and memory are regarded as Siamese twins, as, for example, observed by Raffaela Baccolini: Nostalgia is, in fact, an aspect of memory, where both happiness and sadness are associated with the act of remembering. The memory of something good from the past makes us yearn for that past, but the rea­ lization that the past is irrevocable makes us sad. (Baccolini 2007:175n) Even though memory undeniably forms an important part of the nostalgic experience, it cannot, however, be reduced to this. Nostalgia is more than simply ‘memorising’. It is also different from ‘remembering’, ‘reminiscing’ or ‘sentimentality’. As Krystine I. Bactho once observantly stated: ‘One can remember without being nostalgic, but one cannot be nostalgic without remem­ bering’ (Batcho 2009:269). Most importantly, nostalgia is more than simple remembrance or reminiscence. Reminiscing refers to the act of recollecting or recalling the past. True, nostalgia also does that, but it is never just simple recol­ lecting or recalling. Compared to plain memory (remembering something from the past ‘as it was’), nostalgia contains that extra dimension of also evaluating and valorising that which is remembered. And to the notion of ‘sentimentality’, as suggested by Janelle L. Wilson (1999:298), which often ‘conjures up an image of a teary-eyed individual touched by a current experience that strikes an emo­ tional chord or the remembrance of a past experience’, nostalgia can often be a more sober assessment of where one is now as compared to the remembered past (as suggested in Fred Davis’s idea of ‘reflexive nostalgia’ and ‘interpreted nostalgia’ or Svetlana Boym’s notion of ‘reflective nostalgia’). As Wilson also points out, nostalgia is more than just a fleeting emotional experience – it also contains thought and behaviour and seems to be longer-lasting. It denotes an active attempt at reaching back, rearranging and reconstructing the past and in doing so relating to the past in a way that exceeds plain recollecting, remember­ ing, reminiscing or sentimentalising. The chapters contained in this book will, in each their way, document the relevance and discuss the implications of nostalgia by providing an under­ standing of nostalgia at the micro, intermediary and macro levels of con­ temporary society respectively. The overall ambition of the book is to collect some of the more recent work done on nostalgia – theoretical, conceptual and empirical – from different social science and humanities disciplines and to provide answers and insights into the why, how, where, when and with what consequences nostalgia has recently risen to prominence. So the book will



present studies and perspectives partly showing what we already know about nostalgia, but it is also concerned with discovering new avenues and propos­ ing new agendas for researching nostalgia. In the book’s chapters, con­ tributors equally look into the role of nostalgia on an individual level – in the lives of concrete individuals – as well as analysing its function on a more historical and social level as a collective and culturally shared emotion. The book consists of eleven chapters and is divided into three parts, with the first dealing with nostalgia as a theoretical concept, the next examining nostalgia, politics and social critique in a mediatised era, and the third looking at empirical explorations of nostalgia in different social and everyday contexts contemporary society. In Part I, ‘Conceptual and theoretical perspectives on nostalgia’, we will encounter different ways of understanding and appreciating nostalgia within social research. In Chapter 1 by Krystine Irene Batcho, we are presented with the paradoxical or mixed aspect of the emotion of nostalgia. As the author shows, nostalgia is often described as a ‘bittersweet’ emotion, and this inter­ nal emotional tension leads to different experiences with and evaluations of nostalgia. The chapter thus explores the tension between nostalgia as a resource that enhances well-being and nostalgia as detrimental to well-being. In Chapter 2 by Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides, we are invited to consider nostalgia within a psychological and experimental context. The chapter discusses some of the recent advances in two key areas of nostalgia research: first, the nature of nostalgia, including its definition and content, as well as its similarities and differences with other emotions, and then, second, the authors present an overview of nostalgia’s key psychological functions: social, self-oriented, existential and future-oriented. The chapter is concluded by considering the limits of nostalgia as a psychological panacea. Chapter 3 by Janelle L. Wilson interweaves Possible Selves Theory with the experience of nostalgia and explores how nostalgia may not only relate to an imagined past, but also to an imagined future. The primary argument presented in the chapter is that there are instances when individuals have nostalgia for a possible self that will never materialise – that possible self could be their own or someone else’s. In this way, nostalgia is not only about what has been but also about what could have been and what could be. In Chapter 4, Michael Hviid Jacob­ sen inquires into how internationally renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has treated nostalgia in one of his last books – Retrotopia – published around the time of his death in early 2017. Prior to this, Bauman throughout his career had taken a keen interest in exploring the ideas of utopia and utopianism, and the chapter shows how Bauman’s concern with retrotopia/nostalgia builds on and extends his previous utopian considerations. The chapters included in Part II, ‘Memory, politics and social critique in a mediatised era’, are in various ways concerned with the way in which emo­ tions in general and in this context nostalgia in particular is increasingly shaped and manipulated by different forces and agencies. Even though appealing to nostalgia has probably always been a favourite strategy among


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

political parties and factions, in contemporary society it seems as if, on the one hand, nostalgia is regarded with ill-concealed contempt, while, on the other, it is actively and purposively pursued in order to promote political agendas. In Chapter 5, Steven T. Ostovich, after looking at how nostalgia has been previously understood in and by the social sciences as a psychological pathology, explores the inherent political dimension of nostalgia as an expression of what is termed ‘dangerous memories’. According to the author, we can, for example, see how nostalgia is used as a political category in the East German celebration of Ostalgie – the longing for the time before the re­ unification of the country. In the chapter, nostalgia as a form of ‘historical sublime’ with deep political roots is explored, making the author conclude that nostalgia on the one hand can inform responses to our historical and political situation, helping us to identify what is wrong about today and inform our judgment and action – but, on the other hand, also insisting that nostalgia is indeed a potentially dangerous phenomenon. Chapter 6 by Alastair Bonnett investigates the intricate connection between nostalgia and political radicalism, particularly the radicalism associated with the political Left. Bonnett insists that nostalgia is integral to radicalism; yet, radicalism has also been offered as a narrative of anti-nostalgia, and these two pathways seem to co-exist in an uneasy but inevitable marriage. The chapter thus argues that nostalgia permeates radicalism, yet its importance remains unacknowledged and denied. The author then outlines four dilemmas confronting the combination of nostalgia and political radical­ ism, insisting that this series of dilemmas cannot be straightforwardly solved or resolved. The need is for acknowledgment, as the author states, and ‘the Left needs to find ways to learn to live with nostalgia’. The political dimension of nostalgia is also the topic of Chapter 7 by Yagmur Karakaya, in which the rise of neo-Ottoman nostalgia in Turkey is explored. The author here provides an in-depth analysis of the so-called ‘Conquest Rally’ in Istanbul in which the glorious past of the Ottoman Empire is celebrated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdog˘ an in order to legitimise his current political regime. In the chapter, it is shown how the rally creates an intensified and effervescent emotional atmosphere among the participants that is carefully staged and which plays on sym­ bols and mythology linking the present with the imagined past. In Chapter 8, Ryan Lizardi starts out by claiming that nostalgia is increasingly encouraged to occur through some form of media – what he terms ‘mediated nostalgia’. This form differs from the more natural propensity to long for the past in that the mediated nostalgia is to a large degree a purposively created and marketed phenomenon. After tracking the history of the term ‘nostalgia’, the author in the chapter by way of an incisive analysis of the Disney corporation’s cornucopia of movie productions – new ones as well as remakes – aimed particularly at children shows how the mediated nostalgic universe is increasingly taking on a form that can best be described as a consistent and inevitable nostalgia.



The book’s third and final part, ‘Consumerism, migration and everyday life’, contains three chapters devoted to and dealing with different empirical aspects of nostalgia as a lived everyday experience that shape people’s life­ plans and memories of the past and present perceptions. In Chapter 9, Stacey Menzel Baker and Courtney Nations Azzari argue against the tendency within a lot of consumer research to associate the use of nostalgia with something desirable, to focus on the positive outcomes of consumer nostalgia and the ways in which nostalgic (or retro) appeals can be harnessed to sti­ mulate consumer demand. Instead the chapter, by drawing on various exam­ ples, guides readers into appreciating how behaviours, memories and emotions related to consumer identity may in fact also contribute to a less desirable side of nostalgia and consumption. In Chapter 10 by Sharleen Estampador-Hughson, we turn to so-called ‘transmigratory nostalgia’ and look at the experiences of participants in the JET programme that for many years has catered for cultural exchange between Japan and the out­ side world. The author finds that there is a widespread sense of nostalgia and sentimental reminiscence among the former participants of the programme, who express feelings of fond memories and longing for their initial meeting with Japanese culture. On a more general level, the chapter shows how a positive approach to nostalgia can emerge through engaging with difference and confronting misunderstandings that lead to enduring emotionally enhanced connections over time. In the book’s final chapter, we remain within the field of cultural exchange and migration. As Chapter 11 by Michael Hviid Jacobsen shows, nostalgia is a familiar feeling among many expats living in the (in)famous city of Pattaya in Thailand. Based on his own experiences among and conversations with members of the expat community throughout the past years, the author illustrates how the feel­ ing of nostalgia is an integral part of expat everyday life serving as an important and continuous link to the country left behind. As the chapters of this book show, nostalgia comes in many different guises and with many different forms of expression. These different forms and guises necessarily require a multi-methodological outlook such as historical, socio­ logical, psychological, anthropological, philosophical and other types of research relying on either experimental, empirical, theoretical or comparative work if we to fully understand what nostalgia is all about. The causes, pro­ cesses and consequences of nostalgia are indeed manifold and thus differ from context to context. Moreover, to measure and certify whether there is more or less nostalgia in the world of today as compared to the past is indeed a diffi­ cult if not downright impossible and perhaps also pointless task. The simple and incontrovertible fact that nostalgia exists – and continues to do so – serves as a clarion call to everyone trying to understand the hows, wheres, whats, whys and whens of the emotion of nostalgia. But we also need to recall, as Roland Robertson once rightly stated, that ‘we must, however, be careful not to exaggerate the amount of nostalgia in the contemporary world’. He thus warned against what he described as ‘the dangers of the


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

social-scientific diagnosis of nostalgia’ (Robertson 1992:162). While this book is cautious not to exaggerate the amount of nostalgia in the world, it does, however, insist that nostalgia is indeed out there in identifiable quantities and in desperate need of theoretical elaboration and empirical investigation.

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Part I

Conceptual and theoretical perspectives on nostalgia


Nostalgia: the paradoxical bittersweet emotion Krystine Irene Batcho

Introduction Looking to the future is undeniably a healthy perspective that embodies the seeds of hope for better days ahead. Scientific, technological and social progress has contributed to an enhanced quality of life, and the anticipation of cures and inventions reinforces a focus on the future. Amid excitement for progress, the experience of nostalgic yearning for the past may be difficult to understand. The roots of nostalgia’s counterintuitive nature can be traced through its history. The physician Johannes Hofer coined the term nostalgia in 1688 to designate homesickness a medical disease with physical symptoms (Hofer 1688/1934). Since then, the meaning of the term nostalgia broadened to refer to yearning for the past and the understanding of the construct was transformed from that of disease to a universal phenomenon (Batcho 2013b). Not everyone leaves their childhood home, but everyone recognises the irreversible passage of time and can long for the past. A place can conceivably be returned to, but time cannot be recaptured. Nostalgia’s darker origin raises questions about the favourable image nostalgia enjoys in con­ temporary scholarship. Has the pendulum swung too far from disease to resource for well-being? This chapter explores how the paradoxical nature of nostalgia allows for the emergence of discrepant views of its impact.

Elements of the paradox of nostalgia A bittersweet emotion Nostalgia’s emotional character may be the most compelling of its para­ doxical elements. Nostalgia entails pleasant feelings of happiness and comfort along with feelings of sadness, longing, and loss. Nostalgia poses the puzzle of how one can be happy and sad simultaneously. Some theorists have argued that one valence dominates the other. Combining nostos, return to the native land, and algos, suffering or grief, to convey the sad mood originating from the desire to return, Hofer recognised emotional pain as inherent in nostalgia. Building on its history, some theorists have framed nostalgia as inherently unpleasant. Roderick M. Peters (1985:135) described nostalgia as ‘a yearning


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the intensity of which varies from a fleeting sadness to an overwhelming craving that persists and profoundly interferes with the individual’s attempts to cope with his present circumstances’. Other theorists emphasised the positive. Harvey A. Kaplan (1987:465) defined nostalgia as ‘warm feelings about the past, a past that is imbued with happy memories, pleasures, and joys’ and identified it as ‘a universal affect that results in a heightened mental state, an enhancing, uplifting mood’. The emphasis on positive versus negative affect may provide an incomplete picture of nostalgia. The distinctive characteristic of nostalgia is its blending of positive and negative into a unique bittersweet feeling. Pietro CastelnuovoTedesco (1980) attributed the bittersweet blend to the role of conflict integral to the longing for the past. Nostalgia is sweet, because the original event was pleasurable, and it is bitter, because it cannot be made to come back again. Other theorists have argued that the sweet memories elicited by nostalgia are tinged with sadness by the recognition of the irretrievability of the past, given that the passage of time is irreversible. Nostalgic memories, therefore, make salient the irreplaceable loss of the longed-for sweet aspects of the past (Batcho 2007; Batcho et al. 2008). It is plausible to assume that during a nostalgic epi­ sode, pleasant memories activate positive emotions, while thoughts of irre­ trievable loss activate sadness. Jeff T. Larsen and his co-authors (2001) have argued that in most situations people feel either happy or sad, but certain bit­ tersweet events can evoke both happy and sad feelings. They found that parti­ cipants were more likely to feel both happy and sad after viewing the poignant film Life is Beautiful, when moving and on graduation day. It is reasonable to imagine two emotions co-occurring. More challenging is explaining how they exist as a single blend. Rather than feeling two separate conflicting emotions, we experience nostalgia as a single emotion, analogous to savouring bittersweet chocolate as a flavour in its own right. The word bittersweet denotes the feeling of positive and negative as a unified emotion. Larsen et al. (2001) found that students were more likely to report explicitly the feeling of bittersweet on graduation day. Larsen and A. Peter McGraw argued that events comprised of pleasant and unpleasant aspects can elicit opposite-valence emotions, and that the happy and sad components of an emotion such as bittersweet do not diminish or neutralise each other (Larsen and McGraw 2011, 2014). It is not clear, however, when two emotions are being felt at the same time and when they are felt as one blended emotion. It is also not known how opposing components are combined into a unitary emotion. Its bitter dimension raises the question of nostalgia’s appeal. Why would we be attracted to triggers that evoke painful longing? The past is gone but present Nostalgia allows us to suspend temporarily the accepted properties of time. Experiencing the past as both present and absent at the same time, we feel as if we are in the past and in the present simultaneously. Unlike ordinary

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


memory retrieval, nostalgia imbues reminiscence with a personal engagement that encourages identity exploration. Active involvement of identity serves to connect past and present in intimate fashion by highlighting the intrinsic self in both. Unlike in ordinary remembering, nostalgic yearning draws the past into the pre­ sent in an effort to diminish temporal distance. Inevitably, the longing is con­ fronted by the painful acknowledgement that the past is irretrievable, despite our immersion in it during reverie. Like dipping our toe in the pond while remaining on shore, nostalgia engenders the sense of being in two realities at the same time. We enjoy the feeling of having something without having it in actuality. Ironically, actually possessing it would invalidate it, or at least alter its inherent value substantially. Building castles with the sofa cushions meant so much to our three­ year-old self, but would no longer have its magical quality now. Keeping it in our ‘present-past’ preserves its value while allowing us to enjoy it again. Although trigger events have been identified, the motivation to seek or to indulge in nostalgic is not yet clear. Understanding that nostalgia engages past and present clarifies how it serves purposes beyond emotional regulation. As each moment passes, we, and the world we live in, change, typically in barely noticeable ways, but at times in dramatic fashion. Grasping part of our past can anchor us, like clinging to a branch along the shore as we are being carried downstream. For a time, we can appreciate how our authentic self remains despite the constant change inherent in life. By preserving continuity amid discontinuity, nostalgia helps us cope with the inevitable tension between the contradictory needs to adapt and grow while maintaining an enduring self. We are no longer three years old, and yet we are still that three-year-old. The power to benefit or harm The semantic evolution of the term ‘nostalgia’ reflects the paradox of the construct. When Hofer catalogued the harmful, potentially devastating, impacts of nostalgia, he was referring to severe homesickness. In the cases he discussed, home still existed, along with the possibility of returning there. In contemporary research, home has been replaced by a past that no longer exists and cannot be returned to. In Hofer’s framework, treatment entailed the return home or the promise of an imminent return. Once nostalgia came to designate longing for the past, such treatment options were no longer viable or even desirable. Furthermore, with the salient enhancement of the quality of life generated by progress, returning to the past or remaining fix­ ated on it retained the pejorative stigma previously attached to homesickness. Nostalgia’s valuing of the past appears to be incongruent with positive psychology’s increased attention to the importance of personal resources such as mindfulness and personal growth. Many positive psychologists would assume that looking to the past inhibits mindful engagement in the present, planning for the future and personal growth. However, evidence for the uni­ versality of nostalgia suggests that the emotion serves an adaptive purpose. Searching to identify such an adaptive function, many contemporary theorists


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have portrayed nostalgia as a beneficial psychological resource. It is counter­ intuitive to imagine that yearning for the past encourages one to appreciate the present and advance toward the future. Yet, contemporary researchers have argued that nostalgia is associated with positive impacts such as enhanced social connectedness, healthy coping skills, optimism and altruism. How immersion in the past can foster well-being and avoid the pitfall of becoming trapped in the past remains to be explained.

Research: definitions, measures and tasks The desire to reconcile contradictory theories spurred empirical research into the purpose served by nostalgia. The evolution of the referential meaning of the word ‘nostalgia’ posed a challenge for how it should be operationalised for empirical investigations. Some researchers avoided explicit definitions of nostalgia and relied on tasks that captured essential components of the con­ struct. Krystine I. Batcho (1995) incorporated the core element of missing the past into the Nostalgia Inventory (NI) by having respondents indicate how much they miss each of 20 items from when they were younger. Items include concrete things such as toys and your house and abstract concepts such as not having to worry and the way people were. Paradoxically, the NI measure of missing the past was associated with positive emotions and attributes. Participants who scored high on the NI preferred activities with other people, recalled memories focused on people, and scored higher on emotional intensity (Batcho 1998). Nostalgia-prone participants preferred happy song lyrics, related more closely to lyrics focused on other people, and considered others in forming their sense of self (Batcho 2007; Batcho et al. 2008). Nostalgia proneness correlated with a warm view of the respondent’s personal past and the world when the respondent was younger (Batcho 1995, 1998; Batcho et al. 2011; Batcho and Shikh 2016). Nostalgia-prone individuals reported a favourable background of pleasant childhood emotional and social behavioural experiences and were more likely to rely on adaptive coping strategies (Batcho 2013a; Batcho et al. 2011). People prone to nostalgia displayed favourable attributes, but the nostalgic experience itself was bittersweet. Nostalgic song lyrics were characterised by the irreversibility of time, irreplaceable loss, and the irretrievability of the past (Batcho 2007; Batcho et al. 2008). Many researchers evoked nostalgia by explicitly eliciting nostalgic and nonnostalgic memories. The Event Reflection Task (ERT) directed participants to think of a past event that they think about in a ‘nostalgic’ way, has personal meaning, is an important part of their past, and makes them feel most nos­ talgic (Wildschut et al. 2006). Overall, the ERT yielded a favourable image of nostalgic memories, and ERT-induced nostalgia was associated with heightened social bonding, positive self-regard, positive affect, interpersonal competence and emotional support. In later studies, researchers introduced the dictionary definition, ‘a sentimental longing for the past’, and obtained results consistent

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


with prior studies. Induced nostalgia enhanced self-esteem, positive affect, social connectedness and secure attachment style, and lessened attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (Wildschut et al. 2006, 2010). Nostalgia enhanced mean­ ing in life and countered threats to meaning (Routledge et al. 2012). Relying on dictionary definitions assumes that they reflect popular under­ standing of the construct. The layperson’s understanding of the term ‘nos­ talgia’ was explored in studies of the prototypical structure of the construct (Hepper et al. 2012). Central features of nostalgia included memory, remem­ bering, reminiscence, feeling, thinking and reliving. Among central features were positively laden facets such as rose-tinted memory, fond memories, social relationships, happiness, and childhood, as well as less positive such as longing, missing, and wanting to return to the past. Peripheral features included comfort, wishing, dreams, mixed feelings, change, calm, regret and homesickness. Vignettes characterised by central features evoked greater nos­ talgia, higher positive affect, self-worth, and social connectedness. However, peripheral vignettes contained unfavourable attributes such as detached, lethargic, and wants to be alone, that could have injected bias against the peripheral condition. Many participants listed both positive and negative emotions. Erica G. Hepper et al. (2012) concluded that nostalgia involves mixed feelings, but prototypically the ‘bitter’ is less potent than the ‘sweet’. They argued that dictionary definitions do not include all of the features or adequately capture the structure of nostalgia.

Nostalgia does not always elevate positive mood The evidence on whether nostalgia is emotionally positive, negative, or bit­ tersweet is mixed. Although many studies found that nostalgia increases positive affect (Hepper et al. 2012; Stephan et al. 2012; Wildschut et al. 2006; Wildschut et al. 2010; Zhou et al. 2012), not all studies have found such ele­ vated emotion (Zhou et al. 2012). Elena Stephan et al. (2012) found that nostalgic recollections increased both general positive affect and activated negative affect, but they reduced activated positive affect and increased acti­ vated negative affect compared to positive recollections. The unique, bittersweet signature of nostalgia was highlighted also when evoked by music (Barrett et al. 2010). Nostalgic songs were characterised by more positive and more mixed emotions, and both positive and nega­ tive emotions predicted music-evoked nostalgia. Negative emotions asso­ ciated with nostalgic advertising have had adverse impacts on perceived social support and bonding with a brand (Merchant et al. 2013). Tim Wildschut et al. (2006) found that nostalgic memories were described with negative as well as positive emotions. Participants rated negative emotion the most undesirable feature of nostalgia, affirming the bitter side of nos­ talgia. The acknowledged undesirability suggests that the predominance of positive findings in many studies might reflect bias due to reluctance to experience or express nostalgia’s unpleasant affect.


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Timeline of nostalgia The existing literature has focused on nostalgia as an emotion felt in the pre­ sent but inherently about the past. Recent research has suggested, however, that the present also can be the object of nostalgia. Krystine I. Batcho and Simran Shikh (2016) defined anticipatory nostalgia as missing aspects of the present before they are gone, as mental time travel allows a person to imagine the present from a vantage point in the future. Batcho and Shikh introduced the Survey of Anticipatory Nostalgia to assess the construct, distinct from typical personal nostalgia. Initial studies suggested that whereas typical nostalgia was related to remembering the past, favourable reactions, and general happiness, antici­ patory nostalgia was aligned with thinking of the future, emotional distan­ cing, difficulty enjoying the present, and a greater tendency to sadness and worry. Proneness to personal nostalgia was associated with greater engage­ ment in current events, whereas proneness to anticipatory nostalgia was associated with greater difficulty enjoying the present and a higher likelihood of emotional distancing to avoid hurt when it ends. Being nostalgic for what is still present can rob the present of pleasure by feeling it is already gone. Whereas typical nostalgia was associated with favourable social emotional childhood experiences, anticipatory nostalgia was associated with unfavour­ able solitary emotional childhood experiences. Paradoxically, the desire to hold on to the present can jeopardise full engagement in it. Envisioning what might be lost in the future can evoke the sadness of missing the present and worry about what will come next. The sweet facet of nostalgia often emerges while reflecting on the past, but the bitter side might predominate when felt prematurely. The importance of timing is evident also in assessing how nostalgic people feel in the moment. Items such as ‘At this moment, I feel nostalgic’ can yield ambiguous responses (Hepper et al. 2012; Wildschut et al. 2006, 2010). How long might memory retrieval and the feelings evoked take? What would it mean to feel ‘nostalgic’ without a target? A blended emotion, nostalgia is like a reversible figure; you can focus on the positive or the negative in any given moment. The emotional valence of nostalgia might begin as bittersweet, but evolve into either positive or negative over time, depending on cognitive pro­ cessing. The affective tone researchers find will be in part a function of when along the timeline that tone is measured.

The cognitive-emotional character of nostalgia Different tasks and measures might account for discrepant findings by enga­ ging the affective or cognitive dimensions of nostalgia to varying degrees. Vanessa Köneke (2010) compared results assessed with Batcho’s (1995) NI and those with the seven-item Southampton Nostalgia Scale (SNS) (Barrett et al. 2010). NI scores correlated with neuroticism and openness, whereas SNS

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


scores correlated with neuroticism, lamenting, openness, agreeableness, and authoritarianism. Köneke concluded that the NI assesses personal nostalgia, and the SNS assesses both personal and historical nostalgia by including abstract metacognitive judgments (e.g. ‘How valuable is nostalgia for you?’). A vague sense of ‘the past’ is different from a memory of a specific event. Missing someone can involve fewer concrete details than retrieving auto­ biographical memories of events. One must remember one’s mother in order to miss her, but missing her does not necessarily entail retrieving specific events. Someone can miss their mother without thinking about when she dropped them off on the first day of school or hosted their fifth-grade birth­ day party. The NI encompasses aspects of the past along the concrete-abstract spectrum. Consistent with the concrete-abstract distinction, factor analysis yielded a two-factor structure of the NI (Verplanken 2012). Illustrating the sensitivity of the cognitive dimension of nostalgia to task demands, an imagery ERT that engaged visualisation induced nostalgia as assessed by the concrete, but not the abstract, items.

Beyond feeling good: the impact of nostalgia Exploring how nostalgia feels entails capturing a glimpse of the emotion in its active state, whereas assessing the impact of nostalgia involves tracing the effects of having been nostalgic. Dispositional proneness to nostalgia reflects the accu­ mulated impact of nostalgic episodes over time. In the moment, being nostalgic is not uniformly pleasant, but benefits can accrue from having had the experience. Many of the complex benefits attributed to nostalgia have likely resulted from cognitive processing. Not just a ‘feel good’ emotion, nostalgia can yield higher-level effects, such as self-continuity, coping, meaning, optimism and altruism, by engaging cognitive processing (Cheung et al. 2013; Ford and Merchant 2010; Garrido 2018; Merchant et al. 2011, 2013; Routledge et al. 2012; Sedikides et al. 2015, 2016; Stephan et al. 2012; Stephan et al. 2014; van Tilburg et al. 2013, 2019). Cognitive mechanisms have been identified in the role of nostalgia in strengthening meaning in life (Routledge et al. 2012; van Tilburg et al. 2019), and increasing volunteer service and charitable donations (Zhou et al. 2012). Nostalgia has been associated also with enhanced identity exploration and authenticity (Baldwin et al. 2015; Batcho et al. 2008). By linking past and pre­ sent self-perceptions, nostalgia can help assimilate authentic aspects of self into current self-perceptions and reinvigorate an individual’s pre-existing self-con­ cept. A bit of a Rorschach inkblot, nostalgia can reveal aspects of the nostalgic person, as personality traits modify the impact of nostalgia on well-being. Indi­ viduals who scored high in narcissism were more likely to be nostalgic about agentic than communal objects and to derive greater self-positivity than social connectedness (Hart et al. 2011). Despite initially positive feelings, participants with a strong habit of worrying subsequently experienced anxiety and depression that emerged from negative reflection (Garrido 2018; Verplanken 2012). Bas


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Verplanken concluded that the emotional outcome of nostalgia may depend on a person’s dispositional view of the past. During the transition to university, nostalgia was found to be associated with positive beliefs and feelings when identity continuity was high, but with negative correlates when continuity was low (Iyer and Jetten 2011). Aarti Iyer and Jolanda Jetten argued that nostalgia is helpful when people draw upon their past to advance present interests, but in the face of discontinuity, nos­ talgia has toxic effects and can leave someone stuck in the past. However, over time, increased effort or assistance improved students’ perceived ability to cope with academic demands. Not allowing for long-term outcomes, the short timelines in research make applications to real life difficult. Initial impacts of nostalgia can be transformed as a result of actions in the real world. During adverse times, nostalgic memories might encourage someone to seek support from those who had loved them in the past, or from people in the present who play similar roles. Memories can revive or help rehabilitate a relationship. Outcomes may rely upon other people and circumstances and take time commiserate with the severity of the problem. Consequently, complementary methods are needed to explore nostalgia’s bene­ fits over longer time spans than are possible in laboratory designs.

Nostalgia in daily life Arguing that the ERT suffers from positive reminiscence bias by eliciting extra­ ordinary experiences, David B. Newman and his colleagues analysed daily diary data and ratings solicited at random times during the day from undergraduates to provide representative samples of nostalgia in daily life (Newman et al. in press). They critiqued existing measures of nostalgia as biased or focused too narrowly. To assess nostalgia in ecologically valid settings, they developed the four-item Personal Inventory of Nostalgic Experiences (PINE) that directs respondents to rate the extent to which they feel sentimental and wistful toward the past and long to return to a former time in life. Nostalgia assessed with PINE was associated with more negative traits than was nostalgia measured with the SNS. Newman et al. reported that results from their naturalistic studies: ‘diverged from experimental findings by showing that nostalgia is a mixed emotion, although more strongly associated with negative feelings than positive feelings’ (Newman et al. in press). On days the students felt nostalgic, they reported greater active and deactivated negative affect, loneliness, regret, rumination, reflection, searching for meaning, and lower life satisfaction and self-esteem. Students were more likely to feel depressed and sad when feeling nostalgic, and yesterday’s nostalgia led to feel­ ing sad and depressed the next day. In contrast with prior research, Newman et al.’s results suggested that nostalgia has mostly negative effects on well-being. Newman et al. attributed prior findings of positive impacts on well-being to the approach-oriented wording of the SNS and the positive memories elicited by biased instructions. In daily life, nostalgia was less intense and less helpful.

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


They concluded that seeking nostalgia is different from feeling nostalgic. Deliberately reflecting on nostalgic moments may be beneficial, but involun­ tary nostalgia evoked by situational cues may be predominantly negative. The intensive repeated measures employed by Newman et al. can them­ selves alter the intended naturalistic experience and may not be well suited to a wide range of samples or settings. Narrative accounts such as interviews, diaries, and memoirs offer a complementary source of naturalistic material for qualitative analysis. Previous research suggested that nostalgia would function as a psychological resource for immigrants coping with acculturative stress and integrating into their new culture (Sedikides et al. 2009). Nostalgia would facilitate integration by enhancing positive affect, self-regard, meaning, self-continuity, relational bonds and social support. However, it is not known how context might modify the role played by nostalgia. Immigrants who migrate voluntarily might experience an adaptive form of nostalgia, whereas refugees who have suffered forced migration might experience a pathological form of nostalgia, fuelled by intense longing for their lost past. Narrative analysis of survivors’ memoirs explored the role of nostalgia in inspiring and sustaining the resistance in Ukraine during World War II and in coping with post-war displacement (Batcho 2018). Nostalgia strengthened cultural identity, social bonds, attachment to home, and continuity of self. Nostalgic memories counteracted loneliness and supported coping during and after the struggle. The memoirs suggest that nostalgia may serve different functions along a timeline from the onset of an adverse event through the ability to thrive after overcoming the immediate challenges. Nostalgia strengthened commitment to the cause and the resolve to overcome extreme hardship. The later realisation that the cause had been lost was accompanied by prolonged depression exacerbated by exile. During the aftermath, nostalgia revealed its paradoxical potential to advance or inhibit recovery. A source of psychological strength during adversity, nos­ talgia was not a uniformly healthy resource during the early period of accul­ turation. Initially, the hope of returning home inhibited acceptance of the new culture. Outweighing the ephemeral happiness of positive memories, nostalgia intensified sadness by sharpening the sense of no longer belonging. The more deeply embedded their past world was in their sense of self, the greater was their feeling that they would lose part of who they are by fitting into a new culture. One resister recounted: ‘I refused to sink my roots into the new soil and adapt to the new circumstances in which I found myself. I fell into a deep depression, and life stopped having meaning for me’ (Pyskir 2001:227). Another described his belief that closing off the past to fit into his new culture would be an admission that he no longer loved all that had been his prior life. That belief fuelled his depression and served as an obstacle to forging new relationships (Mac 2009). Helpful during transitory adversity, in situations with no clear end, pro­ longed nostalgia can become counterproductive. However, the memoirs revealed how nostalgia led the resisters in exile to confront the forced changes in their lives. In contrast with Iyer’s and Jetten’s (2011) findings, it was the


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confrontation with discontinuity that encouraged identity exploration and enabled the resisters to move on. Over time, nostalgia helped the resisters understand who they had become in their new home and how their intrinsic self had endured. In some cases, resolution took years to accomplish. Memoirs are limited by bias, forgetting, and other distortions of memory. Confidence in Batcho’s (2018) qualitative analysis was bolstered by parallel findings in a memoir constructed from journal entries written during the struggle by Luba Komar (2009), a member of the resistance in World War II Ukraine who escaped after arrest, torture, and sentencing. Incorporating contemporaneous material, Komar’s memoir was less vulnerable to the inac­ curacies of memory. Facing exile, Komar recounted the importance of home. Upon departure, Komar reacted: ‘I yearn for all that is dear to me my home and my native land’ (Komar 2009:82). Not unique to Komar, this yearning was for more than the people left behind. Risking brutal punishment: Each one of us surreptitiously bends down and quickly grabs a handful of earth – our own, our native soil – to hold on to during the journey into a foreign land. As if it were a priceless treasure, we kiss this soil, wrap it in a handkerchief and hide it close to our hearts. (Komar 2009:89) Bringing part of the past into the present, souvenirs and mementos resurrect what is no longer. By reminding one of a loved one who has died or of childhood innocence long gone, a keepsake is imbued with a reality beyond itself. A link to the past, the clump of native soil countered the discontinuity imposed by exile by anchoring identity until conflicts of cultural belonging could be dealt with effectively. In extreme circumstances, nostalgia reduced negative affect rather than elevating positive affect: ‘Now with my good-byes completed, I feel I’ve set­ tled all my affairs in my thoughts and my conscience. I feel like I’ve written the last paragraph in the book of my life here on earth’ (Komar 2009:71). In the face of imminent death, nostalgia provided calm, rather than the opti­ mism of typical nostalgia.

Pathological nostalgia Most contemporary psychologists view nostalgia as predominantly beneficial, but some theorists have postulated pathological degrees or forms of the otherwise healthy emotion. In recent refugees with no prior psychiatric his­ tory, Alexander V. Zinchenko (2011) reported symptoms of a malignant form of nostalgia, characterised by repetitive reconstructions of bittersweet memories rather than the creative reconstruction of past experiences. By keeping them connected to their past, these involuntary reminiscences were obstacles to healthy adaptation to their present reality and threatened their psychological

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


well-being. Other theorists described nostalgia as pathological when it involves a refusal to accept a loss (Bassin 1993; Kaplan 1987; Sohn 1983). Rather than revealing a separate pathological form of nostalgia, the overall pattern of existing research suggests that nostalgia can be healthy or unheal­ thy as a function of life stage, personality, prior experiences or context. Like a multi-use tool, nostalgia may respond to an individual’s current need. When continuity of self is threatened, nostalgia strengthens identity, when mortality is salient, nostalgia enhances meaning, and when displaced from home, nos­ talgia preserves one’s past for incorporation into the present. Depression is countered with elevated mood, hopelessness with optimism, and loneliness with connectedness and belonging.

Understanding the paradoxical nature of nostalgia Discrepant research findings reflect nostalgia’s bittersweet valence. The evidence is not uniform for a dominance of either positive or negative affect. The simultaneous experience of opposing emotions is not common (Larsen et al. 2014). Therefore, bittersweet nostalgia is atypical of emo­ tional experience. During a nostalgic episode, it is plausible that pleasant memories activate positive emotions, while thoughts of irretrievable loss activate sadness. However, activation of sweet and bitter as separate emo­ tions does not explain feeling a single bittersweet emotion. It is not clear how two emotions are blended to be felt as a single emo­ tion. The blending of bitter and sweet may occur in response to triggers that comprise conflicting elements in inherently inseparable composite stimuli. The pleasantness of a nostalgic memory is inseparable from the painful longing for its loss. One yearns nostalgically for what is simultaneously pleasant and lost. Longing for the past to come forward in reminiscence allows enjoyment in the present without retreat to the past. The present-past provides relief from current concerns and worries. By providing reassurance that the past is pre­ served in memory, nostalgia facilitates willing release of the past, relegating it to await retrieval when desired or needed without the encumbrance of reality. The knowledge that nostalgia can serve us upon command sustains a sense of control over the past. That feeling of control may help explain the finding that seeking nostalgia is associated with benefits, in contrast with unfavour­ able impacts of nostalgia triggered spontaneously. Paradoxically, nostalgia has had a longstanding reputation as unhealthy, but also as universal. In conditions of threat to cultural autonomy or eco­ nomic viability, nostalgia was valued for the attachment to home and allegiance to ethnic or national identity it fosters. An understanding of the cognitive dynamics in nostalgia elucidates the paradox of an emotion that can be helpful or detrimental. Many research participants have been young adults. The threshold of independence constitutes a context ripe in potential and conducive to optimism. The sad farewell to the past occurs within the


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optimistic framework of anticipating a promising future. Hopeful anticipation might well colour the appraisal of the nostalgic farewell to the past. In such contexts, the past is left behind a bit reluctantly, but the sadness of farewell is outweighed by the excitement of future joy. The demands of ordinary life make deliberate nostalgia a luxury to be indulged in when time and schedule allow. Memories solicited in the lab are influenced by instructions, but in everyday life, events recalled depend upon circumstances, mood, or needs. Unlike sought-after nostalgia, nos­ talgia triggered spontaneously is more likely to exert negative impacts. In natural settings, the negative side of nostalgia may prevent a person from becoming trapped in dwelling on the past. If nostalgia were solely a feelgood emotion, a person might remain in the comfort of the remembered past, but nostalgia is self-corrective. Despite the joy of remembrance, the sadness or pain of loss propels a person to abandon reverie and return to the challenges of the present. In adverse situations with ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, nostalgia preserves identity and social connectedness for a better future. When adversity is perceived as meaningful, nostalgia sus­ tains a sense of purpose, self-worth, and the desire to leave a legacy for the future. Contradictory findings have accrued from efforts to capture an elusive experience, multifaceted and shifting over time. Like trying to describe a but­ terfly in motion, you might catch the moment its wings are spread out in flight or upright as it alights on a blossom. Findings depend upon the extent to which research examines the emotional experience or impacts resulting from cognitive processing. Much of the laboratory research has examined the aftermath of having been nostalgic rather than the experience of being nos­ talgic itself. That aftermath can dissipate or intensify over time depending upon how it is processed and the events that happen next. Efforts to resolve paradoxical findings have raised the possibility of mala­ daptive nostalgia. Would excessive nostalgia be a function of the intensity of the feeling or the frequency of indulging in it? Current research suggests it is more apt to identify pathological nostalgia in terms of cognitive appraisal. A happy family session of reminiscing about childhood adventures or mis­ adventures (e.g. how little Suzie gave the dog a haircut) reflects and strength­ ens family connectedness. By contrast, for a person displaced or estranged from friends and family and yearning for loved ones and togetherness, nos­ talgia might exacerbate an isolating effect of reverie. Enjoying something alone is not the same as sharing the pleasure with others. Extraordinary circumstances illuminate the qualities and limits of nos­ talgia’s power. Qualitative analyses of narratives have highlighted the seduc­ tive dynamics of nostalgia that can be a resource and a hindrance. Nostalgia serves different purposes over the course of surviving, healing, and embracing the future. By maintaining self and community identity, belonging, and meaning, nostalgia can provide comfort and support in the midst of trau­ matic change, isolation, and threats to mortality.

The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


In the aftermath of the urgent need to survive, the role of nostalgia is more complex. During times of great personal and cultural disruption, nostalgia can coexist with depression and mourning loss of the past. In cases of forced migration, nostalgia can be an almost unbearable grief for the loss of all a person has known and loved – places, customs, social bonds, and especially loved ones. How such nostalgic longing can be transformed into healthy coping is a critical question as yet unresolved. Qualitative studies suggest that nostalgia has the potential to reinvigorate a person on the path to recovery, growth and psychological well-being. Integration of past into present enables the individual to embrace the present and future without renouncing the meaning of the past. Memoirs by survivors in their advanced age have illu­ strated how the impact of nostalgia can unfold over a lifetime.

Conclusion As this chapter has shown, conflicting findings have yielded incomplete por­ traits of nostalgia and obscured its fuller essence. A useful understanding of nostalgia rests upon recognising it as a cognitive-emotional experience with a mixed-affect signature that unfolds over time. Within a temporal window, however brief, there can be pangs of grief and feelings that oscillate between pleasant and painful, akin to the rapidly changing perceptions while viewing a reversible stimulus. The point along the timeline when impacts are assessed can tilt findings toward the positive or negative. Nostalgia is sensitive to measures and methods derived from differing con­ ceptual definitions. Longing emphasises what has been lost and what is missed. While longing can be experienced on a continuum from mild to intense, the qualifier sentimental places it toward the mild end of the spectrum and lends the emotion a positive tone. Instructions often elicited ‘nostalgic’ or ‘non-nostalgic’ memories. Classifying everything that is not nostalgic within one category fails to control numerous attributes. Unlike the nostalgic cate­ gory that narrows the scope to positive material, ‘everything else’ can include anything from pleasant through neutral to horrible. The content of memories should not be conflated with the emotion felt during reminiscence. We do not always want to have the past again now or to return to it. Reminiscing about childhood antics does not mean wishing we were children again. Such memories engender the joyful recognition that we are happy we had those experiences. We are glad that those events and people are part of our past – and part of who we are now. By contrast, reminiscing about visits with Mom after she has died evokes feelings of loss along with the love we felt, and we wish those visits could continue. The juxtaposition of sweet remembrance and bitter longing for what can no longer be accounts for nostalgia’s inherent paradoxical character. Over time, dispositional traits and contextual variables can direct nostalgic processing to develop the sweet or the bitter to effect adaptive or maladaptive impacts. Ideally, nostalgia enhances use of the positive from the past for benefit in the


Krystine Irene Batcho

present. Scrutinising nostalgia within the intricacies of life requires coordi­ nated complementary approaches – qualitative and quantitative, experimental and ecological. Convergent findings will make applications more meaningful. Harnessing the most adaptive attributes of nostalgia’s power demands recog­ nition of its bittersweet nature. Viewing a butterfly up close as it feeds on a blossom is pleasurable, but trapping it there would mean never appreciating the true essence of the butterfly as it manifests its total beauty in flight.

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The paradoxical bittersweet emotion


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Stephan, Elena et al. (2014): ‘The Mnemonic Mover: Nostalgia Regulates Avoidance and Approach Motivation’. Emotion, 14:545–561. van Tilburg, Wijnand A. P. et al. (2013): ‘In Search of Meaningfulness: Nostalgia as an Antidote to Boredom’. Emotion, 13:450–461. van Tilburg, Wijnand A. P. et al. (2019): ‘How Nostalgia Infuses Life with Meaning: From Social Connectedness to Self-Continuity’. European Journal of Social Psy­ chology, 49(3):521–532. Verplanken, Bas (2012): ‘When Bittersweet Turns Sour: Adverse Effects of Nostalgia on Habitual Worriers’. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42:285–289. Wildschut, Tim et al. (2006): ‘Nostalgia: Content, Triggers, Functions’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91:975–993. Wildschut, Tim et al. (2010): ‘Nostalgia as a Repository of Social Connectedness: The Role of Attachment-Related Avoidance’. Journal of Personality and Social Psy­ chology, 98:573–586. Zhou, Xinyue et al. (2012): ‘Nostalgia: The Gift that Keeps on Giving’. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(1):39–50. Zinchenko, Alexander V. (2011): ‘Nostalgia: Dialogue Between Memory and Know­ ing’. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 49:84–97.


The psychology of nostalgia Delineating the emotion’s nature and functions Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

Introduction For much of its history, nostalgia has been regarded as a physiological and psychological illness. Johannes Hofer (1688/1934), a Swiss medical student, coined the term (a compound of the Greek words nostos or return and algos or pain) to denote the plight of Swiss mercenaries ser­ ving abroad, in whom he observed a syndrome of despondency, bouts of weeping, fainting, indigestion, stomach pain, loss of appetite, high fever, cardiac palpitations, and suicidal ideation. Based on his studies, Hofer conceptualised nostalgia as a medical or neurological disease – an influ­ ential view that would continue to hold sway in the 18th and 19th cen­ turies. By the beginning of the 20th century, the view that nostalgia was a psychiatric or psychosomatic disorder was ascendant (McCann 1941) and, aided by the popularity of psychodynamic theorising, rapidly took hold (Sohn 1983). Psychoanalysts extolled ‘the importance of the pre­ oedipal mother in the emotional developments of nostalgics’ (Kleiner 1977:17), and regarded nostalgia as ‘an acute yearning for a union with the preoedipal mother, a saddening farewell to childhood, a defense against mourning, or a longing for past forever lost’ (Kaplan 1987:466). This disconsolate outlook lingered until the end of the 20th century, with nostalgia figuring as ‘a regressive manifestation closely related to the issue of loss, grief, incomplete mourning, and, finally, depression’ (Cas­ telnuovo-Tedesco 1980:110) and ‘an overwhelming craving that persists and profoundly interferes with the individual’s attempts to cope with his present circumstances’ (Peters 1985:135). Since the turn of the century, however, accumulating empirical evidence has rehabilitated this fundamental and universal emotion. In this chapter, we discuss recent advances in two key areas of nostalgia research. First, we consider the nature of nostalgia, including its definition and content, as well as its similarities and differences with other emotions. Second, we present an overview of nostalgia’s key psychological functions: social, self-oriented, exis­ tential and future-oriented. We conclude by considering the limits of nostalgia as a psychological panacea.


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

Delineating nostalgia Prototype theory The New Oxford Dictionary of English (Oxford 1998:1266) defines nos­ talgia as ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past’. Empirical evidence dovetails with this definition. Erica Hepper and colleagues (2012) used a prototype approach (Rosch 1978) to investigate lay conceptions of nostalgia. A prototype is ‘a collection of the most typical or highly related features associated with a category’ (Cantor and Mischel 1977:39). In Hepper et al.’s first study, participants were instructed to list as many descriptors of nostalgia as they could think. Two coders then classified the resulting 1752 descriptors into 35 features. The relative frequency of these features provided a first indication of their centrality (versus peripherality) to the nostalgia prototype. In the next study, participants rated how cen­ tral each of these 35 features was to their conception of nostalgia. We present Study 1 frequencies and Study 2 centrality ratings in Table 2.1. Central features included verbs such as remembering, reminiscing, or reliving, and objects such as keepsakes or sensory cues. Central features were generally positive (e.g. fond memories, personal meaning, social relationships, happiness), albeit not exclusively so (e.g. missing, longing/ yearning). Peripheral features included dreams/daydreaming, change, relaxed, regret, prestige, and lethargy. A subsequent cross-cultural investi­ gation (Hepper et al. 2014) revealed that these lay conceptions of nostalgia generalise across a range of countries (e.g. Australia, Chile, China, Ethio­ pia, Germany, India, Japan) on five continents. Hepper et al. (2012) carefully validated the central and peripheral features of the nostalgia prototype. They presented a new sample of participants (Study 3) with sentences embedded with central and peripheral features (e.g. ‘Nostalgia is about childhood’, ‘Nostalgia feels like comfort or warmth’). Then they admi­ nistered recall and recognition tasks. Participants freely recalled and falsely recognised more central than peripheral features. In a further study (Study 4), participants viewed a series of central, peripheral, and control (i.e. unrelated to nostalgia) features. The features were presented on a computer screen above the question: ‘Is this a feature of nostalgia?’. For each trial, participants clicked YES or NO as quickly as possible. Participants were faster and more accurate at classifying central (relative to peripheral or control) features as being character­ istic of nostalgia. A subsequent study tested the prediction that, when used to describe an autobiographical event, central (compared to peripheral) features would convey a stronger sense of nostalgia (Study 5). Participants rated vignettes describing a protagonist’s autobiographical event. Some vignettes were embed­ ded with central features, whereas others included peripheral features or no fea­ tures of nostalgia. Vignettes including central features were indeed rated as more nostalgic than those including peripheral features or no features. In the final study (Study 6), participants recalled a nostalgic or ordinary event and then

Table 2.1 Nostalgia features, sample exemplars, Study 1 frequencies, and Study 2 ratings in Hepper et al. (2012). Feature

Exemplars written by participants

Study 1

Study 2




Memory, past memories Past, days gone by, old times Fond memories, funny moments, good old days Remember, recall, looking back Reminiscence, reminiscing Emotions, feelings, sentimental Personal, values, special Longing, yearn, yearning for what was Friends, family, relationships, love, sharing Keepsakes, old photos, memorabilia Better days, rose-tinted, idealised Happy, positive, enjoy, smiles Childhood experiences, school, youth Reminders, familiar smells, music Thought, thinking, introspect, contemplation Relive the past, dwelling, immerse in memories Missing, miss someone, loss Want to go back in time, want to live in the past

120 144 62

7.10 6.99 6.73

1.17 1.18 1.28

82 55 57 18 71

6.63 6.54 6.47 6.39 6.32

1.41 1.41 1.35 1.68 1.55







29 99 67

6.01 5.95 5.88

1.62 1.63 1.68

38 27

5.85 5.84

1.61 1.68




40 18

5.70 5.68

1.70 1.81

Comfort, warm glow, sense of security Wish, desire, wishful Dreaming, daydream, staring into space Bittersweet, happiness and sadness at same time Change, moving on, future Calm, peaceful, relaxed Regret, remorse, missed opportunities




15 14

5.42 5.33

1.68 1.67




16 13 19

4.78 4.64 4.33

1.80 1.66 1.91

Central Memory/memories The past Fond memories Remembering Reminiscence Feeling Personal meaning Longing / yearning Social relationships Memorabilia/ keepsakes Rose-tinted memory Happiness Childhood/youth Sensory triggers Thinking Reliving/dwelling Missing Want to return to past Peripheral Comfort/warmth Wishing/desire Dreams/daydreaming Mixed feelings Change Calm/relaxed Regret



Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

Table 2.1 (Cont.) Feature Homesickness Prestige/success Ageing/old people Loneliness Sadness/depressed Negative past Distortion/illusions Solitude Pain/anxiety Lethargy/laziness

Exemplars written by participants Homesick, homesickness, home­ missing Achieving, success, prestige Age, ageing, old people Lonely, unloved, loneliness Sad, cry, depressed, grief Bad times, past pain, sad events Illusions, distorted view of past, false memories Introversion, solitary, withdrawn Distress, anxiety, pain, nausea, heart-wrenching Apathy, lethargic, lazy, bored

Study 1

Study 2







6 14 16 76 2 12

4.05 3.99 3.76 3.58 3.33 3.30

1.87 2.06 1.90 1.94 1.94 1.99

6 51

3.22 3.03

1.64 1.84




Note: features are listed in order of Study 2 centrality ratings, which used a scale from 1 (not at all related to nostalgia) to 8 (extremely related to nostalgia). Features rated above the median (5.68) were classified as central, and those below the median as peripheral. Source: adapted from: Hepper et al. (2012), copyright © 2012 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

rated the applicability of central and peripheral features to the event (e.g. ‘This event is a fond memory’ [central]; ‘When I think about this event I feel regret’ [peripheral]). Central features were rated as being significantly more applicable to nostalgic than ordinary events, whereas peripheral features were not. Content analysis To explore the content of nostalgic memories, Tim Wildschut and colleagues con­ tent-analysed nostalgic stories submitted to the periodical Nostalgia (Wildschut et al. 2006, Study 1). The content analyses identified a number of key themes. Nos­ talgia revolved around close relationships (e.g. family, friends, romantic partner), momentous events in one’s life (e.g. family reunions, weddings, graduations), pets, tangibles (e.g. a coat), and physical settings (e.g. a lake). Although the narrator was generally the main protagonist, he or she was almost always surrounded by close others. The narratives, albeit bittersweet, contained considerably more expressions of positive than negative affect. These findings were replicated with samples of undergraduates (Wildschut et al. 2006, Study 2) and adults across the life span (Holak and Havlena 1998; Wildschut et al. 2018). Echoing Fred Davis’s observa­ tion that nostalgic narratives have an ‘it was all for the best’ (Davis 1979:418) theme, the positive and negative elements of nostalgic episodes tend to be arranged in a redemption sequence (McAdams et al. 2001). That is, the narratives often

The psychology of nostalgia


moved from an unfavourable or affectively unpleasant scene to a favourable or affectively pleasant one (Wildschut et al. 2006, Studies 1–2). Multidimensional scaling To further delineate nostalgia, Wijnand van Tilburg and colleagues compared and contrasted it with a number other self-relevant emotions, namely embarrassment, gratitude, guilt, hurt feelings, inspiration, pas­ sion, pride, shame, and unrequited love (van Tilburg et al. 2018, Studies 1–4). Within a set of 11 emotions, it is possible to make 55 unique pairwise comparisons (e.g. nostalgia–embarrassment, nostalgia–gratitude, embarrassment–gratitude, and so on). University students rated the degree of similarity between the emotions in each of these 55 pairs. These ratings produced, for each participant, a distance matrix that is amenable to multidimensional scaling (Kruskal and Wish 1978). Multi­ dimensional scaling is suitable for identifying dimensions of perceived similarity (versus difference) among the emotions. Results revealed that a two-dimensional representation fit the data well, with one dimension representing valence or pleasantness and the other dimension represent­ ing arousal level (Russell 1980). Within this two-dimensional representa­ tion, nostalgia was characterised as mildly positive and comparatively low in arousal (Figure 2.1). Nostalgia was perceived as most similar to self-compassion, pride, and gratitude. It was seen as most dissimilar to shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Appraisals Nostalgia can also be characterised, and distinguished from other emo­ tions, in terms of its antecedent appraisals. Adopting an appraisal theory (Parkinson and Manstead 1992; Scherer 1982; Smith and Ellsworth 1985) perspective, van Tilburg and colleagues (2019) identified nostalgia’s appraisal profile and compared it with that of other emotions. They reported three studies with German participants from WisoPanel (Göritz 2014), an open access panel for academic research. In the first study, par­ ticipants described a personally relevant autobiographical event, rated it on 11 appraisals, and then indicated the extent to which they experienced each of 32 emotions (including nostalgia). In a preliminary step, the 11 appraisals were reduced to five on the basis of factor analysis: pleasantness, irretrievable loss, temporal distance, uniqueness, and reflection. Next, the researchers tested which appraisals best characterised events that trigger nostalgia. Events that elicited high levels of nostalgia were appraised as pleasant, irretrievably lost, temporally distant, and unique. This appraisal profile distinguished nostalgia from all other studied emotions. In Study 2, participants were presented with hypothetical events that were experimentally varied to reflect either high or low levels of pleasantness, irretrievable loss, distance, and uniqueness. Participants reported


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

Figure 2.1 Multidimensional scaling results in van Tilburg et al. (2018, Studies 1–4 aggregate), representing the position of nostalgia relative to 11 other selfrelevant emotions in two-dimensional space. Note: the horizontal dimension represents valence (higher values indicating more positive valence). The vertical dimension represents arousal (lower values indicating stronger arousal). Source: adapted from van Tilburg et al. (2018), copyright © 2018 by Taylor and Francis. Reprinted with permission.

the highest levels of nostalgia (compared to 10 comparator emotions) when pleasantness, irretrievability, distance, and uniqueness were high (compared to low). In the final study, participants completed a guided autobiographical recall task (rather than evaluating hypothetical events). In a conceptual replication of Study 2, reported nostalgia levels were highest in response to autobiographical events that were high (compared to low) in pleasantness, irretrievable loss, temporal distance, and uniqueness. This appraisal profile was, again, unique to nostalgia.

The psychology of nostalgia


Summary: delineating nostalgia Nostalgia has been delineated, and distinguished from other self-relevant emotions, in terms of: (1) prototypical features, (2) content, (3) valence and arousal level, and (4) antecedent appraisals. It prototypically focuses on fond and personally meaningful memories of childhood and/or close relationships. Although nostalgia is a predominantly positive and low-arousal emotion, its positive content is often combined with negative elements in a redemption sequence. Nostalgia is usually evoked by events that are appraised as tem­ porally distant, unique, and pleasant, yet irretrievably lost. As a result, one typically feels emotional, most often happy but with a sense of longing. The relevance of nostalgic memories to positive and meaningful experiences of the self and close others accounts for its important psychological functions. This brings us to the second objective of this chapter.

Functions of nostalgia The preponderance of empirical evidence for the psychological functions of nostalgia derives from experimental studies. In the majority of these experi­ ments, nostalgia was induced with the Event Reflection Task (ERT) (see, for example, Sedikides et al. 2015b; Wildschut et al. 2006). In this task, partici­ pants are instructed to bring to mind either a personally experienced nostalgic event or, in the typical control condition, a personally experienced ordinary (e.g. everyday, regular) event. Alternative control conditions have involved recall of a positive or anticipated (i.e. future) positive event. After recalling the autobiographical event, participants list keywords capturing the gist of the event and, in some cases, provide a brief (i.e. 5-minute) written account of the event. Following a manipulation check, participants then complete the rele­ vant dependent measures, which typically assess one or more of the presumed psychological functions of nostalgia. Social function In one of the first experiments exploring the functionality of nostalgia (Wild­ schut et al. 2006, Study 5), UK participants completed the ERT and then rated how ‘loved’ and ‘protected’ the nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event made them feel. Nostalgic participants scored higher than controls. In a sub­ sequent ERT experiment (Wildschut et al. 2006, Study 6), UK participants who reflected on a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event reported lower levels of attachment anxiety (e.g. ‘I worry that romantic partners won’t care about me as much as I care about them’) and attachment avoidance (e.g. ‘I am very uncomfortable with being close to romantic partners’), as assessed with a state version of the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale-Revised (Fraley et al. 2000). An ERT experiment with Chinese undergraduates showed that these beneficial effects of nostalgia generalised to other cultures


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

(Zhou et al. 2008). Participants who brought to mind a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event evinced stronger perceptions of social support, as assessed with the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (e.g. ‘I can count on my friends when things go wrong’; Zimet et al. 1988). Remarkably, they also expected that a greater number of their peers would help to earn extra credit by volunteering in a psychology experiment. In all, nostalgia fosters perceived social connectedness. Yet, sceptics have argued that it is just a surrogate for real interpersonal closeness (Kaplan 1987). Contrary to this pessimistic view, numerous studies support the tangible interpersonal benefits of nostalgia. We review them next. In an ERT experiment, Wildschut et al. (2006, Study 7), tested nostalgia’s effect on perceptions of interpersonal competence. Participants who brought to mind a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event reported higher perceived interpersonal competence across various domains (Buhrmester et al. 1988), including initiation of social interactions (e.g. ‘Going to parties or gathering where you don’t know people well in order to start up new relationships’), self-disclosure of personal information (e.g. ‘Telling a close companion how much you appreciate and care for him or her’), and the provision of emo­ tional support to others (e.g. ‘Helping a close companion get to the heart of a problem he or she is experiencing’). Building on this finding, Andrew Abeyta and colleagues hypothesised that, by increasing perceived interpersonal com­ petence, nostalgia should promote social goal strivings (Abeyta et al. 2015a, Study 6). They did so on the basis that perceived competence in navigating complex interpersonal situations (e.g. disclosing intimate information about oneself to a new companion) predicts increased social-goal striving and attainment (Buhrmester et al. 1988; Herzberg et al. 1998). To test this hypothesis, they instructed participants in the nostalgia condition to search YouTube for a song that made them feel nostalgic. Participants listened to the song and then wrote about how the song made them feel. In the control con­ dition, participants searched YouTube for a song that they liked and recently discovered, and wrote about how the song made them feel. Next, participants completed a 6-item measure of interpersonal competence (e.g. ‘Rate your con­ fidence in your ability to establish successful social relationships’), listed a social goal, and rated their intentions to pursue it. Participants in the nostalgic (compared to control) condition reported stronger intentions to pursue their stated social goal, and this beneficial effect was mediated by perceived inter­ personal competence. Goal strivings are not always linked to actual behaviour (Fazio and TowlesSchwen 1999). This raises a pressing question: can nostalgia facilitate actual prosocial behaviour? Xinyue Zhou and colleagues addressed this question by examining the effect of nostalgia on charitable giving (Zhou et al. 2012, Study 5). In a departure from the ERT procedure, Chinese participants saw printed charity appeals in aid of child victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. In the nostalgia condition, the appeal was embedded with nostalgic cues. For example, the headline read: ‘Those Were the Days: Restoring the Past for

The psychology of nostalgia


Children in Wenchuan’. In the control condition, the appeal was sprinkled with references to the future, including the headline: ‘Now is the time: Build the Future for Children in Wenchuan’. Following the nostalgia induction, we gave participants the opportunity to donate to charity some of the money they had earned in a series of prior laboratory tasks. We used these charitable donations as an index of prosocial behaviour. Participants who had read the nostalgic charity appeal (compared to control) made higher donations. (We returned the donations to the participants and, upon completion of the study, donated the total sum to the charity in question). Elena Stephan and colleagues extended this line of research to incorporate two other indices of prosocial behaviour (Stephan et al. 2014). The first index they examined was seating distance (Study 4). After recalling either a nostal­ gic or ordinary autobiographical event (ERT), participants were told that they would meet another person, who was waiting in an adjoining room. Partici­ pants were instructed to arrange two chairs (one for themselves, one for the other person) within the meeting room, in anticipation of this meeting. The distance between the two chairs served as the index of prosocial behaviour (i. e. shorter distance indicates greater prosociality; Macrae et al. 1994). Partici­ pants in the nostalgia condition (compared to control) placed the chairs closer together. The second index of prosocial behaviour examined by Stephan et al. was helping (Study 5). In an ERT experiment, the researchers staged a mishap. The experimenter entered the laboratory with a box of pencils and clumsily spilled them on the floor, near to where the participant was seated. The number of pencils that participants picked up served as the index of prosocial behaviour (Vohs et al. 2006). Participants who had recalled a nostalgic event helped the experimenter more, by picking up a higher number of pencils, than participants who had recalled an ordinary auto­ biographical event. In all, these studies give an affirmative answer to the question of whether nostalgia can boost prosocial behaviour. Self-oriented function In his influential book Yearning for Yesteryear, Fred Davis (1979) proposed that nostalgia ‘bestow[s] an endearing luster on past selves that may not have seemed all that lustrous at the time’ (Davis 1979:41). The key implication of this state­ ment – that nostalgia activates positive self-attributes and raises self-esteem – has been empirically tested and supported. Matthew Vess and colleagues induced nostalgia with a variation of the ERT (Vess et al. 2012, Experiment 1); partici­ pants in the control condition imagined a future positive event (rather than an ordinary past event). Following this, participants were instructed to categorise positive and neutral traits as either self-descriptive or non-self-descriptive. Response latency between trait presentation and categorisation served as index of concept accessibility, with shorter latencies indicating higher accessibility (Schlegel et al. 2009). Participants who had recalled a nostalgic event (compared to those who imagined a positive future event) evinced shorter response latencies


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

for positive self-descriptive attributes (controlling for response latencies for neu­ tral self-descriptive attributes; Robinson 2007). Nostalgia heightened the acces­ sibility of positive self-attributes. In an ERT experiment, Wildschut et al. (2006) measured self-esteem either with a two-item scale (‘significant’, ‘high self-esteem’; Study 5) or with the 10-item Rosenberg (1965) Self-Esteem Scale (Study 6). Participants in the nostalgia (compared to control) condition reported higher levels of self-esteem. This finding was replicated by Hepper et al. (2012, Study 7), with an alternative nostalgia induction. In the nostalgia condition, partici­ pants were presented with a list of features that were central to the nostalgia prototype. In the control condition, participants received a list with periph­ eral prototype features. Participants then brought to mind a personal event characterised by several of the features on their list and, following this, reported their level of self-esteem (e.g. ‘I have many positive qualities’, ‘I feel good about myself ’). Those in the nostalgia condition (central features) reported higher self-esteem than those in the control condition (peripheral features). Further replications harnessed the power of music-evoked nos­ talgia. Wing-Yee Cheung and colleagues randomly assigned participants to listen to a nostalgic or cheerful song, both performed by the same artist (Cheung et al. 2013, Study 3). (A pre-test established that, as intended, the nostalgic song elicited more nostalgia than the cheerful song, but the songs were matched on positive affect). Listening to the nostalgic (compared to cheerful) song increased self-esteem. In their next study (Cheung et al. 2013, Study 4), the researchers enrolled participants in a preliminary and an experimental session, separated by three weeks. In the preliminary session, participants listed the titles and performers of three songs that made them feel nostalgic. In the experimental session, participants in the nostalgia condition read the lyrics of a song they had previously listed as nostalgic. Each control participant was yoked to a participant in the nostalgia condi­ tion and read the same lyrics as that person. Thus, the same set of lyrics was presented in both conditions, but only participants in the nostalgia condition read lyrics to songs they had listed earlier. Reading personally nostalgic (compared to control) lyrics boosted self-esteem. Existential function Nostalgia centres on momentous occurrences from one’s past (Abeyta et al. 2015b; Wildschut et al. 2006), including festivities (e.g. wedding anniversaries, birthday celebrations), family traditions (e.g. reunions, vacations), or cultural rituals (e.g. Thanksgiving, graduations). Nostalgising about such unique and positive events may reassure one that life is meaningful (i.e. purposeful and significant) (Arndt et al. 2013). To test this idea, Clay Routledge and colleagues (Routledge et al. 2011, Study 2) manipulated nostalgia with song lyrics and then assessed meaning with the 5-item Presence of Meaning in Life subscale of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (Steger et al. 2006). Reading personally

The psychology of nostalgia


nostalgic (compared to control) lyrics increased meaning in life. Con­ ceptual replications soon followed. Hepper et al. (2012, Study 7) induced nostalgia by presenting participants with a list of either central or periph­ eral features of the nostalgia prototype, and instructed them to recall an event characterised by those features. Participants who recalled an event characterised by central (compared to peripheral) features experienced more meaning (i.e. ‘life is worth living’, ‘life is meaningful’, ‘life has a purpose’, ‘there is greater purpose to life’). In a classic ERT experiment, van Tilburg et al. (2013, Study 5) demonstrated that nostalgic (compared to control) participants reported higher meaning in their lives. Routledge et al. (2012, Experiment 1), in a variation of the ERT, demonstrated that nostalgic reflection even leads to higher perceived meaning in life than does imagining a desired future event. The existential function of nostalgia is also borne out by its causal link to self-continuity, that is, the subjective connection between one’s past and pre­ sent. Scholars have proposed that self-continuity is a prerequisite for identity formation (James 1890; Parfit 1971; Wiggins 2001) and contributes to dia­ chronic unity of the self (Lampinen et al. 2004). Davis (1979) argued that nostalgia serves to create, maintain, and enhance self-continuity or, in his words, ‘marshal our psychological resources for continuity’ (Davis 1979:34). A wealth of evidence now supports this idea. In an ERT experiment, Constantine Sedikides et al. (2015a, Study 3) assessed self-continuity with the 4-item Self-Continuity Index (i.e. ‘I feel connected with my past’, ‘I feel connected with who I was in the past’, ‘There is continuity in my life’, ‘Important aspects of my personality remain the same across time’). Nostal­ gic participants (compared to controls) evinced more self-continuity. This finding was replicated in a subsequent ERT experiment that included an additional, stringent control condition, in which participants recalled a posi­ tive past event (Sedikides et al. 2015a, Study 4). Participants who recalled a nostalgic event reported greater self-continuity than those who recalled an ordinary or positive past event. There was no significant difference between the two control conditions. Whereas the aforementioned studies involved, respectively, American and British participants, the findings were also replicated in China (Sedikides et al. 2016, Experiment 2) and Greece (Aba­ koumkin et al. in press). The link between nostalgia and self-continuity, then, is both general and robust. Future-oriented function Nostalgia is past-oriented yet has important implications for the future. Future-oriented outcomes of nostalgia have traditionally been subsumed under its self-oriented function (Sedikides et al. 2015b), but rapidly accumu­ lating and diversifying evidence within this domain provides the basis for considering them in their own right. We review the cases of optimism, inspiration, and creativity.


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

Optimism entails having positive (as opposed to negative) expectancies for the future (Scheier et al. 1994). Evoking a pecuniary analogy, Davis (1977:420) drew a connection between nostalgia and optimism: ‘It [nostalgia] reassures us of past happiness and accomplishment; and, since these still remain on deposit, as it were, in the bank of our memory, it simultaneously bestows upon us a certain worth, irrespective of how present circumstances may seem to question or obscure this. And current worth, as our friendly bank loan officer assures us, is entitled to at least some claim on the future as well’. Cheung et al. (2013) tested this idea in a series of studies. An ERT experiment (Study 2) demonstrated that recalling a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event increased optimism (i.e. ‘makes me feel ready to take on new challenges’, ‘makes me feel optimistic about my future’, ‘makes me feel like the sky is the limit’, ‘gives me a feeling of hope about my future’). Conceptual replications of this finding revealed that listening to a nostalgic (compared to cheerful) song (Study 3) also increased optimism, as did reading personally nostalgic (compared to control) lyrics (Study 4). Inspiration involves transcendence of everyday preoccupations and an awareness of new possibilities or ideas (‘inspired by’), along with a desire to fulfil and realise them (‘inspired to’) (Thrash and Elliot 2003). Stephan et al. (2015) induced nostalgia with the ERT and measured general inspiration (i.e. ‘inspired’, ‘inspired to do something’, ‘filled with inspiration’; Study 2) and, in a follow-up, specific inspiration (i.e. I feel inspired to: ‘meet new people’, ‘travel overseas this summer’, ‘explore some place that I have never been before’, ‘go to a modern art museum’, ‘try skydiving or some other adventurous activity’; Study 3). In both studies, reflecting on a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event boosted inspiration. They then replicated this finding with a variation of the ERT, in which control participants recalled a positive (i.e. lucky) event in their life (Study 5). Going beyond the ERT, reading personally nostalgic (compared to control) lyrics also heightened general inspiration (Study 4). Inspiration predicts greater creativity, for example, in poetry and prose (Thrash et al. 2010). Accordingly, nostalgia’s beneficial effect on inspiration implies a parallel effect on creativity (i.e. an idea or action that is both original and useful; Feist 1998). Van Tilburg and colleagues tested and supported this hypothesis in four experiments (van Tilburg et al. 2015). Following an ERTbased nostalgia induction, participants composed a story involving a princess, a cat, and a race car (Experiment 1) or a story involving a mysterious noise on a cold winter evening (Experiment 2). Nostalgic participants (compared to con­ trols) produced more creative stories, as evaluated by independent judges. A subsequent ERT experiment (Experiment 3) assessed creativity with Zorana Ivcevic’s (2007) 12-item creativity scale (e.g. ‘When working on a challenging task I am someone who …’; 1 = resists temptation or distraction, 6 = allows my imagination to wander and explore). Nostalgisers (compared to controls) evinced higher self-reported creativity. The final ERT experiment assessed creativity we based on Xiaojin Zhu et al.’s (2009) linguistic creativity measure and introduced a more stringent control condition, in which participants

The psychology of nostalgia


recalled a positive (i.e. lucky) life event (Experiment 4). Following the nostalgia induction, participants wrote a creative sentence about each of 10 words (e.g. sun, water) (; De Deyne and Storms 2008). Nostalgia elevated creative writing, as coded by independent judges. Summary: Functions of nostalgia In the above, we have considered four essential psychological functions of nostalgia: social, self-oriented, existential and future-oriented. With regard to its social function, nostalgia strengthens perceived social connectedness and social goal strivings, as well as yielding tangible interpersonal benefits in terms of increased charitable giving, interpersonal closeness, and helping. Turning to its self-oriented function, nostalgia builds, maintains, and enhan­ ces self-positivity. Specifically, it heightens the accessibility of positive attri­ butes and boosts self-esteem. As for its existential function, nostalgia is a source of meaning in life and fosters a sense of continuity between one’s past and present self. Finally, despite being a past-oriented emotion, nostalgia serves a future-oriented function, raising optimism, inspiration, and creativity.

Limits of nostalgia May nostalgia, under certain specific circumstances, have detrimental effects? Aarti Iyer and Jolanda Jetten (2011) proposed that nostalgia can be maladaptive when it highlights a contrast between favourable past circumstances and present challenges. They tested this hypothesis in three studies among students entering university. Cumulatively, results suggested that nostalgia was beneficial to incoming students who perceived their past and present as interconnected (i.e. they maintained strong ties to their home community), but that it was detri­ mental to students who felt that moving to university had severed the connection between their past and present self (i.e. they had lost touch with their home community). Morton Beiser (2004) articulated a similar argument, based on his research among Southeast Asian refugees who were resettled in Vancouver, Canada. Refugees who indicated that the past was more important than the future, and at least as important as the present, were at increased risk of devel­ oping depressive disorder. On this basis, Beiser concluded that disproportionate emphasis on a life that has been left behind can create a painful contrast between one’s present condition and a ‘never-to-be-regained past’ (Beiser 2004:909). To investigate this issue in more detail, Wildschut et al. (2019) recently conducted an ERT experiment among Syrian refugees who resettled in Saudi Arabia. Studying refugee populations affords a rigorous test of the idea – shared by Iyer and Jetten (2011) and Beiser (2004) – that nostalgia may be harmful to individuals experiencing upheaval, as few life experiences are as disruptive and traumatic as forced displacement (Porter and Haslam 2005). In addition to exploring the causal effect of nostalgia on psychological func­ tioning in this vulnerable population, these researchers examined whether


Tim Wildschut and Constantine Sedikides

individuals who are high in dispositional or trait-level resilience can benefit from nostalgia, even in the midst of severe turbulence. By so doing, they built on prior evidence that resilient individuals are capable of harnessing fond memories to self-generate positive emotions in the context of sadness-indu­ cing and anxiety-inducing events (Philippe et al. 2009). Overall, Syrian refugees obtained most (but not all) psychological benefits of nostalgia. Those who recalled a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) event reported higher levels of social connectedness, self-esteem, meaning in life and self-continuity. Future-oriented outcomes were the exception to this pattern; nostalgia decreased optimism and had no significant effect on inspiration. These aggregate patterns should be interpreted with caution, however, because they were qualified by dispositional resilience. For low-resilience individuals, results were partially consistent with Beiser’s (2004) pessimistic picture of refugee nostalgia. For these vulnerable refugees, nostalgia decreased optimism and inspiration. Still, these negative effects in the futureoriented domain were compensated by positive effects on the existential functions of meaning in life and self-continuity. In contrast, high-resilience refugees accrued most nostalgia’s benefits, and were impervious to the costs suffered by low-resilience refugees. These findings throw the specific bound­ aries of nostalgia’s functionality into sharp relief and offer needed nuance; for low-resilience individuals experiencing trauma and adversity, nostalgia may cast a pall over the future.

Conclusion Nostalgia is a common and universally shared emotion. It can be distinguished from other emotions in terms of its unique prototypical features, narrative content, affective signature, and antecedent appraisals. Above all, nostalgia serves important psychological functions, dispelling its negative caricature as a feeble and futile retreat into one’s past. Going forward, new research directions beckon. Whereas extant research has focused predominantly on personal nostalgia, recent efforts have been directed at understanding nos­ talgia at the collective level of analysis (Sedikides and Wildschut 2019). Collective nostalgia confers unique benefits to the in-group, including favourable attitudes, support, loyalty and collective action (Wildschut et al. 2014). Yet, it is also associated with detrimental aspects of in-group cohe­ sion, such as out-group rejection and exclusion (Smeekes et al. 2015). Identifying how to harness the beneficial effects of collective nostalgia, and prevent its undesirable ones, is an important task for future psychological research. Another pressing question relates to the durability of nostalgia’s psycholo­ gical benefits. One answer to this question is that these benefits are as durable as the memories on which they are based. This is the view articulated by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov:

The psychology of nostalgia


You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more whole­ some and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is per­ haps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us. (Dostoyevsky 1880/2007:868) Approaching the issue from a different angle, one might query the longevity of benefits from a particular instantiation of nostalgia. We propose that even isolated, momentary experiences of nostalgia may have lasting downstream consequences. For example, they can boost perceived social connectedness, facilitating subsequent interactions with family, friends, and colleagues. Initial findings are supportive. In an ERT experiment, Marius van Dijke et al. (2019) demonstrated that employees who generally experienced low (compared to high) levels of interactional justice in the workplace reported higher levels of intrinsic motivation and work effort during the day when they had recalled a nostalgic (compared to ordinary) experience in the morning, before com­ mencing their work duties. We hope that, through this gradual accumulation of empirical evidence, researchers will uncover the full significance of nos­ talgia for understanding human thoughts, feelings and actions.

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Future imaginings Nostalgia for unrealized possible selves Janelle L. Wilson

Introduction Nostalgia receives a lot of attention from scholars in various disciplines. We are drawn to the concept, in part, because of its ambivalence, nuance, and com­ plexity. Originally a medical diagnosis – Swiss physician Johannes Hofer coined the term nostalgia in 1688 – it has undergone numerous permutations over time. Certainly, today it does not carry with it that original pathopsychological meaning. Rather, we mostly associate the concept with fondness for a past time and/or place. The emotional experience of nostalgia is typically characterised as ‘bittersweet’. In the words of theologian and philosopher Ralph Harper: Nostalgia combines bitterness and sweetness, the lost and the found, the far and the near, the new and the familiar, absence and presence. The past which is over and gone, from which we have been or are being removed, by some magic becomes present again for a short while. But its realness seems even more familiar, because renewed, than it ever was, more enchanting and more lovely. (Harper 1966:20) The valence that nostalgia carries with it is variable. The very same memory, at one time, may be accompanied by a nostalgia that is heavier on the ‘bitter’ – and at another time, heavier on the ‘sweet’ – end of nostalgia’s con­ tinuum as a ‘bittersweet’ emotion. Even in those instances when the nostalgia we experience is primarily painful, there may be the possibility of one experiencing a sort of transcendence. Persian poet Rumi’s statement that ‘he wound is the place where the light enters’ comes to mind – the very same memory that provokes loss and sadness also has the capacity to foster a gentle uplift or sense of peace. There are those experiences of nostalgia that might suggest a longing for a stable past, as in wishing to return to a particular place and life situation. But perhaps more prevalent are experiences of nostalgia that actively engage with the past. As Stuart Tannock (1995:456) has noted, one’s nostalgia might reflect the longing for a past ‘in which things could be put into play, opened

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up, moved about, or simply given a little breathing space’. As George Herbert Mead (1932:12) had said, the past is as uncertain as the future. In this chapter, I propose that we consider nostalgia in a different light – not solely focused on the past (whether stable or ‘in play’), but rather, as possibly future-directed. Svetlana Boym (2001) had suggested that sometimes nostalgia is not directed toward the past – that is to say, nostalgia can be prospective as well as retrospective. In fact, she considered nostalgia to have a utopian dimension. Decades ago, Elihu Howland posed this question: ‘But, while nostalgia frequently points to the past, may it not sometimes point to the future, too?’ (Howland 1962:98). I have argued elsewhere (Wilson 2005) that nostalgic reverie is a phenomenological experience and that our reverie symbolises what we wish for: Nostalgia may be an attempt to find some higher meaning in our exis­ tence. When experiencing nostalgia, we might feel that we are getting close to something fundamental, ‘good,’ a foundation, or a purpose … nostalgia can be viewed as a picture of our meaning. There is something strongly transcendent to it – looking for more, looking for a purpose. What we are nostalgic for reveals what we value, what we deem worth­ while and important … We may face constraints in the present, but in the past there are no constraints. (Wilson 2005:26) Likewise, the unknown future can be viewed as not having constraints. If the past is considered to be ‘in play’ (i.e., not fixed, static, or stable), then surely the future is in play as well. Even if one’s memories of the past are not wholly accurate and one’s imagined future is not probable, the emotional experience of nostalgia is possible, whether directed at the past or the future. Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut (in press) acknowledge that ‘[n]ostalgia may refer to the past, but it is surprisingly forward-looking. It links and assimilates one’s past with one’s present and, crucially, future’. Experiments conducted by Sedikides and Wildschut convincingly demonstrate the forward-looking property of nostalgia. Furthermore, in their work, evidence is provided that points toward a number of valuable properties of nostalgia – in addition to being a ‘motivational force that enables the individual to look ahead and take proactive action’, nostalgia also has the capacity to increase one’s optimism, evoke inspiration, boost creativity, and facilitate prosocial behaviour. Conceptualising nostalgia as having the capacity to be future-directed, then, is not a new idea. Nostalgia, in this light, is what Ernst Bloch (1959/ 1995) referred to as ‘forward dreaming’; such a mythical, utopian view is captured in his notion of a ‘hope-landscape’. When we think about the cur­ rent state of research and writing on nostalgia, we see a great deal of potential for further interrogating this intriguing concept and experience. In this chap­ ter, I propose highlighting the future-oriented feature of nostalgia by exam­ ining the relevance of possible selves theory. In so doing, I draw upon Susie


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Scott’s engaging current work on ‘the sociology of nothing’. From this back­ drop, there is an inevitable foray into discussion of the relationship between nostalgia and continuity of identity. Additionally, consideration is given to a handful of concepts that share common features with the focus of this timely book: nostalgia. Such concepts do not readily lend themselves to the typical operationalisation customary in social scientific studies. Rather than con­ sidering this a limitation, I contend that it makes the concepts ever more interesting, inviting, and important to interrogate. Furthermore, the some­ what ‘fuzzy’ contours of particular ideations have the capacity to allow for a form of transcendence – that is, to broaden our understanding and, in fact, to perhaps inspire new concepts and theories.

Our possible selves Psychologists Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius define ‘possible selves’ as the selves we might become in the near and the more distant future (Markus and Nurius 1986). It is important to note that these possible selves include not only our ideas of what we might become and would like to become, but also what we may be afraid of becoming. Markus and Nurius’s possible selves theory aptly links the important processes of cognition and motivation. We typically want to reduce the gap between our present and future positive possible selves; the juxtaposition of both positive and negative possible selves can thus be a motivator for us. Our cognitive configuration of possible selves provides an opportunity to experiment with and try on various potential futures. With respect to positive possible selves that we are invested in and worry about failing to realise, we see a connection to a type of stressor con­ sidered a ‘non-event’ (Goldsmith 2005:306). For example, the high school student who does not make the varsity hockey team, the college student who fails to graduate, the job candidate who does not get called for a second interview, etc. In short, the stress is the result of failing to achieve a particular outcome. Also relevant in this context is what sociologist Susie Scott describes as ‘the sociology of nothing’. Scott (2018) argues that negative things we experience as absent, lost, missing, or empty exert a significant effect upon our identity, our everyday lives, and our relationships. We can see a link between negative possible selves, non-event stressors, and those absent or lost ‘nothings’. Yet, while we immediately assume that these are experienced wholly negatively, we must also acknowledge other possibilities. We find that this presents a ready platform for nostalgia. What does nostalgia require? Longing, bittersweet emotion, and a sense of something lost. The ‘longing’, however, could be for an imagined future, not only an imagined (or truly experienced) past. For example, the graduate stu­ dent longing to complete his degree, the tenure-track professor longing to gain tenure, the associate in a law firm longing to make partner, the labourer in a factory aspiring to be a foreman, etc. In each case, if the anticipated future possible self gets thwarted, then one may experience a type of nostalgia. For

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example, perhaps life events interrupt the graduate student’s progress toward degree such that he must drop out of his program; similarly, the assistant pro­ fessor fails to achieve tenure, the lawyer doesn’t make partner, and the labourer never gets promoted to foreman. We do not need to necessarily assume that something negative thwarted these plans. Perhaps the reasons for the individual not realising those future possible selves are positive – for example, maybe the young lawyer has realised that she does not like practising law but would rather do something different with her law degree and she thereby discovers her true passion. In such a case, failing to make partner would not necessarily be experienced negatively. Yet, because big decisions can result in cognitive dis­ sonance, there may be some feeling of ‘loss’ when individuals contemplate the goals they had been striving for and which they will not realise. In cases where the reasons for one failing to realise the possible self they were working toward are negative (e.g. family disruption, illness, loss of loved ones), it is possible that, in time, new visions and goals for oneself develop – perhaps future selves that could not or would not have been envisioned prior to the negative events. Scott emphasises that our ‘non-doing’ of something logically implies the doing of something else: ‘a line of action that is performed, does shape the actor’s identity and leads into a different realm’ (Scott 2018:9). In this way, the so-called ‘negatively defined social object is not like a black hole, destroying energy and matter; on the contrary, it has the power to generate a whole other chain of events in the social world, which would not otherwise have existed if the original (not-done) action had been taken’ (Scott 2018:9). It is evident, then, that those things we experience as absent, lost or empty certainly can have an effect on our identity/identities. If we conceive of our identity as a narrative, we see how, as the authors of our life story, we imagine a multitude of potential scenarios, each of which demand interpretation. As Andreea Deciu Ritivoi (2002:62) notes, individuals have ‘the possibility to create several plots, to trace out a number of itineraries along one’s life path’. A shift in our present identity – as well as shifts in the identities we have envisioned in our future – necessitate an active process of sense-making. To quote Ritivoi again: ‘One’s life/identity is a story in constant making and remaking’ (Ritivoi 2002:62). As Jill Bradbury suggests, ‘[p]erhaps nostalgia is the desire not to be who we once were, but to be, once again, our potential future selves, selves not yet formed’ (Bradbury 2012:342). Developmental psychologist David Elkind’s (1998) concept of ‘personal fable’ is relevant in this context. For Elkind, a personal fable is one’s belief that he or she is very special and unique; in short, it is a story we tell our­ selves that is not true. We can see how one’s personal fable(s) can be related to ideas of future desired selves. For instance, in high school I had a ‘personal fable’ that I would play Division II basketball in college. This story I told myself did not come to fruition. Reflecting on the fable, though, does not so much bring about a feeling of loss or failure. Rather, there is a recognition that the fable was not all that realistic. That recognition is placed alongside the recollection of having had some very good times playing basketball in


Janelle L. Wilson

high school and, yes, in college too, albeit only intramurals. The personal fable is described, by Elkind, in the context of adolescent development, but a case could be made for our having versions of personal fables throughout the life course. Jill Bradbury observes that ‘[p]erhaps nostalgia is not only a longing for the way things were, but also a longing for futures that never came, or for horizons of possibilities that seem to have been foreclosed by the unfolding of events’ (Bradbury 2012:342). In Susie Scott’s aforementioned unique study and contribution to possible selves theory, she collected individuals’ written personal responses to the fol­ lowing prompt: ‘Please tell me about something in your life that you have not done, that hasn’t happened, or that you do not have.’ The data she collected are rich and, although each personal story is unique to each individual, the themes are such that we find we can readily identify with many of her infor­ mants. The stories convincingly support possible selves theory. Consider, as just one example, this datum from a 37-year-old female participant: I often – weekly? – think about the lives I am not living and will never live. The life where I became an artist, rather than a psychologist. The life where I didn’t have children … The life where I recognized my passions earlier … I think there was a point in my early twenties, when I stood on the precipice of adulthood, and all the possibilities really did seem open to me. It was hard, in my early thirties, to recognize that the moment had passed. (Quoted in Scott in press) Interestingly, Markus and Nurius (1986:957) identify a number of self-con­ ceptions and self-images that individuals carry ‘the good selves (the ones we remember fondly), the bad selves (the ones we would just as soon forget), the hoped-for selves, the feared selves, the not-me selves, the ideal selves, the ought selves’. Clearly, a feeling of nostalgia likely accompanies our contemplations of our ‘good selves’ as well as our ‘hoped-for’ and ‘ideal selves’. Scott’s creative means of data collection allows for the empirical study of individuals’ unrea­ lised possible selves. Contemplating those things in one’s life that have not come to fruition inevitably reveals possible selves that remain abstract.

Other possible selves While, in thinking about possible selves, we most immediately think about our own possible selves – that is to say, we are the protagonists in our stories of self – we also inevitably entertain others’ possible selves: Parents’ antici­ pation of who and what their children will become, for example. We typically think of such anticipation as being full of hope and promise, but of course this co-exists with the anticipation of feared possible selves among our loved ones. For instance, we worry about a personal deficit that might hinder pos­ sibilities or we worry more generally about the state of the world that future generations will inhabit. The darkest example is contemplating future possible

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selves for our loved ones who have departed this earth. In sociologist Dan Martin’s (2013) interviews with parents who had lost their children – in many cases through homicide – the grieving parents comment on the pain of hear­ ing about other people’s children experiencing key events, such as a first date, a graduation ceremony, or a wedding. Martin coins the concept of ‘vicarious markers’ to capture this phenomenon: ‘Vicarious markers represent the hopes and desires of parents that formerly vested the deceased and now are sym­ bolized in the experience of others … vicarious markers … tend to be unwanted reminders of the life course the victim otherwise would have jour­ neyed’ (Martin 2013:109). Similarly, Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Anders Petersen (2019) note that for those who are grieving, there is a recognition of ‘the absence here and now and the absence of some parts of one’s future’. Indeed, the vicarious markers poignantly make evident ‘[t]he loss of future potentialities that were connected with the deceased’. While these vicarious markers trigger unbearable grief, they also provide an opportunity for ‘parents and other kin’ to ‘construct virtual or anticipated futures of a victim’ (Martin 2013:106). In this way, we see that, ‘like other identities, postmortem identities are also essentially temporal identities’ (Martin 2013:106). The consideration of unrealised possible selves of our loved ones, then, while inevitably replete with deep feelings of loss, also allow for ‘the construction of a victim’s narrative identity and the virtual selfing that families do in accomplishing it’ (Martin 2013:110). A less dramatic example of envisioning others’ possible selves is evident when considering particular role positions between individuals. For example, teachers, coaches, counsellors, and doctors surely envision the possible selves of their students, team members, clients, and patients. Psychologist Ruthel­ len Josselson’s (1996) concept of ‘eye-to-eye validation’ provides a nice illustration of this phenomenon. According to Josselson, in others’ eyes, we may find ‘selves that are just a step ahead of where we are: a confirmation of the self that we are becoming but are not sure we are – yet’ (Josselson 1996:111). In this way, others ‘may induce us to be a little more than what we are by “seeing” us just a bit in the future. This … is what people mean when they say that someone ‘believed in me’ (Josselson 1996:111). Similarly, Josselson’s concept of ‘holding’ can be instrumental for individuals both envisioning and eventually realising particular possible selves. Josselson describes the sense of holding as existing ‘between fantasy and reality: we feel held even though we know that we are not’ (Josselson 1996:34). We find that groups can become holding environments – that is, ‘places or people who contain or ground us while we exercise some aspect of our autonomy or skill’ (Josselson 1996:34). In short, individuals and groups can nurture/facilitate others’ positive possible selves. Likewise, individuals can attempt to stifle or thwart others’ negative possible selves – this could take the form, for example, of parents, through their disciplining practices, trying to ensure that their children adopt healthy habits such as eating right, studying in school, and being responsible.


Janelle L. Wilson

Nostalgia, possible selves and continuity of identity A common critique of nostalgia is that it keeps us in the past, causing us to dwell and ruminate about things we cannot change, thus being detrimental to our well­ being. Yet, we can instead see nostalgia as bolstering against loneliness. Nos­ talgia is a social emotion that connects us to others – both those from our past as well as those in our present (and future). Given that ‘the mind is peopled’ (Hertz 1990:195), the experience of nostalgia can be instrumental in re-establishing our connections with others – even if only symbolically. A key finding in the work of Fred Davis (1979) is that nostalgia is a social emotion that shapes both personal and collective identity. And significantly, Davis saw nostalgia as facilitating the continuity of identity by ‘cultivating appreciative stances toward former selves, screening from memory the unpleasant and shameful, and rediscovering and, through a normalizing process, rehabilitating marginal, fugitive, and eccentric facets of earlier selves’ (Davis 1979:44–45). More recently, and based on experi­ mental studies, Constantine Sedikides et al. (2008:306) demonstrate that nos­ talgia facilitates ‘continuity between past and present selves’. An advantage of examining nostalgia and possible selves theory together highlights how both concepts – nostalgia and possible selves – are relevant in our quest for con­ structing and maintaining continuity of identity. As Markus and Nurius say: Possible selves provide for a complex and variable self-concept but are authentic in the sense that they represent the individual’s persistent hopes and fears and indicate what could be realized given appropriate social con­ ditions … Possible selves contribute to the fluidity or malleability of the self because they are differentially activated by the social situation and deter­ mine the nature of the working self-concept. At the same time, the indivi­ dual’s hopes and fears, goals and threats, and the cognitive structures that carry them are defining features of the self-concept; these features provide some of the most compelling evidence of continuity of identity over time. (Markus and Nurius 1986: 965) Thus, taken together, we find that the experience of nostalgia and the cognitive configuration of our possible selves have the capacity to foster a sense of con­ tinuity of identity – we envision past, present, and future selves, which also inevitably includes others’ past, present, and future selves. I am inclined to stress that this implied continuity is not so much an understanding of selves traversing a linear path, but rather, it contributes to a holistic understanding of the self, which includes awareness of self as simultaneously both structure and process.

Nostalgia and related concepts/experiences Clearly, both nostalgia and the contemplation of unrealised possible selves can contribute to deep sadness. Yet, even the painful ‘vicarious markers’ about which Martin (2013), as mentioned, writes allow for some space for

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imaginings that can bring moments of comfort and pleasure. Indeed, it has been suggested, by Alan Pedersen (former executive director of the Compassionate Friends, a support network for families who have experienced the death of a child), that nostalgia can have healing properties for those who are grieving (Gilbert 2018). Even as we grieve what has been lost (including the anticipated future selves of deceased loved ones that will not be realised), the painful past, present, and future may also foster an awareness of our loved ones’ continued existence – in ways that will have varied meanings for each individual. In such moments, there can be a glimpse of how absence and presence co-exist. By reimagining what Scott refers to as the ‘shadowy background’ of those things that we think of as lost, missing, or invisible, it becomes possible to recognise the significant impact these things can have upon our identity and our relationships with others. Mark Freeman (2010), in recollecting a meaningful conversation he had with his (late) father in the past, notes that he feels ‘the presence of his absence’. In recognising that his memory of the conversation might not truly capture what actually happened, he states: ‘This … might serve to correct the idea that memory deals only with what has actually happened, with “events”, once there, now gone. Memory also deals with what didn’t happen and what couldn’t happen and what will never happen’ (Freeman 2010:54). As Zachary Boren (2013) notes, nostalgia indicates a ‘recognition of absence’. Elihu Howland put it like this: nostalgia is ‘a confusing emotion, full of paradoxes. It is painful and yet in the pain there may be a peculiar sweetness defying description … Nostalgia can encompass a wide spectrum between almost pure grief and … pervasive wistfulness’ (Howland 1962:198). Howland also asserted that nostalgia is a ‘vital emotion central to all human life’ and acknowledged that ‘though it can be our undoing, it can at times be our salvation’ (Howland 1962:198). Such conceptualisations and considerations benefit from drawing upon the Japanese expression mono no aware, which, rather poetically, refers to imper­ manence. Author, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest Ruth Ozeki, in her review of the film The End of Summer, describes the film as ‘wistful’ and ‘nostalgic’. In trying to capture her meaning, she refers to mono no aware, which she describes as the recognition that ‘[e]xistence is ephemeral. All things in this floating world are transient and fleeting. Beauty is inextricably bound up with sadness. Life is but a dream’ (Ozeki 2014). Similarly, writer Taylor Bond (2017) interrogates this concept which seems to combine both a sense of sadness and also a healthy acceptance of impermanence. Bond uses the example of cherry blossoms, which are beautiful and thus bring about a cheerful feeling, but which also make one feel aware, knowing that they will fall on the ground soon. This is beautifully described in the following lengthy quote from Bond (2017): As the flowers die and the petals fall, cherry blossoms line the streets like a layer of soft, pink snow, and are most beautiful when captured between the precipice of life and death. That is precisely the unique appeal of the cherry blossoms; their aesthetic focuses on the unavoidable transience of


Janelle L. Wilson the material world that exists. According to this view, the fragility and inherent brevity of an instance of awe, such as the blooming of the cherry blossoms, only aids in heightening the event’s stunning, albeit melancholic nature. Because it only lasts for such a short period, it is undoubtedly appreciated more. Understanding and accepting that innate uncertainty of life helps us evade the overwhelming feeling of morbidity associated with impermanence, instead highlighting our ability to enjoy life by appreciating its fleeting moments. The unavoidable nature of finite existence is contrasted with the never-ending stream of change, as life continues to occur despite the continuous passing of objects and experience. The realization of imperma­ nence is therefore bittersweet, tinged with mourning, and yet also capable of recognizing the beauty of change in itself.

In this way, there is juxtaposed both a sadness but also an appreciation, a feeling that is somewhat suspended in time with the recognition of the pre­ sent, as well as anticipation for future and melancholy for what will pass. Mindfulness gurus urge us to be in the ‘now’, but is the present moment truly capable of being completely devoid of any elements of past and future? We readily see how such considerations and conceptualisations inevitably high­ light the nuance and ambivalence of nostalgia. I would also argue that the concept (and experience) of marginality is relevant. That is to say, do we not find that we have nostalgic ‘episodes’ that put us in a fleeting (or in some cases a seemingly perpetual) state of liminality, of feeling ‘betwixt-and­ between’? And that ‘between-ness’ can refer, generally, to temporal dimen­ sions as well as past and present (and future) selves. Anthropologist Victor W. Turner’s (1967) conceptualisation of ‘liminality’ as an important stage in a rite of passage highlights a gap between the present and future self. As I have noted in previous work (Wilson 2016), a corollary to the concept of margin­ ality is the term threshold: When referring to a threshold, the focus may be that of a point of beginning or entering (literally, the threshold on a house is, of course, the entrance – the door through which one enters the house), or the focus may instead be on a point of transition – that is, threshold as indicating the verge of a new experience. (Wilson 2016:261) Marginality – both as a concept and as lived experience – shares properties of the kind of nostalgia discussed in this chapter. Herein lies some inherent ambiguity and a whole host of possibilities – does our nostalgic reverie take us back to a previous time and/or previous self, or does it catapult us for­ ward? Are we, as the original meaning of marginality (marginalis, from the Latin) implies, on an edge or border? Do we, at times, feel somewhat suspended in time? In contemplating such questions, one’s typical ‘either/or’ thinking may very well give way to more of a ‘both/and’ mind-set.

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Another concept that embodies some of the properties of the kind of nostalgia being discussed here is the Portuguese word saudade. This term refers to a long­ ing for something or someone currently absent. As defined by Aubrey Fitz Gerald Bell, saudade is ‘a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness’ (Bell 1912/2010:402). As with mono no aware, wistfulness is a key component of the experience of saudade. But of course it is more than wistfulness; it carries, as does mono no aware, a deep melancholy accompanied by a joyful fondness for the object of longing. Nostalgia has a very different connotation than the typical related words (e. g. memory, recollection or reminisce). One is more apt to have a visceral reaction to the word ‘nostalgia’, when compared to the reaction to these other terms. Nostalgia, both as a concept and as lived experience may, in fact, almost be regarded as somewhat sacred.

Conclusion In this chapter, I have contended that each of us can identify with having had the subjective experience of acknowledging unrealised possible selves (both for ourselves and for others). We know what this feels like, but may find it very difficult to express in words the experience. Furthermore, it is not only future possible selves that we long for; it is also possible future relationships that occupy our thoughts – perhaps relationships that have not yet materi­ alised, but also relationships that we must acknowledge can never materialise. One’s story of self is always bound up with others’ stories. Yet, with all of this focus on the past and the future, what must be realised is that the individual who is looking either backward or forward, is doing so in the present. The temporal aspect to all of this interrogates the assumed linearity of time and experience. Might it be possible, in the present, to be connected to past, present, and future simultaneously? Perhaps this even brings in a metaphysical dimension that belies the typical experience of time as linear. When we ques­ tion – ‘Did that really happen?’ or ‘Has this happened before?’ – perhaps we are connected to both a time and place that is beyond our empirical understanding. In acknowledging ‘the dynamic complexity of temporal experience’ (Freeman 2010:175), Mark Freeman encourages the recognition of ‘those features of the human realm that go beyond linearity’ (Freeman 2010:178). Similarly, in his analysis of Doris Lessing’s novel Martha Quest, Frederick Solinger (2014) describes how the novel represents a ‘nostalgia for the future’ and, in so doing, Solinger notes that Martha’s vision in the story ‘transcends a linear under­ standing of time’ (Solinger 2014:78). The main character’s nostalgia ‘reconfi­ gures time and language so as to confuse future and past’ (Solinger 2014:91). This is reminiscent of Ernst Bloch’s (1959/1995) assertion that ‘rigid divisions between future and past thus themselves collapse’. Similarly, Janet L. Miller (2010:21) contends that ‘nostalgia coexists with a realisation of the past in the


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present and possibly the future’. Perhaps it makes the most sense to describe the nostalgic experience as an experience that transcends any temporal dimension. Nostalgia can be experienced as the desire to return to a real – or imagined – past; it can also be experienced as the desire to invoke a possible future. In the same vein as other nostalgia investigators (and enthusiasts), I have tried to show that a future-directed nostalgia is an observable phenomenon. As a micro-level sociologist, I am especially drawn to examining this phenomenon as it is evidenced in individuals’ self-construction processes. I contend that the psy­ chological theory, possible selves theory, provides a convincing demonstration of future-directed nostalgia at an individual level. The title of this volume aptly captures the current body of work on the study of nostalgia – there has been a marked shift not only in affirming adaptive properties of nostalgia (as opposed to viewing it as unhealthy and maladaptive) but also in expanding the scope of nostalgia. In particular, we are not content to simply say, nostalgia refers to the past; rather, we say that nostalgia is a dynamic phenomenon that, as Miller notes, ‘can never be reduced to a final or unitary definition, because its meanings and modalities are culturally and historically variegated’ (Miller 2010:21). It is significant that, over hundreds of years, after the original coining of the term in the medical field, nostalgia has been studied and written about by philosophers, literary theorists and social scientists. Taken together, we find that, whether in philosophical and existential ruminations, literary analyses, interpretations of experimental findings, or in ordinary observations in everyday life, nostalgia is alive and well. Theorists, scientists, and laypersons alike all have something of value to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of nostalgia. Consider Elihu Howland’s answer to the question of whether or not nos­ talgia might point to the future: ‘It seems to me that occasionally it may include a longing for something we have not yet really known, but only dreamed about’ (Howland 1962:198). The desire to ‘return home’, as has been a constant in the conceptualisation of nostalgia over the years, could very well mean not only a place in the past, but an imagined future. Some might even say that nostalgia is a longing for Heaven.

References Bell, Aubrey Fitz Gerald (1912/2010): In Portugal. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing.

Bloch, Ernst (1959/1995): The Principle of Hope. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bond, Taylor (2017). ‘Mono no Aware: The Transience of Life’. Available online at: Boren, Zachary (2013): ‘The Nature of Nostalgia’. Contemporary Psychotherapy, 5(1). Boym, Svetlana (2001): The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books. Bradbury, Jill (2012): ‘Narrative Possibilities of the Past for the Future: Nostalgia and Hope’. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 18(3):341–350. Davis, Fred (1979): Yearning for Yesterday: A Sociology of Nostalgia. New York: Free Press. Elkind, David (1998): All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in Crisis. Cam­ bridge, MA: Perseus Books.

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Freeman, Mark (2010): Hindsight: The Promise and Peril of Looking Backward. New York: Oxford University Press. Gilbert, Allison (2018): ‘Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief ’. Available online at: ness-and-grief Goldsmith, Elizabeth B. (2005): Research Management for Individuals and Families (3rd edition). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Harper, Ralph (1966): Nostalgia: An Existential Exploration of Longing and Fulfill­ ment in the Modern Age. Cleveland, OH: The Press of Western Reserve University. Hertz, Dan G. (1990): ‘Trauma and Nostalgia: New Aspects of the Coping of Aging Holocaust Survivors’. Israeli Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 27:189–198. Howland, Elihu S. (1962): ‘Nostalgia’. Journal of Existential Psychiatry, 3(10):197–204. Jacobsen, Michael Hviid and Anders Petersen (2019): ‘Introduction: Towards a Sociology of Grief ’, in Michael Hviid Jacobsen and Anders Petersen (eds): Explor­ ing Grief. London: Routledge, pp. 1–18. Josselson, Ruthellen (1996): The Space Between Us: Exploring the Dimensions of Human Relationships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Markus, Hazel and Paula Nurius (1986): ‘Possible Selves’. American Psychologist, 41 (9):954–969. Martin, Daniel D. (2013): The Politics of Sorrow: Families, Victims, and the MicroOrganization of Youth Homicide. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing. Mead, George Herbert (1932): The Philosophy of the Present. Chicago, IL: Open Court Publishing. Miller, Janet L. (2010): ‘Nostalgia for the Future: Imagining Histories of JCT and the Bergamo Conferences’. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 26(2):7–23. Ozeki, Ruth (2014): ‘The End of Summer’. Available online at: weblog/2014/8/24/6snc8xdnkcwrsujzauvgy49z8h63op Ritivoi, Andreea Deciu (2002): Yesterday’s Self: Nostalgia and the Immigrant Identity. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Sedikides, Constantine and Tim Wildschut (in press): ‘Past Forward: Nostalgia as a Motivational Force’. Cognitive Sciences. Sedikides, Constantine, Tim Wildschut, Jamie Arndt and Clay Routledge (2008): ‘Nostalgia: Past, Present and Future’. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(5):304–307. Scott, Susie (2018): ‘A Sociology of Nothing: Understanding the Unmarked’. Sociol­ ogy, 52(1):3–19. Scott, Susie (in press): The Social Life of Nothing: Silence, Invisibility and Emptiness in Social Life. London: Routledge. Solinger, Frederick J. (2014): ‘Nostalgia for the Future: Remembrance of Things to Come in Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest’. Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 45(3):75–99. Tannock, Stuart (1995): ‘Nostalgia Critique’. Cultural Studies, 9(3):453–464. Turner, Victor W. (1967): The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Wilson, Janelle L. (2005): Nostalgia: Sanctuary of Meaning. Cranbury, NJ: Bucknell University Press. Wilson, Janelle L. (2016): ‘Peripheral Vision: Re-Imagining Marginality’. ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 73(3):260–267.


Retrotopia rising The topics of utopia, retrotopia and nostalgia in the sociology of Zygmunt Bauman Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Introduction Zygmunt Bauman is widely recognised as one of the greatest sociologists and social thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st century. His work is con­ tinuously referenced, discussed, analysed, celebrated and used within many different disciplinary contexts. His writings span almost six decades from the early 1960s to the late 2010s. Throughout his many books and other pieces of published work, Bauman has dealt with a cornucopia of different topics and themes – from class, socialism, critical sociology and utopia in the early years, through to the intellectuals, the Holocaust, postmodernity, morality, politics and immortality in the 1980s and 1990s, on to liquid modernity, identity, individua­ lisation, globalisation, consumerism, community, work, terrorism, fear, love, sexuality, religion, management, education, surveillance, retrotopia and so many other topics throughout the past few decades of his life. It almost seems as if Bauman’s work is a ‘catch all’ that somehow captures the human condition, as it were, ‘in the round’. Within this dense wilderness of themes and ideas, however, one will discover some recurrent concerns and common threads such as social inequality, social transformation and morality that serve as the analytical back­ bone in all of his writings. In this way, Bauman’s work provides us with a range and a scope that makes it a unique contribution to understanding some of the major transitions taking place from one century to another. No matter what the specific topic of his concern has been, Bauman once characterised his own way of working as a kind of ‘sociological hermeneutics’ (Bauman 1978), whereby he meant that he saw himself as an interpreter who uses different sources of knowledge and insight in order to try to capture, understand and communicate the complex relationship between given social figurations and the patterns of daily life as it is continuously lived and experienced by members of society (Bauman 1992b:11). In interview, he once stated that this ‘sociological hermeneutics’ rested on the ‘realisation that there is more to what you see and hear than meets the eye, that the most important part is hidden from view, and that there is a huge and dense tissue of interhuman connections below the visible tip of the iceberg’ (Bauman quoted in Blackshaw 2002:1). Bauman, however, regarded sociology not only as a

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critical discipline aimed at uncovering this submerged level of human and social life but also as what he called an ‘ongoing conversation with life experience’ that had human understanding as its ultimate end-goal. A key and recurrent concern throughout Bauman’s writings already since the early years, at times spectacularly present but often hiding beneath the immediately visible textual surface, has been the topic of utopia as an important social force connecting the present to the future (Jacobsen 2004). To Bauman, even though utopia during the 20th century had been used and abused for many horrendous and inhuman purposes such as the Holocaust and large-scale communist social experiments, to him it remained a continuous and critical source of hope and a harbinger of the not-yet exhausted possibilities lying ahead. In his words, utopia is a ‘constant’ in human life making it possible to imagining the world differ­ ent from what it currently is and acting on this insight. As he once declared in an interview: I am now inclined to accept that utopia is an undetachable part of the human condition … I now believe that utopia is one of humanity’s con­ stituents, a ‘constant’ in the human way of being-in-the-world. This does not mean that all utopias are equally good. Utopias may lead to a better life as much as they may mislead and turn away from what a better life would require to be done. (Bauman and Tester 2001:48–50) It is clear that Bauman was painfully aware of utopia’s potentials as well as its pitfalls, and perhaps he can best be described as an ‘ambivalent utopian’, because of his acute awareness that utopia throughout history sometimes can be and has been used for the wrong purposes (Jacobsen 2016a). In order to avoid contributing to this misuse of utopia, in his work Bauman never spells out the actual content of the utopia envisioned by him – the dream and hope of a better society. He did, however, insist that utopia was an undying source of motivation in human and social life. Towards the end of his life, Bauman also turned his attention towards nostalgia when writing critically about the rise of a new type of utopia named ‘retrotopia’ – the backward-looking utopia – in contemporary liquid-modern society. This chapter traces the roots of Bauman’s utopianism and links these with his later interest in retrotopia and nostalgia. In the chapter, we will first return to Bauman’s early interest in utopia and socialism as two clo­ sely connected lines of thought and practice. Following this, we shall look into how the topic of utopia has subsequently developed throughout his writings in his critique of solid-modern society’s incessant quest for order as well as in liquid-modern consumerist utopia/dystopia, eventually culmi­ nating, by the time of his death, with the notion of ‘retrotopia’. The chapter concludes with a critical discussion of Bauman’s own seemingly nostalgic sentiments.


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Utopia – the ‘activating presence’ Zygmunt Bauman’s first and most substantial treatment of the topic of utopia, perhaps even his first serious infatuation with it, is found in Socialism: The Active Utopia (1976). This book is a tour de force in utopianism and a sociological defence speech for utopian thinking. The book can also be read as an ill-concealed critique of so-called ‘scientific socialism’ and its search for structural laws and determining economic factors and as an argument for a humanistic variant of socialism – a book thus more concerned with the socialist ‘spirit of utopia’ than with laying the groundwork for ‘actually existing socialism’. The book is thus paying homage to ‘living utopia’ or ‘active utopia’, as Bauman calls it, moving beyond purely contemplative and speculative fantasies on the one hand and targeted attempts through social engineering to materialise utopia as an enforced reality on the other. Utopia, in Bauman’s view, is an ‘activating presence’ in social life that should never be boiled down simply to its practical feasibility or its eventual implementation. According to Bauman, utopia as a generic phenomenon has four central tenets: 1 2 3 4

utopias relativise the present thereby showing its partiality; utopias are those aspects of culture that explore the possible extrapola­ tions of the present; utopias split the shared reality into a series of competing project-assess­ ments; and utopias exert an enormous influence on the actual course of history (Bauman 1976:13–17).

This can be summarised to saying that utopia, as Bauman understands it, is first of all against the seemingly self-proclaimed authority of the status quo; second, it is concerned with teasing out the yet unexplored possibilities (in the plural) of the connection between the present and the future, or what Ernst Bloch (1986) once famously called the ‘not yet’; third, it opens up the world to discussion, critique, conflict and change by pointing to many different possibilities instead of providing one iron-clad or fool-proof formula of how harmony, happiness, the good society or the common good should be conceived or realised; and fourth, it is criticallyoriented and it may therefore, as part of its innate transformative capacity, impact thought and practice and thus serve as an important source of human motivation. As Bauman metaphorically stated: ‘I think social life cannot in fact be understood unless due attention is paid to the immense role played by utopia. Utopias share with the totality of culture the quality … of a knife with the edge pressed against the future’ (Bauman 1976:12). A such a sharp ‘knife with the edge pressed against the future’, Bauman simultaneously specified what socialism – in his rendition – and utopia have in common by highlighting how socialism (especially during times of capitalism) is concerned with showing how the world can be different from what it cur­ rently is. Socialism, to him, is a critical endeavour aimed at bringing about

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social change. Socialism: The Active Utopia – written and published in the aftermath of his exodus from the Stalinist purges in Polish academia in 1968 – is therefore also a contribution to the, at the time, heated discussions about the ‘real’ nature and purpose of socialism. By insisting on the intricate rela­ tionship between socialism, culture and utopia, Bauman pointed out that utopia in his view is closely related to notions of ensuring human emancipa­ tion, equality and dignity. He was, however, wary of investing his hopes for such a society in already-existing or state-sponsored variants of socialism such as ‘the Soviet model’. To him, they inevitably ended up in processes of industrialisation and bureaucratisation that rather than setting people free – as promised – created new forms of conformity and inequality (Bauman 1976:91). Socialism, just as the capitalist system it set out to criticise, thus itself ended up as a dystopia of sorts. His version of the socialist utopia, ‘the active utopia’ rather than a passive or preservative utopia so often found in the Eastern Bloc states, was not the same as that propagated by those despe­ rately looking for ‘actually existing socialism’. Keith Tester once elegantly captured this specific quality of Bauman’s utopia by stating that to Bauman ‘whenever socialism is proclaimed to be achieved, it cannot possibly be social­ ism’ (Tester 2004:60). As Bauman himself emphasised, he intended to ‘investi­ gate the socialist utopia as an alternative social reality, which differs from the historically accomplished one by its specific existential modality: that of pos­ sibility’ (Bauman 1976:37, italics added). Socialism, as a utopian impulse or aspiration rather than an actually existing phenomenon or a destination to be finally arrived at, is therefore always something in the making. This also means that socialism is not only the counter-culture of capitalism, as it is con­ ventionally described, but it is also the counter-culture of modernity and its incessant quest for order through experiments in social engineering. In this way, Socialism: The Active Utopia anticipated many of Bauman’s later critical writings about modernity. Ultimately, in Bauman’s view, socialism must remain critical of itself as an integral part of the present: One of the most important features of socialism is its intrinsic criticism of the present, inseparable from its future-orientation … The role of socialism as a constantly critical leaven within the texture of present society has never changed. The desire for a just society, coupled with the renunciation of the present one as unjust, is the most constant feature of socialism, as well as the key to the understanding of its historical role in modern society … The utopian function of the socialist project can be retained, in the circum­ stances, only on condition that its critical edge is directed against all reality. (Bauman 1976:50–51, 130; original italics) Bauman thus insisted that socialism, in order to retain its potential as a counter-culture, needs to remain dedicated to critiquing the world around it for not being fair, just or equal enough, or otherwise it will risk succumbing to the self-same conditions as that reality which it sets out to critique and


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change. For that reason, socialism (like utopia) is and always must remain an unfinished project rather than serving as a blueprint for a specific type of already existing society (Bauman 1976:49) – it must, in short, always keep running a few steps behind its own realisation.

Against ambivalence – the solid-modern misuses of utopia After Bauman’s extensive treatment of utopia in Socialism: The Active Utopia in the mid-1970s, the topic almost disappeared from his radar in the next many years to come. It was as if he had said what needed to be said – at least for the time being. However, every now and then utopia reappeared in his writings, perhaps especially when Bauman began to write critically about modernity towards the end of the 1980s in books such as Freedom (Bauman 1988), Modernity and the Holocaust (Bauman 1989) and Modernity and Ambivalence (Bauman 1991). Later, as we shall see, the topic resurfaced again, at the time when society seemed to be increasingly under pressure from the social trends and tendencies associated with the rise of ‘liquid modernity’. As Peter Beilharz (2000:58–59) thus observed, if Bauman’s first treatment of utopia (in Socialism: The Active Utopia) was appraising and almost flirta­ tious – focusing primarily on the positive potentials of utopia as an active force in the shaping of a better (socialist) society – his later treatments became increasingly more critical and sombre, whether he applied the notion of ‘utopia’ to so-called ‘solid modernity’ or ‘liquid modernity’. In fact, in Bauman’s work particularly throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, utopia was critically dissected and discussed as part of the grand pro­ ject of what was later called ‘solid modernity’, which besides its positive contributions to social development also provided the soil for dystopian rea­ lisations such as totalitarianism and the Holocaust (Bauman 1989). Utopia understood as something to materialise was born and developed under modern circumstances. However, as we all probably know, the first use of the notion of ‘utopia’ clearly predated modernity, as it was Sir Thomas More in his famous socio-political and satirical treatise on the island community of Utopia in 1516 that is the first recorded use of the concept. In More’s classic rendition, Utopia was a community characterised, for example, by a shared economy and no private property, agricultural production, legalised slavery, a dictated number of family members, a combined democratic and despotic system of ruling, a plurality of religious beliefs, a welfare state with free hospital care, restricted mobility and so on. It was More’s general vision that such an ideal world could be created, which inspired many of the later modern-day drafters of utopias with their particular interest in topographical, infrastructural, archi­ tectural and political planning (see, for example, Goodwin 1978). As American utopian theorist Lyman Tower Sargent (2000) once sug­ gested, it is possible to distinguish between two broad strands of utopian thinking: ‘utopias brought about without human effort’ on the one hand, and ‘utopias brought about by human effort’ on the other hand. The former refers

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to utopia as something that is installed or imputed on earth almost by amor­ phous metaphysical or religious (and thus non-human) forces, whereas the latter refers to utopias as projects invented and implemented by humans. The utopian strand Bauman critically engaged with – partly in Socialism: The Active Utopia, as we saw above, but also later in various other writings – was of the latter type, although he would probably have been just as critical of Sargent’s former model if it entailed the realisation and fulfilment of a society working against autono­ mous human choices. If utopia is understood in this latter modern or modernist sense as something to be enforced and realised almost at any costs, then there is a clearly anti-utopian sentiment in Bauman’s writings, which was, for example, evident in the way he treated the modernist (and positivist) hopes of creating a ‘better society’ based on rational planning, social engineering, the elimination of choice, the annihilation of ambivalence and the sequestration of human differ­ ence. In this way, modern utopias in his view sought to create human order and structure in a world heretofore either devoid of these characteristics or relying mainly on metaphysical or religious ideas. As Bauman observed: The new, modern order took off as a desperate search for structure in a world suddenly denuded of structure. Utopias that served as beacons for the long march to the rule of reason visualized a world without margins, leftovers, the unaccounted for – without dissidents and rebels. (Bauman in Beilharz 2001:195) Such modern utopias sought to dissolve disorder into order, annihilate any traces of ambivalence and create a human-made heaven on earth – a heaven, however, often turning into a living hell or dystopia come true as was, for example, evident in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China (Bauman 1992a:xvii). The rise of such modern utopias in Bauman’s view relied on two necessary conditions: To be born as prodromal symptoms of approaching modernity, utopian dreams needed two conditions. First, the overwhelming (even if diffuse and inarticulate) feeling that the world was not functioning properly and had to be attended to and overhauled to set it right. Second, the confidence in human potency to rise to the task, the belief that ‘we, human, can do it’ – being armed as we are with enough reason to spy out what is wrong with the world and find out with what to replace its diseased parts, and with enough strength to graft such designs on human reality; in short, the potency to force the world into a shape better fit to the satisfaction of human needs – whatever those needs already are or yet may become. (Bauman in Jacobsen and Tester 2007:316–317) Despite numerous (and quite often murderous) attempts to create heaven (or hell) on earth, utopia remained in solid modernity, however, always not yet – it was constantly chased after and craved for: ‘Progress was a chase after


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utopias rather than their realization. Utopia played the role of a dummy rabbit – ferociously pursued but never caught by racing dogs’ (Bauman 2007:96). Utopia waited somewhere in the wings to be welcomed through either incremental social improvements of the present or radical and revolu­ tionary praxis: Drafters of utopia took it for granted that the long series of improvements on social reality, whether scattered over a long stretch of time or condensed revolutionary-style, must at some point reach its natural conclusion: not just a better society, but the best society conceivable, the perfect society, society in which any further change could be only a change for the worse. (Bauman 2002:228, original italics) Therefore, as Bauman testifies, ‘modern utopias were never mere prophecies, let alone idle dreams: openly or covertly, they were both declarations of intent and expressions of faith that what was desired could be done and will be done’ (Bauman 2000:131). Sometimes ‘what was desired’ culminated in major social improvements such as the welfare state or technological advances. Often, however, the urge to transcend the stubbornly present reality ended in human misery such as the Holocaust (Bauman 1989). Therefore, Bauman was adamant in his critique of modern utopias as ‘projects’ waiting to be imple­ mented when stating that ‘human life is propelled and kept on course by the urge for transcendence … The urge to transcend is the most stubbornly pre­ sent, nearest to universal, and arguably the least destructible attribute of human existence. This cannot be said, however, of its articulation into “pro­ jects”’ (Bauman 2002:222–223, original italics). More than a ‘project’ to be conceived and then implemented, to Bauman utopia is an inherently cultural phenomenon, an indelible element of human praxis (Bauman 1973/1999). Even though Bauman would agree that the present is indeed pregnant with the future, and that the ‘not yet’ must serve as an important driving-force behind human dreams and aspirations, he remained continuously suspicious of what German utopian thinker Ernst Bloch (1986) once called ‘concrete utopias’ – abstract ideas turned into material-political reality as part of the apparently immanent ‘necessity of historical-material’ development. This was certainly not Bauman’s cup of tea (see, for example, Aidnik and Jacobsen 2016). As a diehard humanist, throughout his life he remained suspicious of any attempt at pre-empting people’s choices or at legislating the ‘right way to live’.

Hunting utopia – consuming utopia At the threshold of the new millennium, Bauman’s writings started to centre on a newly invented neologism – that of ‘liquid modernity’ (Bauman 2000) – after what seemed to be an increasing dissatisfaction with his association with the idea of ‘postmodernity’. Bauman admitted that he did no longer find ‘postmodernity’ or ‘postmodern society’ as suitable descriptive/analytical

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terms for what he wanted to describe, and also that he no longer liked to bunk with the postmodernist ‘bedfellows’ with whom he was often assigned a bed to share (Gane 2004:18). In order to provide a new and improved lens with which to capture contemporary society, Bauman thus proposed the concept of ‘liquid modernity’ and concomitantly its predecessor/counterpart of ‘solid modernity’. This terminological shift also had an impact on his view of how to conceptualise utopia. To Bauman, liquid modernity inaugurates a society characterised by individualisation, privatisation, deregulation, globa­ lisation, marketisation, a dismantling of the welfare state, the erosion of community and not least of rampant consumerism. In In Search of Politics he thus declared that ‘we live through a period of the privatization of utopia and of the models of the good (with the models of the “good life” elbowing out, and cut off from, the model of the good society)’ (Bauman 1999:7). This priva­ tisation or individualisation of utopia is a natural outcome of the general ten­ dency towards living in an individualised society that shifts the burden of problems unto the shoulders of the hapless individual who will now need to find solutions under the pressure of increasingly precarious life circumstances (Bauman 2001). According to Bauman, ideological proclamations such as ‘No more salvation by society’, ‘There is no such thing as society’ and similar expressions capture the spirit of this new thoroughly individualised time and age. In his elaboration of the historical cramps and convulsions of utopia in Liquid Times (Bauman 2007), by relying on a terminology capturing man’s relationship to the natural habitat he proposed three different types of utopia succeeding each other throughout the course of history leading from pre­ modern to contemporary liquid-modern society. First, the premodern type called ‘gamekeeping utopia’. This was a utopia serving the purpose of upholding the status quo – the natural or divine order of the world as it is. The gamekeepers had no aspiration whatsoever to change, tinker with or improve the world – things were already, by foresight or as an outcome of the natural balance, the way they should be and should remain. Thus, the gamekeeping utopia was a static world – one in which humans merely served as the guardians and wardens of that which already was put in place. Second, the solid-modern type here called ‘gardening utopia’ – what is perhaps the aforementioned prototype of a utopian longing to create a better world than the one already known, which is also the reason why so many utopian blueprints and plans were drawn particularly during solid-modern times. By invoking the horticultural image of the ‘gardener’ (something Bauman – following Ernst Gellner – had also done before when describing some of the main features of modern society), the focus was shifted from passive protection of the land by the gamekeepers to the gardeners’ active engagement in prospecting, designing, shaping and re-organising the natural and social environment. The latter had an ambition, a drive or even an urge to transform that which already was into that which could or should be. The gardening utopia was thus oriented towards the future; it was a world con­ stantly in the making. As Bauman noted on the tireless efforts of the


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gardeners: they sow the seeds and uproot the invasive weeds so that beautiful plants and a garden of ideal harmony may be created (Bauman 2007:99). Third, liquid-modern ‘hunting utopia’, which is the name reserved for our contemporary type of utopia. As Bauman stated about this new type of utopia succeeding the gardening utopia of yesterday: If one hears today phrases like ‘the demise of utopia’, or ‘the end of utopia’, or ‘the fading of utopian imagination’, sprinkled over con­ temporary debates densely enough to take root in common sense and so be taken as self-evident, it is because the posture of the gardener is nowadays giving way to that of the hunter. (Bauman 2007:100) So despite claims to the contrary – such as those insisting that ‘utopian energies have dried up’ (Habermas 1986), that we have reached ‘the end of utopia’ (Jacoby 1999) or live in an ‘anti-utopian age’ (Jacoby 2005), claims particularly audible around the recent turn of the century – utopia has not disappeared according to Bauman, but it has, once again, changed its shape in order to fit the society in which it unfolds: a thoroughly fragmented, deregulated, individualised and privatised world. In a liquid-modern society characterised by a ‘hunting mentality’, humans almost become what Thomas Hobbes once called a ‘homo lupus’ – a wolf hunting for prey, in Bauman’s rendition either hunting alone or in packs constantly on the lookout for fresh meat. In such a Hobbesian world, the appetite for the next ‘kill’ is almost insatiable – it is what ultimately counts and motivates people. In short, ‘it is a “winner takes all” utopia of hunters’ (Bauman, Bauman, Kociatkiewicz and Kostera 2015:75). In hunting utopia inhabited by such ‘wolves’ or by Bauman sometimes also called ‘huntsmen’, it is difficult to spot any gardeners or game­ keepers – they are simply not suited for the demands of the world-as-hunting­ ground. Rather, hunting utopia is a world fitted to the needs of consumers constantly craving new acquisitions, new experiences, new sensations. One’s life centres – compulsory, addictively, obsessively – around quick acquisition, instant satisfaction and immediate obsolescence, in order to keep the hunting game going. No need can be allowed to be satisfied for long – that would mean the end of the hunt altogether. The worst thing for hunters-cum-consumers is to be full, content, satisfied. Instead of the gardening utopias of solid-modern times, concerned as they were with moving towards the distant horizon of the future, contemporary liquid-modern hunting utopias are decidedly presentoriented. No desire for elusive notions of ‘progress’; individual survival and well-being is now what is at stake. In this way, in the transformation from gar­ dening to hunting utopia, any aspiration for shaping or even imagining the future – a future always more distant than the latest consumer fad – has been lost. As Bauman admits, ‘a bizarre utopia indeed, measured by orthodox standards … but a utopia all the same, promising the same unattainable prize brandished by all utopias, namely an ultimate and radical solution to human

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problems past, present and future, and an ultimate and radical cure for the sorrows and pains of the human condition’ (Bauman 2007:108). This idea of ‘hunting utopia’ became an important springboard for his later development of the notion of ‘retrotopia’ to which we will now turn.

Retrotopia – the rise of ‘restorative nostalgia’ One of Bauman’s last books, published soon after his death in January 2017, is titled Retrotopia. The book inscribes itself in the midst of the so-called ‘politics of nostalgia’ mood that has recently been associated, for example, with the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States, right-wing nationalist governments in eastern Europe and EU sceptical sentiments throughout many parts of western and southern Europe. It is this particular situation that Bauman sought to describe by invoking the motion of ‘retrotopia’, and even though he was not the first to introduce this concept (a futuristic novel by John M. Greer was published in December of 2016 with the title of Retrotopia), his use of it was distinctly sociological and aimed at critiquing what he saw as a potentially deplorable and dangerous development. Moreover, the book on retrotopia in many ways highlighted Bauman continuous concern with dealing with some of the ‘emotional’ implications of the transformation from solid-modern to liquid-modern society following in the wake of writings on freedom, ambiva­ lence, love, fear, happiness, compassion, etc. (Jacobsen 2019). According to Bauman, what we have been witnessing throughout the past few years can perhaps best be described as a rather bizarre ‘U-turn of utopia’ (see, for example, Aidnik and Jacobsen 2019), which he captured in the following way: ‘[R]etrotopias’ are currently emerging; visions located in the lost/stolen/ abandoned but undead past, instead of being tied to the not-yet-unborn and so inexistent future … [F]rom investing public hopes of improvement in the uncertain and ever-too-obviously un-trustworthy future, to re-rein­ vesting them in the vaguely remembered past, valued for its assumed stability and so trustworthiness. With such a U-turn happening, the future is transformed from the natural habitat of hopes and rightful expectations into the site of nightmares. (Bauman 2017a:5–6) As compared to the solid-modern grand designs, visionary blueprints and hopeful dreams of a better and brighter future or the consumer-driven liquidmodern hunting utopia searching for momentary glimpses of happiness/satis­ faction, as we saw above, retrotopia instead looks backward to the past – to that which once (seemingly) was. There is no concern with how the future may be shaped or how we may discover new roads ahead. In his bleak ren­ dition of retrotopia, Bauman was well-aware that what people were dreaming of returning to was not the past ‘as it was’, but rather the past as they would


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like to remember it or as they would like it to have been back then, and he thus noted that ‘what we as a rule “return to” when dreaming our nostalgic dreams is not the past ‘as such’ – not the past wie es eigentlich gewesen’ (Bauman 2017a:10). Rather, in uncertain times people want to return to the security, predictability and recognisability that they associate with the past, an imagined past. They are seduced by a highly selective memory painting a picture of the past that exaggerates the good times while forgetting all that was bad. In Bauman’s view, such contemporary retrotopian sentiments are evident in many different forms and guises that share perhaps not the same goals but then at least a similar mentality. He captured these developments with the phrase of ‘back to’, which illustrates how retrotopia is concerned with ‘going back’ in time rather than moving forward. In the book, Bauman thus in some detail described the current state of affairs under the chapter headings of ‘Back to Hobbes’, ‘Back to Tribes’, ‘Back to Inequality’ and ‘Back to the Womb’, each section pointing to different political, social, economic and moral causes and consequences of the rise of retrotopia. He thus stated that his ambition in Retrotopia – exactly 500 years after More’s aforementioned description of the island of Utopia – was to explore, portray and unravel some of the most remarkable ‘back to the future’ tendencies inside the ‘retrotopian’ phase in utopia’s history – in particular, rehabilitation of the tribal mode of community, return to the concept of a primordial/pristine self determined by non-cultural and culture-immune factors, and all in all retreat from the presently held (prevalent in both social science and pop­ ular opinions) view of the essential, presumably non-negotiable and sine non qua features of the ‘civilized order’. (Bauman 2017a:9) According to Bauman, ‘retrotopia’ is thus the name reserved for the spectre that is currently haunting liberal-democracies – a spectre that draws its energies from a sense of dissatisfaction, mistrust and uncertainty. Retrotopia is thus born in a time of ‘interregnum’ (Bordoni 2018), in which the old has not yet been left behind and in which the road ahead seems uncertain and paved with dangers. It is also an interregnum, because the world of politics has increas­ ingly been separated from the world of power, thereby making attempts to control, plan or predict the course of future events utterly impossible. How are we to assess this new type of nostalgic utopia that Bauman calls ‘retrotopia’? I think a good place to start would be with Svetlana Boym who in her book The Future of Nostalgia (2001) distinguished between two forms of nostalgia – ‘restorative nostalgia’ and ‘reflective nostalgia’. In Boym’s useful terminology, restorative nostalgia ‘puts emphasis on nostos (returning home) and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’ (Boym 2001:41). This return to the past is not just an idle daydream or a ridiculous thought experiment, but rather something actively pursued, because, as Boym observed, ‘[r]estorative nostalgia takes itself dead seriously’

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(Boym 2001:49). The retrotopians or restorative nostalgics sorely miss the warmth of the cosy tribal fire of the past, whose still glowing embers are now in danger of being extinguished once and for all by the inflood of illegal immigrants, economic insecurity, political instability, a sense of personal insufficiency and a host of other societal problems and individual pathologies. Such restorative nostalgic notions often end up catering for nationalistic senti­ ments or traditionalistic values. Contrary to the ‘restorative nostalgia’ of retro­ topia, which in Bauman’s depiction is mainly seen as a negative nostalgic mentality drawing people back towards the past (officially presented as ‘truth’ but mostly the outcome of active myth-making) and away from the real and acute concerns of the present, Boym also proposed another variant called ‘reflective nostalgia’. This type of nostalgia ‘dwells in algia (aching), in longing and loss, the imperfect process of remembrance’ (Boym 2001:41). She believed that reflective nostalgia is more concerned with individual narratives and with cherishing scattered fragments of the past, contrary to its restorative counterpart constituting the hotbed of collectivist and/or nationalist sentiments. The reflec­ tive nostalgia could thus potentially function as a positive and prospective social force, because it – while cherishing fragments of the past – nevertheless keeps an eye firmly fixed on the present and the future by calling into doubt any claims to the past as truth. As already indicated, if this separation between Boym’s two types of nostalgia is applied to Bauman’s notion of ‘retrotopia’, it is unmistak­ ably clear that contemporary retrotopian sentiments and movements in his view are fuelled by restorative ambitions in their intense longing and quest for reviv­ ing that which has, for all practical intents and purposes, long since passed away. But what about the future for such a retrotopian/restorative scenario, Stewart R. Clegg asked in an extensive review of Retrotopia? He concluded: At present, no one knows whether there will be a great rebirth resulting in a celebration of nostalgia, a Retrotopia or whether the fading dreams of social democracy might once more trump those that can only imagine backwards, not forwards, into a future perfect. (Clegg 2018:362)

Bauman, utopia and retrotopia/nostalgia After this compact presentation of Bauman’s treasure trove of ideas on utopia and retrotopia, let us now move on to consider how this all relates to the notion of nostalgia, which is the topic of the present volume. In a science like sociology (Bauman’s discipline), nostalgia has not been a conventional con­ cern. In fact, nostalgia has received a rather undeserved treatment from most sociologists – either completely ignored or regarded as a topic largely rele­ gated to the margins. Sociology, as a part of the grand project of modernity and thus critical of the l’ancien régime of premodern feudalism, it is claimed, looks forwards, not backwards, and in such a perspective nostalgia – both as a subject of study as well as an intellectual mentality – is destined to be regarded as a rather unpleasant remnant and reminder of the past (see, for


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

example, Elliott and Turner 2012). Until quite recently, then, nostalgia was not much researched within sociology circles. Even though nostalgia has not been a conventional concern of sociologists, it seems as if in recent years we have witnessed the rise of ‘nostalgia studies’ as a platform from which to understand nostalgia generically as well as its many recent empirical mani­ festations. In the following discussion, we will first look into what nostalgia is or can be. Then we shall ask the question if ‘retrotopia’ in Bauman’s rendition is necessarily a type of restorative or regressive utopia as indicated above. Finally, we will consider if and how Bauman himself is perhaps a nostalgic. But first: what is nostalgia and how does it express itself ? There are obviously many different definitions, theories and understandings of nostalgia on offer too comprehensive to discuss in any detail here. A useful way of sum­ marising some of the core components of nostalgic sentiments was once pro­ posed by Bryan S. Turner (1987). First, the idea of historical development as decline expressed, for example, through the notion of lost grace or the depar­ ture from some previously existing ‘golden age’. Second, the loss of the feeling of wholeness, history seen as a collapse of values and the idea of a fragmenta­ tion and splintering of moral guidelines, direction and purpose (e.g. through a process of secularisation). Third, the sense of loss of individual autonomy and emotional authenticity arising from the increasing rationalisation and bureau­ cratisation of society and a concomitant erosion of genuine social relationships. Fourth, the feeling of a loss of expressivity, simplicity and emotional sponta­ neity, which has been undermined by processes of civilisation, the refinement of manners, personal restraint and pressures of conformity. From this listing, it is obvious that nostalgia is largely a mournful and melancholic ‘loss-centred’ feeling that something has been lost (but may perhaps be retrieved again). In such a view, nostalgia is primarily a negative and painful experience – lament­ ing something that was before but is no longer, and this has resulted in an emotional and existential void that might draw people towards communities or ideologies promising to restore or retrieve that which was lost. This leads us on to the next question: is nostalgia thus necessarily regres­ sive? Is there really no progressive potential in nostalgia that Bauman seems to overlook in his critical commentary on ‘retrotopia’? Can there perhaps also be other aspects of retrotopia/nostalgia that are more positive and not so concerned with loss and degeneration? A framework that may help to link utopian and nostalgic thought has been sketchily proposed by Fátima Vieira (2017). She claimed there are several different ‘frames’, which capture differ­ ent dimensions or ways of thinking about utopia (but also about nostalgia for that matter). She identified: 1 2

a frame of ‘prospective thinking’ that is future-and-possibility-oriented and fuelled by human intentionality; a frame of ‘critical thinking’ that, for instance, implies the ability to resist preconceived ideas and prejudices and the capability of thinking about the world differently;

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a frame of ‘holistic thinking’ that seeks to avoid the dangers of reduc­ tionism and instead considers the complexity, interconnectedness and contradictions of ideas and reality; and finally a frame of ‘creative thinking’ that ‘invites us to think about alternatives’ and with ‘a diversity of new possibilities’ (Vieira 2017:21).

In the case of Bauman’s understanding of the potentials of utopia, all of these frames seem to be applied simultaneously. His utopian vision is indeed prospective, critical, holistic and creative at the same time, because it contains a hopeful insistence that the world can always be different from what it cur­ rently is, that utopia is a critical activity and by insisting that it is up to us to make of it whatever we want. Although Bauman points out that there are thus always alternatives to our current state of affairs, he is however reluctant specifically to spell them out as they are and must necessarily always remain ‘not yet’. Relating this to his notion of retrotopia/nostalgia, one might say that Bauman’s understanding is here much more one-dimensional, narrow and lacking the depths, profoundness and scope of his utopian imagination. In Bauman’s work, retrotopia is thus almost exclusively regarded as regressive, as past-oriented and backward-looking, and as an antithesis to the ‘activating presence’ so important in his understanding of utopia. In this, Bauman, however, is far from alone. Kimberly K. Smith (2000) has insisted that nostalgia is not merely a neutral or descriptive term but an ideologically charged notion that was invented and strategically used by ‘progressives’ in the 19th and 20th centuries in order to privatise and thus politically delegiti­ mise longings for the past. But perhaps retrotopia/nostalgia may in fact also contain some of the same positive elements – prospective, critical, holistic and creative – as does utopia? Are utopia and nostalgia necessarily at odds with or in confrontation with each other, or do they maybe somehow share certain traits? (see, for example, Baccolini 2007; Basset and Baussant 2018). Perhaps retrotopia/nostalgia can provide a point of departure for thinking pro­ spectively, critically, holistically and creatively about society, past, present and future? For example, in his musings on nostalgia, Fredric Jameson once claimed that ‘there is no reason why a nostalgia conscious of itself, a lucid and remorseless dissatisfaction with the present on grounds of some remembered plenitude cannot furnish as adequate a revolutionary stimulus as any other’ (Jameson 1974:82). Others have claimed that ‘without nos­ talgia for the past, there can exist no authentic dream for the future’ (Löwy and Sayre quoted in Tyldesley 2003:174), and yet others have insisted that ‘the experience of the past, which is, after all, a present experience, itself contributes to the creation of the future’ (Basset and Baussant 2018:1). Or, as the aforementioned Svetlana Boym once insisted, ‘nostalgia itself has a utopian dimension’ (Boym 2001:xiv). Also others have recently argued for a certain ‘progressiveness’ in nostalgia (see, for example, Jarvis and Bonnett 2013; Smith and Campbell 2017). It thus seems as if Bauman’s dissatisfac­ tion with retrotopia/nostalgia makes it impossible for him to consider the


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

possibility of it providing a platform for positive or prospective change, and in this way retrotopia/nostalgia is relegated entirely to the ranks of a regressive social force. Finally, let us consider if Bauman – despite his critical observations on retrotopia – was himself entirely unreceptive or immune to nostalgic longings? Was Bauman, after all, perhaps a normative nostalgic thinker? Obviously, many – even unwarranted and unimaginable – things can be read into a wri­ ter’s work that really is not there or that the writer did not intend. This is perhaps particularly true when the writer in question has already passed away and is thus unable to defend himself against wrongful accusations. Textual interpretation is indeed a difficult art. Even though Bauman quite possibly never wanted his work to be associated with nostalgic ideas, this can never­ theless be read into his reflections on solid modernity and liquid modernity, despite the fact that he remained highly critical of the mentalities prevalent in both of these ‘eras’. Many interpreters will in Bauman’s work therefore per­ haps find good reason to consider whether he himself also entertained certain nostalgic longings for the past – a society neither contaminated by modernist adventures in social engineering, adiaphorisation and order-making nor by the liquid-modern forces of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation of every aspect of human life. Often it seems as if Bauman is exactly pointing out that although he does not want specifically to spell out how ‘the good life’ should be lived or what ‘the good society’ could look like, there are in fact more genuine, autonomous, authentic and humane ways of living than those we are currently facing, and perhaps – Bauman did not tell – these ways have already been lived and expressed before in human history. If we then look at the potentially nostalgic dimension in his work, nostalgia, as mentioned above, would conventionally mean a desire for reviving or retrieving some­ thing from the past in the present, or as a way of handling contemporary fears and anxieties by resorting to habitual practices of yesteryear (Davis 1979). In this way, Bauman is certainly not a nostalgic, as he never speaks of returning to the imagined comforts or perceived certainties of any definite period of prehistorical time. But perhaps he did, even though I came to a somewhat different conclusion some years ago (Jacobsen 2007:236), suffer from what Christopher Yorke (2004) once captured by the phrase ‘malchron­ esis’ – a longing or yearning for times and places one never lived in, that perhaps never even existed, and thus sensing that one is somehow feeling as if being born and living in the wrong time. According to Yorke, an important aspect of such ‘malchronesis’ is the desire to transcend the temporal present in order to explore and experience ‘a time of which one has had no experi­ ence, or even a timeless state of being’ (Yorke and Rowe 2006:73). Without wanting to draw Bauman into a world of pure science fiction with which malchronesis is associated, he does however seem to suggest that there is indeed an unexplored world ‘out there’, whether past, present or future, a utopian and timeless ‘not yet’, that we may contemplate and imagine and use as a creative source of motivation behind our aspirations and actions.

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There are indeed many different layers, ambivalences and perhaps even inconsistencies throughout many parts of Bauman’s work (see, for example, Jacobsen 2016b; Nijhoff 1998), also when it comes to utopia and retrotopia. In reflecting on Sigmund Freud’s basic idea that modern civilisation meant a trade-off between freedom on the one hand and security on the other (a loss of the former in order to obtain the latter) – and in Bauman’s own analysis the passage from solid-modern to liquid-modern society resulted in a recent reversal of this trade-off –in interview, when asked about whether we was a nostalgic longing for the past of solid modernity, he carefully commented: What you see as ‘nostalgic’ is perhaps the reflection of the unpleasant, though hardly avoidable fact that the full cost of the trade-off can be calcu­ lated only at the end of the accounting period … Each arrangement has, I repeat, its shortcomings crying for attention – and each needs to be judged in terms of its own virtues and vices. And due to the ‘pendulum like’ trajec­ tory to historical sequences, a close proximity of ‘forward and backward’ or ‘utopia’ and ‘nostalgia’ pregnant with confusion is virtually inevitable … (Bauman in Jacobsen and Tester 2007:321) As I have tried to discuss here, a certain kinship, or at least an elective affi­ nity, may exist between utopia and retrotopia/nostalgia, which is perhaps, as we saw above, unavoidable within any kind of theorising critically looking back and ahead at the same time such as Bauman’s. However, his continuous and consistent critique of communitarianism and its attempt to pre-empt members’ choices by building the perfect future on the shoulders of the apparently perfect past is merely one example of his merciless showdown with any simplified version of nostalgia (Bauman 1996). His equally scathing cri­ tique of solid modernity’s propensity for totalitarianism and inhumanity is yet another (Bauman 1989), as is his warning against the many problems of pre­ sent-day liquid modernity (Bauman 2000, 2001). So even though one may perhaps think Bauman is lamenting something that was lost throughout the constantly changing process of modernisation (and thus human history), he is never suggesting that we should return to a premodern or solid-modern past or that we simply accept the liquid-modern present as it currently is.

Conclusion This chapter has dug a layer or two into the texture of Zygmunt Bauman’s sociology, exploring his ideas – sometimes openly present, at other times more difficult directly to detect – on the topics of utopia, retrotopia and nostalgia. Even though, as we have seen, nostalgia – in its own right – does not loom large in his writings (as he hardly ever invokes the specific notion), it is nevertheless a topic that interested him particularly towards the end of his life when developing the neologism of ‘retrotopia’. With this notion, Bauman warned us how utopian aspirations – aspirations conventionally pointing


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

towards the shaping of the future – can indeed be reversed into a desperate search to recover the roots and return to a past, whether remembered or imagined, especially if the present and future seem to hold little or no hope. As the chapter has also shown, the underlying chronology in Bauman’s ren­ dition of on utopia/retrotopia/nostalgia is quite clear: premodern gamekeep­ ing utopias were predominantly past/present-oriented, modernist gardening utopias were future-oriented, liquid-modern hunting utopias present-oriented, whereas the currently popular retrotopias are past-oriented (just as their pre­ modern gamekeeping predecessors). Indeed, something of reversal of fortunes and purposes of utopia has taken place: instead of being invested in an active hope or purposeful quest for something better waiting somewhere in the dis­ tant horizon (‘at the end of the rainbow’, ‘just around the corner’, ‘the pie in the sky’ and so on), this hope is now relocated to and reinvested in the – for all practical intents and purposes – irretrievable past. Maybe this develop­ ment signals an end to modernity as we have known it for centuries as a progressive project, a final salute and definitive farewell to modern ideas of creating a ‘common good’, a ‘better society’ or a ‘brighter future’? Indeed, one of the main reasons for the recent rise of retrotopia is accord­ ing to Zygmunt Bauman that the contemporary stage of modernity finds itself in a deep state of crisis, as he testified in several of his last books (see, for example, Bauman 2017b; Bauman and Bordoni 2014). This crisis situation – by him called an ‘interregnum’ – spawns nostalgic longings for a time before ‘the lights went out’ and before everything seemingly became unsolvable. In another of his last testimonies published in Retrotopia (Bauman 2017a), as we saw, Bauman expressed concern over this revival of nostalgia in liquidmodern society in the guise of retrotopian sentiments and their predilection for re-tribalisation and a communitarian ‘return to the past’ mentality. To him, we can neither confront nor solve the problems of the present by looking to the past, just as we cannot solve global challenges by looking only for local solutions. As he thought-provokingly ended his book on socialism and utopia (the last part of this quotation is from Romans 8.24): Men climb successive hills only to discover from their tops virgin ter­ ritories which their never-appeased spirit of transcendence urges them to explore. Beyond each successive hill they hope to find peacefully the end. What they do find is the excitement of the beginning. Today, as two thousand years ago, ‘hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?’ (Bauman 1976:141) It is only by looking forwards, not backwards, by looking to ‘hope unseen’ and not ‘hope already seen’, that we may attempt to spot, rise to and confront the uncertainties and challenges that are always destined to lead from the known present to the unknown and – for all practical intents and purposes – unknowable future.

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New York: Columbia University Press. Jameson, Fredric (1974): Marxism and Form. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Jarvis, Helen and Alastair Bonnett (2013): ‘Progressive Nostalgia in Novel Living Arrangements: A Counterpoint to Neo-Traditional New Urbanism?’. Urban Stu­ dies, 50(11):2349–2370. Nijhoff, Pieter (1998): ‘The Right to Inconsistency’. Theory, Culture and Society, 15 (1):87–112. Sargent, Lyman Tower (2000): ‘Utopian Traditions: Themes and Variations’, in Roland Schaer, Gregory Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent (eds): Utopia – The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 8–15. Smith, Kimberly K. (2000): ‘Mere Nostalgia: Notes on a Progressive Paratheory’. Rhetorics and Public Affairs, 3(4):505–527. Smith, Larajane and Gary Campbell (2017): ‘“Nostalgia for the Future’: Memory, Nostalgia and the Politics of Class’. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 23 (7):612–627. Tester, Keith (2004): The Social Thought of Zygmunt Bauman. London: Macmillan. Turner, Bryan S. (1987): ‘A Note on Nostalgia’. Theory, Culture and Society, 4(1):147–156. Tyldesley, Michael (2003): No Heavenly Delusion? A Comparative Study of Three Communal Movements. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

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Vieira, Fátima (2017): ‘The Four Modes of Thinking Framed by Utopian Dis­ cursivity: Or Why We Need Utopia’, in Maria do Rosário Monteiro, Mário S. M. Kong and Maria J. P. Neto (eds): Utopia(s) – Worlds and Frontiers of the Imagin­ ary. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, pp. 19–24. Yorke, Christopher (2004): ‘The Normative Role of Utopianism in Political Philoso­ phy’. New Thinking, 2(1):2–11. Yorke, Christopher and Lois Rowe (2006): ‘Malchronia: Cryonics and Bionics as Primi­ tive Weapons in the War on Time’. Journal of Evolution and Technology, 15(1):73–85.

Part II

Memory, politics and social critique in a mediatised era


Dangerous memories Nostalgia and the historical sublime Steven T. Ostovich

Introduction Nostalgia is a central topic in the social scientific study of emotions. It also is important in related attempts to understand human existence in time character­ istic of history, philosophy, and literature. If the former is concerned with restoring the unity of modern subjectivity, in the latter nostalgia offers new ways to think about human temporal existence. What follows here is an argument that temporal existence is political and nostalgia also is a political concept. We begin with a review of how nostalgia is understood by the social sciences. Initially used as a diagnostic category identifying a debilitating desire for returning home, nostalgia now is taken to be a bittersweet but positive feeling of longing for a lost past. There also is an increasing sensitivity to the social aspect of nostalgia. This will be developed here politically in the context of Ostalgie, the longing for life as it was in East Germany now that it is gone. Nostalgia reveals the abyss between the present and the past marking the sublime character of history, our next topic. ‘Sublime’ is an aesthetic concept for the feeling that attends trying to represent an experience of what is in principle unpresentable. Revolutionary ruptures in time at the beginning of modernity (the French and Industrial Revolutions) made us aware of the gap between present and past which we try to close by writing modern history. But history as disciplined excludes whatever cannot be subsumed under its rules of evidence or rendered meaningful narratively: modern history-writing thereby excludes the sublime. Nostalgia helps us realise that this exclusion is a political act subject to criticism – we have memories we want to think about, but the canons of modern history preclude this. Finally, nostalgia, by reminding us of experiences of the sublime that dis­ rupt our histories and that agitate us, can be a source of dangerous memories. These are memories that lead us to question what we have come to accept as given. This kind of thinking can be politically dangerous as it may lead to the extreme nationalism infecting modern political discourse (which is one of the reasons why modern history excludes whatever it cannot bring under its cri­ tical control). But nostalgia also can become the site for recovering a hope for the future not supported by present structures of plausibility and give this


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hope effective direction. In the end, the challenges of nostalgia as a political phenomenon mirror those of the social: how to make nostalgia a positive and critical resource for contemporary action.

Defining nostalgia The (re)birth of nostalgia in modernity was as a diagnostic category for what was perceived to be an emotional disorder or disease. Intense longing for home seemed to preclude healthy functioning of human subjects and was connected to debilitating depression. It was akin to melancholy in its power to disrupt the subject’s engagement with reality, and the goal of treatment was to foster the kind of recathexis to life Sigmund Freud described in terms of working through melancholy in mourning (Freud 1956). But recent social scientific study of nostalgia has rehabilitated the concept to the point where nostalgia now can be viewed as ‘an adaptive psychological resource’ (Sedikides et al. 2014:190). Under controlled conditions paying attention to how people identify and experience nostalgia reveals that while it remains a ‘bittersweet’ feeling, it is ‘predominantly positive’, ‘reflecting fond memories intermixed with yearning’ (Sedikides et al. 2014:108). The melan­ cholic aspect does not disappear but is balanced by the perceived desirability of the past experience or condition. ‘More formally … nostalgia is a selfconscious, social, mostly positive, and past oriented emotion that is elicited by a variety of … triggers’ (Sedikides et al. 2014:250). This definition fits popular descriptions of nostalgia as well as the results of empirical investigations; in addition, it mostly applies across cultures. Nostalgia can be a personal and social resource for responding to stress including stress attendant on dealing with out-groups or others (this last point will return below). Current research on nostalgia stresses its social quality – shared positive experiences and the memories of these experiences can be strong triggers of positive feelings about the past in the present. But this social element should not be confused with the political power of nostalgia. Politically, nostalgia is about actions and the shaping of decisions in the present based on feelings about the past. An example of this difference is the phenomenon of Ostalgie (‘ostalgia’) for the former East Germany (German Democratic Republic or DDR) after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent unification of Germany. Research shows that consumer goods can function as nostalgic triggers. In Ostalgie these range from laundry soap to plastic egg cups. These objects sometimes are collected in private museums that challenge the ‘official story’ of institutions presenting life in the former East as defined by political oppression. Collections of everyday objects support the popular assertion that in the East, while ‘not everything was good, some things were better’ (like social and family relations). The concern is not representing objective reality accurately – in many respects, people affected by Ostalgie recognise that the old consumer goods did not do their jobs as well as the new Western repla­ cements. The point is political, involving resistance to capitalism and the

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perceived hollowness of Western consumer culture. This explains the appeal of Ostalgie to ‘Wessies’ (or former West Germans) as well as to citizens of the united Germany having no experience of the DDR who embrace what they see as the retro-cool of old East German goods, seeing the products’ clumsi­ ness as a way to reject the slickness and cynicism of Western mass culture. Jonathan Bach in his recent book What Remains: Everyday Encounters with the Socialist Past in Germany examines the ongoing relevance to everyday life of material remains from the DDR (Bach 2017). Two of the lessons he learns in this process are particularly relevant here. First, Ostalgie is not so much about memory as about appropriation, not about remembering the past so much as using it in the present. He writes of ‘the play of presence and absence in the wake of political upheaval’ leading to appropriation as ‘a key mechanism by which things once thought bygone or deemed unworthy of memory are actively (re)incorporated into the present and given new value’ and a ‘process by which an object is incorporated into people’s routines and thereby into their sense of self ’ (Bach 2017:7). And second, the sense of ‘yearning’ or ‘longing’ for what is absent that is characteristic of nostalgia generally and Ostalgie here is not necessarily for the goods themselves – the new products do work better (mostly). What former East Germans (Ossies) miss and long to recover is a ‘mode of longing that is no longer possible’ (Bach 2017:18; see also ATG 26 2017) or the possibility of hoping for change. Ostalgie and general research on nostalgia uncover an interesting aspect of the relationship of nostalgia to history. Nostalgia is a form of memory and so is about the past, but the accuracy of nostalgic remembrance is not an issue. Being mistaken about what actually happened seems to play little role in the functioning of nostalgia in the present. Nostalgia is an affect in which what matters is the feeling about the past I have now, not what happened then. This is why historians treat nostalgia or any kind of memory work with sus­ picion. Nonetheless, nostalgia helps us become aware of an important ele­ ment in the relationship between experience and the writing of history. It is no accident that nostalgia as a diagnostic and analytical concept arose at the same time that modern historiography was beginning. The project of trying to write a coherent narrative account of the past testifies to an experience of rupture in time and an awareness of the past as a different place than now. For Western cul­ ture, this rupture took the form of the revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the French Revolution significantly, and the Industrial Revolution as well (Hobs­ bawm 1962). Reinhart Koselleck writes: ‘Until the eighteenth century it was an almost universally accepted doctrine that one could, from the lessons of the past, learn lessons for the future’, because although change was obvious, ‘nothing essentially new could occur’ (Koselleck 2004:58). But the ‘decade from 1789 to 1799 was experienced by the participants as the start of a future that had never before existed’ (Koselleck 2004:59). Revolution also altered the past, turning it into a place now lost forever for which we could long nostalgically: if it ‘liberated a new future’ it also liberated ‘a new past’ (Koselleck 2004:60). Radical change gave rise to a sense that something was over and no longer directly accessible to experience.


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This is the feeling that characterises nostalgia. The past is lost and gone, the future is wide open, and we are cast adrift in the present trying to make sense of our temporal condition and figure out what to do. Frank Ankers­ mit describes how through revolutionary change ‘a yawning abyss had come into being between the past and the present’ (Ankersmit 2005:144): nos­ talgia is an experience of this gap. Ironically, ‘the writing of history as we know it in the West since, say, 1800, makes sense only after this difference is felt and recognized’ (Ankersmit 2005:400 n24). Our response to the new sense of rupture between past and present makes us long to return to our ‘home’ in the world of yesterday and at the same time to turn the past into an object of study: ‘The past had become, for the first time in history, an almost tangible reality – and therewith, an ineluctable object of investiga­ tion’ (Ankersmit 2005:143). The ‘new past’ referred to by Koselleck becomes ‘a special object of historical critical science’ (Koselleck 2004:60) as we attempt to integrate ourselves with this past through the construction of historical narratives. But is it still possible to speak meaningfully of experiencing the past? The past is defined by its absence: how can one experience what is not present? We try to make it present by incorporating past events into nar­ ratives giving the past a coherence that is meaningful in the present and perhaps for the future. But this requires taking concrete and discrete events and turning them into ever more abstract ideas to make them fit together in smooth-flowing narratives. David D. Roberts also believes that only in the 18th century ‘did it become possible to conceive history in the singular’ suggesting ‘for the first time, a kind of totality’ (Roberts 1995:22). But since ‘the French Revolution indicated that this history could be the scene – perhaps inevitably was the scene – of genuine novelty’ (Roberts 1995:22), history had to exist at the level of ideas, of concepts constructed from but insulated as well from the events experienced by historical subjects. The paradox: history was intended to help identify subjects (individual and communal) capable of having a meaningful rela­ tionship to the past while at the same time removing the past as an object from the realm of possible experience. We feel Stranded in the Present, the title of Peter Fritzsche’s book on the revolutionary era and modern experience. Fritzsche further describes the consequences of revolution for our sense of history and for ourselves as existing temporally in his book’s subtitle, Modern Time and the Melancholy of History (Fritzsche 2004). The same sense of melancholic loss that moves us to try to capture the past in history informs our nostalgic yearning to return to that past even as we recognise this is impossible. The experience of rupture that made it possible to view the past as an object for historical study also made us aware that we are cast out forever from that past as our temporal home. This impossibility of return is what gives history its sublime character and nostalgia its poignancy.

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The historical sublime The sublime is an aesthetic category (although it can be related to psycholo­ gical sublimation as we will see below) that in its modern form refers to our attempts to represent what is unpresentable: ‘In the aesthetic experience of the sublime … the imagination tries to present an intuition of some subject that is strictly and intrinsically unpresentable’ resulting in a ‘crisis’ of representation (Johnson 2012:118). The feeling of the sublime usually combines pleasure and pain inextricably. For Jean-François Lyotard, the sublime is a ‘strong and equivocal emotion: it carries with it both pleasure and pain. Better still, in it pleasure derives from pain’ (Lyotard 1984:77–78; see also Burke 2014; Kant 1987). And here too the sublime is associated with the revolutionary timeframe of nostalgia and historical writing: ‘Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, this contradictory feeling – pleasure and pain, joy and anxiety, exaltation and depression – was christened or re-christened by the name of the sublime’ (Lyotard 2000:455). ‘Rupture’ is the key term for understanding the historical sublime just as it is for understanding historiography and nostalgia. As we attempt to construct a coherent narrative that incorporates the memories and experiences of disrup­ tion, that is, as we try to write history, we become aware of the pieces of our past with jagged edges that disrupt the smooth flow of our narratives. Usually we think of these fragments as traumatic events, but they could just as well be the kind of attractors one finds in nostalgia: melancholy and the sense of loss are elements in nostalgia too since even pleasant pasts cannot be recovered.

Sublime agitation Jean-François Lyotard emphasises the temporal character of the sublime. The sublime often is rooted in an experience in which ‘an “excess” has “touched” the mind, more than it can handle’ (Lyotard 1990:32) and bears ‘pictorial or otherwise expressive witness to the inexpressible’ (Lyotard 1984:77). It differs from the beautiful: Beauty exists if a certain ‘case’ (the work of art), given first by the sensi­ bility without any conceptual determination … appeals to the principle of a universal consensus (which may never be attained) … [the sublime is] a different sentiment [that] takes place, on the contrary, when the imagina­ tion fails to present an object which might, if only in principle, come to match a concept. (Lyotard 1984:77–78) The consequent feeling is disturbing. Beauty typically fosters calm con­ templation of what remains at least potentially unchanging, but the sublime elicits a feeling of ‘agitation’, highlighting our condition as temporal beings in a fleeting world in which this agitation takes the form of an ‘anxiety of


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waiting’ (Lyotard 2000:455). What we are waiting for is indeterminate both in terms of what it is and when it will happen; our conceptual categories fail us. It is about a perception that gives rise to thought as in Martin Heidegger’s Ereignis, the event that calls for thinking (Lyotard 2000:454, 463). We become aware that something about the sublime experience always remains beyond our conceptual grasp in principle but still requires a response from us. This philosophical insight translates into the language of time and history wherein the historical sublime disrupts the flow of historical narratives just as the aesthetic sublime disrupts thinking and gives birth to something new. Lyotard’s concern is to preserve the critical potential of the sublime, its power to agitate us into responding critically: ‘from the sublime springs a lot of reflection’ (Lyotard 2000:456). Frank Ankersmit also writes about the sublime and with specific reference to history and nostalgia. Ankersmit’s concerns are subjectivity and historical experience and the traumatic loss of individual or communal identity as a result of the experience of historical rupture. He has in mind a broader temporal range of disruptions than we have seen already, but he too zeroes in on the French and Industrial Revolutions and the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. We have seen above how nostalgia arises and indicates an awareness of the ‘abyss’ that separates the present from the past as a result of revolution. Ankersmit, like Koselleck, locates this awareness primarily in the experiences of former elites. Elites are in the best position to become aware of what is happening precisely because they are surprised by devel­ opments. They thought they understood the rules that govern the flow of time in society, but revolutions disrupt that flow. At the same time, the rise of nostalgia indicates a sense that there was no way to return to the past. Fateful forces are at work behind their level of understanding, and ‘former elites realize why all their wisdom and insight could be so sadly helpless and ineffectual against the inexorable course of history’ (Ankersmit 2005:146). He uses Alexis de Tocqueville to illustrate this claim. Tocqueville recognises and responds to the French Revolution in ways only an aristocrat would or could. ‘For the aristocrat Tocqueville the new post-revolutionary democratic order was something of a sublime reality that he spontaneously rejected but nevertheless was willing to accept because he understood, better than any of his contemporaries, it to be our ineluctable future’ (Ankersmit 2005:146).

History without subjects We now find ourselves in an impossible position regarding our existence as temporal subjects in an objective historical order. In nostalgia we become conscious of an unbridgeable gap between our pasts and our present condi­ tions. The past becomes ‘objective’: it is just what it is, and nothing else, and therefore only and exclusively a potential object of experience. What withdraws itself from context, from

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all (narrative or contextualist) meaning, from all signification, what is just there in its nakedness, can be only an object of experience to us. (Ankersmit 2005:144–145) In order to get a handle on the past, we have to (methodologically) remove ourselves as subjects from its determination. Historical experience thereby becomes ‘an experience without a subject. The subject has to divest itself from its own history, which ordinarily contextualizes and historicizes his or her experience – and in this way there is no preceding subject of experience’ (Ankersmit 2005:146). This is what makes historical experience sublime, ‘the kind of experience inviting or necessitating us to discard or to dissociate a former self from the self that we are after having had the sublime experience in question’ (Ankersmit 2005:347). We are conscious of the sublimity inasmuch as in this experience we encounter both promise and threat: ‘a promise of union by offering the prospect of an obliteration of all that separates the past from the present’ and at the same time ‘a threat since this obliteration, if becoming reality, would also involve a loss of identity’ (Ankersmit 2005:155). This uncovers the connection between nostalgia, sublime experience, and trauma: ‘trauma can be seen as the psychological counterpart of the sublime, and the sublime can be seen as the philosophical counterpart of trauma’ (Ankersmit 2005:338). Nostalgia springs from ruptures in history that appear also as ruptures in the iden­ tity of historical subjects (individual or communal) and give historical experience its sublime character. The origin of ‘History’ as a modern social-scientific discipline is a response to this condition, and at the same time it exacerbates it. History as a discipline is born out of an awareness of revolutionary ruptures in the flow of time that we experience as disruptions in our identity, and it seeks to re-establish a sense of narrative coherence based on the events of the past. But this is an impossible task: ‘Does not historical experience aim at the union of subject and object, of present and past, whereas professional historical writing stakes everything on pulling them apart as much as possible?’ (Ankersmit 2005:170). History takes what we become of aware of about the past in nostalgia – it is gone, and we can never be who we once were – and turns it into an object for knowing. ‘What one used to be, one’s former identity, is now transformed into the identity of the person who knows (and no longer is) his former identity’ (Ankersmit 2005:333). This is why Ankersmit considers the best historians to be con­ servative in the Burkean sense of wanting to know the past even while realising that this means being caught in the sublime conundrum that constitutes doing history: we yearn nostalgically for a past that never can return. Ankersmit makes a distinction between the conservative’s desire to know and the reactionary’s desire to be what we once were (a distinction which will return in the final section of this chapter).


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Historical responsibility Frank Ankersmit has helped us make connections between nostalgia, trauma, and the historical sublime around the experience of rupture in history. But he also leaves us with a problem: he has rendered nostalgia impotent. Nostalgia arises with the awareness of an unbridgeable gap between the past and the present. Put another way, nostalgia is a kind of knowledge related to the difference of the past from the present, and this knowledge of difference uncovers the possibility of acting differently and living elsewise than is prac­ ticed in the present: we led different lives in the past, and those lives were meaningful. Knowledge of the past traditionally can serve as a guide to action in the present, and there is nothing Ankersmit suggests that precludes taking our knowledge of the past and applying it in the present. But does this model of historical knowing offer the possibility of taking responsibility for our world: as past, as present, and for what we have done to move from the past to the present (and into the future)? The Shoah or ‘Catastrophe’ (my preferred term for the Holocaust) is a case study of the problem of historical responsibility in Ankersmit. Paralleling nos­ talgia and trauma seems correct, but without care this makes it difficult to think about the Shoah. The Shoah usually is understood to be an example of a his­ torical trauma. This would make the Shoah a past event to ‘work through’ in a Freudian sense. But this path is closed to Ankersmit: understanding the Shoah in terms of trauma connects it to nostalgia which could indicate we long for its return as we do with objects of nostalgia. This would be monstrous. Ankersmit is clear that ‘what Hitler and his henchmen left to posterity is something that should be avoided forever and ever and that under no circumstances be a legit­ imate part of our present and our future’. He writes of the Shoah being an occasion for ‘moral outrage’. But none of this entails a ‘collective trauma. Put provocatively, it would even be a moral infamy if the Holocaust would have unleashed a historical trauma, as I understand the notion, for this would suggest that we had accepted Hitler’s legacy somehow’ (Ankersmit 2005:351–352). But how, then, are we to remember the Shoah and respond to its capacity to disrupt our confidence in our understanding of history? Nostalgia as a feeling of yearn­ ing for the past, a past concerning which, in light of Ankersmit’s understanding of the historical sublime, there is no closure. But history and the work of memory are about more than the impossibility of returning to the past. The longing associated with nostalgia indicates an awareness of the past as offering alternative ways to think about reality (including political reality). The past in its radical alterity can offer a reason for hope and move us to criticism and action to change the present. This can be seen in the power of utopian visions and eschatological literature to move people to act for the future in the name of the past, although most of the time this is done uncri­ tically. The rupture in time to which nostalgia responds means it is possible for our longing to move us to hope and act for a future different than now and that such action can be reasonable.

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This understanding of nostalgia’s critical potential is missing in Ankersmit, and this absence is neither unusual among modern historians nor should it be surprising. Hayden White also writes about the development of modern his­ tory as a discipline with relation to the historical sublime. White takes ser­ iously the word ‘discipline’ as this involves marking boundaries and making decisions as to what historians are and – more importantly – are not going to study. White believes it is clear that as history develops in the 19th century, ‘what it marks out for repression in general is utopian thinking – the kind of thinking without which revolutionary politics, whether of the Left or of the Right, becomes unthinkable’ (White 1987:62–63). The past as an object of study was born in the revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but history as a discipline set out from its beginning to bring the utopian visions informing revolution under critical control. Utopian thinking is too closely associated with eschatological religions and therefore is beyond the pale of reason as defined in modernity. Worse, utopian thinking is disruptive of political order and a danger to progress. History was to be about realism, and historians made ‘realism effectively identical with antiutopianism’ (White 1987:63). The decision was made to place history above politics, although little attention was paid to the fact that this was itself a political decision.

Taming the sublime? The decision to remove utopianism from history is also a decision to deny the historical sublime a role in thinking about the past. This could be interpreted as sublimating the sublime in which utopian hope either is brought under rational control through rules of evidence (historicism) or rendered harmless by incorporation into processes at work above or behind historical experience (philosophy of history). History is essentially about language and narrative, placing history in the realm of aesthetics and demanding imagination, but while imagination is essential to doing history, the flights of fancy that ima­ gination produces have to be brought under disciplinary control: ‘the imagi­ nation is disciplined by its subordination to the rules of evidence’ (White 1987:67). The sublime enters historical narrative as an aesthetic category especially with regard to (re-)imagining history in terms of utopian hope, and the sublime too must be disciplined. This was done by appealing to the way Edmund Burke distinguished between the sublime and the beautiful and ‘the demotion of the sublime in favor of the beautiful as a solution to the pro­ blems of taste and imagination’ (White 1987:68) or to Immanuel Kant for whom ‘the sublime is effectively cut free from the aesthetic faculty, which remains under the sway of judgments appropriate to the “beautiful,” in order to be relegated to the rule of cognitive and moral faculties’ (White 1987:70). But White counters this view of the sublime with the aesthetics of Friedrich von Schiller for whom the sublime reflected a feeling that history might be meaningless chaos and by means of which he ‘joined the notion of the his­ torical sublime to the kind of response to it that would authorize a totally


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different politics’ (White 1987:69), that is, a politics of disruption. Instead, in disciplined history, ‘historical facts are politically domesticated precisely insofar as they are removed from displaying any aspect of the sublime Schiller attributed to them’ (White 1987:72). The result of this is the ‘domestication of history by the suppression of the historical sublime’ (White 1987:75). Reco­ vering the historical sublime, in contrast, makes possible a more critical his­ toriography in its facing possible ruptures in historical time (and potential chaos) rather than excluding disruptions from consideration. The historical sublime is the critical category corresponding to the feeling of loss and yearning for the past that characterises nostalgia. And like the sub­ lime, nostalgia has the potential to be ‘dangerous’ as it opens up the possibility for meaningful action for disrupting the (political) status quo. The awareness of an abyss between present and past that informs nostalgia can be enervating as this includes the awareness that the past is gone forever. But nostalgia also can be dangerous as we feel attracted to this lost past, that is, as we realise that political reality had been different and could be different again. Nostalgia is a form of memory, and memories can be dangerous as we recognise their future content. This includes nostalgia. As sublime, these memories call on us to respond to what remains beyond our control and to think differently about time and our existence as historically responsible subjects.

Dangerous memories Memory is not simply a resource for writing history like documents. Mem­ ories are personal and communal bear the imprint of the person or commu­ nity whose experience memories recall. This quality is one of the reasons why historians tend to distrust memory as a source for their work or at least treat memory very carefully. Memories are not straightforward even for those who claim them. In writing about his own memories Walter Benjamin claims ‘memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theater. It is the medium of past experience just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own past must con­ duct himself like a man digging’ (Benjamin 1999:611; see also ibid.:576). We become archaeologists of our own pasts. But the artefacts of memory we find in doing this spade work are not simply neutral objects awaiting our unearthing and laying there ready for our use. Benjamin describes finding in his memory ‘rigidly fixed words, expressions, verses that, like a malleable mass which has later cooled and hardened, preserve in me the collision between a larger collective and myself ’ in which ‘isolated words have remained in place as marks of catastrophic encounters’ (Benjamin 1999:486; see also ibid.:602). These are memories that are dangerous in their power to disrupt our lives, that ‘illuminate for a few moments and with a harsh steady light the questionable nature of things we have apparently come to terms with’ and ‘subvert our structures of plausibility’ (Metz 1972:15).

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‘Dangerous memory’ is not a class of memories but a concept uncovering how almost any memory can disrupt the world of what we deem plausible even about ourselves. Milan Kundera provides an example of this potential with specific regard to nostalgia: Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I was touched by some of his portraits: they reminded me of my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler’s concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return? (Kundera 1984:4) Kundera is disturbed by the ‘moral perversity’ at work here and sees it as a reason to think again about who he is as a historical subject (Kundera 1984:4). Peter Fritzsche’s close reading of the life and Memoirs of René de Cha­ teaubriand further demonstrates what it means for nostalgia to function as a dangerous memory. Chateaubriand was another aristocrat deeply affected by the French Revolution (although Fritzsche is careful not to associate the possibility for nostalgic awareness with any one class – Fritzsche 2004:32). Chateaubriand’s life was characterised by a series of personal and profes­ sional upheavals related to the constantly shifting political orders in France and his relationships with those in power. His Memoirs testify to an awareness of how ‘history had become a category of the sublime, stranger than a Gothic tale’ (Fritzsche 2004:31). Chateaubriand’s life and times were marked by experiences of rupture, and he was aware of this: ‘Chateaubriand’s view of the past … is unsettled because it traces lines of rupture rather than lines of evolution’ (Fritzsche 1998:112). The past was lost, and the notion that one could return home either temporally or geographically he found ‘laughable’ (Fritzsche 1998:113). Instead, ‘history has become a series of ruptures that have overturned linear, progressive conceptions of time’ (Fritzsche 1998:108) and in which ‘links of continuity had been broken’ (Fritzsche 1998:102). Chateaubriand ‘was a nostalgic’ (Fritzsche 1998:113), and he was not alone in this. Fritzsche describes a general ‘melancholic sense of loss’ (Fritzsche 1998:103) and an awareness that the ‘losses of the past are irreversible: this is what con­ stitutes the melancholy of history’ (Fritzsche 2004:8). As a result of the French Revolution and the density of events that followed, ‘it became more common­ place for contemporaries in the early nineteenth century to reflect on the past in a nostalgic mode or to approach the future as something new and tangible. After the revolution, even the most personal lives were accounted in terms of loss and expectation’ (Fritzsche 1998:105–106). Chateaubriand and others became exiles from France at various points in their lives, but a more general feeling developed of being exiles in time ‘estranged from their own time’ and ‘stranded in the pre­ sent’ (Fritzsche 2004:55–56) between a lost past and an open and unknowable future – and this temporal exile was inescapable.


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Fritzsche has several images for this new temporal condition derived from the cultural experiences of 19th-century Europeans ranging from quilting to the collected folktales of the Grimm brothers. The most revealing of these is ruins. Ruins were Romantic in the sense ushered in by Chateaubriand, but they are more than simply sites for dreaming. In their fractured state, ruins testified to the past of a people but only in an incomplete way: ‘They expres­ sed both the richness of the past and its incommensurability with the present; ruins gave depth to national history, but withheld an immediate link to it’ (Fritzsche 2004:153). Ruins opened up space for reflection on the difference between a past that was familiar only in part and present reality. They potentially disrupted what a people assumed was true of their identity based on their history because in their incompleteness ruins could be interpreted in richly varied ways. And they therefore could become reminders of alternative futures available in the past and recoverable with critical potential for the present: ‘In other words, the ruins of the past were taken to be foundations for an alternative present’ (Fritzsche 2004:96). Unearthing the critical potential of ruins involves memory work, and this work can be understood as a form of archaeology, the ‘digging’ referred to in the quote from Benjamin above. But archaeological results remain ambig­ uous: digging into the past means not just locating what time has buried but paying attention to the strata pierced on the way down to the find; context is crucial but also debatable, and the same site offers up the possibility of mul­ tiple contemporary uses. No single story holds, and there always is more to do. Chateaubriand described himself as ‘a swimmer in the river of history who refused to try to reach the banks on either side despite turbulent conditions’ (Fritzsche 1998:110). He wants us to learn to live in the flow of history even as we realise it never is over and we never reach the riverbank. Nostalgia is a longing for home, but Chateaubriand knew ‘the feeling of exile was not a temporary condi­ tion, but a distinctively modern fate’. This did not lead him to despair, ‘because he came to fix his identity to the circumstances of contingency’. This swimmer in turbulent conditions and archaeologist of ruins ‘cherished the past, but acknowl­ edged its devastation without abandoning its remains’. For Fritzsche, ‘Chateau­ briand is such a compelling figure because he made rupture the acknowledged pivot of his political and personal sensibilities’ (Fritzsche 2004:58–59). And in so doing he offers us a model of historical and political subjectivity. Nostalgia is about the yearning for home even as we realise returning home is impossible. Chateaubriand models what this means: he neither denies nor resigns himself to his condition; instead he works on what it means to live in exile. Fritzsche claims that ‘for exiles, home is less a particular place than a longing’ (Fritzsche 2004:77), as we have seen above regarding Ostalgie. Longing can be a ‘mood’ for thinking and acting in which we look not for escape from our melancholy but for ways to make it critical. Nostalgia can be liberating, and the ruin as a visitant from the past potentially ‘swings open the doors to the prison-house of the present’ (Fritzsche 1998:114). Memories and monuments, the stuff of nostalgia, provide ‘signs of other lives by which [we]

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might judge and estimate [our] surroundings’ (Fritzsche 1998:112). Nostalgia ‘does not defer easily to the standards and satisfactions of the moment’ (Fritzsche 2004:216). Longing for an impossible return home can be an experience of the historical sublime that is dangerous to the plausibility struc­ tures of the present insofar as nostalgia leads us to think and act on the basis of an awareness of other possibilities for the future contained in the past. Living with the permanent possibility of disruption undermines the belief in modern subjectivity as foundational. Kundera testifies to this above as he shows us what it feels like to live in exile from established moral subjectivity. Self and social world have become ‘liquid’ (Bauman 2000). Closure is impos­ sible in history which, as nostalgia reminds us, can always be otherwise than it is. Our goal is to live, not to rest, not even in the truth. Hannah Arendt creatively used Socrates as a model for what this feels like. Human existence was political for Socrates because he realised that even when we are by our­ selves, we are not alone – we always remain in dialogue with ourselves. And while solitude is sometimes necessary for clear thinking, as Plato insisted, one does not arrive at the truth alone. Reality reveals itself to each of us differ­ ently, and we each develop our own opinions, our own doxa, based on our experience. In order to make good judgments about living in the world as it appears to us, we need to share our opinions and ask questions of each other – to be gadflies like Socrates. This is more than simply being social. We cannot even be ourselves unless we appear before others, the whole point of politics in Ancient Athens. We need the space of appearance (Arendt 2005). The same is true temporally: the rupture in time in a revolution demands a critical response, and we need to make judgments in discussion with others about how to act. As Fritzsche claims, ‘historical consciousness created the public sphere’ (Fritzsche 2004:39). Nostalgia places us in ruptured time and political existence. The political character of nostalgia, however, indicates another way in which nostalgia can be dangerous. Our longing for home sometimes misleads us into thinking it is possible to restore past conditions and re-establish a lost identity when ‘we’ used to be ‘in charge’. The results have been catastrophic in the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and too many other places. Christo­ pher Clark considers ‘the rise of nostalgia as a signature malady of modernity’ (Clark 2019:9). David Rieff writes: ‘Nostalgia and self-absorption (the other cardinal vice of the exiled and scorned), however understandable a community’s resorting to them may be, also often serve as a prophylactic against common sense, political or otherwise’ (Rieff 2016:93). Better we should forget the past and move on: complete the work of mourning and leave melancholy behind. This would be a mistake. Social scientific research has demonstrated how nostalgia ‘fosters social connectedness’ through experiences of ‘attachment security’, feeling ‘socially supported’, and empathy and does this across group boundaries (Sedikides et al. 2014:219–226). Understanding nostalgia more fully is the key to tapping its critical potential as we have seen above. Ankersmit makes the helpful distinction between the reactionary desire for an impossible return to being what we once were and the conservative recognition that


Steven T. Ostovich

knowing the past is our goal (Ankersmit 2005:333). Nostalgic violence is a product of the former. The key is making nostalgia critical as a ground for hope and action. Fritzsche describes nostalgia as memory work in the context of ruins as archaeological. ‘Digging up’ the past is an unsettling and unsettled process wherein no single story can cover the facts regarding what is uncovered, that is, no one account can permanently exclude others and claim sole authority over the past. White connects exclusion to modern history writing itself in its attempts to exclude utopian thinking and thereby to bring nostalgia under evidential control. This fails as people continue to hope even counterfactually, and exclu­ sion leaves us no way to think critically about these hopes. Attempts to exclude should give way to engagement in which nostalgic visions of a better past informing hope in a utopian future are treated as diagnostic tools for identifying the ills of the present rather than blueprints justifying apocalyptic violence.

Conclusion The language of ‘diagnosis’ indicates that this chapter has been playing a single tune in varied keys. We began with nostalgia as a diagnostic category for a per­ ceived emotional disorder that has been rehabilitated to become something more positive. The social sciences have developed an appreciation for the social quality of nostalgia in this context. This chapter has been about transposing the social ‘key’ into the political. But the tune remains the same: nostalgia is an emotional and intellectual resource for living responsibly, but it must be used critically. Nostalgia makes us aware of the abyss that separates us from the past and helps us confront the sublime element in history. The sublime is what makes memories of the past unsettling or agitating – dangerous – as we become aware of the rup­ tures in time that resist our attempts to suture them closed in meaningful histor­ ical narratives. Nostalgia draws us to the past and the hopes we once had for the future that are unfulfilled, and it raises the possibility of making these hopes cri­ tically effective as alternatives to what seems plausible now. But we have to con­ tinue to think, to respond to the past as past and not simply as a blueprint for what we hope to build. Nostalgia flows from the awareness that the past is gone, but it can inform our response to our historical and political situation, helping us to identify what is wrong about today and informing our judgment and action. Nostalgia makes us aware of the sublime in history as it follows from an experience of rupture in time and separation from the past. Nostalgia there­ fore will always be ‘dangerous’ to the plausibility structures of the present. Understanding nostalgia and how it works in multidisciplinary perspectives is the key to making it ‘an adaptive psychological resource’ and a responsive, critical and liberating political resource too.

Acknowledgements Special thanks to Paul Schulzetenberg for his research assistance with this project.

Dangerous memories


References Ankersmit, Frank (2005): Sublime Historical Experience. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Arendt, Hannah (2005): The Promise of Politics (edited by Jerome Kohn). New York: Schocken. ATG 26 (2017): Ruptures in the Everyday: Views of Modern Germany from the Ground (edited by Andrew Stuart Bergerson and Leonard Schmieding). Oxford: Berghahn. Bach, Jonathan (2017): What Remains: Everyday Encounters with the Socialist Past in Germany. New York: Columbia University Press. Bauman, Zygmunt (2000): Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Benjamin, Walter (1999): Selected Writings, Volume 2 (1927–1934). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Burke, Edmund (2014): A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757 edition). Adelaide: [email protected] Clark, Christopher (2019): Time and Power: Visions of History in Germany from the Thirty Years’ War to the Third Reich. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Freud, Sigmund (1956): ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, in Collected Papers, Volume IV. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 152–170. Fritzsche, Peter (1998): ‘Chateaubriand’s Ruins: Loss and Memory after the French Revolution’. History and Memory, 10(2):102–117. Fritzsche, Peter (2004): Stranded in the Present: Modern Time and the Melancholy of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hobsbawm, Eric J. (1962): The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848. London: Wei­ denfeld and Nicolson. Johnson, David B. (2012): ‘The Postmodern Sublime: Presentation and Its Limits’, in Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.): The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cam­ bridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 118–131. Kant, Immanuel (1987): Analytic of the Sublime. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Koselleck, Reinhart (2004): Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. New York: Columbia University Press. Kundera, Milan (1984): The Unbearable Lightness of Being. New York: Harper Perennial. Lyotard, Jean-François (1984): The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Lyotard, Jean-François (1990): Heidegger and ‘the Jews’. Minneapolis, MN: Uni­ versity of Minnesota Press. Lyotard, Jean-François (2000): ‘The Sublime and the Avant-Garde’, in Clive Cazeaux (ed.): The Continental Aesthetics Reader. London: Routledge, pp. 453–464. Metz, Johann Baptist (1972): ‘The Future in the Memory of Suffering’. Concilium, 76:9–25. Rieff, David (2016): In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Roberts, David D. (1995): Nothing but History: Reconstruction and Extremity after Metaphysics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Sedikides, Constantine et al. (2015): ‘To Nostalgize: Mixing Memory with Affect and Desire’. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 51:189–273. White, Hayden (1987): The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.


The dilemmas of radical nostalgia Acknowledging the power of the past in the politics of the Left Alastair Bonnett

Introduction Left-wing politics and nostalgia do not have a happy relationship. Sean Scanlan (2004) argues that nostalgia has been imparted with the character of ‘a sort of political crime causing well-intended leftists of several varieties to flee even the appearance of any connection’. Another cultural theorist intri­ gued by the virulence of this reaction, Marcos Natali (2004), suggests that it may, in part, be rooted in the way our ideas of Left and Right are mapped onto a language of past and future. The words traditionally used to refer to the Left in English and other European languages – such as ‘progressive’ and ‘radical’ – emphasise commitment to the future, while the words that describe the left’s adversaries – such as ‘conservative’ and ‘reactionary’ – indicate a devotion to the past. Yet the politics of nostalgia is not so simple. The past is a site of repudia­ tion, even contempt but also of deep yearning. In an era which is widely, if not always accurately, termed, post-socialist, post-communist and post-social democratic, the conflation of being left-wing with being ‘forward-looking’ is no longer tenable. Indeed, Left radicalism has lost so much ground that it no longer has ownership of the word ‘radical’. ‘Radical’ has become a ubiquitous and freely available signifier; applied to anything considered to be new, extreme or slightly unconventional. In this chapter I argue that nostalgia permeates radicalism yet its impor­ tance is unacknowledged and denied. First, I set out the problem of nostalgia for the Left. I then introduce four dilemmas that occur when nostalgia and radical politics meet: ‘the meaning of roots’; ‘the persistence of authenticity’; ‘the problem of nature’ and ‘yearning for solidarity’. Finally, I turn to attempts to find a rapprochement and conclude that this is not a series of dilemmas that can be straightforwardly solved or resolved. The need is for acknowledgment: the Left needs to find ways to learn to live with nostalgia. Such an acknowledgement is not an easy or comfortable task but it is a necessary one. In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym put it best: ‘Survi­ vors of the 20th century, we are all nostalgic for a time when we were not nostalgic. But there seems no way back’ (Boym 2001:355).

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The Left and nostalgia: a difficult encounter Nostalgia has been a continuous presence and site of anxiety in radical his­ tory. Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin used the same Biblical phrase when they scolded their comrades for looking backwards for inspiration: ‘let the dead bury their dead’ (Marx 1992:149; Bakunin 1972:57). Both men were instrumental in making ‘looking backwards’ a source of guilt and shame for revolutionaries but they were less successful in displacing the past as a site of yearning. Nostalgia returns with each new articulation of radical hope. A recent and stark example is post-colonial scholarship. When Walter Mignolo (2000:302) calls for the ‘restitution of Amerindian philosophy of life and conceptualization of society’, or when Robert Young (2001) portrays postcolonialism as the resurrection of 1960s Marxist internationalism, we know, once again, that the ‘the dead’ live with us still. Zygmunt Bauman’s last book, Retrotopia, identified and lambasted a ‘nos­ talgia epidemic’ which is now ‘palpably felt at every level of social cohabita­ tion’ (Bauman 2017:6). Yet, as Michael Hviid Jacobsen’s chapter 4 in this book explains, Bauman was a nostalgic critic of nostalgia. In Retrotopia, Bauman argues that nostalgia is both an escape from and a reflection of our current world of ‘mutual suspicion, antagonism of interests, rivalry and strife’ (Bauman 2017:98), a world in which there has been a ‘growth in the volume and intensity of violence’ and ‘a war of all against all’ (Bauman 2017:44). He mixes these dystopian portraits with a variety of sharp criticisms of more particular contemporary phenomena, ranging from the internet to self-help books to in-vehicle satellite navigation systems. Bauman (2017:65) tells us that ‘most drivers risk finding them nevertheless grossly outdated and liable to lead them astray’. As the examples of why modern societies, modern rela­ tionships and modern technology are so bad pile up, it becomes apparent that there is almost nothing about the present day that Bauman likes. In a postMarxist and post-socialist era it is hardly surprisingly that left scholarship should develop a powerful sense of loss, as well as a disposition to melanch­ olia or plain miserablism. Yet, since nostalgia is the very thing that Bauman reviles, there is a tragic quality to Retrotopia; it repudiates itself by not admitting to its own sense of loss. Why does nostalgia have this toxic quality for the Left? A bundle of his­ torical associations connect nostalgia with conservatism, fascism and irra­ tionality but there is an equally important set of cultural associations that connect nostalgia to old age, weakness and passivity. All these connections matter but the question of why nostalgia is so reviled is made harder to answer precisely because the topic has long been cast as unworthy of serious interest. Eric Hobsbawm, after reminding us that ‘human history was an ascent, rather than a decline or an undulating movement about a level trend’, explained that ‘compared to … relatively coherent ideologies of progress, those of resistance to progress hardly deserve the name of systems of thought’ and ‘[c]onsequently they deserve little attention’ (Hobsbawm 1962:10).


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Nostalgia has been receiving ‘little attention’ for a long while but it has, nevertheless, been a constant and sometimes awkward presence. One way to explore its disruptive, difficult presence is to focus on particular moments when themes of loss and yearning have risen to the surface. I find one such moment in the debate around one of the major statements of British cultural Marxism, The Country and the City by Raymond Williams (1975). In The Country and the City, as well in a series of rural novels, Williams offered a sense of the lived experience of place and community and the pain of deraci­ nation. Williams offers a distinction, familiar from Marx, between modern alienation and a lost human wholeness. The ‘perception and affirmation of a world in which one is not necessarily a stranger and an agent, but can be a member, a discoverer, in a shared source of life’, he argues, has been lost, for the ‘process of human growth has in itself been deformed … in this kind of using, consuming, abstracting world’ (Williams 1975:298). Yet, unlike Marx, Williams writes about this process in terms of direct personal involvement: of his memories; of his past; of his community. In his review of The Country and the City Terry Eagleton, writing from a more insurgent and anti-nostalgic revolutionary tradition, and eschewing the kind of fond remembrances he finds in Williams, damned him with the label ‘left-Leavisite’ (cited by Higgens 1999:4). William’s response was disconcertingly tart: ‘What I want to ask is who Terry Eagleton is?’ (cited by Higgens 1999:4). This unnerving question arose from Williams’s belief that Eagleton’s hostility to the past and sentiment is disingenuous. He goes onto accuse him of ‘formalist Marxism’ and a refu­ sal to admit to the ‘lived’ nature of social contradictions. There have been few prepared to pursue the pathway William’s laid out. One intriguing but isolated example came in Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabook’s The Revolt against Change: Towards a Conserving Radicalism (1993). Drawing on their long experience of community activism Blackwell and Seabook offered a manifesto for a different kind of relationship between radicalism and the past: We were becoming uneasy about the recurring theme that ‘people must change’ … The experience of industrialisation had been of driven and relentless change, and continues to be so … So why should we expect exhortations to change will be welcomed by those who have known little else for at least two centuries? In this context, the desire to conserve, to protect, to safeguard, to rescue, to resist becomes the heart of a radical project. (Blackwell and Seabrook 1993:3–4) Blackwell and Seabrook’s deployment of the language of ‘conserving’ and ‘protecting’ for radicalism had a particular context: increasing unease at the rapid refashioning of the urban landscape. Modern cities have seen repeated waves of rebuilding, forced movement and relocation. The Revolt against Change is based on interviews with urban residents who feel ‘pushed around’ and powerless and who hark back to a less turbulent and kinder past. One

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obvious response to such fond remembrances is to say that they are merely myths. Yet, for Blackwell and Seabrook, such a charge is both beside the point – which is of the experience of powerlessness – and often arrived at too eagerly, betraying a refusal to accept that loss is widespread, tangible and worth taking seriously. An interest in refashioning the politics of the local and intimate also finds echoes in feminist reassessments of nostalgia. This connection may seem sur­ prising given that feminists have rarely harboured illusions about a lost time of gender equality. Indeed, it has sometimes been argued that the only truly forward-looking radical movement is feminism. Feminism, declares Michael Fischer has ‘no tendency towards nostalgia, no illusion of a golden age of the past’ (cited by Hutcheon 2000:200). This judgement has come to seem shaky in an era often declared – albeit with even less plausibility than the other ‘post’ pre-fixes already mentioned – to be post-feminist. More important, perhaps, has been the growing understanding that hostility to nostalgia is, literally, hostility to ‘home sickness’, a repudiation of the home and the domestic and that it often comes wrapped in masculinist tropes. Alexander Martin offers a psychological portrait of the masculinism of anti-nostalgia, depicting it as ‘compulsive reactions against the home and authority, against the past and tradition, against the emotional and the earthy non-intellectual, all being glorified as independence and expressions of healthy growth’ (Martin 1954:101). Alison Blunt’s work on the symbolism of home, and the search for home, among the socially dispossessed and dislocated also makes the case that ‘an antipathy towards nostalgia reflects a more pervasive and long established “suppression of home”’ (Blunt 2003:721).

Four dilemmas In the following, I will turn to four particular dilemmas arising at the meeting place between radicalism and nostalgia. The meaning of roots The political designation ‘radical’ is found in most European languages and derives from the Latin for root (radix). Used as a political term, radicalism refers to the desire to grasp and pull up the roots of an existing political arrangement, usually with the hope that an equally deeply planted but very different alternative can be nurtured in its place. Yet radicalism has another, very different, relationship to roots. In this version radicalism grows from roots: it emerges from authentic social experience; it is the voice from below, the cry of the people against an uprooted elite. This narrative identifies the enemies of radicalism with those who seek to dig away at memory, to grub up organic identities and reduce communities to malleable individuals without ties of loyalty or attachment. The desire to preserve or change the landscape provides a prominent example of the interplay and clash of these different


Alastair Bonnett

ideals. The radical eye is often represented as looking beyond ‘backward vil­ lages’ and ‘dirty old towns’ to the gleaming modern vistas of tomorrow. Yet it is within the old places and organic communities, that narratives of popular identity, as well as class and community solidarity, are found and admired. This fraught combination of aspirations creates ample opportunity for para­ doxical responses: for regret that it is necessary to replace living communities with soulless housing blocks; for the uncertain hope that the destruction of so much will prove, in the end, to have been worth the pain. This unstable terrain maps onto the doubtful status and role of a key cate­ gory in radical thought, namely the people. Radicalism is often presented as a popular tradition; indeed as inherently and by definition the politics of ‘the people’. It is an association that suggests that the memories and traditions of the people should not only be cast as the fertile earth of radicalism but be respected, collected, preserved and revered. Allied to this association are many others, such as the connection between radicalism and patriotism (a connection central to 18th- and early-19th-century European radicalism and still seen in many countries across the world) and the assumption that radic­ alism is, or should be, ‘from below’, ‘street-level’, ordinary, not ‘posh’. As soon as these links are made doubts rush in, both about the authenticity of the popular claim and the advisability of handing political power to the masses. Populism is an object of intense suspicion within left-wing thought, often because it is associated with demagogy. Such scepticism is sustained by the belief that the unreformed culture of ordinary people is conservative and backward-looking. This perspective identifies the authentic locus of radical­ ism as the militant, a revolutionary agent who stands with, for, but in front of the people. Yet the need to keep reinventing claims of engagement, to return to the people, that we find across vanguardist radicalisms in the last century, also suggest that this is another arena, not of discrete political choices, but of dilemma. The radical is nothing without the people and wishes to be rooted in the people. Yet the people’s ‘rootedness’ makes radicals suspicious and uncomfortable. The persistence of authenticity The desire to overcome alienation and return humanity to authenticity is a central radical motif. Radical visions of the future often rely on visions of the past, more especially a time before class, before power, before hierarchy and before money. The idea that communism ‘knows itself ’, as Marx expressed it, ‘as the reintegration or return of man into himself ’ (Marx 1975:347), is a persistent theme in his work. Although sometimes associated with the romanticism of his early years, it was also at the fore in his interest, in later life, in the discovery that pre-modern societies practised common ownership and, hence, ‘primitive communism’. Influenced by the work of Georg Maurer and Lewis Morgan, Marx wrote to Engels in 1868 claiming that ‘the primitive age of every people … corresponds to the socialist tendency’ and concluded

The dilemmas of radical nostalgia


that one could find ‘what is newest in what is oldest’ (Marx and Engels 1975:577) The task of revolution thus becomes, in the words of Ernst Bloch, ‘the synthetic-dialectic restoration, accepted by Marx, of the state of liberty, equality, fraternity, as it reigned among the old communist Gens’ (cited by Löwy and Sayre 2001:173). The vision of a restoration of unified ‘man’ emerges from Marx’s belief that under capitalism ‘man’ had been alienated from ‘himself ’. Yet, for Marx, alienation was also necessary, for it provoked revolutionary consciousness. The dialectical spectacle of a reintegrated, authentic existence being created out of the maelstrom of revolution had unintended consequences. For it cemented a more general conviction among many Left intellectuals that deracination and disorientation were emancipatory and inherently radical. In the late 20th century alienation came to be valued in itself and for itself by a new generation of Left intellectuals who began to speak of the destabilisation of fixed identities as a core political programme and the ‘problem’ of ‘essen­ tialism’. Yet the further and harder you push nostalgia away, the more certain its return. Its presence in post-colonial scholarship is particularly marked (Bonnett 2010) but it can also be felt in the kind of abstract affirmations of total liberation that elements of the academic Left have long found inspira­ tion in. One example is the use of love as a paradisiacal destination and moment of return. In Empire, when Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri try to put their finger on the nature of the new, postnational, post-capitalist society they seek, it is a society that ‘makes rebellion into an act of love’, and where ‘communism, cooperation and revolution remain together, in love, simplicity, and also innocence’ (Hardt and Negri 2000:413). After the false barriers that divide people have crumbled away, cosmopolis emerges as a redemptive postcommunity; a site of pure humanity that is both an original creation and a return to a prelapsarian state of ‘innocence’. The problem of nature The dilemmas of authenticity evoke a closely related set of concerns about the idea of nature. The concept of nature is one of the foundations of the radical tradition. It has been offered many times as a source of rights and freedoms. It has also been central to the extension of radicalism beyond purely political worries and into a larger, romantic, sensibility that grasps the wonder and fragility of life on earth. Environmentalism is wedded to a nostalgic discourse which shows us what we have lost and what we are losing. It is a clear example of how the articu­ lation of loss can be a central and active part of a radical project. Yet radic­ alism can also be identified as a tradition that is premised on and encourages an escape from nature. It seeks the politicisation of social choices and an affirmation of people’s capacity to shape the world to their will. The 20th century saw radicals, especially those who had won power, embrace technol­ ogy and industry so enthusiastically that electricity plants and tractors


Alastair Bonnett

became icons of communism. The Left became associated with the subjuga­ tion and, in many countries, the ruination of the environment. Those sceptical of technocracy became marginalised into a green counter-culture, a group frequently accused by other radicals of harbouring nostalgic tendencies and which has only recently gained some degree of mainstream acceptance within the broader Left. Yearning for solidarity ‘Solidarity’ is a central word in the radical lexicon. It is associated with others: ‘comradeship’ and ‘co-operation’. Radicalism is often expressed as an ideology of fellowship, of the power of union and alliance. Within these emotional and organisational bonds lies a conviction that human beings are meant to act and work together. It is a conviction that inevitably evokes a sense of authentic com­ munity (even of ‘primitive communism’) and of the strength of close, intimate associations (the ties that bind ‘the people’, ‘brothers’, ‘sisters’ and ‘comrades’). However, the meaning and nature of this solidarity is ambivalent. It is offered by many on the Left as something forged, not natural but created in conflict. Thus it is cast as distinct from ‘conservative’, organic, solidarities. Unlike them it is not passive, backward-looking and insular but politically conscious and oriented to the future, towards change and action. Yet the lines of distinction between these types of solidarity are hard to maintain. Com­ munities are sites of solidarity but they are also places where solidarity is fixed in place; solidarity is entangled with rootedness. Moreover, the idea of soli­ darity always contains a hope of human togetherness that cannot be reduced to political utility, to mere strategic value. Hence, the ideal of solidarity exceeds politics, it calls on and looks for something more. And by doing so it inserts a potentially troubling sense of loss into the radical project.

Rethinking the relationship between radicalism and nostalgia Over the past two decades we have seen nostalgia gain its revenge on attempts to banish and deny it. In what is widely announced to be our post-communist epoch, the left’s hostility to nostalgia has begun to look hollow. Yet this is a topic still freighted with suspicion. One way of neutralising the toxic quality of nostalgia and dealing with the weight of the past is to treat memory and historical attachments as political resources or tools. This is a practice that is almost as old as the Left itself so requires a little context. The Left has long sought to find value in the past. For example, as in many other countries, histories of socialism in England sought to turn it into something about which ‘the people’ may feel a sense of connection and own­ ership. From Henry Hyndman’s patriotic message in The Historical Basis of Socialism in England – ‘We islanders have been revolutionists’ (Hyndman 1883:4) – to the solace Tony Benn (1980:x) finds in recollection of the 17th­ century egalitarians called the Diggers – ‘it is … deeply encouraging to know

The dilemmas of radical nostalgia


that the democratic and socialist traditions are so deeply rooted in our own national experience’ – the story of English socialism has been characterised by repeated attempts to use attachment to the past in the service of the present. Indeed, Paul Ward (1998:36) has suggested that, between the 1880s and 1920s, British socialism may be cast as a ‘new form of historical politics’. Another argument that located a useful past was the claim that, within the ‘romantic’ protests of earlier generations, one can find half-formed, embryonic signs of the mature radical consciousness of later years. In post-World War II Britain, the rediscovery of the popular roots of class consciousness by radical historians, reflected this belief. The related emphasis on ‘history from below’, associated with the History Workshop movement, offered a similar set of concerns. As well as reflecting the need to offer a democratic history of socialism to counter the influence of the USSR, these historical agendas challenged many of the tenets of British Marxism: for they showed that militancy arose from a wide cast of poli­ tical actors and traditions. Edward P. Thompson famously explained: I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the ‘obsolete’ hand-loom weaver, the ‘utopian’ artisan, and even the follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. (Thompson 1968:13) As Jackson Lears argues, in ‘a society where even conservatives are besotted with progress’, such acts of ‘rescue’ have a political value: Thompson, Raymond Williams and others inspired by them found more than ‘the idiocy of rural life’ in the English countryside, they found the sources of political radicalism. Their work showed how loving memories of the past could spark rebellion against the present in the service of future generations. (Lears 1998:60–61) The re-evaluation of the politics of memory and custom has been developed and amplified by other historians, such as Craig Calhoun (2012). Over the past three decades, this reassessment can be found taking place across the humanities and social sciences (for example, Duyvendak 2011). It has begun to be better understood that radicalism not only exhibits but often grows out of nostalgia. Thus, for example, in a study of the recent privatisation of the railways in Britain, the sociologist Tim Strangleman argues that nostalgia remains one of the most powerful discourses of resistance. He suggests that nostalgic memories may ‘be positive in that they create an increasingly his­ torically aware popular culture, one therefore that is less open to manipulation’ (Strangleman 1999:743). He also points out that ‘in breaking the link between experience and emotion the possibilities for manipulation and falsification increase’ (Strangleman 1999: 743). In similar vein, Peter Glazer (2005:7) finds that ‘the performance of radical nostalgia can serve valuable ends, reinfusing


Alastair Bonnett

lost histories with credibility, substance, and emotional resonance’. These depictions evoke a vast and global cultural history that connects servitude and vulnerability with the loss of attachments to the past. One of the most important aspects of the new wave of work on nostalgia lies in the attempt to depict the productive and radical role that nostalgia can have among communities subject to ethnic violence and removal. The Native Amer­ ican story-tellers discussed by Jennifer Ladino (2012) have long remained mar­ ginal to radical representations of either the past or the future. As viewed through Ladino’s research, they articulate a sense of loss and remembrance that reflects their experience of modernity as a racialised condition which has shown little interest in their future. An attention to the way such ‘counter-nostalgia’ can be employed to resist dominant images of the past and, more generally, Wester­ nisation and racialised modernity, provides Ladino’s work with a politicised sense of the value of an attachment to ‘the dead’: Counter-nostalgic narratives complicate simplistic narratives, invert oppressive ones, and create the potential for new formulations of social justice that utilize the unlikely ally of nostalgia as a catalyst for action. Against the widespread negative characterizations that dismiss or limit nostalgia, it is essential to draw attention to the range of ways in which nostalgia functions in order to recover more productive uses of this powerful and prevalent cultural narrative. (Ladino 2005) ‘Counter-nostalgic narratives’, Ladino concludes, ‘create the potential for new formulations of social justice that utilise the unlikely ally of nostalgia as a catalyst for action’. Ladino’s concept of ‘counter-nostalgia’ echoes Michel Foucault’s (1977) ‘counter-memory’ and, hence, can be seen to overlap with the insurgent counter-memory Stephen Legg (2005) identifies in colonial India; the ‘strategic nostalgia’ Tina Steiner (2008) portrays in post-colonial fiction; or the ‘counter-narratives’ of melancholic longing Linda Tabar (2007) finds in Jenin refugee camp. Nostalgia is being re-evaluated and revalued in these accounts. But it is still eyed warily. A ‘radical, progressive nostalgia’, Peter Glazer warns, ‘can become available and advantageous under specific social, historical, cultural, and performative circumstances’ (Glazer 2005:9). Nostalgia is found to be acceptable only when it can be shown to be ‘a catalyst for action’, a resource for progressives. Hence, contemporary reassessments of nostalgia are marked by the effort to differentiate good forms of nostalgia from bad forms of nostalgia. Such attempts at political and moral classification introduce a hierarchy of nos­ talgic forms, a division that implies that nostalgia is a subtle art which the ignorant can easily get wrong. Fred Davis (1979) set the terms of much of the subsequent debate by introducing the following scale: ‘simple’ nostalgia; ‘reflex­ ive’ nostalgia; and ‘interpreted’ nostalgia (what he also called first-, second- and third-order forms). The evolution from ‘simple’ to ‘interpreted’ is an ascent from

The dilemmas of radical nostalgia


unquestioning yearning to critical distance. The clear implication is that the more removed one’s relationship is to the past the better. Svetlana Boym provides a similarly loaded contrast between ‘restorative’ and ‘reflective’ nos­ talgia. The former is ‘an attempt to conquer and stabilise time’, to imagina­ tively reconstruct a lost home, while the latter is ‘ironic, inclusive and fragmentary’ (Boym 2001:50), or in Legg’s (2004:100) terms, ‘nomadic, eva­ sive’. These comparisons ask us to ironise the past in order to make it safe for political consumption. In her influential discussion of the relationship between post-modernism, irony and nostalgia, Linda Hutcheon makes the same suggestion, concluding that ‘our contemporary culture is indeed nostal­ gic; some parts of it – postmodern parts – are aware of the risks and lures of nostalgia, and seek to expose them through irony’ (Hutcheon 2000:206). The historical sensibility that animates these attempts to distinguish and privilege ironic forms of nostalgia is intriguing. Although rarely acknowl­ edged, it is clear that they are defining this form of nostalgia against a parti­ cular set of images of non-ironic nostalgia. Enough nods and winks are supplied to suggest that the model, the ur-type, of non-ironic nostalgia that is being offered is fascism. Yet irony can and has been adopted and adapted by a variety of political traditions (arguably, including fascism) and Hutcheon’s illustrations of ironic nostalgia do little to further convince us that this form can be usefully or satisfactorily separated out and claimed for progressive politics. Her two examples are the ‘histriographic metafictions of Salman Rushdie’ and the ‘parodic architectural ideas of Charles Moore’s once splen­ did Piazza d’Italia’ (Hutcheon 2000:206). As soon as these concrete cases are evoked the purpose and possibility of the demarcation of radical, ironic and conservative, non-ironic nostalgia becomes even more doubtful. Today, New Orleans’s Piazza d’Italia is a by-passed oddity; of interest mostly as an illustra­ tion of the ephemerality of post-modernism. It has also become clearer that Rushdie’s historical novels are not odes to deracination but rely on the creative tension between, and meshing of, the dualism that Hutcheon wishes to set him on one side of. Indeed, it is with a sense of the importance of acknowledging unresolvable longings that, in The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Rushdie explains that ‘among the great struggles of man – good/evil, reason/unreason, etc. – there is also this mighty conflict between the fantasy of Home and the fantasy of Away, the dream of roots and the mirage of the journey’ (Rushdie 1999:55). The attempt to separate out progressive ironic nostalgia from reactionary non-ironic nostalgia appears designed to neutralise the accusations of con­ servatism that still surround the topic. In this way it recreates the politics and pleasures of scorning the truly backward-looking. As this implies, and despite the emphasis on the value of the ‘nomadic’ and ‘evasive’, such hierarchies reflect the chronic nature of radicalism’s ‘problem’ with nostalgia. This argument also brings critical attention to another, more ubiquitous, way of separating out a progressive way of looking backward. I am referring to the idea that memory is superior to and distinct from nostalgia. The separation of the two has often relied on the claim that, in contrast to


Alastair Bonnett

memory, nostalgia is irrational, inaccurate and incapable of drawing lessons from the past to apply to the present. Thus, Christopher Lasch argues that nostalgia is ‘the abdication of memory’; it wallows in the past while ‘memory draws hope and comforts from the past in order to enrich the present’ (Lasch 1991:83). Gayle Greene has made a similar point: [N]ostalgia and remembering are in some ways antithetical, since nostalgia is a forgetting, merely regressive, whereas memory may look back in order to move forward and transform disabling fictions to enabling fictions. (Greene 1991:298) Yet, while the epistemological intent of these demarcations is clear, their plausibility or practicality is not. If memory, in Lasch’s terms, ‘draws hope and comfort from the past’, then it is nostalgic. Conversely if memory is stripped of its yearnings and attachments, then much of the moral and social strength of Lasch’s defence of it (and his critique of the ideology of progress) is drained away. If memory is merely a strategic application of the past to the present then it becomes another, typically modern, technique for burying the awkward presence of nostalgia. A broader problem with all these attempts to valorise reflexive distance over ‘simple’ or ‘restorative’ nostalgia, is that they underestimate the intrinsic complexity of nostalgia. The ache and poignancy of nostalgic longing is not simply about wanting something but wanting something and knowing it is gone forever. To be nostalgic is to be dislocated, alienated, homeless and, hence, removed from one’s object of desire. As this implies, nostalgia is inherently reflexive: it presupposes a self-conscious relationship with history. Peter Fritzsche’s depiction of nostalgia is pertinent here: ‘the measure of the distance people have fallen short in their efforts to make themselves “at home in a constantly changing world”’ (Fritzsche 2002:62). Indeed, it would be plausible to argue that a lack of ‘reflection’ and self-doubt is more likely among those who live purely in and for the present than in those with a tortured love of the past. Nos­ talgia’s blatant vulnerability, its pathos, are premised on the impossibility of its struggle against time, its wistful, painful knowledge that the past is out of reach. The attempt to dissect nostalgia and stitch together its progressive parts so that they serve the needs of the progressive community is based on a mis­ understanding. It ignores the fact that the concept of nostalgia denotes the existence of a complex and interconnected set of emotional attachments to and detachments from the past and that this set of relationships are an indelible feature of modern life. Any attempt to fashion a ‘safe’ version of nostalgia crafted to our political needs is also complicated by nostalgic ‘transference’. ‘Nostalgic transference’ refers to the practice of experiencing yearning and loss not for one’s own past but for another’s. Nostalgic transference often proceeds through the identifi­ cation of a romanticised object of affection that evokes or has retained some pre- or anti-modern virtue that ‘we’ have lost. The idealisation of working­

The dilemmas of radical nostalgia


class pasts by middle-class radicals is one example of this process and has animated a diverse array of radical movements (see, for example, Bonnett 2006). Such processes of nostalgic transfer further question the plausibility of demarcating and privileging ironic over non-ironic forms of nostalgia. The middle-class romanticisation of working-class pasts is heavily freighted with irony and knowing distance; so too the Western evocation of pastoral Edens and distant ‘authentic’ native peoples. To privilege ironic nostalgia would suggest that these estranged attachments should be valued over and above the ‘restorative’ nostalgia of those with more direct and authentic connections to working-class or non-Western pasts. If this outcome sounds perverse – and, of course, it does – then so too is the privileging of a coolly reflexive type of nostalgia over more ‘simple’ forms. All these difficulties point to the wider problem of taking an instrumental approach to nostalgia. The insistence that nostalgia is to be taken seriously only when it can be presented as a useful political tool, a weapon of resis­ tance, fails to meet the challenge posed by nostalgia and does not represent a sufficient break from the anti-nostalgia paradigm. And why do we need such a break? It is not because nostalgia is a fine and noble thing. Very often it is quite the opposite. It is because we need to treat both nostalgia and antinostalgia as equally fertile sites of social creation and resistance. We need to be open to the possibilities of both and understand that nostalgia is part what we are as modern people and an inescapable aspect of the radical project. To flee it is to run towards it.

Conclusion In the early 21st century the Left is often represented as a political tradition from the past of uncertain relevance to the future. Yet one of the dominant themes within left-wing thought is contempt for nostalgia. Thus a paradox appears. This chapter has briefly introduced some of the dilemmas of radical nostalgia. Nostalgia has been presented as a field of acknowledgement, an integral aspect of the modern condition, something that is present whether or not we identify and engage it or repress and deny it. The contemporary crisis of the Left is helping to bring the nature and importance of loss and longing into the light. Yet it remains a fraught encounter. The four dilemmas I have highlighted in this chapter exhibit the diversity of this encounter. The many ways nostalgia and radicalism trouble and sustain each other indicate that the bond between them is powerful and complex but also that the politics of nostalgia spills out into other debates, such as ageism and environmentalism. Although the role of nostalgia in radicalism has not attracted much study, its presence has become too obvious to be ignored. As we have seen, one of the responses has been the attempt to resolve the conflict between the two by sieving nostalgia for its progressive elements. An interest in oppositional nostalgia can be highly fertile: nostalgia has been a weapon of the dispossessed many times. Yet such instrumental uses of nostalgia never


Alastair Bonnett

quite convince. Nostalgia is too wide-ranging, multifaceted and ambiguous to fall into line. Nostalgia may occasionally ‘serve’ the Left but it has many masters and sometimes it appears to have none. Nostalgia and hostility to nostalgia are hard-wired into modernity. Nos­ talgia works within and against the present and, in so doing, reconstitutes modernity; shaping our hopes for the past and the future. Radicalism too has always been in and against its times. It was never simply ‘forward-looking’. Such awkward relationships with modernity are not necessarily a point of weakness. The capacity to transcend and critique modernity propels not just narratives of tradition and attachment but politics itself, which calls forth solidarities and yearnings that look backwards even as they proclaim their revolutionary intent. It is inevitable, necessary even, that political radicalism has a particularly uncomfortable alliance with the past: it is a site of irresol­ vable contradiction and paradox. There is no soothing balm for these dilem­ mas. They must be lived with and recognised.

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Levellers, Agitators and Diggers of the English Revolution. London: Quartet Books. Blackwell, Trevor and Jeremy Seabrook (1993): The Revolt Against Change: Towards a Conserving Radicalism. London: Vintage. Blunt, Alison (2003): ‘Collective Memory and Productive Nostalgia: Anglo-Indian Homemaking at McCluskieganj’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 21:717–738. Bonnett, Alastair (2006): ‘The Nostalgias of Situationist Subversion’. Theory, Culture and Society, 23(5):23–48. Bonnett, Alastair (2010): ‘Radicalism, Anti-Racism and Nostalgia: The Burden of Loss in the Search for Convivial Culture’. Environment and Planning A, 42 (10):2351–2369. Boym, Svetlana. (2001): The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books. Calhoun, Craig (2012): The Roots of Radicalism: Tradition, the Public Sphere and Early

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Press. Duyvendak, Jan (2011): The Politics of Home: Belonging and Nostalgia in Western Europe and the United States. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Foucault, Michel (1977): Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Fritzsche, Peter (2002): ‘How Nostalgia Narrates Modernity’, in Peter Fritzsche and Alon Confino (eds): The Work of Memory: New Directions in the Study of German Society and Culture. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, pp. 62–85. Glazer, Peter (2005): Radical Nostalgia: Spanish Civil War Commemoration in Amer­ ica. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

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Greene, Gayle (1991): ‘Feminist Fiction and the Uses of Memory’. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 16(2):290–321. Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri (2000): Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni­ versity Press. Higgens, John (1999): Raymond Williams: Literature, Marxism and Cultural Materi­ alism. London: Routledge. Hobsbawm, Eric (1962): The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848. New York: New Amer­ ican Library. Hutcheon, Linda (2000): ‘Irony, Nostalgia and the Postmodern’. Studies in Compara­ tive Literature, 30:189–207. Hyndman, Henry (1883): The Historical Basis of Socialism in England. London: Kegan Paul and Trench. Ladino, Jennifer (2005): ‘Rediscovering Nostalgia: The Significance of Counter-Nos­ talgia in American Literature’. Paper presented to the Nostalgia and Cultural Memory English Graduate Conference, University of Victoria, 4–5 March. Ladino, Jennifer (2012): Reclaiming Nostalgia: Longing for Nature in American Lit­ erature. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press. Lasch, Christopher (1991): The True and Only Heaven: Progress and its Critics, New York: W. W. Norton. Lears, Jackson (1998): ‘Looking Backward: In Defense of Nostalgia’. Lingua Franca, 10:59–66. Legg, Stephen (2004): ‘Memory and Nostalgia’. Cultural Geographies, 11:99–107. Legg, Stephen (2005): ‘Sites of Counter-Memory: The Refusal to Forget and the Nationalist Struggle in Colonial Delhi’. Historical Geography, 33:180–201. Löwy, Michael and Robert Sayre (2001): Romanticism against the Tide of Modernity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Martin, Alexander (1954): ‘Nostalgia’. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 14:99–101. Marx, Karl (1975): Early Writings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Marx, Karl (1992): Karl Marx: Surveys from Exile: Political Writings: Volume 2. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels (1975): Collected Works: Volume 42. New York: International Publishers. Mignolo, Walter (2000): Local Histories/Global Designs. Princeton: Princeton Uni­ versity Press. Natali, Marcos P. (2004): ‘History and Politics of Nostalgia’. Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 5:10–25. Rushdie, Salman (1999): The Ground Beneath Her Feet. London: Jonathan Cape. Scanlan, Sean (2004): ‘Introduction: Nostalgia’. Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 5:3–9. Steiner, Tina (2008): ‘Strategic Nostalgia, Islam and Cultural Translation in Leila Aboulela’s The Translator and Coloured Lights’. Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa, 20(2):7–25. Strangleman, Tim (1999): ‘The Nostalgia of Organisations and the Organisation of Nostalgia: Past and Present in the Contemporary Railway Industry’. Sociology, 33 (4):725–746. Tabar, Linda (2007): ‘Memory, Agency, Counter-Narrative: Testimonies from Jenin Refugee Camp’. Critical Arts, 21(1) 6–31. Thompson, Edward P. (1968): The Making of the English Working Class. Harmonds­ worth: Penguin Books.


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Ward, Paul (1998): Red Flag and Union Jack: Englishness, Patriotism and the British Left, 1881–1924. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. Williams, Raymond (1975): The Country and the City. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Young, Robert (2001): Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


The political staging of nostalgia Neo-Ottomanism in contemporary Turkey Yagmur Karakaya

Introduction After Johannes Hofer coined the term nostalgia in the 17th century to describe a disease that befell soldiers, many scholars have pondered the char­ acter and significance of nostalgia (Dodman 2018). Theorists have argued that it emerged with the changing conception of time (Lowenthal 1996; Koselleck 1998), and that it is coeval with modernity (Boym 2001; Fritzsche 2004). They have assessed it as a reaction to (Glazer 2005; Bonnett 2010) or as a tool of capitalism, that is, as a boost to mediated consumer culture (Stewart 1984; Boltanski and Chiapello 2005; Boltanski and Esquerre 2015; Niemeyer 2014; de Groot 2016; Lizardi 2015; Appadurai 1996). Historian Thomas Dodman (2018) gave an account of its transformation from a disease entity, to a cultural phenomenon. Most recently scholars drew attention to its uncanny alliance with politics, specifically nationalism and populism (Kar­ akaya 2018; Kenny 2017; Stanley 2018).1 In this chapter I use the Turkish Conquest Rallies by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to examine the characteristics of this particular populist nostalgia. I argue that even though this form is seemingly new, it shares characteristics historic to political mobilisation. That is, politics always relied on emotion imbued per­ formance, and today we observe the prominence of the particular combina­ tion, populist nostalgia, which needs to be analysed separately from other forms of nostalgia. First, I provide a historical context to the Turkish phenomenon, as the rallies represent a turn in the political use of Ottoman history. I show the shift from early Republican narrative that centred on ethnicity, to contemporary neo-Ottomanism which focuses on a religious identity. Second, I offer a the­ oretical perspective that puts social performance at the core of populist nos­ talgia. Third, I offer a thick description of the Conquest Rally using ethnographic discourse analysis, focusing on the relationship between the leader and the audience, and emotion inducing mechanisms. Lastly, I describe populist nostalgia as an ideal-type, arguing the need to treat it separately from other forms of nostalgia.


Yagmur Karakaya

Historical context The Turkist Conquest Rallies are part of a broader nostalgic political mobi­ lisation in Turkey: neo-Ottomanism.2 In this neo-Ottoman context, the Con­ quest of Constantinople on 29 May 1453 under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II – has become the key event commemorated in populist mass rituals. Neo-Ottomanism is a shift if not a break from the Kemalist history regime which was gradually implemented after the foundation of the Republic in 1923. During the early Republican period, modernisation move­ ment included secularisation, mass conscription, and educational reform that unified a national curriculum. Turkification of the language, proliferation of media outlets – especially newspapers – and secularisation engorged the sphere of this modern state infrastructure. In this context, between 1923 and 1950, the single party regime disseminated a unified narrative of history that cut ties from the Ottoman past. The new narrative did two things: first, it deemphasised, and sometimes denigrated, the Ottoman Empire and second, it raised Mustafa Kemal to a saviour role (Brockett 2011). This collective memory regime signalled stability and eternity while also promising change and progress. The national historiography set the Turkish Republic against the Ottoman Empire which discursively became the ancien régime. Two major academic endeavours – the Turkish History Thesis and Sun Language Theory – were key in consolidating a Turkish continuum of glorious history, where the Ottoman Empire was rendered as only a blip. Both these works argue that literally everything started with the ancient Turks; Turks influenced major civilisations on their march from Central Asia to build impressive states, and the Turkish language lies at the root of every spoken language (Brockett 2011:74–75). Up till 2011, the AKP’s social performance empha­ sised these tenets of the Republican regime such as secularism and Wester­ nisation, but increasingly shifted to a neo-Ottoman3 nostalgia that emphasises masculine glory, a unified Islamic ummah and authoritarianism (Altınordu 2016; Ig˘ sız 2018; Ergin and Karakaya 2017; White 2013).

Theoretical background Relying on social performance theory (Alexander 2004, 2011), I argue that this form of nostalgia pairs well with populist discourses as they both rely on a dual hermeneutic structure. I use neo-Ottomanism in Turkey as a case study, to propose findings that would apply to Donald Trump’s ‘Make America great again’ or Brexit’s ‘Take back control’. While interpreting the rally, I analysed populist mechanisms at work, which made visible the rally’s emotional mechanism, bringing the content, dialogue and emotions between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdog˘ an, the most important and powerful actor at the rally, and the audience, to the fore (Karakaya 2018). I analysed the collective representation in the script by coding for the themes of conquest, binary structures such as us versus them, past versus future, and enemies

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versus friends. Coding for emotion included feeling inducing factors such as the scene decor, music, laser show, and flying jets, which also underlined mise­ en-scène and symbolic production. Centring the political leader as the main actor or performer of populism, and the focus of the affect (Moffitt 2016:52) helped me ‘explain the appeal of leaders of their followers, without reducing the latter’s behavior to either manipulation or irrational and anomic action or to a utilitarian nationalism’ (de la Torre 2000:1). I argue that populism and a certain kind of nostalgia work well together on a discursive level, yet, this does not mean that this paired discourse appeal to the public or the audience homogeneously. On the personal level, only some buy into this rhetoric, countering the popular assumptions regarding nostalgia and populism’s superpowers of sweeping the masses away (Karakaya 2018). This chapter follows Svetlana Boym’s footsteps in the endeavour to rid nos­ talgia from the dismissive academic and popular stigma attached to it; not to redeem it and declare it harmless, but to underline that the populist nostalgic form is one distinct type of nostalgia, with a specific set of core emotions. I argue that nostalgia is not one singular emotion; rather it is an amalgam which in each unique case holds a different set of emotions. That is, for example, some nos­ talgias inhere more romance and reminiscence while others harbour melancholia and bittersweet heartache. While Boym declared the persistence of nostalgia in 2001, the 2016 US Presidential Election seemed to catch everybody off guard. How could the nostalgia for a ‘Great America’ win the elections? Brexit’s ‘Take back control’ and Modi’s ‘Hindu revival’ are among many other examples that made journalists announce nostalgia and its close companion, populism, as the defining contemporary political ills (Karakaya 2018). Without jumping to con­ clusions, we need to understand how this particular ideal-type works. Like Jeff Goodwin et al. (2001), Mabel Berezin (1994, 2002) and others (Kemper and Collins 1990; Goffman 1967/2005; Kemper 2011; Hochschild 2016) I focus on the mobilisation of emotions in ritualistic political settings, without sealing these moments from cognitive engagement. The Durkheimian literature shows us that political rituals create intense social density through common gestures and chants (Collins 1985; Durkheim 1985/2001) so that collective actors ‘take home’ emotions like pride, fear and enthusiasm, sus­ taining and mobilising their political attachment to the nation (Taylor and Whittier 2013). Contemporary rituals, with their enhanced technology, are ever more powerful in helping create the emotional aspect of populist rheto­ ric. These emotionally charged frames, such as those promoting fear and moral judgment, have a high degree of salience (Bonikowski and Gidron 2016:1598). Importantly, momentary feelings created during these rallies become emotions imbued with meaning (Illouz 1997). In other words, bodily sensations, created by songs, laser light shows, and flying jets cohere into emotions once the subject cognitively attaches meaning to their experience. According to Arlie R. Hochschild, rallies are also places where ‘feeling rules’ get played out both by the leader and the audience (Hochschild 2016:15). The leader (in Hochschild’s study, Trump) ‘gives the participants, emotionally


Yagmur Karakaya

speaking, an ecstatic high’ (Hochschild 2016:226). This elation sometimes can get rid of a set of feeling rules, where the audience can get a ‘joyous relief ’ from not being constrained by conventions such as political correctness (Hochschild 2016:227). The AKP’s Conquest Rallies are therefore key to analyse in order to understand the description of history, state of affairs, and prescriptions for the future in contemporary Turkey and their appeal through affect and cognitive interpretation.

The Conquest Rally The 1990s saw the first full manifestations of the neo-Ottoman spirit in public and local governance. By 1994, with Erdog˘ an winning the mayoral election of Istanbul, the narrative of the re-conquest of Istanbul made its first appear­ ance. Beginning with 1996, major commemorations marked the conquest, not organised by the state but by several youth organisations, and – at least before it was shut down – the Islamist Refah Party (RP). Necmettin Erbakan was then at the forefront, with the newly elected mayor of Istanbul, Erdog˘ an, standing by his side as a rising star. At a large soccer stadium, the com­ memoration of the conquest served as a moment to celebrate RP’s victory in local elections as well as to remember the conquest of Constantinople, an achievement people claim was foretold and praised by the Prophet Moham­ med. Erbakan claimed: ‘Like in many other metropolitan areas, RP has won the local elections in Istanbul, the centre of the world. Now Istanbul has been entrusted to devout people once again.’ He said: ‘After 541 years, Istanbul has been re-conquered, I am grateful to God who has made this possible.’ RP continued the commemorations for four years until the party was shut down. Unlike the earlier small-scale commemorations, populated by a few army officials and characterised by a formal and sincere recognition of the military success of Fatih, this version involved a strong mobilised audience, pre­ dominantly the youth (Brockett 2014; Çınar 2005). Moreover, it was highly performative, involving a Fatih on his white horse, a group of mock soldiers schlepping a ship on concrete, re-enacting the conquering army’s masculine hard work marshalled by Fatih’s genius (Çınar 2005). A Byzantine woman presented flowers to Fatih, people prayed collectively, a Turkish flag was raised on the city walls after a mock surrender, firecrackers were lit, and of course the military marching band performed (Çınar 2005). This moment arguably marks the beginning of neo-Ottoman nostalgia. The rally was so influential that the 2016 commemoration rally was also a re­ enactment of this particular instance, after twenty years – this time domi­ nated, perfected, and successfully hegemonised by the state. The AKP has reinvigorated these celebrations by institutionalising them. The unprecedented scale of the 2016 commemoration was a culmination of this tradition, this time featuring Erdog˘ an at the very centre. Artificial city walls served as a stage screen, allegedly the biggest in the world so far. The program, broadcasted live on television, lasted almost six hours, climaxing with a three­

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dimensional laser light tale of the conquest. During the day, multiple spee­ ches, including Erdog˘ an’s, built on the theme of continuous conquest, expanding the meaning of the word to encompass winning hearts. At night, city walls were shattered, destroyed, and conquered over and over again thanks to the latest 3D projection technology. In the following sections I provide an analysis of the commemoration, focusing on the emotions gener­ ated during the rally.

Conquerors, saviours and grandchildren Erdog˘ an landed on the rally grounds in his white helicopter, resembling Mehmed the Conqueror’s (Fatih) entrance into Istanbul on his white horse. As he saluted the audience, walking down the turquoise carpeted stage, the announcer declared his arrival like a town crier: Istanbul! Here comes the protector of the oppressed, hope of the poor, the strong voice of the underdogs, child of the nation, here comes the fearless advocate of the just cause, grandson of Fatih, apple of the ummah’s eye, architect of new Turkey, servant of the nation, president of the republic! Erdog˘ an walked smilingly around the janissaries as the military marching band debuted its first song. He began his speech by saluting the ‘precious Istanbul, beloved Istanbulites, weeping and destitute cities of the region’, and congratulated the 563rd year of the conquest that began a new historical age. ‘God bless Mehmed the Conqueror, his spiritual guides, his army who con­ quered the promised city, god bless our soldiers who fight everyday so Istan­ bul can remain ours!’ Both the announcer’s expressions and Erdog˘ an’s greetings underlined the side Erdog˘ an took for the (oppressed) people. Istanbulites gathered in the square, cheered and clapped to Erdog˘ an’s pro­ mise of transforming ‘the new Turkey’ into one of the ten biggest economies in the world. Calling the crowd the ‘grandchildren of Mehmed the Con­ queror’, he said: ‘Enemies, who are still jealous of Turkey for the conquest of Constantinople, should be defeated on a daily basis by continuing the con­ quest on the economic and cultural realm, by building a new Turkey.’ He continued: ‘Dear God, please grant us the right to conquer hearts on a daily basis, dear God let the call to prayers echo in this city till the judgment day, protect your shield over Istanbul till the last day.’ The metaphor ‘conquest of hearts’ is a wish for political legitimation, which is anchored in 1453, and operates through ritualistic populist rallies. Erdog˘ an’s wish to conquer hearts is a wish to govern through emotional means, which works through appealing to the hearts of the citizens regularly, making them believe in the national project over and over again. But, what else do the audience and the actor talk about during this hyper-emotional spectacle, what does the ‘conqueror of the hearts’ say so people are convinced once again?:


Yagmur Karakaya Revenge and settling of the Conquest still continues after 563 years, and it will continue as long as our flag remains waving on this soil. People don’t grasp the true meaning of the conquest, conquest is often perceived as a process marked by death and blood, but this is not the case, conquest is about a 21-year-old sultan bringing the West to its knees, it is about setting roots on a continent, lifting up the flag that was dropped in Andalusia. There is no exodus from either Anatolia or Thrace for us. Nobody is strong enough to uproot us from this land. Those who wage war in the southeast, their concern is not our Kurd­ ish brothers, or the region. They still want to avenge the conquest. Those who set those enemies upon us will face the same fate … Inshallah4 by 2023 we will transform Turkey in one of the ten biggest economies in the world.

In this passage from his speech, Erdog˘ an reminds us of the interrelated dichotomies the world: the winners and losers, oppressors and the oppressed, West versus East, and uses the dog-whistle Islam versus Christianity. He defines the moral path to be victorious in this setting: having a good economy and vigilance against ‘those who set the enemies on us’. Even though he does not specify it clearly, from his metaphor of the West on its knees, we can deduce that the enemy might be the ‘vast West’ that meddles with ‘our coun­ try’. Yet, this enemy is still quite vague and unidentifiable, thus designating the relationship between Erdog˘ an and the audience as the sole safe space in a world that has ‘always’ been marked by hostility and danger against ‘us’. We are invited to embark on a journey with the motto: ‘us against the world’. AKP’s populist rhetoric, therefore, both reproduces and strengthens multiple inter-related binary categories (Bonikowski and Gidron 2016). Emotions such as determination, persistence and vigilance provide the mechanism through which these populist and nostalgic dichotomies are constructed, maintained and bound. Erdog˘ an pauses and gives an overview of what Turkey has accomplished in the thirteen years of his/their rule to become an independent economic power against all the odds, in spite of the setbacks he claims the West has caused: ‘We don’t have any friends except ourselves!’ He cries in a higher tone: ‘Have we finished building the Osman Gazi Bridge?’ ‘Yes,’ the crowd answers his rhetorical question, while he announces that the bridge will open soon. ‘Turkey is proud of you!’, the crowd cheers now. He responds back: ‘We are proud of you, we are proud of you, thank you!’ He concludes with the good news of starting construction of the best airport in the world: ‘Who would have thought my brothers? We for sure undertook a lot!’ This courting dia­ logue between the audience and Erdog˘ an where the parties pamper and recognise each other’s worth and accomplishments further affirms their bond. Pierre Ostiguy (2017) argues that a particular form of political relationship between political leaders and a social base characterises populism. The com­ memoration exemplifies the aspects of populist discourse that Ostiguy

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mentions: relationality between the crowd and the leader, the reproduction of the nefarious other(s), and the leader being the sole protector and provider of eschatological redemption: Those who think we are not deserving of these accomplishments, the ones in our country – you know who – they can’t even reach what we have actively actually accomplished, even in their dreams. In the world there are those who like us, and who don’t like us … There are also our sister and brother countries who are going through similar problems, and we are their only hope. So what are we going to do? We will both look after ourselves and them right? Because that is what would suit us, the grand­ children of Fatih, right? Getting inspiration from Fatih, whose legacy according to Erdog˘ an is taking care of the needy, the audience gets anchored in 15th-century history. Like Fatih, the audience is destined to be there for the oppressed, and help those in need. And people, probably those who are not Fatih’s grandchildren, cannot even dream what ‘they’ have accomplished. He continues with claiming how he takes the inspiration from Mehmed the Conqueror, ‘who all by himself conquered Constantinople and also laid out future plans’: Fatih did everything himself, designed the artillery, made the plans and conquered Istanbul. If it was not for that spirit, he could have walked away from Istanbul. But, he did not. We did not either, we have accomplished the most unprecedented mobilization in economic devel­ opment. My ancestors have laid out the project for me, why would not we follow their orders? So we did and we built the Marmaray railway tunnel under Bosphorus. 130 million Istanbulites crossed the Bosphorus using the tube since then! Well, we won’t stop, next, we are opening the Avrasya tunnel, why? So, Istanbul has a healthy transportation system. Next, is the city hospitals! By underlying how Fatih did everything himself, he suggests that acting as a strong and solo leader is the legitimate way to pursue politics. If Turkey wants to be successful as a nation it should follow a strong leader, following the example set by Fatih. Here, we see a persona of a continuously oppressed, yet immensely caring saviour, who not only looks after himself, but also becomes the hope of other, oppressed people who are less able. He designates the ene­ mies for the crowd, and, in case he misses one, the crowd helps him. People get excited with him, his cause seems to become their cause, and this most exciting day probably will become a memory that they will not forget. As citizens seek out that effervescence they had once, again and again, they may go to the next rally, and, if he invites them out to streets during an attempted coup, they might take it to the streets to help him. Or, they might simply choose to vote for him on the next election (Karakaya 2018).


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Effervescence in commemoration rallies The collective effervescence at the commemoration ritual came in waves, and was enhanced through technological means bolstering the mise-en-scène. Uplifting music in very high volumes, cheering, visual effects, and the presence of over a million bodies radiating energy reinforced the content of his and others’ speeches. Right after Erdog˘ an’s speech, the ‘Turkish Stars’ flew their jet planes over the crowd in an aerobatic show, with their deafening sounds and red and white smoke. ‘When I watch them fly, my blood pressure rises, I get teary eyed. I can’t pray enough for these pilots, truly Masha Allah!’, uttered a television announcer for example. On the screen Erdog˘ an and his wife were presented, watching the planes, smiling. Two famous actors starring in a state-sponsored Ottoman drama series, Dirilis Ertugrul (Resurrection of Ertugrul), read emotional poems in period costumes, with a very serious tone, augmented by bombastic music. After this, the 563-member Ottoman military marching band plays, encouraging the crowd. Their marches use distinct beats played with instruments such as clarions, drums, and cymbals to naturally uplift and fire one’s spirit as they were once created to hearten Ottoman soldiers during war. As the day becomes night, this date with the past, present and the future climaxes in the 3D laser light show depicting the conquest, providing an open air movie experience for a million people. When five jets fly in very close proximity emanating sounds and smokes, or when the artificial city walls get shattered over and over in front of you, it is hard to not feel anything. The audience members might feel elevated, their heart might beat faster, their eyes might tear up, they might shudder. Why does one feel this way? In other words, what is the link between feelings and meaningladen emotions? Erdog˘ an’s spectacular performance provides the scripted con­ tent, so it becomes easier to make the metaphorical leap from collective effer­ vescence, or feelings to meaning-laden emotions, such as anger at the jealous enemies, hope for the future, being fearless in the face of adversities, being con­ quered through love, feeling safe in a hostile world, being proud of your nation and the past, and ultimately finding eschatological redemption. Erdog˘ an pro­ vides a scripted meaning, filling populist nostalgia with the amalgam of the strong emotions and ‘performative power’, which depends on ‘producing a compelling, arresting, and existentially and politically encompassing narrative’ combined with the technologies of enhanced reality (Alexander 2011:150). In a nutshell, the jets give you the feelings and the effervescence in a spectacular set­ ting. But, without Erdog˘ an’s compelling ‘performative power’, which Jeffrey C. Alexander (2011) defines as ‘a cathartic moral experience’, emotions imbued with meaning would not be there (Karakaya 2018).

The sandwich method – enemies, accomplishments, enemies Back at Erdog˘ an’s speech, he rehearses another round of enemies: The Gezi protestors who have allegedly written ‘Torture has begun in 1453’ on a wall, the METU students, dressed as Byzantine soldiers who have fought the

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Turkish police, the terrorist organization PKK, which ‘targets the mosques’, Assad, Iran, occasionally US soldiers, and the list continues. The reason [of their animosity] is, he says, ‘people still can’t stomach the thousand-year-old civilization we have … Their goal is to block Turkey’s communication with the Middle East and North Africa.’ This antagonistic depiction is in line with Jan-Werner Müller’s (2016) diagnosis that populists in office continue to polarise and prepare the people apocalyptic confrontation. They seek to moralise political conflict as much as possible by using multiple enemies. After the count of enemies, the audience is bombarded again by a new cycle of economic aims and goals with a look back on the Mehmed the Conqueror’s strategic thinking during his reign. He goes: ‘Fatih did not march to Istanbul when he first came to rule. He waited till he was ready and strong enough. Turkey is preparing itself too, preparing itself to 2023, to the centennial, when we will say: new Turkey, new constitution, new system of governance!’ Then, Erdog˘ an asks the crowd if they are tired. The crowd yells ‘no’, encouraging him to move to the recitation of RABIA, a sign of his support to the Muslim Brotherhood. But, in this context RABIA becomes something specific, as he adapts it to the Turkish national context: ‘We need to take care of our RABIA’: holding his four fingers up, he recites: First, we are going to be one nation, as Turk, Kurd, Laz, Circassian, Georgian, Arab, seventy-nine million, one nation. Second, we will have one flag: red symbolising the blood of our martyrs, the star, the martyr himself. This is one unique flag; no one has a flag like this. He then claims sentimentally: Third, one fatherland secured by our martyrs, do we have martyrs? Sure we do, thus we have a fatherland. Fourth: one state! … ‘A party’ yester­ day has held a congress, no flags, no national anthem … Can these people be the children of this nation? ‘Some of the MPs’ held speeches at this congress … We know where ‘these people’ belong. They have one task! They need to stop fighting, leave their arms, bury their guns, pour concrete over it, give us the coordinates. If not, they are going to leave this country, no other way out! Even though a second ago he indicated a wish to be one nation with the Kurds, openly equating the Kurdish majority party (HDP) with PKK, he then antagonises the audience against the Kurds. This distinct style of not naming names, not mentioning the party, saying ‘you know who I am talking about’ instead of who, and subtle smiles, all create a sense of mystery and a form of communication regarding esoteric knowledge between Erdog˘ an and his listeners. With secrets, a coded language, and facial cues that only they recognise; Erdog˘ an and his listeners bond through sharing ever-multiplying conspiracies and enemies through their neo­


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Ottoman populist tale. He concludes by saying: ‘As you remember, we also have a song’, and begins to recite a popular song from the 1990s, also a widely used soccer chant, in a sentimental poem format: We walked together on this path We got rained on together Now in every song I listen to There is a bit of you Everything reminds me of you Erdog˘ an adds: ‘Everything reminds me of Turkey! Let our day be blessed! Let the 563rd year of the conquest be blessed! Dear god, grant us the right to conquer new hearts!’ Finishing off with a love song reminds the audience the romantic bond between the leader and themselves. The leader here signals care by relying on the toolkit of ‘love’. He does not only conquer with force, but he conquers hearts efficiently with love songs that have built-in affective connotations, proven by their decades old presence in the Turkish soundscape. People know this song because they have listened to it when they had heartache; they know it because they heard it as a strong soccer chant at stadiums and on television. Hence, the lyrics have the power to activate already embodied feelings, and when the leader pairs the song with his message, authenticity is approximated more seamlessly. The Conquest Rally’s nostalgic commemoration unites the power of the ‘people’ also with a leader posited as saviour and symbol of redemption. This ritual allows ‘participation in a political machine that does more than assure the delivery of goods and services, but provides a symbolic dimension to this exchange’ (de la Torre 2000:21). By positing Erdog˘ an as a saviour like Mehmed the Conqueror, a messianic figure in Islam, it taps into religious sen­ timents, thus creating a compelling link to that cultural backdrop. His typically populist Manichean vision unfolds like nesting Russian dolls, pointing not only to cleavages within the nation, but also to many intricately tangled global ene­ mies. The content of the speech emphasises the power of people legitimated by their Ottoman ancestry. It is laden with conspiracy theories which date back to the conquest, and ‘creates binary categories of us versus them’, with a deep historicity (Bonikowski 2016:22). Erdog˘ an equates himself with Mehmed the Conqueror, who, according to him, ‘undertook every aspect of the conquest himself ’. He becomes the contemporary embodiment of Fatih, standing alone against the world, and shifting politics into moral or eschatological redemption (Alexander 2011; de la Torre 2000). By positing Turkey as surrounded by ene­ mies, yet still succeeding, Erdog˘ an hints at a higher force informed by Turkey’s holy past, protecting and guiding it to its almost eschatological economic, social and political redemption (Karakaya 2018). With the power of enhanced reality technologies such as a massive laser light show, bombastic military marching band music through loud speakers, love songs and the presence of popular television heroes during the rallies, a

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contemporary form of collective effervescence is created in this ‘spectacular’ set­ ting (Debord 1967). These moments of collective effervescence help the populistnostalgic message get through, which further feeds into neo-Ottoman hegemony, linking people to the leader and the nation, through emotions such as pride, anger, hope, safety, determination and love. Does the spirit of conquest dazzle everyone to the same extent? Does everyone find the rally authentic, as a suc­ cessful social performance would require? This contingent relationship needs to be brought to the fore to better understand how nostalgia in populist rhetoric works for those on receiving end of the message. Elsewhere I show that not everybody buys into the formula, and that actually nostalgia becomes the factor why a segment of the population gets alienated by this political performance. For these people history has a special, almost sacred importance which should not be tarnished in the name of politics (Karakaya 2018).

Populist nostalgia as an ideal-type ‘What do populist mobilization projects look like in their practical details and how are the dynamics of populist mobilizing different from or similar to those of other modes of political activity?’ (Jansen 2011:91). One answer is that they increasingly rely on a distinct nostalgia and the specific emotions that come with it. This type of nostalgia – which should be differentiated from other forms – is very much about passionate action, conquest of new hearts and realms, and following the leadership of a ‘fearless man’, a doer. It is a mobilising emotional force rather than a lethargic lingering in the past. Nei­ ther Recep Tayyip Erdog˘ an, nor Donald Trump,5 is invoking the past for the purposes of extended meditation and reminiscence. Their nostalgia is very much about doing and accomplishing in the present and future (Berezin 2017). Hence, their rhetoric is very much about building roads, bridges, and new infrastructure and conquering by drilling, mining, and carving, ‘just like’ ancestors and pre­ decessors in the glorious past. Erdog˘ an, like Mehmed the Conqueror, has man­ aged to bring the city, bridges, and roads to people. Trump has promised to fix crumbling infrastructure and make America ‘great again’. Bringing back the past requires certain stamina, a conquering mindset that they don’t shy away from. One could ask: ‘Why do nostalgia and populism travel so well together?’ Populism, very well defined by Robert S. Jansen as a practice of political mobilisation, shares this moving and mobilising aspect with nostalgia. It is this affinity that allows them to travel so well together (Karakaya 2018). Moreover, the nostalgia observed here is a particular form of collective memory that relies on binaries as well, where the past is posited as infinitely better than the contemporary era, a past which the fierce leader is going to bring back. In turn, nostalgia connects to populist rhetoric well and tightens the binaries that populist rhetoric relies upon, providing the combination of emotional glue and centuries-long history. As I have shown in my analysis, this gluing motional amalgam is a shield of pride and honour against the envy of enemies, past shame, or fear of failure. It is also a release from the


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‘feeling rules’ dictating caring about others or ‘political correctness’ (Hochs­ child 2016). The contemporary form, exemplified by Modi’s ‘Hindutva’ or Brexit’s ‘Take back control’ operates on this binary vision, cemented with emotions. Every political project relies on a past anchor, which can take many forms: a trauma narrative (Alexander 2004), a cosmopolitan story portraying different groups living in harmony (Ig˘ sız 2018), a cult of emperor. But, the nostalgia observed in contemporary populist projects relies on a dual and divided history: a glorified past versus crumbling present, a present which the leader or party in question is supposedly going to save the people from. The duality also leaves room for inter­ pretation, an uncertainty of the nature of the glorious past that needs to be unpacked in different contexts. Which past was better according to Brexit supporters? The British Empire the sun never set on, or the West­ minster democracy? Similarly, which America ‘was great’? The Progressive Era or the 1950s? This vagueness has the potential to draw in more people as they can fit their perfect past into this dual frame, again based on their standpoint (Karakaya 2018). As Isaac Ariail Reed argues, in some cases the power of meaning to move the social world results from the unpre­ dictable ways in which it can be elaborated, and from its inherent ambi­ guities (Reed 2013:200). Modern nostalgic populist rallies are also increasingly spectacular, as poli­ tical mobilisation does not happen in a vacuum; they borrow from popular culture, exemplified by movie-theme-song-like music, presence of historical drama actors, and visual and sound effects. This is of course not to say that there cannot be effective political rallies that are not nostalgic. Similarly, nostalgic spectacles can support political discourses that are not populist. But the sociological scrutiny of this ideal-type, the nostalgic populist duo, is very much needed given that most populist rallies now exhibit nostalgic tendencies.

Conclusion In this chapter I examined the stigmatised duo of populism and nostalgia by analysing the commemoration of the Conquest of Constantinople rallies in Istanbul. I established this as an ideal type that needs to be separated from other forms of nostalgia(s). Through ethnographic discourse analysis, I con­ veyed the newest techniques to create collective effervescence in populist rallies, which revolve around the relation between a strong, messianic leader and the audience. I showed that the contemporary populism relies on a distinct form of political performance, with nostalgia as a central component. According to social performance theory (Alexander and Smith 1993; Alexander 2011), lea­ ders need to produce authentic, emotionally engaging social performances to gain the approval of audiences. The rally exemplified that Ottoman nostalgia proves a central resource in creating the binary oppositions on which populism so heavily relies by claiming a continuous and compelling past, which promises to guide contemporary Turkey into its glorious future.

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The populist nostalgic rally has ‘perfected’ the mechanisms of mobilisation through a specific kind of social performance, which creates a seamless authenticity. Hence, we increasingly see a similar pattern around the world, a proven recipe, which is open to fusion with the local nostalgias to gain poli­ tical traction, especially because nostalgia boosts the authenticity claim, which is the end goal of a social performance. Nostalgia is inherently about an emotional relationship with a represented past; a mobilising desire is cen­ tral to nostalgia, and this desire has increasingly been shaped by a constant plunder of signifiers of authenticity, anchored in the past. Moreover, because nostalgia is always already imbued with emotions, it helps build a moving ‘system of collective representation’, one of the key elements of a successful social performance, ultimately re-fusing the six elements in the social perfor­ mance. With the help of this nostalgic script, the main actor – the heir to a historical epoch – boosts their claim to being seamless, true, and ultimately authentic. Yet, in the Turkish case, ‘too much nostalgia’ also seems to lever­ age de-fusion, by making a segment of the audience question the actor’s monopoly on a sacred past and hence their ‘realness’ (Karakaya 2018). This form of nostalgia is a specific form of collective memory practice that builds – rooted in binaries – an emotional relationship with a glorified, yet lost past. This past highlights the political path to a successful national future, by providing a binary roadmap of winners and losers, friends and foes and the sacred and the profane. Central to nostalgia is desire, which has been increas­ ingly shaped by a constant allusion to an authenticity anchored in the past. Shown through the Turkish case, populist discourse might have an ‘elective affinity’ (Löwy 2004; Weber 2005) to nostalgia, because it anchors ‘the people’ in an imagined past while leading them to desire an equally radiant future, by creating a powerful temporally expansive ‘we’. Thus, this nostalgia is built on the binary of a crumbling today and a glorious future. The binary structures present in both nostalgia and populism bind very well together, with the help of emo­ tions mobilised during the rallies. In other words, emotions act as glue to tighten the nostalgic and populist binaries. The elective affinity between nostalgia and populism works especially well in the Turkish case, by creating and relying on a discourse of dual and divided histories that furthers the constructed rift between the ‘people’ and the ‘elite’. In this narrative, the Republican elite took the ‘real history’ away from the people, and AKP ‘gives it back’ to them.

Notes 1 On nostalgia for Kemalist modernity refer to anthropologist Esra Özyürek’s ethno­ graphy (Özyürek 2006). Focusing on the everyday life in 1990s Turkey, she observes the shift from state-led modernisation to a personalised ‘nostalgic modernity’. 2 Conceptually, I differentiate the state-led (neo-Ottomanism) from popular (Otto­ mania) Ottoman nostalgia. This analytical separation allows for observing how over the years, the AKP has increasingly co-opted popular cultural articulations such as the television series and nostalgic photo booths, which operated outside of state ideology.


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3 For an earlier multicultural iteration of neo-Ottomanism, see Asli Ig˘ sız’s book Humanism in Ruins (2018). Here she differentiates between two different versions of neo-Ottomanism, one that genealogically relates to the Turkish–Islamic synthesis, and the other which alludes to a tolerant and cosmopolitan past. She argues that ‘during its first two terms (2002–2011) in office, the AKP developed a discourse of liberal multiculturalism in the form of neo-Ottomanism and absorbed independent personal and institutional attempts to address alterity in visible terms’ (Ig˘ sız 2018:199). Neo-Ottomanism in question, in this piece, is related to the latter ver­ sion. It is more militaristic, patriarchal, and draws from a glorious imperial domination. 4 Translated as ‘god-willing’. 5 Julia Hell and George Steinmetz (2017) point to the rise of right-wing populist movement grounded in ethnic nationalism and Christian Islamophobia, and Philip Gorski (2017) identifies the elements of conquest, apocalypse, ethno-religious boundary making and Golden Age nostalgia in what he calls religious nationalism as part of this movement. This indicated that these populist nostalgic movements share common tropes. Binary structures are present in these cases, content that goes under each binary changes.

Acknowledgements Some of the content and analysis in this article have also appeared online in my article The Conquest of Hearts (2018) from the American Journal of Cultural Sociology. To read further how audiences react to populist nostalgia please refer to that piece.

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Kemper, Theodore D. (2011): Status, Power and Ritual Interaction: A Relational Reading of Durkheim, Goffman and Collins. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing. Kemper, Theodore D. and Randall Collins (1990): ‘Dimensions of Microinteraction’. American Journal of Sociology, 96(1):32–68. Kenny, Michael (2017): ‘Back to the Populist Future?: Understanding Nostalgia in Contemporary Ideological Discourse’. Journal of Political Ideologies, 22(3):256–273. Koselleck, Reinhart (1998): Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Lizardi, Ryan (2015): Mediated Nostalgia: Individual Memory and Contemporary Mass Media. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Lowenthal, David (1996): Possessed by the Past: The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. New York: Free Press. Löwy, Michaël (2004): ‘The Concept of Elective Affinity According to Max Weber’. Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 127(3):6–6. Moffitt, Benjamin (2016): The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Müller, Jan-Werner (2016): What Is Populism? Philadelphia, PA: University of Penn­ sylvania Press. Niemeyer, Katharina (2014): Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future. London: Palgrave/Macmillan. Ostiguy, Pierre (2017): ‘Populism: A Socio-Cultural Approach’, in Rovira Kaltwasser et al. (eds): The Oxford Handbook of Populism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Özyürek, Esra (2006): Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Poli­ tics in Turkey. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Reed, Isaac Ariail (2013): ‘Power: Relational, Discursive and Performative Dimen­ sions’. Sociological Theory, 31(3):193–218. Stanley, Jason (2018): How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. New York: Random House. Stewart, Susan (1984): On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Taylor, Verta and Nancy Whittier (2013): ‘Analytical Approaches to Social Movement Culture: The Culture of the Women’s Movement’, in Hank Johnston (ed.): Social Movements and Culture. London: Routledge. Weber, Weber (2005): Max Weber: Readings and Commentary on Modernity. Malden, MA: Blackwell. White, Jenny B. (2013): Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks. Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


The future of nostalgia is inevitable Reflections on mediated nostalgia Ryan Lizardi

Introduction The idea of what nostalgia is at this very moment – the ‘now’ in our title – carries a good deal of weight with it, both literally in the tomes that have been written about the concept as of late and figuratively in the theoretical weight in tow. To understand where nostalgia is, which contains the potential benefit of prognosticating where it may be going, it is important to under­ stand what it has been. So to start, this chapter will briefly look at the history of the study of nostalgia, up to and including the most recent scholarly works that engage the concept and the ways in which it is mediated as an emotional longing. Mediated nostalgia stands in contrast to what might be described as a more natural occurrence of longing that the subject came upon through their own volition, as opposed to a form of nostalgia that is encouraged to occur through some form of media. After tracking this history, the chapter will turn to a pair of case studies on the state of nostalgia now, the increasing rate of television show revival and the comprehensive revival of Disney’s animated back catalogue through live-action remakes. By examining these two specific media trends, I will present a broader argument that the way mediated nostalgia is encouraged today is in a form that can best be described as consistent and inevitable nostalgia. I can already hear the collective groans of my fellow nostalgia researchers, who are ready to excoriate this turn of phrase given its inherent contra­ dictions. However, it is my goal in this chapter to put pressure on this very problematic combination of words, inevitable and nostalgia. As I will explore in the history of the term nostalgia, it most often refers to a longing to return to a past state, object, place, time, or person, but has been argued to never truly be able to recapture the past. Instead, ‘nostalgic reconstructions are based on mimicry; the past is remade in the image of the present or a desired future’ (Boym 2001:354). So attaching a word like inevitable to a word like nostalgia that evokes sentiments of being ‘never literal’ seems problematic at best (Boym 2001:354). That being said, I find myself drawn to this connection between the way consumers of nostalgic media are encouraged to long for the past and the way there is a simultaneous predictability and consistency to


Ryan Lizardi

these encouragements. Whereas the films, games, and television of one’s childhood has consistently and near comprehensively been resurrected, and whereas the films, shows, and games of today are more consistently expected to be resurrected even when they are said to be gone, then the form of nos­ talgia encouraged today is more of an inevitable feeling of having the past brought forth to the present. Not only has the nostalgia gap shrank, but the probability of resurrection has increased, leading less to a longing for the past, filled by the unexpected remake, and more to an anticipation of having one’s nostalgic emotional fires stoked.

What nostalgia has been Even when the stated goal of a work is to think through the current state of nostalgia by tracking its prior trajectory, there is simply not enough space to devote to a comprehensive history of the term. I will place my trust in my fellow authors in this collection, as well as in the significant research that pre­ cedes this work, to help backfill and supplement where appropriate. In previous works, I have also devoted much more time to the historical progression of nostalgia, most specifically in my book Mediated Nostalgia (Lizardi 2014). Despite this lengthy caveat, a relatively brief look at the major historical shifts in how we felt and talked about our feelings of nostalgia is helpful in painting a picture of nostalgia now. A consistent thread, however, is that nostalgia is a feeling of longing for some form of past object, time, place, or person(s). Even at its beginnings, the term ‘nostalgia’ contained the same emotional bedrock as it has throughout its history, with the potential exception of ‘sur­ rogate nostalgia’ and this chapter’s ‘inevitable nostalgia’. As other chapters in this collection have undoubtedly mentioned, nostalgia begins as a combina­ tion of nostos (return) and algos (pain) and was used by Johannes Hofer to describe a homesickness ‘pathology that decimated the ranks of the Swiss Army’ (Kessous and Roux 2008:194). This clinical beginning deeply con­ nected a sentiment of longing to return to a past state and an actual felt emotional pain. Crucial within this emotional transaction is the idea that the thought of being unable to return to said past state is what causes the nos­ talgia, and the associated pain. As the use of the term progressed, it still relied on its clinical designation, taking on more modern associated terminology such as melancholia and depression in the 18th century (Wildschut et al. 2006:975). I have worked with the connection between melancholia and nos­ talgia extensively, drawing the distinction between media that encourages us to adopt a connection to our mediated pasts akin to Sigmund Freud’s concept of ‘mourning’ where the desired past object is ‘gradually and painfully’ sepa­ rated from the subject so that ‘the ego becomes free and uninhibited again’ to attach to a new object, and ‘melancholia’ where the subject ‘continues to be attached to a lost object, and the pain of loss does not lessen in the normal way’ (Dickinson and Erben 2006:229). As nostalgia has been researched, it has also often been looked at for the ways in which feeling a deep longing

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connection to the past, even when it is painful, can help to form the con­ tinuity of our identity (Wilson 2005). Hilary Dickinson and Michael Erben argue for ‘[n]ostalgia in its modern sense as more than the recollection of an agreeable event in the past – rather it is defined as a sense of loss of a once positive experience that in recall carries an ache of longing but also has the feature of concentrated pleasurable contemplation’ (Dickinson and Erben 2016:1). Ekaterina Kalinina and Manuel Menke get right to the point when they say that ‘nostalgia helps to form people’s identities in the present’ serving ‘as an intermediary between individual/cultural memory and national iden­ tity’ (Kalinina and Menke 2016:63). There is a nuance in this research that sees nostalgia as a powerful identity formation tool, as both the positives and negatives of such a transaction are explored. A key transition for researchers that brings our historical journey into the present day is the focus on ways in which nostalgia is either manifested or encouraged through media. The goals of mediated nostalgia seem most often to be to leverage consumers’ feelings of longing for the past, natural or encouraged, to increase the economic viability of owned intellectual property, brands, and characters. My research has most often centred on this idea that much of today’s media landscape encourages a form of melancholic emo­ tional connection to the past that feign recreation of the past in pursuit of a perpetual consumer nostalgic state. Similarly, in terms of a focus on the media’s role in creating a specific type of past-oriented object, Michael Pick­ ering and Emily Keightley describe ‘retrotyping’ as the ‘distinctive manner of remembering which depends on a purposive selectiveness of recall that cele­ brates certain aspects of a past period and discards others that would com­ promise the celebratory process and, of course, in this case undermine its commercial intent’ (Pickering and Keightley 2014:88). In line with this exploration of mediated nostalgia, Pickering and Keightley describe a feeling of longing that ‘can only be satisfied by the consumption of this particular product’ when trying to ‘recapture or redeem a lost past stability’ (Pickering and Keightley 2014:92). For many researchers, this ‘particular product’ is media of some form and it is the manner in which media’s specific version of the past, idealised and often neutered of deep social critique, is brought for­ ward to placate the emotional bedrock of nostalgia as opposed to spurring sometimes painful contemplation. Finally, much of the research today looks at how media’s technological advancements have influenced the ways in which we feel, or are asked to feel, connected to our pasts. As society speeds up, researchers like Katharina Niemeyer’s look to nostalgic longing as a ‘reaction to fast technologies, despite using them, in desiring to slow down, and/or escape from’ a crisis of temporality (Niemeyer 2014:2). There are many excellent works that take a deeper look at nostalgia’s historical shifts (Roth 1991; Coontz 1992; Boym 2001; Kompare 2005; Pickering and Keightley 2006; Niemeyer 2014; Dickinson and Erben 2016), and the shifts mentioned in this section speak to the ways nostalgia has moved from its inception to its mediated form today.


Ryan Lizardi

It might seem to anyone with an astute eye for nostalgic research that I have left out one important work, but I have set aside discussion of Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia (2001) because of how insightful and influ­ ential this book has been to the field of nostalgia studies as well as its important titular connection to this collection. Much of Boym’s flagship work explores cities, landscapes and artefacts of the past as a window into where nostalgic longing is headed. Boym presents the potential that advancements in digital culture would ‘eliminate the very premise of nostalgia – that of the irreversibility of time and the inability to revisit other times and places’ call­ ing it ‘merely a matter of access’ (Boym 2001:347). In this argument, Boym is connected to Freud’s concept of a melancholic engagement with the past, one that encourages perpetual nostalgic longing by repeatedly attempting to create a lost past object of desire. The objects are always present, making the ‘bric-a-brac of nostalgia available in digital form, appearing more desirable than the real artifacts’ (Boym 2001:347). Boym discusses the way modern media squeezes culture, and nostalgia, into ‘an overabundance of nostalgic readymades’ and that the ‘problem with prefabricated nostalgia is that it does not help us deal with the future’ (Boym 2001:351). Again, this notion is deeply influential to the mourning/melancholia heuristic I have employed throughout my research on nostalgia, as media encourages us to recreate the past as opposed to contemplating how we can learn from it and adapt for the future. Boym takes this notion a step further and says that ‘[n]ostalgia is never literal, but lateral’ and that it is ‘dangerous to take it at face value’ (Boym 2001:354). This may seem overly pessimistic, and certainly future researchers like Alastair Bonnett (2010, 2016) will look to the ways nostalgia can actively aid in adapting for a progressive future, but Boym seems to be highlighting the important shifts in the ways we are encouraged to feel nostalgic in our modern world. Part of the impetus of this collection and this chapter is to look at specific examples of contemporary media as a window into whether the vision for nos­ talgia’s future has changed by what it is right now. To that end, I have selected two instances of what appear to be inevitable nostalgia developing around Disney’s live-action remakes of animated classics and the increasing revival of cancelled television shows. These two are not the only examples of inevitable nostalgia in contemporary mediated culture, but simply meant to be illustrative of how a word like inevitable, that carries expectations and a lessening of emotional reflection, could be combined with a word like nostalgia, which has historically been linked to longing for a past that cannot be recaptured.

Disney and the remaking of our childhoods The most influential researcher on the cultural impact of the Walt Disney corporation has been Henry Giroux, as he has explored the ways in which this particular company uniquely functions within our cultural landscape, especially for children. In 1998, Giroux presented Disney as capable of ‘pro­ foundly’ influencing ‘children’s culture and their everyday life’ through the

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‘concentration of control over the means of producing, circulating, and exchan­ ging information’ transforming the company ‘into the primary educational site in which youth learn about themselves, their relationship to others, and the larger world’ (Giroux 1998:253). Giroux went on to make the canonical argument, in his 1999 book The Mouse that Roared, that Disney uses its vast ‘corporate power in sentimentalizing childhood innocence as it simultaneously commodifies it’ creating an ‘atemporal, ahistorical, apolitical, and atheoretical space where children share a common bond free of the problems and conflicts of adult society’ (Giroux 2008:31). Giroux’s arguments about corporate power and con­ centration of control have been made even stronger as Disney has acquired many major properties and companies since the late 1990s, including Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and most of the 21st Century Fox corporation. This strength­ ening of corporate power makes for an even more predictable and consistent media product when so much of the cultural landscape serves the same corporate entity. The commodification of childhood innocence has also, no doubt, increased along with this consolidation of media power, and Natalie Coulter explores the ways in which the Walt Disney company works to colonise every single period of a child’s life, saying that ‘[c]hildren can immerse themselves in the Disney brand and move through it as they age’ (Coulter 2012:146). Coulter describes a ‘corporate cocoon of Disney’ that extends through all stages of childhood and when the consumers ‘eventually become adults and have their own children, the cycle can start all over again’ (Coulter 2012:147). One impor­ tant distinction that this chapter makes beyond what Giroux and Coulter are arguing, is that the corporate cocoon of Disney also extends into adulthood, not to say that no critical research looks at adult experiences with Disney films. For example, Chyng Feng Sun and Erica Scharrer conducted a study of college-age participants who were resistant to critiques of The Little Mermaid (1989) and concluded that ‘children and adults alike have memories of viewing Disney films that have become intertwined with the experience of childhood’ (Sun and Scharrer 2004:35). This extension and intertwining of childhood connections to Disney films point to how the comprehensive strategy of live-action remakes as nostalgia-fuel for key demographic generations plays directly into the goal of making life-long Disney fans who will consistently return to the mouse house. Much of this line of inquiry builds directly from my previous research on the ways in which particular types of nostalgic longing are encouraged or discouraged by media texts. Encouraged nostalgia in contemporary media has been about ensuring consistent connections to beloved past media objects. Most often, the connections that are cultivated are to idealised versions or notions of the past media objects in line with melancholic attachments to the past that seek to perpetually replicate as opposed to mourning and moving on. One of the key developments in the dependable pipeline to encouraged childhood nostalgia for current key demographic generations is the Disney live action remake of animated classics. This is not the only type of films that Disney is currently releasing, and their sequels also often contribute to nos­ talgic feelings as will be shown with Toy Story 4 in the summer of 2019, but


Ryan Lizardi

the concerted effort to create live-action versions of their entire classic cata­ logue is near comprehensive. Disney’s successful acquisition of so many properties and companies over the last few years, to the point that as of this writing Disney’s percentage of all of the 2019 box office earnings is roughly thirty-seven percent and ‘the combined totals for the #2, #3, and #4 studios through June is still much lower than Disney’s current total’ (Hughes 2019), makes any trends the company demonstrates worth exploring. So when Disney began their systematic efforts to create live-action remakes of all of their animated classics, it was a process that began slowly as they tested the waters of audience acceptance, but roared forward lately in a systematic manner. Some previous live-action remakes, such as 101 Dalmatians (1996) or the first live-action remake of The Jungle Book that came out in 1994, do not seem related to current trends in Disney film release strategies given both their relative age as well as their inability to spark more live-action remakes. To find the earnest beginning of the live-action remake trend, it is worth looking at Alice in Wonderland (2010), a remake of the 1951 Walt Disney classic animated film. Even if this remake was not intended to spark a comprehensive live-action remake trend for Disney, when it earned over one billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales the mouse house would have to take notice (Box Office Mojo 2019). Starting in 2014, Disney released a new live-action remake of an animated classic every year, beginning their push to re-imagineer childhood classics of key gen­ erations who were now being encouraged to feel nostalgic on a consistent basis. The summer of 2019 presented a concentrated case of this targeted demo­ graphic nostalgic longing encouragement, in the form of the recreation of a large portion of the Millennial generation’s childhood within eight weeks of cinematic exhibition. Growing up in the 1990s, a child would have been able to fall in love with the Disney film Aladdin (1992), wait two years to revel in their next animated offering in The Lion King (1994), and then cap off the next year with the Disney-partnered Pixar classic, Toy Story (1995). In the summer of 2019, it would only take an encouraged nostalgic movie-goer from 24 May to 19 July to accomplish the same feat. It is not just that Disney released live action remakes of Aladdin (2019) and The Lion King (2019), in May and July respectively, and a fourth and purported final instalment in the Toy Story series in June, but these films are part of a seemingly comprehen­ sive effort to re-imagineer the entire Disney back catalogue. It is also worth exploring what type of nostalgic longing and connections to the past are encouraged in their viewers, as such a concentrated dose of gen­ erationally specific nostalgia is culturally significant. It bears noting that often when discussing these live-action remakes, the action is often anything but live, it is mostly computer-generated imagery (CGI). In the case of The Lion King, reviewers noted that its CGI was perfect in its execution but failed to extend the film past its animated roots or plot, with many noting the shot-for-shot remake nature (Ehrlich 2019; Machkovech 2019). The live-action Aladdin modernised Princess Jasmine’s power, and singing potentials, but like The Lion King is less of a reimagining and more of a retelling. I have previously argued

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that this type of idealisation of the technical elements of a remade film, while simultaneously also idealising the social mores of the original, problematically flattens the distinction between the past and present (Lizardi 2014:116), which is something Fredric Jameson worried about with the loss of our ability to see the past as ‘radically different in their ways of thinking and behaving’ (Jameson 1991:389). This type of remake approach points to the epistemology of a given remake, or determining who the remake is aimed at by analysing the knowl­ edge needed from the original to understand the remake. In the case of a shotfor-shot remake, the answer would be no prior knowledge needed, so perhaps the answer to the question of why Disney is remaking their back catalogue of classics is simply to start the cycle of childhood devotion all over again. Regardless of who the intended target of the live-action remakes is, the result to any form of encouraged nostalgic connections is potentially too much, too fast. In fact, when Aladdin (2019) had been released, it had only been two months since the live action Dumbo (2019) hit theatres. I only did not juxta­ pose it with the May through July Disney releases because it is potentially targeted at a very different nostalgic demographic, as the original was released in 1941. However, taking into consideration the breadth of Disney’s already released, and planned to be released, remakes, the methodology is to ‘reani­ mate’ every single animated classic across generations. Beginning in earnest in 2010, Disney has released live-action remakes of Dumbo (1941), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Jungle Book (1967), Pete’s Dragon (1977), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). Though not all confirmed, Disney is reported to also be releas­ ing live-action remakes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinoc­ chio (1940), Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Little Mermaid (1989), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Mulan (1998), and Lilo & Stitch (2002) (Oswald and Acuna 2019). In an article that discussed the potential reasons for Disney’s nostalgic push with live-action remakes, and the potential exploitation of this emotion in audi­ ences, Imran Rahman-Jones (2019) explores the idea that Disney may be doing ‘too much, too fast’ when it comes to these films. Rahman-Jones also connects films like Toy Story 4 to this issue, noting that of the first ten Pixar films one was a sequel, Toy Story 2 (1999), whereas of ‘the eleven movies after that, seven have been sequels’ (Rahman-Jones 2019). All of this begs the question of why Disney chose to load so much nostalgic material into one summer’s theatrical basket? Judging by their prior strategies, a far more typical release schedule would have been to release one, or at most two, of these films in a given year, not three within two months (and four within five months if you count Dumbo). Instead, it appears as if Disney has decided that once the strategy to release live-action remakes of potentially hallowed animation territory was proven to be economic­ ally viable, whether to garner new audiences or entice those who grew up with the originals, the floodgates were opened and a booster shot of nostalgia was accep­ table for audiences in the summer of 2019. For better or worse, Disney is telling its most fervent fans that their childhood favourites will inevitably be remade.


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The result of such a sweeping recreation of a company’s catalogue, espe­ cially one that has so thoroughly commodified the childhood experience, is a shift in the cultural transaction that occurs in encouraged nostalgic longing. Taking a film like Hercules (1997) as an example, we can envision a member of the millennial generation who was a big fan of the film’s sweeping music, classic narrative, and comedic elements. Whereas, they might be somewhat nostalgic for the film, the era it was released, and the emotional attachments they have to it, they watch all the rest of the Disney classic animated films from the same era get the live-action remake treatment. It would be under­ standable to assume, even implicitly, that Hercules will also be inevitably remade, so any nostalgic feelings associated with the film might be felt in a winking manner. Melancholia is all about recreation and the perpetual libi­ dinal attachment to a past object of desire, and what better way to encourage this type of emotional attachment than to make it seem inevitable that the object will return. In this cultural transaction, the nostalgia of now is one of longing without any real reflective consequence, or mourning, as you do not have to miss something as much when you know it is coming back.

Everything on television is a rerun Television is already a repetitious medium, from its syndicated reruns to its formulaic plotlines to its cyclical exhibition nature. Derek Kompare suggests that once television figured out its ‘regime of repetition, already proven eco­ nomically successful’ it was ‘applied across a broader cultural terrain’ (Kom­ pare 2005:125). Kompare does not see the past-focused media as a new development, arguing that television, among other media, were successful at ‘fostering the subsequent development of the cultures of retro and nostalgia that pervaded the last quarter of the century’ (Kompare 2005:103). Kompare discusses the rise of the rerun in television, and its adoption as an entire rerun culture once it was proven to be such an effective economic strategy. The factors that led to this rerun culture have only intensified, and have also become more predictable and consistent. In a previous work, I argued that the zombie television series rose from the depths of broken down televisual catalogues and implicitly bolstered fan expectations of revival (Lizardi 2014:80). In this section, I argue that the concept of a zombie television series exists on a continuum of inevitable nos­ talgia. The increasing cancelled television show that rises from the grave makes any form of earnest emotional feelings of detachment from a media object of desire less likely given the cultivated expectation of return. Inevitable is antithetical to nostalgic longing, as the impossibility of truly recapturing and recreating a lost moment is so important to Sigmund Freud’s concept of mourning. The opportunities for wishful thinking fanbases to point to suc­ cessful cases of not only reviving their beloved series, sometimes mere days or months following their cancellation, have only grown in concert with stream­ ing platforms that always seem starved for new content. For instance, it is

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estimated that Netflix alone will spend fifteen billion dollars on content in 2019, up from twelve billion in 2018 (Spangler 2019). It is somewhat difficult to parse what proportion of this budget should be considered ‘television’ or ‘film’, and its somewhat of a moot point for the argument of this chapter, but whatever metric is used Netflix’s spending rivals or exceeds most major traditional television networks (Friedman 2018). That is a lot of new content opportunities for cancelled television shows, especially when other streamers like Hulu, Yahoo! Screen, and the upcoming Disney+ are added to the equation. Historically-speaking, the cancelled television series has most often carried with it a certain finality, with rare exceptions of the occasional spin-off or eventual reunion show. Within this cultural transaction, the fan not only was afforded the opportunity to mourn their cancelled show, but also were unli­ kely to assume any form of revival was likely. That kind of nostalgia has potentials for contemplation and adaption for the future. In the rare cases where a show was revived, it took a concerted effort from a fan base that did not have the organising or communicative opportunities of today, thereby making any form of replication of successes difficult. The ‘letter-writing campaign’ was the primary means of demonstrating fan devotion. This was the case in one of the most historically significant television series revival, when Star Trek was struggling in its second season and fans Bjo and John Trimble ‘devised a grassroots letter-writing campaign that saved the show and resulted in a third season’ and enough episodes ‘for the show to enter syndi­ cation’ where it took off ( 2011). Similarly, the 1986 CBS show Designing Women, meant to be a successful spin on the NBC hit Golden Girls (1985–1992), was having difficulty finding its viewership footing when the network looked to cancel it half-way through its first season. The group Viewers for Quality Television started writing letters, which were ‘the most instrumental force in returning the cancelled Designing Women to the air in the spring of 1987’ (D’Acci 1994). These two examples illustrate potential success stories, but it was far from a step-by-step guide and far from a guar­ antee that any given campaign would work to revive a series. As the organi­ sational power of the Internet grew, the revival campaigns grew more significant as well, with examples such as fans of the UPN show Roswell (1999–2002) sending ‘6,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce to the network over a three-month period’ (Hollander 2001), and fans of the CBS show Jericho (2006–2008) sending ‘40,000 pounds-something like 8 million peanuts’ to the network (McCullagh 2007). Letters or items, there is an important distinction that is not lost on network executives, and is crucial to the evangelical potentials of social media, that the fans responsible for these campaigns were obviously not enough in terms of ratings to keep it on the air. Any fan-driven campaign to revive a television show must negotiate the difference between its influence and the network that holds the ultimate decision making power. In what initially appeared like the most explicit display of fan power, when a Kickstarter campaign secured funding for a Veronica Mars movie (2014) creator Rob Thomas equivocated, ‘[o]f course, Warner Bros. still owns


Ryan Lizardi

Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off’ (Thomas 2013). Despite this warning, fans seeing success stories increas­ ingly begin to believe in their growing power, but they cannot revive on their own. As a prescient statement, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler remarked when Roswell was revived that the network was counting ‘on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grassroots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks’ (McCullagh 2007). Obviously, the equation has changed, intensified, and potentially been more codified with the advent of two important technological and communicative advancements: social media, and streaming services. No longer are letterwriting campaigns and hot sauce orders the data metrics used to determine potential fan fervour, and no longer are cable and network television the only options to shop a cancelled show. Now social media and services like Netflix are both content creating monsters that bring with them opportunities and expectations for fan power. Streaming services were already influential over traditional content producers decisions about a television series’ endgame, as I have previously argued that Netflix’s value on series with definitive conclu­ sions helped to create ‘idealized versions of shows that would never have existed in prior television economic models’ (Lizardi 2014:77). However, back then (a whole five years ago) I also argued that ‘no one in a position of power’ had ‘laid out the magic formula to resurrection’, no ‘algorithm of number of box sets purchased, plus number of reruns watched, multiplied by number of tweets mentioning the show has been given to fan communities’ (Lizardi 2014:80). While this may still be literally true, as ‘only one side holds the decrypted legend and only one side actually has the power to make deci­ sions about’ a series revival (Lizardi 2014:81), the perception of the balance of power has shifted considerably. One of the most important shifts in the dynamics of power has been in the volume of television shows that have been cancelled by a major network, only to be revived by a streaming platform. When viewers of a show like One Day at a Time (2017–present) or A.P. Bio (2018–2019) were both initially cancelled in 2019, fans could point to countless revivals of lost shows on Netflix like Fuller House (2016-present), Arrested Development (Fox 2003–2006; Netflix 2013–present), and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (2016), on Yahoo! Screen like Community (NBC 2009–2014; Yahoo! Screen 2015), or on Hulu like The Mindy Project (Fox 2012–2015; Hulu 2015–2017) as ‘proof ’ that their show will return too. Any feelings of nostalgia that might develop as time passes since a fan’s favourite show was cancelled is potentially stunted and tinged by assumptions of inevitable return. One data rich method of tracking the real time progression of a television from fears of cancelation, to actual cancellation, to potential revival, and finally to actual revival is social media content. For instance, as the third season of the Netflix remake series One Day at a Time (2017–2019) premiered its future was shrouded in secrecy, as much of Netflix’s data and decision making is opaque, but Twitter provided some insight. When the third season was released on 8 February

The future of nostalgia is inevitable


2019, the show’s stars, writers, and producers took to Twitter to make the case that viewers needed to tune in early and often if they wanted to see a fourth season. Writer and executive producer Dan Singer gave a relatively standard refrain to ‘[s] leep now’ so that fans could ‘[b]inge all night’ in a tweet mere hours before the premiere (@DanSigner et al. 2019). Alone, this could be seen as simply a producer looking to foment excitement, but paired with the more explicitly prescriptive social media content that followed it was clear that Netflix was communicating what they specifically valued from their content producers. Star of the show, Isa­ bella Gomez, tweeted out a literal listed method for garnering a fourth season before the third even premiered, saying that fans should ‘1. watch as much as you can when it drops. 2. tell a friend about us! 3. show ur love on social media’ and, of course, ‘4. tell @netflix you want us back!’ (@Isabella_Gomez et al. 2019). Showrunner, Mike Royce, took it a step further the day after the premiere, and explicitly stated that ‘Netflix relies on the first couple weeks of data to make their decision’ and so ‘if you want Season 4 of One Day at a Time, finish the season in the first couple weeks’ (@MikeRoyce et al. 2019, original emphasis). However, the efforts were not successful, at least not enough for Netflix, and despite laudatory language from the streaming giant thanking the series for ‘always making us laugh and never shying away from bravely and beautifully tackling tough subject matter in a meaningful way’ they ‘made the very difficult decision not to renew One Day at a Time for a fourth season’ (@netflix 2019). Fans were irate, especially with the manner in which Netflix made this decision, but more importantly they organised around #SaveODAAT. The social media engagement in support of saving this show was ‘immense’ and also successful in securing a fourth season for One Day at a Time on PopTV (Acevedo and Variety 2019). The step-by-step guide to social media spurred revival had been laid out, giving blueprints and hope to all the rest of the fans of yet-to-be-revived cancelled series. There are two vital points to be gleaned from the shrouded industry inter­ nal communications and outward display of step-by-step details for what is valued in a data-driven world. First, the end result was that it worked, albeit not in the way they intended. Call it anecdotal, but the series was revived, in part, because of these efforts. Second, it all played out in the public eye, which makes any subsequent cancellations seem that much more conquerable. So even if a fan would have had genuine potential for nostalgic feelings when their favourite show is cancelled, the volume of successes has created a situa­ tion ripe for feelings of inevitable return attached. Mediated nostalgia has a rider now, the feeling of eventual revival. For instance, A. P. Bio was cancelled at roughly the same time in 2019, and received a comparably equal amount of social media engaged support of its revival, but took significantly longed to receive a commiserate any network or streamer interest. Instead of daunting the fan base, a search of #SaveAPBio reveals a prolonged and con­ certed effort, with the aptly named @SaveAPBio handle admonishing fans to ‘[n]ever, ever lose hope’ saying they ‘have to be insistent, persistent, and con­ sistent if we want to be successful’ (@SaveAPBio 2019). The message was clear that any potential for nostalgic feelings to develop in a manner that


Ryan Lizardi

encourages mourning reflection and release of A. P. Bio would probably be stunted by fans always keeping one eye towards inevitable revival. And appropriately enough, during the writing of this chapter, NBC announced on 17 July 2019 that they would be renewing A. P. Bio for a third season on their new streaming platform. When the next show is cancelled, fans can point to yet another example of an initial bleak outlook for revival that was eventually reversed.

Conclusion There is a meme passed around click-bait list sites that is usually headlined with something like ‘Only 90s Kids Understand These 10 Things’ followed by a mixture of pop culture references and technology issues that the millennial generation would have grown up experiencing (LordGarbageMan 2013). The problem with the veracity of this meme is that the more com­ prehensive the attempt to recreate this decade’s past media objects, the less likely those not part of this generation will not understand. I have explored the idea of the dual generation target of remake culture before, and the ways in which the dual audience of media that encourages perpetual nostalgia can be problematic for young and older audience members alike (Lizardi 2017). For those squarely within the Gen X and Millennial gen­ erations, the meme is right that they probably ‘understand’ the references, but when the things that they could have potentially longed for in the lists consistently keep re-popping up in the contemporary cultural landscape then the actual nostalgia felt for the past could be stunted and replaced by a feigned longing for an inevitable return. Though it may be a contradiction to say that the emotional feeling of longing for and loss of the past is increasingly inevitable, there does appear to be a connection between encouraged nostalgia and predictable mediated recreations of beloved past objects. Through an exploration of the history of nostalgia in this chapter, it is hoped that the trajectory to a version of longing that is often mediated and melancholic is evident, and through the explora­ tion of the case studies of television revivals and live-action remakes that the argument for inevitable nostalgia is also evident. It may be most accurate to not use the term nostalgia at all, because the emotional feeling most histori­ cally associated with this word would not be fully present if the subject does not actually miss something that is truly gone. Sigmund Freud did not use the term mourn lightly, it is a process that must actually be gone through on an emotional level to move on to a new object of desire. If the focus is on recreation, then there is no mourning, just melancholic perpetual libidinal attachment. If, as a mediated culture, we are shown countless, consistent, and almost comprehensive recreations of our entire childhood catalogue, then when there is something yet to be recreated it is more likely that in the back of our minds we will simply be waiting out the clock while claiming to be nostalgic for its return.

The future of nostalgia is inevitable


There are many other examples, outside of this chapter’s case studies, of culti­ vated inevitable nostalgia that warrant exploration. From the systematic recrea­ tion of 1980s and 1990s video game consoles to the endless remakes not controlled by Disney, the nostalgia encouraged in these contemporary media is training its consumers to always expect an eventual return. Properties do not die, that is the lesson. Not only are the emotions associated with nostalgia stunted, but may eventually begin to blunt the emotional impact of mediated moments as they happen. If moviegoers in the summer of 2019 were able to take a step back while watching Avengers: Endgame and realise that there is no way that Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, would let successful characters like Iron Man truly die, might their emotional response to what they saw on the screen diminish? Nostalgia now, assuming you have not seen your chosen property you long to recapture already remade, is watching all the rest of the media objects from the same era get revived in some form, and just assuming it is just a matter of time. Does that mean that the future of nostalgia is an ever-receding emotional melancholic state of perpe­ tual recreation, where everything will inevitably return? Or is the whole nostalgic media craze a house of cards that will inevitably collapse when audiences reach their emotional capacity to long for their mediated pasts? Only time will tell, but without a change in either the consistency and comprehensive nature of mediated revivals or the shrinking window of revival, the emotional transaction of nostalgia will not carry the same weight as it has historically.

References @DanSigner et al. (2019): ‘This is It! Sleep Now. Binge All Night’. Twitter, February 7. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). @Isabella_Gomez et al. (2019): ‘TONIGHT at 12 am PT!’. Twitter, 7 February. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). @MikeRoyce et al. (2019): ‘Important @OneDayAtATime Information’. Twitter, 9 Feb­ ruary. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). @netflix et al. (2019): ‘We’ve Made the Very Difficult Decision Not to Renew One Day at a Time…’. Twitter, 14 March. Available online at: status/1106246147771764736 (accessed 13 July 2019). @SaveAPBio et al. (2019): ‘Never, Ever Lose Hope…’. Twitter, 6 July. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). Acevedo, Nicole and Variety (2019): ‘“One Day At A Time” Has Been Saved, After Immense #SaveODAAT Campaign’. NBC News, 27 June. Available online at: www. t-campaign-n1023456?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma (accessed 13 July 2019). Bonnett, Alastair (2010): Left in the Past: Radicalism and the Politics of Nostalgia. London: Continuum. Bonnett, Alastair (2016): The Geography of Nostalgia: Global and Local Perspectives on Modernity and Loss. New York: Routledge.


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Box Office Mojo (2019): ‘Alice in Wonderland vs. Looking Glass’. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). Boym, Sventlana (2001): The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books. Coontz, Stephanie (1992): The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nos­ talgia Trap. New York: Basic Books. Coulter, Natalie (2012): ‘From Toddlers to Teens: The Colonization of Childhood the Disney Way’. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 4(1):146–158. D’Acci, Julie (1994): Defining Women: Television and the Case of Cagney & Lacey. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. Dickinson, Hilary and Michael Erben (2006): ‘Nostalgia and Autobiography: The Past in the Present’. Autobiography, 14(3):223–244. Dickinson, Hilary and Michael Erben (2016): Nostalgia and Auto/Biography: Con­ sidering the Past in the Present. Nottingham: Russell Press. Ehrlich, David (2019): ‘“The Lion King” Review: Disney’s Remake Is a Disastrous Plunge into the Uncanny Valley’. IndieWire, 11 July. Available online at: www.indie (accessed 15 July 2019). Friedman, Wayne (2018): ‘NBCU Is Top TV Spender In 2018, Netflix In Fourth Place’. Available online at: s-top-tv-spender-in-2018-netflix-in-fourth.html (accessed 13 July 2019). Giroux, Henry (1998): ‘Public Pedagogy and Rodent Politics: Cultural Studies and the Challenge of Disney’. Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, 2: 253–266. Giroux, Henry (2008): The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Hollander, Sophia (2001): ‘The “Roswell” Army Fights for Its Show on the Web’. The New York Times, 10 June. Available online at: television-radio-the-roswell-army-fights-for-its-show-on-the-web.html (accessed 13 July 2019). Hughes, Mark (2019): ‘Disney Tops $5.7+ Billion In Global Box Office In First Half Of 2019’. Forbes, 6 July. Available online at: 2019/07/06/disney-tops-57-billion-in-global-box-office-in-first-half-of-2019/# 27479b572f01 (accessed 13 July 2019). Jameson, Fredric (1991): Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Kalinina, Ekaterina and Manuel Menke (2016): ‘Negotiating the Past in Hyperconnected Memory Cultures: Post-Soviet Nostalgia and National Identity in Russian Online Communities’. International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, 12(1):59–74. Kessous, Aurélie and Elyette Roux (2008): ‘A Semiotic Analysis of Nostalgia as a Connection to the Past’. Qualitative Market Research, 11(2):192–212. Kompare, Derek (2005): Rerun Nation. New York: Routledge. Lizardi, Ryan (2014): Mediated Nostalgia: Individual Memory and Contemporary Mass Media. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Lizardi, Ryan (2017): Nostalgic Generations and Media: Perception of Time and Available Meaning. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. LordGarbageMan (2013): ‘90s Kids’. Available online at: https://knowyourmeme. com/memes/90s-kids (accessed 13 July 2019). Machkovech, Sam (2019): ‘Lion King Remake Review: Roaring Visuals, but the Execution is a Hairball’. Available online at: 07/lion-king-remake-review-roaring-visuals-but-the-execution-is-a-hairball (accessed 15 July 2019).

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McCullagh, Declan (2007): ‘Deluge of Peanuts Brings Back “Jericho” TV Show’. Available online at: icho-TV-show/2100-1026_3-6189218.html (accessed 13 July 2019). Niemeyer, Katharina (ed.) (2014): Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future. London: Palgrave/Macmillan. Oswald, Anjelica and Kirsten Acuna (2019): ‘Disney Has 20 Live-Action Movies of its Animated Classics Planned – Here They All Are’. Insider, 28 May. Available online at: (accessed 13 July 2019). Pickering, Michael and Emily Keightley (2006): ‘The Modalities of Nostalgia’. Cur­ rent Sociology, 54(6):919–941. Pickering, Michael and Emily Keightley (2014): ‘Retrotyping and the Marketing of Nostalgia’, in Katharina Niemeyer (ed.): Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future. London: Palgrave/Macmillan, pp. 83–94. Rahman-Jones, Imran (2019): ‘The Lion King: Disney Remakes and the Power of Nos­ talgia’. Available online at: TOI76d6HtKruWAhT-Wi2rE_ybCPoXRyycVlYre61VnK1ZGaPINFok (accessed 15 July 2019). Roth, Michael S (1991): ‘Dying of the Past: Medical Studies of Nostalgia in Nine­ teenth Century France’. History and Memory, 3(1):5–29. Spangler, Todd (2019): ‘Netflix Spent $12 Billion on Content in 2018. Analysts Expect That to Grow to $15 Billion This Year’. Variety, 18 January. Available online at: ing-2019-15-billion-1203112090 (accessed 13 July 2019). (2011): ‘Bjo Trimble: The Woman Who Saved Star Trek – Part 1’. Available online at: r-trek-part-1 (accessed 13 July 2019). Sun, Chyng Feng and Erica Scharrer (2004): ‘Staying True to Disney: College Stu­ dents’ Resistance to Criticism of The Little Mermaid’. The Communication Review, 7:35–55. Thomas, Rob (2013): ‘The Veronica Mars Movie Project’. Available online at: www. (accessed 13 July 2019). Wildschut, Tim, Constantine Sedikides, Jamie Ardnt and Clay Routledge (2006): ‘Nostalgia: Content, Triggers, Functions’. Journal of Personality and Social Psy­ chology, 91(5):975–993. Wilson, Janelle L. (2005): Nostalgia: Sanctuary of Meaning. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.

Part III

Consumerism, migration and everyday life


The dark side of nostalgic bonds Moral motivators of consumer identities, decisions and behaviours Stacey Menzel Baker and Courtney Nations Azzari

Introduction The emotions human beings experience in relation to the past may soften over time. By stripping away the rough edges, people idealise the past and dis­ associate with aspects of the past that give them discomfort; thus, they remember the past as they want and need to remember it in relation to present concerns. Individuals often see the past as a gestalt, evaluating the whole of it. This gestalt is an affectively laden, simplified version of the past. Perhaps, at times, people idealise the past because, as they age and gain distance from the past, they can look at the rough edges through the lens of life experience. Or, perhaps, they idealise the past because looking at it as it really occurred is too painful; or conversely, because their present conditions may be untenable, they may perceive the past as preferable. Regardless, emotions and memories of human beings are malleable; memories change over time as our interests in them change (Davis 1979; Schwartz 1991, 1997; Zaltman 2006). The central purpose of this chapter is to explain why and how nostalgia impacts consumer identities, choices, and behaviours and with what effects. The chapter is framed through a consumer behaviour perspective of individual and collective identity as it pertains to nostalgia, memory and action. We begin by reviewing literature on consumer identity as it relates to behaviours, emotions, and memories. Then, we explain how nostalgic bonds form, with a specific focus on two consumption contexts commonly associated with nostalgia – advertising and public places. Next, we provide numerous empirical and anecdotal examples of the darker side of nostalgia and its impact on choices and behaviours for individuals, social groupings and the environment. As we present the examples, we elevate the cases to reveal tensions between individual and collective interests and between idealism and realism. The paper concludes with commentary on the morality of particularised marketing practices and consumer choices and beha­ viours. In the end, the judgment of marketing practices and consumer choices and behaviour as moral or immoral is left to the reader to decipher; yet, this chapter provides a perspective on ways to arrive at a deeper understanding of nostalgia as an emotion that interacts with cognitive and moral evaluations driving consumption behaviour.


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

Consumer identity To understand why human memory becomes idealised, we first need to understand why individuals want and need to remember things in a particu­ larised way. Identity theory provides a useful starting point. Identity is a social cognitive structure that includes perceptions about who I am and how others perceive me (Dittmar 1992). The consumer behaviour field widely recognises that individuals consume in ways that are consistent with their identities (Belk 1988; Solomon 1983). Material possessions, product cate­ gories, brands, experiences, communities, and places we inhabit are wrapped up in and around individuals’ activities, interests, opinions, and sense of self (Kleine and Baker 2004). In fact, consumption choices and behaviours in everyday life and in the marketplace are driven by how people view them­ selves (Belk 1988). Identity and behaviour The consumption activities people engage in often derive meaning from their orientation to past, present, or future concerns (Belk 1990; Price, Arnould and Curasi 2000). Decorating, eating, collecting, influencing others, vacationing, performing – each and all of these activities include a sequence of events and set of symbolic objects that reflect it. The ritual behaviours in these activities give our lives meaning by giving continuity to the self and contributing to our identity projects which flow between past, present and future ideas about who we were, who we are, and who we will be, as well as how we relate to other people and the environment in which we live. Our past, present, and future selves are linked through behaviours, including the rituals that occur in our daily activities, in the celebration of holidays and milestone events, in the passing of time or seasons, and in meaningful rites of passage (Rook 1985). These rituals include symbolic items (artefacts) that give the behaviour meaning. For example, ritual arte­ facts may include recipes or foods that are used only during holidays or special events, such as cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve, black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, and corned beef and cabbage on St Patrick’s Day (Baker, Karrer and Veeck 2005). Formed over time and based in both personal experiences and learned cultural norms and histories, identity is foundational for sense-making and nostalgic yearning related to the past. Our past often leaks into our present and future behaviour through the emotions and memories evoked by a particularised stimulus, such as through that smell of cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve or through material objects, music, brands, people, places or events, raising the issue of central importance to this chapter: the linkage between nostalgia and memory in some consumer behaviours and moral decision-making.

The dark side of nostalgic bonds


Identity and nostalgic emotions Nostalgia is a label that has a long history of being used to make sense of com­ plex, multi-dimensional emotions and outcomes of human behaviour. Consider Johannes Hofer (1688/1934) who in his medical dissertation described nostalgia as a fatal disease resulting from homesickness. Until the 1950s, nostalgia was a diagnosis for pathologies that today would be recognised as eating disorders, depression, or suicide. After the 1950s, nostalgia began being framed as a more positive, personal emotion (Davis 1979), which coincides with the construct’s emergence in the imagination of marketing practitioners and scholars. In the late 1950s, marketers and advertisers began to recognise that goods and services were not just functional (utilitarian), they were also ‘symbols for sale’ (Levy 1959). The work of Sidney Levy, a notable consumer researcher at Northwestern University, reflects these increasingly apparent social practices when he interprets this burgeoning consumer culture wherein individuals have taste patterns that cluster around a set of symbolic products that reflect these tastes. Products can be imbued with and wrapped in and around personal and social meanings (Levy 1959). The opening of Disneyland in 1955 in Cali­ fornia coincides with this recognition, eventually leading to a new under­ standing that consuming goods and services can contribute to our ‘fantasies, feelings, and fun’ (Holbrook and Hirschman 1982). It is fun to return to bygone eras; products and services can transport consumers back and forth in time, such as in Disney’s Carousel of Progress where people can move through decades of change and tour the past. They can feel the past. Though typically considered as more of an intellectual versus pleasurable pursuit, a visit to a museum clearly serves a similar function in society; however, cer­ tainly by the 1950s, there was dawning recognition that there was money to be made in transporting people back and forth through time. As symbolic production and consumption practices become more and more commonplace, consumer researchers dissect the nostalgia construct, in part to understand how to predict future behaviour related to conjuring up nostalgic emotion. Defining the emotional response is a necessary first step. Nostalgia generally is understood as ‘a positively valenced complex feeling, emotion, or mood produced by reflection on things (objects, persons, experiences, ideas) associated with the past’ (Holak and Havlena 1998:218). Although definitions of nostalgia differ somewhat between authors, there is agreement that nos­ talgia is emotional in quality, as well as multi-dimensional (e.g. ‘bittersweet’; Baker and Kennedy 1994). The emotional complexity of nostalgia has been demonstrated empirically to include warmth, joy, affection, and gratitude mingled with sadness and desire (Holak and Havlena 1998). While nostalgia includes both joy and awareness of loss of the past, the emotional qualities combine to energise and motivate behaviour, and these behaviours play a significant role in identity construction, maintenance, and reconstruction (Davis 1979; Holak and Havlena 1998). Thus, behaviours influenced by nos­ talgic yearnings are both derived from and contribute to identity.


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

Nostalgia indicates a yearning for a sanitised version of an earlier period (Davis 1979; Stern 1992), which begs the question of what an ‘earlier’ period could mean. Fred Davis (1979) suggests ‘true nostalgia’ is only possible when a person experiences the past evoked by a stimulus. In contrast, Stacey Menzel Baker and Patricia Kennedy (1994) found that people exhibit emo­ tions consistent with nostalgia in response to stimuli (advertisements) from times well before their personally experienced past. This finding indicates that similar emotional experiences can and are evoked by examining the interac­ tion between the individual, stimuli type, and represented time. Following this logic, Barbara Stern (1992) distinguishes between ‘personal nostalgia’ and ‘historical nostalgia’. Whereas, personal nostalgia relates to an experience from one’s individual past, historical nostalgia is evoked by a representation that ‘idealizes the imaginatively recreated past’ (Stern 1992:16). Nostalgia evoked by looking at one’s wedding photos would be indicative of the former, and nostalgia evoked by images of an old general store would be indicative of the latter. Baker and Kennedy (1994) add a third type of nostalgia to this categorisation scheme with collective nostalgia, which relates to feelings created and shared with and between members from a social grouping, such as shared nostalgia for the Statue of Liberty or music that represents a generation (e.g. the Beatles or Elvis). His­ torical nostalgia could be, but is not necessarily, collective nostalgia. Each of these types of nostalgia – personal, historical and collective – connect to identity and to the ways in which a person creates, understands and presents the self. Identity, attitudes and memories Nostalgia, as an emotion, is a separate and distinct construct from cognition or memories attached to a stimulus (Baker and Kennedy 1994; Hallegatte and Marticotte 2014). Empirical support for this assertion comes from Baker and Kennedy (1994) who found that ad-induced nostalgia (affect) is positively related to, but distinct from, attitude toward an advertisement (a cognitive evaluation). The affect leaves an emotional memory trace included in auto­ biographical or collective memories. Particularised experiences from one’s direct past are recalled through auto­ biographical memories (Brewer 1996). Such recollections help tell the story of one’s self (Brewer 1996) and tend to be affectively charged (Baumgartner, Sujan and Bettman 1992; Sujan, Bettman and Baumgartner 1993). These ‘memories typically contain information about place, actions, persons, objects, thoughts, and affect’ (Brewer 1996:60–61). As memories are recol­ lected, the original emotion may be experienced again (Baumgartner, Sujan and Bettman 1992), prompting the wistfulness of being happy to have lived through the experience, but feeling the loss because the experience is over. In contrast to autobiographical memory, collective memory refers to how members of particular social groupings (cultures, subcultures, generations) retain and share public knowledge about the past (Schwartz 1991; Straub 1993). Like autobiographical memory, collective memory is understood by

The dark side of nostalgic bonds


exploring the memory of individuals. The distinguishing feature between autobiographical memory and collective memory is not where the memories and corresponding emotions reside; instead, the distinguishing feature is whether those memories are personal to an individual or shared between members of a broader social group. Regardless of whether memories are autobiographical or collective in nature, individuals read and attribute meanings to objects, events, people and places to help them make sense of the past. They may deconstruct and recreate the past and its objects; thus, memories attached to a stimulus may evolve slowly over time (Schwartz 1991; Straub 1993; Zaltman 2006). For example, the meanings attributed to black advertising memorabilia, which includes advertisements from 1860 to 1960 that stereotypically and pejoratively depict African Americans, have evolved over time. By tracing collective memory represented in newspaper articles on the subject over a 30 year time span, Stacey Menzel Baker, Carol Motley and Geraldine Henderson (2004) show how changes in collective memory for Aunt Jemima, the Gold Dust twins, and a plethora of other adver­ tising materials shifted the meanings of the advertising materials from acceptable in the 1950s, to despicable in the 1960s, to collectible (and thus, profitable) in the 1990s. Similarly, individuals may alter, shift or update meanings associated with personal possessions over time, as meanings and associations change. Recognition of how memory processes work led marketers to begin using framing strategies as a means of positioning brands within consumers’ mem­ ories. For example, marketers use backward framing and forward framing strategies in product design, advertising and communication strategies, brand narratives, the visual identity of a brand, and store design and process (Zalt­ man 2006). In backward framing, marketers refer to the past in positive ways, and, in forward framing, marketers create expectations of future experiences. In both cases, the framing alters perceptions of the actual experience in the past or in the future. These frames influence what consumers know about a brand. In other words, frames stimulate people’s imaginations, and imagina­ tion plays a role in reconstructing memories. Gerald Zaltman (2006) asks ‘could marketers influence the memory reconstruction process in such a way as to create false memories in consumers’ minds?’ While studies show you can alter memories (Braun 1999), it is unclear whether a memory can be created for an experience that never occurred. However, advertisements that depict imaginary scenarios that ring true with memories can be created, and these positively or negatively valenced memories can be connected to a brand, such as Coca-Cola, over time (Okleshen, Baker and Mittelstaedt 2001). This gives rise to questions about how nostalgic connections (bonds) are created.

The process of nostalgic bonding Nostalgic bonding is the process of creating and solidifying the connection between a specific memory, emotion, and a representative object; it is ‘a complex yet pervasive aspect of the human condition’ (Holbrook and Schindler 2003:124).


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

In a study where people were asked to reflect on different objects that evoke nos­ talgia, study participants reveal that product characteristics, personal situations, personal relationships and personal desires play a role in their connection to nostalgic objects (Holbrook and Schindler 2003). Products that are distinctive, such as a piece of art acquired during a vacation, are more likely to evoke nostalgia than objects that are less distinctive. Personal situations such as transi­ tional moments or troubled times that evoke a sense of survival are more likely to stir up feelings of nostalgia than times of stasis or security, and thus objects representative of these transitional eras become memory markers and nostalgia stimuli. For example, a lawyer who purchased an antique table moving into his first apartment finds that later in life the table makes him feel nostalgic for his youth, or possessions recovered from a house fire may conjure up nostalgia for a time before the trauma. Objects connected to personal relationships, such as gifts of love or family heirlooms, are more likely to evoke nostalgia than those not connected to other people. Finally, objects that provide a sense of escape and the freedom to break-away from the reality of current life or reconnect with the wildness of youth, such as music or art, are more likely to evoke nostalgia than those that do not allow one refuge from one’s current situation via transportation to the past. No matter the type of nostalgia evoked (personal, historical, or col­ lective), the key is that a lasting connection (or bond) between the object and memory can be formed (for an individual or group), due to the object’s associa­ tion with or meaning during the represented time. Nostalgic bonding occurs through a distinguishable path: stimulus-response­ preference. Numerous empirical studies validate that a stimulus that evokes nostalgic emotions (such as an advertisement or object) is distinct from an indi­ vidual’s response to it (nostalgia) and its outcomes (preference, choice, action) (Hallegatte and Marticotte 2014; Holbrook and Schindler 2003; Muehling and Sprott 2004; Pascal, Sprott and Muehling 2002). A stimulus serves as a retrieval cue to kindle memories in storage (Roediger 1999). When the webs of association (memories) and the emotions associated with those memories are connected to the stimulus, this pairing helps solidify the bond between an individual and the new stimulus, such as an object or advertisement. The ‘idealized past emotions [characteristic of nostalgia] become displaced onto inanimate objects, sounds, smells, and tastes’ associated with the emotions (Hirsch 1992:390). This bonding results in a preference for this item, now imbued with nostalgic emotions and memories, over other similar items that may serve the same function but have different meanings (Hallegatte and Marticotte 2014). Though nostalgia can be evoked by almost anything (Holbrook and Schindler 2003), given their connec­ tions to consumer behaviour and decision-making, we now focus on nostalgic bonds created via advertising, branding, and sites of public consumption. Advertising and branding as bonding stimuli Recognising the connection between nostalgia and preference, numerous advertising campaigns have employed nostalgic (retro) appeals to establish

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brand meanings in consumers’ minds. In fact, nostalgia may be one of the last ‘Trojan horses’ available to marketers (Leone 2015); evoking nostalgia via an advertising message or brand positioning strategy may seem innocuous, but it can have a significant impact on attitudes and behaviour. Many consumers may be unaware of the impact of nostalgia on their usage of objects that evoke nostalgia to escape their current situations, an idea Massimo Leone (2015:10) refers to as ‘temporal tourism’. In other words, reality of current conditions is suppressed in order to sell products. For example, in recent years, many restaurants have utilised popular hit songs from the 1970s and 1980s to capture attention and boost sales among Baby Boomers and Gen­ eration Xers, such as Amazon Prime’s 2019 commercial featuring ‘Tonight I Celebrate My Love for You’ sung by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, Applebee’s 2018 ad with ‘Keep It Comin’ Love’ by KC & the Sunshine Band, or Wendy’s 2017 Super Bowl ad utilising Foreigner’s ‘Cold as Ice’. Numerous studies indicate that the ‘Trojan horse’ strategy works. When nos­ talgia is evoked by an advertisement, a viewer’s nostalgic response positively influences the amount of attention is given to the ad (Muehling and Pascal 2012) and the viewer’s attitude toward the ad (Muehling and Sprott 2004). Further, when nostalgia is evoked by an ad, nostalgia positively impacts attitudes toward the advertised product (Bambauer-Sachse and Gierl 2009), attitudes toward the advertised brand (Pascal, Sprott and Muehling 2002), and purchase intentions (Marchegiani and Phau 2011). One study found retro themes (old brands, past family experiences) were more common in food and beverage advertisements than other product categories (Unger, McConocha and Faier 1991); yet, retro themes are common across a ple­ thora of product categories from cars and clothing to politicians and furniture. Some brands use retro themes to establish their distinction (and longevity) in the marketplace. Two prominent retro brands are the Volkswagen New Beetle and Star Wars. The original VW Beetle ads in the 1960s played on ‘morallegorical’ qualities, using ‘an honest, brand-of-the people ethos’ (Brown, Kozinets and Sherry 2003:23). Interviews with people restoring their old VWs reveal consumers connect to their cars because ‘they’re the last remnant of when quality meant something’. In other words, the interviewees perceive the brand as a reminder of better times. In more recent ads, VW extends these moral qualities by drawing upon superficial symbols like ‘flower power’ (Brown, Kozinets and Sherry 2003:23). Star Wars also appeals to the nostalgia of youth and moral quests for consumers of the brand. The Star Wars brand has ‘magical powers’ and can transport consumers back in time to experience a pleasure they have not felt since they were children. Stephen Brown, Robert V. Kozinets, and John F. Sherry (2003:29) conclude that consumers use retro brands, like VW and Star Wars, to negotiate the ‘moral geography of their lives’ and to ‘return briefly to an era of moral certainty’. As this love for the Star Wars brand is passed down through generations, its associations become addi­ tionally tied to memories of family and time spent sharing a common passion for the brand, perhaps watching the films together or visiting the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge within Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park.


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

Consider Volkswagen’s recent nostalgic brand appeal in a 2011 Super Bowl commercial featuring a child dressed up as Star Wars villain Darth Vader. The commercial alludes to the magic and wonders of youth, the newest generation learning to love the Star Wars brand, the complex bond in life between father and son, and the revamp of the VW Passat, a family car produced since 1973. A wild success, this advertisement quickly became a fan favourite, distributed and discussed widely after the game (Horovitz 2015). This advertisement con­ veys this is the way things are supposed to be; this is the right way to live. Sites for public consumption as bonding stimuli Commercial public spaces, such as Disney World in Orlando and the Amer­ ican Girl store in Chicago, and natural public spaces, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, provide opportunities for bonding to places that people will want to return to, even if only in their minds. Further, some public spaces, including museums, such as the Smithsonian American History Museum, are intentionally designed and created to elicit feelings of personal or historical nostalgia. Despite a uniform experience design, not all people experience the space (and nostalgia) in the same way. In a study on heritage visiting Christina Goulding (2001) found two distinct types of ‘nostalgic’ visitor segments to an interactive, themed, British ‘living’ museum: ‘existentials’ and ‘aesthetics’. Both types of people experience nos­ talgia, but they experience nostalgia in different ways, suggesting that nostal­ gic bonding is a subjective experience. Existentials seek personal authenticity and spend their time in the museum looking for familiar items. They are alienated in their present lives due to loss of roles, displacement or significant others. As a result, they use nostalgia as a path to temporary control achieved by retreating into an idealised past. In contrast, aesthetics are financially secure, but not content. Their nostalgia is based on identification with and admiration for the arts and architecture of the past as well as a sense of loss in modern design. This group of primarily middle-class people ranging from 20 to 59 fear the loss of appreciation for the past. Where aesthetics seek to escape to the past to make who they are in the present stronger, existentials prefer to retreat to the past and stay there. This study highlights that nostalgia can facilitate the positive development of an individual (aesthetics), but it can also become a pathology likely characterised by depression (existentials). Because possessions provide physical evidence of prior experiences and meanings, consumers often seek souvenirs or memorabilia from their interac­ tions with public spaces (Grayson and Shulman 2000; MacCannell 1976). In essence, some souvenir purchases reflect a kind of anticipatory nostalgia, a feel­ ing that someday in the future the souvenir object will be useful as a meaningful symbol of the past trip or event (Baker, Kleine and Bowen 2006). Stacey Menzel Baker and her colleagues (2006) explored how the type of vacation destination (beach, camp, city, amusement park) impacts the type of souvenir children (ages 8–13) desire from a trip to a similar destination. Even children as young as eight

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are socialised to desire a souvenir that can be used to remember and connect them to a place, and they evidence an understanding of how the type of souvenir desired varies across different types of places. This study demonstrates that when children anticipate nostalgia for a vacation after it is over, they make mental connections between who they are in relation to places and objects from those places. Interestingly, when these same children who were asked to show inter­ viewers a souvenir they had acquired from a previous vacation, several children could not find their souvenir, but they could remember what souvenir they had acquired. Even without the physical presence of the souvenir, they were able to transport themselves back in time to connect with a treasured experience from the past that they connected to an object. Reflections on theory and practice The implicit assumption that appears to underlie most marketing and consumer behaviour studies is that evoking nostalgia is a positive aspect of advertising and branding. The advertisement, brand, public space, or other object provides a way to connect to the past, and the past is a positive aspect of the viewer’s identity. Strategic decisions are made about how best to make these connections. For example, wrapping a brand in a ‘signature story’ is a communication practice that energises and connects a brand into consumers’ daily lives (Aaker 2017). The idea is that if a brand cre­ ates a narrative that provides deep connections into consumers’ lives, then consumers will be more likely to form a relationship to that brand, given other alternatives. If marketers connect to their customers on a more emotional level, theoretically, they should be more likely to grow their customer base (acquire new customers), but also keep them (retain existing customers). This recognition increases the desirability of being able to identify the types of customers who are most likely to exhibit a taste pre­ ference for returning to the past. Marketers generally recognise their products cannot be all things to all people, so they engage in market segmentation, the process of breaking down the population into categories wherein people within the same category are relatively homogeneous on some identifiable characteristic and different from people in other categories on that same identifiable characteristic (Smith 1956; Wells 1975). Demographic, psychographic and behavioural variables facilitate the identification of these segments. Thus, marketers seek to discern who (demographically) is most likely to acquire and consume their brand, why (psychographically) buyers would do so, and how they would acquire and consume (behaviourally) their brand. Segmentation facilitates the identi­ fication of target customers for a brand. For example, markets can be seg­ mented based on the demographic profile, such as rural farmer, most likely to exhibit the psychographic profile of nostalgia proneness, in the acquisition of goods, services, brands, or ideas (Holbrook 1993; Hallegatte and Marticotte 2014). The ideal target market for advertisements, brands, and places


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

specifically designed to reflect the past would be people who exhibit high levels of nostalgia proneness, a psychographic variable reflecting that some individuals are more prone to experience nostalgia than others (Holbrook 1993).

The dark side of nostalgic bonding While nostalgia generally is assumed to stir up pleasant memories from the past, we often appear to forget that those memories are sanitised to fit with an idealised perspective of our past, present, and future selves. Tensions between this reality/ fantasy world emerge in at least three principle areas: (1) within an individual, (2) between individuals in a social group or between different social groups, and (3) between individuals and the environments in which they live. An individual can look at the same practice or object at different points in time and have different perspectives on it. For example, retro appliances for a kitchen may have seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase, but later an individual may decide that it is time to let go of those past times and the retro appliances are holding her in place. Further, two people can look at the exact same practice or object and interpret it differently. For example, a husband may amass a significant collection of beer cans or hats, which he believes helps to tell his life story, while his partner looks at the collections as a waste of space and a trivial use of his time and money. Finally, members of different social groups may come into conflict over appro­ priate usage of non-renewable resources, such as conflicting perspectives on dependence on non-renewable resources to fuel transportation, as it has always been done. Each of these tensions is explored in what follows. Tensions within the self Consumers who are intensely gratified by the positive elements of bittersweet nostalgia, over time, may bring harm to themselves through attaching to objects and experiences that may offer a retreat into the past. For example, there are strong ties between collecting practices and nostalgia (Belk 1990). People collect items such as classic cars, vintage videogames, and antique African American memorabilia. These objects provide a direct link to the past in ways that current products and services cannot match. Essentially, they are both relics from and reminders of eras gone by. However, there are downsides to some collecting and collections. In some cases, consumers spend far beyond either their financial capabilities or the reasonable value of an object. Some spend thousands of dollars in a quest for a piece of the past, whereas others overpay for specific objects (relative to their reasonable value). This is why the marketplace often sees prices fall and then eventually rise drastically, as a secondary (nostalgia) market arises for certain vintage and antique goods. For example, original Nintendo Entertainment System video games and consoles from the 1980s became practically worthless in the 1990s. However, as Generation Y consumers have come of age and gained disposable income, the market for these games has soared ( 2019).

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Another downside to collecting is that it sometimes becomes pathological when taken to the extreme and elevated to the level of hoarding. Hoarding for nostalgic gratification comes in many forms. In many cases, consumers cling tightly to any object that could potentially link them to a previous, happier time in life, particu­ larly given that hoarding behaviour is often tied to personal trauma (Hartl et al. 2005). Hoarders may collect objects that signify specific times or events in their lives, past eras with which they identify or that they believe were superior in some way, or even objects that represent prior relationships and connections to social others. Hoarding behaviour is associated with numerous negative effects, including impediments to physical health; breakdowns in interpersonal relationships and isolation; poor hygiene and dangerous living conditions; and stress related to maintaining a high volume of material artefacts. Anticipatory nostalgia (Baker, Kleine and Bowen 2006) can also be a reason for acquiring, keeping, collecting, and maintaining objects. In addition to collecting tangible goods, consumers also often collect experiences or memories (Bardhi, Eckhardt and Arnould 2012; Scott, Baker and Kim 1999). However, even in pursuit of these ‘liquid’ experiences (concerts, travel, festi­ vals) many consumers expend significant resources (travel costs and fuel) and often wish to have an associated object to represent the liquid experience. While a memento frequently comes in the form of digital photographs, it can also appear in material form. People who vacation on cruise ships often return with cheap plastic mementoes; employees who attend work conferences often return with logo-laden swag; and fans of the band often overpay for poor-quality concert t-shirts that let others know they attended a show. Ulti­ mately, consumers may be left feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of objects they must maintain and manage, and the natural environment is left overtaxed in pursuit of nostalgic memory maintenance. Finally, damage in the pursuit of nostalgic gratification does not always appear in the form of harboured physical goods. In some cases, consumers pursue services that create or cultivate connections to the past. For example, there is a lucrative market for modifications to the body and appearance, in pursuit of regaining youth. Nostalgic for a time when they were considered desirable and beautiful (in the traditional sense), droves of consumers are seeking cosmetic plastic surgery. In fact, 17,721,671 cosmetic procedures were reported for 2018 (American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2018). These proce­ dures can be both costly and potentially hazardous for those who undergo them. Beyond these services, the global anti-aging market was worth 42.51 billion dollars in 2018 (Orbis Research 2018). Tensions within groups and between groups While the pursuit of nostalgic gratification can be detrimental to the self, it can also stretch beyond the seeker to impact social others. Social media has played a critical role in this, in various ways. Utilising social media to seek out social others from past parts of a person’s life can have both positive and


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

negative effects. Certainly, there are blissful stories and examples of people reconnecting and rebuilding friendships after years of being out of touch. However, the nostalgic longing for past times associated with those people also can negatively impact people. For example, maintaining connections with associates from high school provides comparisons points for one’s own status, achievement, and mile markers in life. Those who perceive they have less successful careers than their peers during youth may feel the sting of failure more acutely, whereas those struggling with finding a mate or creating a family may face repetitive pain each time a new engagement, wedding, or baby appears in the newsfeed. Further, numerous families have experienced betrayal, or even divorce, when one partner in a marriage reconnects with a past lover via social media and pursues the nostalgic feelings associated with a first love, youth, teenage passion, a relationship with fewer adult responsi­ bilities and a simpler time in life. Social media has also become a part of intentionally creating out-groups via sharing posts or creating groups that utilise nostalgia as a method of exclusion. For example, a current popular trend is to post photos of vintage or outdated products that are no longer sold with a caption along the lines of ‘Age test: if you know what this did, click “like” and “share”. Don’t give away the answer; let ’em keep guessing.’ By design, this is intended to create a nostalgic appeal, as well as an in-group connection, for those who understand the reference. It is not utilised as an opportunity to educate those who may not know or under­ stand the relic from another time period; instead, it is used as a unifying memory and nostalgic gratification, but only for those who understand. Participation in events and performances that glorify or celebrate eras in history that were traumatic for some may be a source for pain or further trauma for those in the group negatively affected by the original historic event or set of events. For example, re-enactments of the Civil War are popular modes of entertainment or historical remembrance for some in the United States. However, for others, this era represents a time of major loss of life for both sides, a time when humans were willing to wage war for the right to enslave others, and a time of great division and turmoil in the country. As time passes, those directly affected are no longer living; however, some of the core values and passion for outdated ideals and inequalities have been passed down to subsequent generations. These values are sometimes embraced and expres­ sed during re-enactment events, which provide a rallying ground and safe space for those who appear to long for a time when slavery was commonplace. Another downside to sanitising memories is that people in different social groupings may fail to understand (or not care about) the meanings different individuals attach to different objects. Nazi symbols, Klan symbols and other artefacts that dehumanise and denigrate entire classes of people are often consumed without an understanding of or concern for why such items are offensive to entire classes of people. Returning to black advertising memor­ abilia, as discussed earlier in the paper, Carol Motley, Geraldine Henderson and Stacey Menzel Baker (2003) found that collectors of black advertising

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memorabilia who were white tended to perceive these cultural artefacts through personal nostalgia and autobiographical memories. Their grand­ mothers had an Aunt Jemima cookie jar, so they want an Aunt Jemima cookie jar. In contrast, black collectors tended to perceive the objects through collective memories, and there is no sweetness in the emotions evoked by these collectibles. These objects denigrated, dehumanised, mocked, and oppressed people like them; they may collect these items to remind themselves of their power (as a social group) to move through great adversity and to remind people about the suffering instigated by a society that failed to treat people like them as human. Often the emotionally charged nature of mem­ ories on both sides (autobiographical or collective) makes it difficult for people to hear or understand the other group’s reasonings. Sometimes black advertising memorabilia, Nazi memorabilia, and items that dehumanise and denigrate other classes of people are collected to continue a group’s oppres­ sion and to assert power and moral authority over another group, but that may not always be the case. The viscerally and emotionally charged nature of these items make it difficult to know which reason is driving behaviour, and it may be that, on occasion, false attributions are made and an opportunity for education may be possible (or at least one would hope). Conflict over behaviours and goals that impact future generations In addition to the collection and consumption of goods and services that harness nostalgic gratification resulting in harmful outcomes, consumers sometimes utilise outdated technologies, ideas, and methods within their lives. The continued use of these, beyond their useful or intended value, may be based in the pursuit of nostalgic gratification. Consumers may utilise nostalgic items or practices from an earlier time in life to provide comfort or coping during trying times of adulthood. For example, unhealthy eating practices, such as indulging in sugary or high-fat foods, that were utilised during childhood (particularly as treats or rewards) may provide the adult with the temporary high of nostalgia. Infre­ quently, this may be an acceptable practice, but as a long-term coping strategy or everyday habit, it can cause serious and long-term health complications. Consumers who are the final holdouts for upgrading products and do not give up their old versions of technologies until absolutely forced to do so are laggards. In many cases, laggards maintain possession of old goods, even keeping them beyond their value-in-use or intended purpose. This inability to ‘let go’ may be tied to memories and nostalgia for the time in which the outdated technology was newly introduced, wildly popular or mainstream. Examples of this could be a person keeping record players, 8-track tapes, compact discs, or first-gen MP3 players. Some of these may continue to work, and their useful value can be maintained and extracted. However, these items are often kept, even in non-working conditions, simply due to nostalgia and a resulting inability to dispose of an item (perhaps to the soundtrack delivery-mechanism of one’s youth). As time passes and innovation occurs, hardware, software, supporting


Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

technologies, batteries, and other key components are phased out, leaving con­ sumers with objects that no longer offer use value, beyond the sentimental. Finally, a nostalgic lens toward the past can leave individuals utilising and defending methods and practices of navigating life that are scientifically out­ dated, and sometimes even harmful. This idea can be embodied by the pop­ ular phrase: ‘We did ____ back in the day, and we turned out just fine’. People use nostalgic ties to the past and weak exemplary theorising to justify the use of outdated practices and the choice to ignore current wisdom and science. As examples, decades ago, consumers drank from garden water hoses, smoked tobacco during pregnancy, and followed the guidelines of the famous food pyramid. Over time, science has taught us that water hoses deliver lead and plastic additives into our bodies (Compton 2012), smoking during preg­ nancy causes birth defects (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2019), and the 1992 food pyramid design was laden with flaws, missed nuances, and even ulterior motives (Melnick 2011). Despite a case for moving forward (based on new information), consumers too frequently remain stuck in the past, relying on their singular experiences as evidence rather than looking at large-scale, sci­ entifically validated evidence. Nostalgia for these simpler times – wherein there seemed to be fewer ‘rules’ and less ‘scientific meddling’ – is partially to blame for the continued use and dissemination of outdated practices.

Conclusion Nostalgia contributes to psychological well-being (Iyer and Jetten 2011; Juhl et al. 2010). When we experience nostalgia, the emotions fuel dissatisfaction with our current circumstances, so the more nostalgia we experience, the more likely we are to experience dissatisfaction with our current circumstances. The more dissatisfied people are with their present circumstances, the more likely they are to want to revert to and live a life consistent with the past (Hirsch 1992). Thus, in tough psychological or economic times (for either an indivi­ dual or a group), nostalgia sells. Whereas individuals who are empowered, in control, and satisfied with their current roles and their social support system tend to not react nostalgically, those in an adverse position are highly susceptible to nostalgia (Goulding 2001). Thus, magic elixirs sold by snake oil salesman which promise to ‘make ____ great again’ are likely to appeal to some individuals and social groupings more than others, regardless of whether the perception of ‘tough times’ by the disenfranchised is an objective reality or not. Sellers may attempt to fuel dissatisfaction with present circumstances, playing on consumer angst and fear. They may intentionally develop com­ munication strategies to fuel dissatisfaction between their current state (dis­ satisfaction) and their desired state (return to a past life). They may even attempt to use strategies that ring true, but are inherently false, creating memories for things that never actually happened (Braun 1999; Zaltman 2006). In the modern era of rapid transmittal of information, particularly false infor­ mation, this strategic practice is extremely harmful, even pathological. In

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recognition of this cultural context and increasingly commonplace practice, particularly in the political venue, the authors call upon social scientists to focus both on the benefits and costs of evoking nostalgia. As Johannes Hofer discussed in his aforementioned medical dissertation published in 1688, focus­ ing too much on the past can have consequences to one’s mental and physical health, perhaps even quickening the likelihood of death. In addition, focusing too much on the past can create cultural pathologies where different social groupings are pitted against one another and/or where people are driven to purchase, display, and consume larger and larger quantities of material possessions. This chapter has revealed tensions between individual and collective inter­ ests, and between idealism and realism, in consumer decisions and behaviours energised by nostalgia. Perspective-taking may be something of which not all people are capable. The lack of empathy, or ability to see the world through another person or group’s perspective, likely fuels divisions between social groupings. Similarly, living in the present may not be something of which all people are capable. Living in the past brackets an authentic reality; living in the past is a fantasy world of times that do not and cannot exist again as they were. Thus, though nostalgia clearly plays an important and positive role in continuity of the self over time and space; it may also hold the self and social grouping in place and diminish opportunities for growth, while simulta­ neously making people more susceptible to empty messages promising what can never be delivered.

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Stacey M. Baker and Courtney N. Azzari

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10 Transmigratory nostalgia Sentimentality and everyday life on the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

Introduction Globally, societies are experiencing a state of disquietude when contemplating the future direction of mankind. In recent times, nostalgia has been used as a manip­ ulative tool to distort our perceptions of reality (Estampador-Hughson and Matanle 2018) where developments such as the white supremacy movement in the United States has used nostalgia to collectively mark their ‘superior’ European roots over others. In Britain, the leaving of the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit has been encouraged by an imperial nostalgia that harks back to the ‘golden age’ of the colonial British Empire (Mayne 2019; Tharoor 2019). Yet, positive engagement with emotion, specifically from a nostalgic imagination can be found in our encounters of unfamiliar places and people. Nostalgia has been described as ‘a sentiment of loss and displacement, but it is also romance with one’s own fantasy’ (Boym quoted in Bauman 2017:2). Therefore, subjective experience is an essential process for the nostalgic imagination where sentimentality anchors the individual to a former time and place, whether real or imagined. This chapter addresses research conducted between 2012 to 2017 that probes the experiences of participants on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme. For JETs (participants of JET), nostalgia initially represents a journey into the fictitious unknown, an undiscovered Japan. Subsequently, after facing the ups and downs of living in their host communities the past becomes restorative for meaning making in the present. Being given the ability to escape one’s cultural and social confinements may lead us back to a type of freedom, the opportunity to dream about future possibilities without boundaries; to imagine the possibilities of elsewhere and a better tomorrow. When we idealise other places and people, it is an expression of our desires, and a revelation of discontentment, at the same time, venturing off to an unfamiliar place brings back this child like perspective, where we are open to the adventure of learning and engaging with another. The child does not see the border between an animate and inanimate world (Sand 2008:386), he or she is able to see beyond the borders of fixed mindsets. Everyday life theory and social phenomenology were used to support the research. This framework unlocks the power found in sentimentality and reveals the potency of meaning making from the bottom up. Sentiment has


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been overlooked as a pragmatic study, because it appears to be in opposition to rationality and reason, and in the realm of our private thoughts. In actu­ ality, emotions infuse meaning to our everyday realities; they additionally sustain the bonds to our families, communities and societies (Harris 2015). As a collective force, emotions can awaken political agency and lead to change, they can additionally lead to connections with unfamiliar others. Marshall McLuhan (2011:170) indicates that ‘two cultures or technologies can, like astronomical galaxies, pass through one another without collision; but not without change of configuration’. Living abroad for a year or more among people with different patterns of culture and values is fraught with perplexity, curiosity, dissatisfaction and moments of gratification. These moments of adversity give rise to a disjuncture between our idealised imaginations of place and its reality. How then, do we reconcile these adverse experiences to become positive reflections over the long term? For this study, I interviewed 24 JET alumni from the 1980s to the 2010s, including those from previous schemes, which will be introduced in the next section. Through their stories they disclosed their emotional ups and downs living in their host country. Their thoughts were brimming with future expectations of a Japan they imagined from the flow of ideas found in stories, books, media and material products, such as antiques and video games. The attraction of these paraphernalia shifted with each decade and through global and local processes that impact identity. This has led to transformations that encompassed the provocation of nostalgic imagination, encountering adver­ sity, which then leads to a transmigratory nostalgia that is affected by senti­ mentality and the reconstruction of the past. Before we can thoroughly come to terms with these stages, and why they are central for integrating adverse experiences into a constructive package, it will be informative to explain the background of the programme.

The JET programme JET was established in 1987 and is an expansion of the previous smaller scale schemes known as the Monbusho English Fellows (MEF founded in 1977) and the British English Teachers (BET) scheme (founded in 1978) (McConnell 1995:80; McConnell 2000:43; Meerman 2003; MEXT 1994; MOFA n.d.). It is an official government agenda that expanded from four countries to 68 as of 2018 (CLAIR 2015). The objectives of the programme have been to improve foreign language skills in the educational system, and to foster international understanding within the Japanese communities through ‘package diplomacy’ (Watanabe and McConnell 2008). This mass internationalisation strategy places recent graduates within villages, towns and cities to work in local public schools, local governments and boards of education (CLAIR 2015). JET is simulta­ neously a part of Japan’s economic strategy to promote trade liberalisation and Japanese investment abroad.

Transmigratory nostalgia


At the 1986 Tokyo summit, The JET Programme was presented as a token of appreciation to the United States commission during the leadership of US President Ronald Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. It was a peace offering to quell the Japan and American trade war and has been regarded as ‘the greatest initiative undertaken since World War II related to the field of human and cultural relations’ (Watanabe and McConnell 2008:16–17) The 1980s Japanese governmental authorities wanted to reaffirm the message that they belonged on the world stage as a liberal, economic and internationally inclined nation. Japanese trade and immigration regulations were being stigmatised abroad, especially from the United States, for its uncompromising trade barriers and restricted acceptance of overseas workers. Thus, Japanese government officials knew that this projected image was pro­ blematic, and as a solution the JET programme was implemented as a topdown approach to bring international diversity to the country (McConnell 2000). Newly minted undergraduates from mainly Anglophone nations pro­ vided a face-to-face or ‘grass-roots’ led approach to internationalisation. This was done through these participants going about their everyday lives by living, working and interacting with those in their host communities. For this study, I collected life history narratives from those on the Assistant Language Teacher role (ALT), as they make up the bulk of the programme (CLAIR 2010a, 2010b). These individuals assist Japanese Teachers of English (JTE) in the classroom through teaching at primary and/or secondary schools (high schools). For the Japanese ministries and local governments, JETs are temporary, long-term residents given a distinct role different to other foreign language instructors in that they are informal ambassadors of their home countries. They may not become permanent appendages of Japanese society, none­ theless they contribute to it over time through long-term attachment. Why is it that these individuals continue to remain empathetic to Japan over the long term? By looking towards everyday life theory, we can unearth the develop­ ment of a transmigratory nostalgia.

Nostalgia and everyday life Studies that address nostalgia today, point towards the inability to cope with the present (Routledge et al. 2011; Batcho 2013). Much work on nostalgia within psychology has also resulted in individuals using the past to cope with present circumstances (Batcho 2018). This work encapsulated the increasing anxiety arising in a world that moves rapidly without direction or restraint, with the incapacity to gauge the future, there is uncertainty on how to plan our lives. Nostalgia is a desire that longs to live elsewhere and not in the present. It represents the past or a place that may or may not exist. Nostalgia was once defined as a sentimental feeling, to which the power of its attachment was formerly diagnosed as an illness, a ‘hypochondria of the heart’ (Boym 2001:7). It first appeared in the 17th century as ‘homesickness’; the feeling brought on by the separation from one’s heart and home. It was a


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documented illness recognisable by the symptoms of longing for family and home by soldiers coming from towns and villages during the American Revolution and from Swiss mercenaries as an ‘afflicted imagination’ (Anspach 1934:381). In contrast to the country folk, this longing did not have the same effect on their urban counterparts (Davis 1979; Nosco 1990; Vess et al. 2012). Nostalgia comes from the combined Greek words, nostos and algos. Nostos signifies a return to the native land and algos indicates suffering and grief (Nosco 1990:3). Today, this feeling is further induced by the disembedded nature of a globalising world as people are becoming dispersed across differ­ ent localities. Nostalgia is the reflection of frailty in our everyday life, which is often smothered by contemporary structures that salute the strengths and over-comings of the past (Boym 2001). It can be seen as a longing for the magic lost in our routine driven lives, where we try to control and predict our future. Lord Byron’s writing initiated the development of romanticism and place that associated nostalgia with sentimentality of place (Cheeke 2003). Peter Nosco (1990) describes it as a condition where we feel disembedded from time and space further induced by our multifaceted, changeable and temporary realities. Our daily lives are organised through schedules that make time spent less spontaneous and more predictable. While there is liberated time, there is less room in the world for the contemplation and reflection of the wondrous and spontaneous unknown that can be discovered when enga­ ging with other cultures and places. Nostalgia is that interruption in our regimented lives to remind us of lost time and our shared pasts. In more recent studies, Svetlana Boym (2001:49) contrasts restorative and reflective nostalgia, where the former recollects and returns to the past with a fresh dewiness, ignoring its decomposition over time, whereas the latter is about individual introspection and plasticity to rediscover oneself in the pre­ sent. Vanessa May’s (2017) work on nostalgia focused on the attachment of belonging in the past. Her research on the Mass Observation Project (MOP) found that feelings attached to belonging in the past can be used to define how one feels in the here and now; as she puts it, ‘mobilizing the past can enliven the present’ (May 2017:402). We seek belonging, some type of anchor to hold us in place in our vast, dynamic realities. Flora Tsapovsky and Paul Frosh (2015) indicate the emergence of a transnational nostalgia that operates through media consumption possessing temporal and spatial qualities. Through interviews of Israeli spectators of the television series Mad Men, what was discovered was sentimentality unaffixed to a physical place. Two factors contributed to this: first, there was an inclusion of distant cultures into a collective memory; second, the viewers were able to compare and contrast their present milieu with the temporal circumstances found in the television show. This emotional and cerebral trek granted the viewers the ability to imagine a better tomorrow. Nostalgia, moreover, has a beneficial mechanism for our mental state, for example, Constantine Sedikides et al. (2009:355–356) discussed the role of nostalgia for immigrants in fending off loneliness, depression and buffering against racist attitudes of the adopted country.

Transmigratory nostalgia


Nostalgia promotes positivity, self-esteem and bestows self-worth. Matthew Vess et al. (2012:274–281) found that nostalgia carried positive gains that could be beneficial to the individual. Nostalgia can protect the mind from the insecurities of modernity’s risks such as: the overwhelming quandary over one’s existence, future prospects and mortality. It can, moreover, promote a positive outlook through distancing negative events and reconstructing them into favourable scenes that are easily accessible to the present. While these concepts have clarified the varying dimensions of nostalgia, they do not fully describe the development of nostalgia through prolonged attachment that transpires after undergoing a sustained cultural exchange. I therefore propose the term transmigratory nostalgia to express the spatial and temporal dimensions of heightened imagination, that are entangled by localised banal experiences and the modification of memory over space and time that is constructive for selfesteem and long-term connection. First, a discussion into the contributions of everyday life theories will unravel this sentimental development. Everyday life as theory is about the emancipation of the individual from the tediousness of the everyday to derive truth and significance from personal accounts. It finds substance in the erratic events of the dirty boulevards and sidewalks and on the corner of a busy street (Pinder 2010), and reveals a common ground where all paths meet. Michael Hviid Jacobsen (2009:17) once mused over the conceptualisation of lived experience, finding that its problematisation is exactly what separates it from people’s ordinary, run-of­ the-mill notions and observations. In Japan, there was concern with everyday life as ‘architecture outside of architecture’, that symbolised the exterior pluralities of the moment; the social on goings and behaviours that unfolded within the household from moment to moment (Silverberg 1992:36). The everyday life theory of Henri Lefebvre (1991, 2002, 2004, 2005) deliberates that there is significance found in the invisible and mundane patterns in our lives. Lefebvre’s writings observe the taken for granted routines that exist in the everyday, along with the alienating processes that occur within the experiences from the individual to the social (Shields 1999:160–161). Life is a symphony of these rhythms or polyrhythmic (Lefebvre 2004:89). These rhythms manifest at the start of the workday when people gather at a busy intersection, during the humdrum of midday and at the return of rush hour when the working day ends. With the commencement of modernity our nat­ ural rhythms have been altered to fit fixed rhythms. Our homogeneous lives seem to only record the pinnacle areas of our lives and ignore the in between times from one spectacular event to another. These tempos are also similar to the biological cadences of the body. Cyclical time can be anything from the annual repetition of the seasons, and even rhythms such as the beating of the heart, our sleeping patterns and habits, and so forth. Linear time is about the monotonous durations such as waiting in line, traveling to a destination, or even the conclu­ sion of a leaf falling to the ground. Lefebvre states that we only become aware of these rhythms when something goes wrong, when we are distressed; like an ail­ ment within our bodies, that we are not always aware of, until the symptoms


Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

appear (Lefebvre 2004:88). This wakefulness can also come from living in an unfamiliar place, essentially, interrupting one’s patterned ideas and assumptions through confronting difference. Anthony Giddens (1995:14) has expressed that we not only have to ask ourselves how to live, but how to behave and what to eat and wear; all these questions relate to our identity. Our character is revealed through our memories and it is through the recollection of the past; both con­ scious and unconscious that determines our reality in the present. This everyday analysis clarified the participants’ shift in attitudes and feelings throughout the JET experience. Phenomenology as part of this framework questions the values we assign to our experiences. It is concerned with ‘intentionality’, or the parts of our experiences that we consciously remember and/or emphasise to provide meaning to our personal narrations (Schutz 1967). Alfred Schutz’s (1967) description of phenomenology emphasised the ‘life­ world’ or the social reality in which we find ourselves emerged. Moreover, it is concerned with intersubjective processes, in which individuals define them­ selves through the thoughts, and assumptions of others (Wilson 2002:192– 195). From that description, intersubjectivity can be interpreted to extend to emotions, where circulated shared sentiments can influence others, such as those who share the experiences of going on cultural exchange, such as the JET Programme. Like Sara Ahmed (2015:45) expressed: ‘Emotions work as a form of capital: affect does not reside positively in the sign or commodity but is produced as an effect of its circulation’. These theories aid the study by critically deconstructing our assumptions that make up our individual worldviews and the societies and cultures in which we reside. The individuals on the JET programme have the opportunity to see another reality to awaken them from the confinements and constric­ tions found in their own societies. However, waking up from this is no easy task and involves challenging one’s own assumptions and accompanying emotionality. The past can be channelled into a positive mechanism involving nostalgia when moving towards the future.

The investigation For this research, semi-structured interviews through the life history method were collected to voice the JET participants’ varying experiences. This method underlines the lived experience and at the same time allows for the amalgamation of theoretical analysis (Galletta 2013:24). The life history method appreciates the reconstructed narration of the everyday, through observing individual viewpoints (Rosenthal 1993) and comfortably parallels everyday life theory when examining the remembered. The interview ques­ tions delved into the participants’ assumptions of Japan before and after their time on programme to unearth influences they had of the country in their early life. These early influences would have been used to construct an image of Japan before departing to live in the country. Over the course of the experience there will be perceptual and sentient shifts while residing in their

Transmigratory nostalgia


host communities leading to a transformation from their initial stereotypical impressions of the culture and society, to the present. Their narratives revealed micro level, underrepresented forms of knowledge found in the per­ sonal and mundane, constructive for understanding the larger processes of sentimentality and agency (Cameron 2012). As mentioned above, interviews were taken from 24 JET participants along with a few individuals from the previous BET and MEF initiatives in the 1980s. The study covered the early decade of the programme, the 1980s up until the 2010s. Two of these interviewees participated on the programme twice and were represented in two different decades. These informants came from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Only three of the informants were actively on the programme when inter­ viewed, with the rest being alumni. A few of the respondents were living in Japan at the time of interview as returnees or continued to live there straight after JET. One went to live abroad in the United Kingdom and the others returned to their home countries. I made use of the ‘snowball technique’ (Potter 1996:107) to find diversity in interviewees by asking other participants to introduce me to those who fit categories I had not already found. These areas included one’s decade, home country and background. Because I was an alumnus of the programme, it was straightforward gain­ ing access to the JET community through social media such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, the British and Tokyo JET Alumni Associations and through other informal avenues of communication. I do indeed acknowledge that there will have been biases through the interview process, particularly as an alumnus. In research, an objective stance is thought to distance the person from bias and emotional attachment that could obstruct truth and impartiality (Mauthner and Doucet 2013). Biases form based on the affiliation of the researcher, their cultural make-up, interests and even factors due to time and place (Mouton and Marais 1996:83). However, because of my shared experience, it enabled me to create a trusting relationship with them that, moreover, encouraged them to speak openly about their thoughts and past experiences.

Transmigratory nostalgia and globalisation Nostalgia is a concept that itself is transmigratory in nature – in that you are longing for something that is not within reach. Fascinatingly, there is a con­ tradiction within this disconnection of time and place, as in reality, it fosters a deepened connection over time tied to locality. Due to the complexities that globalisation has presented there is a disruption to modes of belonging (Fallov, Jørgensen and Knudsen 2013). Zygmunt Bauman (1998:60) pro­ claims that ‘globalisation’ is about ‘what is happening to us all’. This com­ pression and amplification of the world has brought about a remarkable collective consciousness, however, creates a disembeddedness that effects both the circulation of knowledge and the way individuals relate to their social environment (Robertson 2000:8). In relation to JET, it became a tool for the


Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

promotion of internationalisation within the public education sector and equally, an economic strategy for a globally integrating world (Burgess et al. 2010). For the Japanese governmental ministries, this extended to ‘enhancing the cultural understanding of Japan abroad and increasing the Japanese con­ tribution to the world order’ (Befu 1983:233–241; Knight 1993:204). If we take Peter L. Berger et al.’s (1973:98–102) concept of carrier and package, carriers are representative of individual structured consciousness and the package represents the conscious connections tied to established norms and ideas. JETs can be viewed as a part of this process of carrier and package through initially carrying idealised assumptions of the country, and then later, memories of their time on the programme, resulting in the dispersion of knowledge by interpreting Japan to others (Metzgar 2012, 2017). The Japa­ nese governmental ministries use carriers or JET participants’ experiences to develop the package, represented as the values, norms and ideas used to enhance a cultural understanding of Japan. Through this exchange, JETs returning from the exchange then become goodwill ambassadors for the country (Keizai Doyukai 2014). This conceptualisation of ‘carrier’ and ‘package’ can be illustrated through one of the participant’s reflections: This was without a doubt the happiest period in my life – full of adventure and excitement. I am as keen to speak about my experiences in Japan now as I was 30 years ago. I have a very soft spot for all things Japanese and will always approach people when I hear them speaking. I received so much hospitality and kindness that I would like to pay this back. To better understand how transnational nostalgia works through the partici­ pants we need to consider globalisation’s impact on postmodern society. Zygmunt Bauman (1998) indicates the problems with localised meaningmaking due to the development of a global hybridisation of culture. He con­ cludes that the expansion of an elitist global culture prevents localised iden­ tities from grounding themselves, as globalisation cuts the strings of local restraints, signifying the growing disembeddedness and lack of control of meaning making secured to place. In contrast, Roland Robertson’s (1990, 2012) take on globalisation is that there are both universal and particular tendencies, where globalisation’s homogenising effects do not necessarily ameliorate localised currents within society. He thus, brought forward the idea of a ‘global localisation’ or ‘glocalisation’ – a term modified from the Japanese micro-marketing term, dochakuka or ‘global localisation’ used to target preferences of a particular society (Robertson 2000:173–174). Glocali­ sation is about making the global local to fit the preferences of the particular, and by making the local global through distributing localised tendencies globally. It can be further clarified due to advances in social media where information and ideas from elsewhere can be accessed on the Internet, tele­ vision and through other social media outlets. Circulating tension between local and global domains continue to shape the ideas and proclivities of the

Transmigratory nostalgia


other. The JET participants are truly representative of a glocalising world, as they begin to embody localised and global ideas that latch onto their iden­ tities. As one participant reflects: Imagine everyone in Japan wearing yellow sunglasses. Everyone in the States wears blue sunglasses. By living here for a while your sunglasses are going to turn green, they’re never going to go full-blown yellow, and you’re never going to be able to go back to blue. I’m never gonna 100% become Japanese but I definitely lost some of my American isms and put in some Japanese isms. I have an incredible amount of freedom, I see English and Japanese with language and culture, as being like the ocean; above air and below water. I’m kind of lucky in the fact that I can put my head above and below water as much as I like. As we adapt to a new place, there is an agitation that emanates from con­ fronting our own assumptions. There is a succession of internal reactions embodied by a pattern of rejection and integration as we adapt to a new way of life. We can see the process of glocalisation within the transformation of identity and associated shifts in meaning-making through the participants’ reflection akin to the one above. These experiences and situations will have a profound impact on individual sentimentality connected to place. Learning to navigate a new environment and culture will naturally lead to disagreements and misunderstandings. These situations are opportunities for learning. For these JET participants, the outcome of these struggles contributes to nostalgic recollections of a distinctive time in their early adulthood that later con­ tributes to sentiment tied to Japan. These tensions are part of the process correlated to transmigratory migration.

Transmigratory nostalgia and cultural exchange Cultural exchange entails a process of migration, displacement and adapta­ tion where transmigration becomes a factor for the expansion of social and economic connections to more than one place (Barea et al. 2010). This extends to the development of a sense of belonging to other corners of the world as globalisation stimulates the circulation of ideas that comes from encountering other people and places through transmigration. This is further induced by encounters that encompass cross-cultural tensions and enhanced interconnections. Cultural exchange, and in particular the JET programme, promote the mantra of mutual understanding (McConnell 2000), however, movement towards that goal entails clashes between transients and local inhabitants through confronting false idealisations and assumptions. Michelle Hannah (2010) found this to be the case when exploring cross-cul­ tural encounters of Buddhists at two of their international symposiums. She found a surfacing divergence among ethnic Buddhists and western practitioners


Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

due to a clash of culture and attitudes when it came to certain religious practices. The long-established Buddhist traditions and lineage were being challenged by the global and contemporary shift of the community, through the debate over Tibetan nuns acquiring full ordinance like their monk counterparts. In Theodora Lam and colleagues’ research of Chinese-Malaysians working in Singapore, they found that these skilled workers relocation abroad for opportunity did not necessarily cut ties with their home communities. In fact, they did not need to conform to their host country and were able to uphold ‘multi-level social ties traversing political geographic and cultural boundaries’ (Lam et al. 2002:118). In comparison, JET participants had cultivated a level of assimilation to their host communities through being steeped in the local culture, while maintaining their ties to their home country, demonstrating glocalised tensions within individual identity. The JET participants went through stages that embody imagining Japan, encountering adversity through residing in their host communities, which then led to a transmigratory nostalgia after the programme. This research found that transmigratory nostalgia is developed through imagining the unfamiliar through transmitted ideas, experiencing the realities of everyday life in the host communities, and the transformation of memory affixed to place that becomes beneficial for self-worth contributing to long-term engagement after the programme. Therefore, this definition of nostalgia is cultivated through internal transformations happening through cultural exchange. The pressures experienced through engaging with the local culture and society are essential for growth and awareness, that over time leads to sentimental attachment, overcoming temporal and spatial proportions that make the past appealing and accessible in the present. These individuals then became agents for transmitting Japan abroad to others through their stor­ ies and engagements. Before their departure to the country, they carried rudimentary impressions of the culture and society diffused within their regions. Indeed, these assumptions of a place and its people can be an initial attraction, exhibiting nostalgia through the consumption of Japa­ nese products and pop culture: When I was in high school, I was into video games and manga. I sud­ denly was one of those: ‘Japan is the greatest place on earth!’ I get to Akihabara, which is like the geek mecca. It’s kinda dramatic but if I got hit by a train or something tomorrow, that’s cool. I made it! That’s because that was a milestone I wanted to do when I was a kid, to go to that specific place that I read and day dreamed about. Another participant recollects his fascination of the country before his departure onto the programme, indicating uneasiness with Japan’s warmon­ gering past and a fear over their dominance on the world stage during the 1980s (Wilkinson 1990:5–12):

Transmigratory nostalgia


An Asian country was surpassing us, and it didn’t chime with the rhetoric of British culture I was being given, that Britain was the best and brightest of everything. This sudden realisation attracted me to Japan tremendously. These impressions, or constructed assumptions, were used to create an image of their future place and destination. The reason that this is significant is because it indicates an emotional bond, inspired by the imaginations of an unfamiliar place. The next stage is directed towards the disruption of these idealised assumptions, where we come to terms with the everyday realities of living in another society and culture. This leads to tensions and experiences of adversity as the honeymoon stage is transformed into a down to earth observation as we adapt to our new surroundings. Coming into contact with alterity can be a positive occurrence. Many of the interviewees recalled uncomfortable experiences, one of these is articulated below: The building had been having regular gatherings, using the money col­ lected each month, but I had been intentionally excluded. This was a major turning point, in the sense that the ‘normal’ and ‘friendly’ rela­ tionship became one of distrust and anger. This experience taught me the word mura-hachibu, or village exile. Learning to navigate a new environment will naturally lead to disagreements and misunderstandings, nonetheless, these situations are opportunities for learning. These struggles are impactful for remembering this distinctive time during young adulthood, as we learn about ourselves and overcome obstacles through the experience. After the novelty fades and routines begin to form, they become part of the everyday leading to adaptation. How deeply each participant acculturates to Japan differs for each person. What is evident is that through living among its citizens a deeper understanding of Japan will develop. How profound and impactful the experience became is different for each person. One individual recalls his state of mind after leaving the programme and how his negative outlook altered over time: When I first came back from Japan, I didn’t want anything to do with it (after experiencing hardship as a minority). I spent a year and a half thinking Japan’s rubbish but then I started to do stuff with people who were interested in Japan and teaching them things and telling them about my experiences. I changed my opinion and I might be applying for a job in Japan. How is it as time moves on, negative experiences become less impactful and perhaps even optimistic in reflection? Memory is malleable and has an effect on our individual narratives. We unconsciously shape our own histories and how they define us in the present (Sacks 2012; Draaisma 2013; Hammond


Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

2013; Fernyhough 2013). Nostalgia has the ability to connect our aspirations to our present. Matthew Vess et al. (2012) found nostalgia becomes a positive resource of the self through shielding our identities from present worries, while boosting our self-esteem. What these researchers found was a positive correlation between nostalgic reflection and optimistic self-identity. In fact, negative events were imagined to be distant from the present self, and positive events to be recent phenomena. The conclusion of the experiment found that external threats to the self are safeguarded by nostalgic reflection by retaining a value of self during negative happenings. Another factor that makes transmigratory nostalgia possible is the age of the participants on cultural exchange. JET is a youth exchange programme, with many entering shortly after finishing their undergraduate degrees. Daniel Levinson et al. (1978) detailed the ages of 17 to 33 as a time of insecurity and imper­ manence. During this period, we are searching for stability through entertaining and exploring various future possibilities. During this stage we are experiencing uncertainty that influences key areas of our lives, including love, work, and how we fit into our social surroundings and internalise the wider world (Levinson et al. 1978; Arnett 2000:470). Koen Luyckx et al. (2011) found that although emerging adulthood is a period of instability, it is a time for creating opportunities that lead to future prospects and character stability. For the JET participants, this self-dis­ covery happens while they are living in an unfamiliar place for perhaps a year or more. The time spent on the exchange during this time period will deepen their emotional and nostalgic connections to the country. After the programme and over distance and time, these individuals started to miss certain features of their time in the land of the rising sun. Some of these reminders happened when hearing Japanese speakers, or when strolling into a sushi restaurant with friends. There was a need to explain and recount their experiences of authentic Japan: When I see Japanese things, I’m like, ‘That’s not Japanese. That’s not how it is’. I went to a restaurant a few weeks ago with two of my friends, and the chef was cooking the food. It’s hard to explain to people that in Japan we sit around the table with the big hot plate in the middle and you cook the food yourself. Others deliberately sought Japan related jobs, continued to study the lan­ guage, take in Japanese exchange students, or chose to return to the country for travel: I’ve gone back several times; I’ve taken students from university. I’ve remained connected to Japan in the ways that I can. I’ve had a Japanese tutor here on and off over the six or seven years. I remember when I started there (Konami), they had Japanese staff and executive producers from Japan, one of them only spoke Japanese. Even though my Japanese wasn’t really very good, I think that helped me get in.

Transmigratory nostalgia


Attraction exists in the form of the nostalgic past along with its attachment to where these memories were created. A cultivated awareness of the country has shaped these participants’ where familiarity with Japanese ideas and culture connects them to the country. This intimate connection to the society and culture is a compelling form of attraction. Memory is of course an important dimension for the transmittance of nostalgia. As social beings, we look for meaning in our everyday lives to see beyond the confines of our present state. As Oliver Sacks asserts: ‘We need to trans­ cend, transport, escape … to see overall patterns in our lives’ (Sacks 2012:88). The activity of reminiscing is a method of escape and for infusing meaning in our everyday. There is delight in encountering the unknown as a sense of being ‘lost’, where it is about the unfamiliar materialising (Solnit 2005; Fer­ nyhough 2013:29). Douwe Draaisma (2013:xiii) argues that this falling away occurs not because of memory’s unreliability but from perceiving the event from another angle. Nostalgia is also about the element of imagination and the spaces these occupy within reality and personal experience. Over time, a bridged recollection spanning both the unfamiliar imagined and the familiar past emerged. This time on the programme is an impactful period as their identities are challenged while living in a different cultural and social setting. When the experience is over, they now encompass, not only memories and identities of their home countries, but also the familiar devel­ opments fabricated in Japan. These are then transported by the individual through memories that are imbued with nostalgic recollections. Experiences that require a major shift in routine, such as moving abroad are impactful. They can change one’s patterns of thinking and have a long-term influence throughout one’s life. Often, appreciation for the experience emerges after the journey has ended, resulting in a reconstructed lens of the past. Thus, revealing the shift of negative conclusions over distance in time and place to a more positive reaction. These individuals became part of the local scenery, immersing them­ selves in a foreign place and becoming acquainted with it over time. The programme was a highlight in their lives connecting them to Japanese culture and society, leaving a lasting influence on their future and narratives. One of the par­ ticipants embodies this attachment: I have fond memories of Japan and I think the fondest grow stronger the more removed I am. I do still have fond memories of my time there, of the friends I made, and of the experiences I had, both with the culture and my own personal growth, the kind of growth that you do when you’re living abroad and just kind of exploring. The participants found that they have positive recollections of their time on the programme, moving past the struggles they encountered after living abroad. These experiences differ from person to person, yet there is a common thread of growing familiarity with the culture and the connection of memory with place, deepened by the struggles and experiences of growth


Sharleen Estampador-Hughson

during that particular period. For many of the interviewees, the exchange has been impactful for their futures through career choices, deciding to stay long­ term Japan, consuming Japan related products, through social media, keeping the connection with friends made on JET and with Japanese friends and returning to visit. These participants are vessels carrying knowledge about Japanese society and culture. Since they have been intimately entwined and supported living and working in localities around Japan, they have developed knowledge of the culture and society that they can convey to others. This research emphasises the by-product of nostalgia that connects these indivi­ duals to the country after the experience. This has resulted in a tendency to keep Japan in one’s life, perhaps an extension of the experience. There is a level of character flexibility by being able to see the positive in situations after experiencing hardship, which is beneficial for creating a meaningful identity. For all decades, there has been a desire to explain Japan to others who have not been to the country, as carriers of certain facets of its society and culture. Through explaining Japan to others past memories are enlivened, keeping this particular experience alive in their hearts and minds.

Conclusion Nostalgia can be used to both look forward to the future, and to look long­ ingly to the past. This chapter expands on a transmigratory development of nostalgia through cultural exchange. Through exploring the theories of everyday life, we can begin to understand how residing abroad emancipates our worldviews through experiencing difference and being submerged in another society’s social and cultural rhythms and patterns. The challenges confronted through living in an unfamiliar place give rise to transformations within identity that conflict with former assumptions and emotionalities. The JET participants’ history on the programme was a beneficial mechanism for the construction of self-esteem when reflecting positively on the past. This reflective process has created a durable connection with Japan through tying them to a particular period in their young adult lives. The minute details of how the participants emotionally process and contribute to this image creation have revealed processes that encompassed stages of envisioning Japan through trans­ mitted ideas, experiencing adversity through living in the country, and the development of a transmigratory nostalgia after the experience. Nostalgia played a role in earlier life as these individuals used transmitted products of pop-culture, paraphernalia and ideas to form a characterisation of Japan. Through a globalising world, the concept of glocalisation impacts individual identity through the pressures of the local and global, where their former identities are reconstructed through growing familiarity with their host community. These pressures then transpire into nostalgic attachment through the participants’ adapting to Japanese culture and society over time, leading to a long-term connection with the country. Transmigratory nostalgia involves heightened imagination that is unbound by the spatial and temporal,

Transmigratory nostalgia


influenced by localised everyday occurrences that lead to a reformed memory over distance and time, that is beneficial for self-esteem and long-term attachment to the place these experiences unfolded. Nostalgia has been found to promote positivity to one’s self-esteem through distancing negative events that are beneficial for meaning-making. The participants felt the need to express their experience or pass on their knowledge to others that became conducive for the dispersion of Japan abroad, as these individuals became carriers of its society and culture. Going abroad is a form of education that challenges our values and our mindsets. These participants are seeking to understand another place, society and culture, where at the end of the experience, becomes part of their identity. Through their stories, we can see how a positive approach to nostalgia can emerge through engaging with difference and confronting misunderstand­ ings that lead to enduring emotionally enhanced connections over time.

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11 Living in nostalgia Exploring expatriate experiences of everyday nostalgia in Pattaya Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Introduction For many people, living far away from their country of origin can be a diffi­ cult and testing experience, as the memories of the home left behind may be full of nostalgic longings and fond remembrances, but it may also create a sense of relief and newly gained freedom. In this way, expatriate life is often characterised by innate feelings of ambivalence. For example, among classical poets such as Homer and Lord Byron, the heartache, trials and tribulations of those leaving and missing home (‘expatriates’) is beautifully described (Graham 2008). Within sociological circles, just think of the diaries – studied a century ago by Chicago sociologists William I. Thomas and Florian Zna­ niecki (1918/1996) – of the Polish peasants who had moved to America in order to create a new life: diaries that contained so many reflections on the deep-seated ambivalences of arriving in an unexplored place full of hope and opportunity but still missing the old and well-known world of their past. Since then, many studies have been conducted on so-called ‘lifestyle migra­ tion’, ‘residential tourism’, ‘retirement migration’ or more generally migrant and expatriate experiences and communities from around the world (see, for example, Benson and O’Reilly 2009; Brooks and Simpson 2013; King, Warnes and Williams 2000; Fechter 2007; Farrer 2010; McWatters 2008; Oliver 2008), and some studies have also more specifically dealt with the emotional experiences of expatriate/immigrant nostalgia (see, for example, Ahmed 2015; Hayes 2018; Pestre 2015; Robert-Demontrond 2001; Ritivoi 2002). Nostalgia is indeed a powerful presence in people’s lives in general, but perhaps particularly for those moving away permanently or living far away from home, because the feeling of nostalgia links them with the experiences and relationships that made life meaningful and predictable to them in the past. In fact, when the notion of ‘nostalgia’ was first coined in the late 17th century by Swiss physician Johannes Hofer, it was used specifically to describe the ailment of homesickness suffered by soldiers and mercenaries stationed far away from home. This homesickness reminded its unfortunate victims of the land they had left behind and made them feel depressed, melancholic and nostalgic (Hofer 1688/1934). In the globalised world of our contemporary


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

historical epoch with its new and accelerated dynamics of mobility such as mass tourism, mass migration and mass immigration, many people now often relocate and live their lives – voluntarily or involuntarily – far away from their homeland. In such an increasingly globalised world inhabited by what PolishBritish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (1998) once metaphorically termed ‘nomads’, it is now not only the possibility but also the privilege of more people than ever before to seek out the ‘good life’ and to live their lives abroad as so-called ‘tourists’. According to Bauman, this latter notion captures the life-experiences of those who can travel freely and arrive at the destination of their own choice (as opposed to the ‘vagabonds’ who instead are forced to be on the move). Within the context of this chapter, the neologism of ‘permanent tourists’ may seem a useful way of describing many of those mainly Western expatriate men who, for various reasons, have decided to move to and live per­ manently in Thailand and, in this chapter, specifically in the city of Pattaya.1 Anyone slightly familiar with the name of Pattaya will almost immediately conjure up certain images and ideas about what this city is all about. It is a geographical name – a bit like that of Las Vegas or Ibiza – which instantly triggers certain parts of the imagination. Popularly known as the ‘Sin City of Southeast Asia’, Pattaya in Thailand is notorious or rather infamous for its flamboyant night life and rather conspicuous sex industry. Alongside cities and areas such as Bangkok, Hua Hin, Chaing Mai and Phuket, Pattaya is one of the most famous tourist magnets in Thailand attracting millions of visitors every year (approximately 14 million in 2018)2 as well as harbouring a community of expatriates – primarily Western Europeans, Americans and Australians – living there on a permanent basis.3 Pattaya is a fast-growing city and the increasing influx of tourists from all around the world makes it a magnet not only for entertainment, relaxation and sex seekers but also for investments and expansive urban developments. Even though Pattaya has, perhaps deservingly, obtained the tabloid and public stigma of catering pri­ marily for men seeking contacts on the local sex market, the city is in fact packed with tourists who come for many other reasons and with expats for whom the nightlife/sex industry is of little importance. In many ways, Pattaya is indeed a place of pleasure and of many opportunities for the taking – it is a city dedicated to making its visitors happy and to making them spend their money. After all, it is difficult not to enjoy the stretchy beaches, the wonderful local food, the entertainment venues, the cornucopia of bars, restaurants and beautiful hotels, the cheap prices and last but not least, for some, the avail­ ability of romantic and/or erotic company. Compared to many other big cities in Thailand, Pattaya is indeed relatively cheap – not least due to the steep competition within the hotel, accommodation and restaurant businesses, making it an attractive place to visit or settle even if the money are scare. But Pattaya can also tell many other tales of poverty, loneliness, personal break­ down, exploitation and despair in the Thai community as well as among the so-called farangs (in Thai meaning ‘foreigners’). Pattaya is, as we shall see later in this chapter, a place of many contradicting experiences – a place with

Living in nostalgia


its own peculiar balancing of bizarre pushes and pulls. Next to the luxurious hotel one will find a dirty and smelly shanty town inhabited by poor Thai families, side by side with the romantic touristy restaurant there is a shabby massage parlour, next to the jewellery shop there is a sleazy strip club and so on. Pattaya is indeed a place rendering the starkest of differences visible within its city limits. This chapter draws on insights and material obtained during an explorative ethnographic study of everyday life and nostalgic emotions among expatriates living in the city of Pattaya. In the chapter, we will look into some of the ways in which nostalgia is experienced, practiced and verbalised by the expats and how nostalgia is perhaps one of the key emotions used to understand the everyday life of these people having settled permanently far away from home.

About Pattaya Setting the scene Let us start with some brief and basic information about Pattaya. Pattaya is a seaside city located approximately 100 kilometres southeast of Bangkok. Until the late 1950s, Pattaya was a sleepy fishing village with a small local population. Throughout the 1960s, visitors began to arrive in Pattaya from Bangkok in order to enjoy the beautiful and, at the time, quiet seaside. Later came the Vietnam War, making Pattaya a magnet for thousands of American servicemen on so-called ‘rest and recuperation’ in Thailand. This period saw the rise of the expansive hotel industry and the establishment of the famous Walking Street in Pattaya with its many music scenes and go-go bars, the presence of prostitution freelancers in the streets and the multitude of mas­ sage parlours around the city. During this period Pattaya – its population and area – grew steadily, leading to Pattaya being labelled ‘the most spectacular development in southeastern Thailand’ (Sternstein 1976:418). From the mid­ 1980s and early 1990s, the city began to cater for general tourism in a more targeted way. This was also the time when the expatriate community in Pat­ taya began to develop and expand. A row of three photos on a wall in the famous Sailor Bar in Pattaya’s Soi 8 taken in 1952, 1957 and 2013 visually documents this historical transformation (Figure 11.1.) Today, Pattaya is a bustling city with more than 100,000 permanent inhabi­ tants and millions of tourists visiting every year. Pattaya consists of a relatively large touristy area close to the long stretch of beaches (with hotels, bars, dis­ cothèques, restaurants, massage parlours, shopping malls and the like) and in concentric circles radiating from this up to the Sukhumvit (the main road) lives the local Thai population as well as many permanent foreign dwellers. Many of the Thai people living and working in Pattaya in the service industry (not least within the ‘sexual service economy’) come from other parts of the country, especially from the northern regions where poverty is still widespread. Many of those who travel to Pattaya every year as tourists come to enjoy the sandy


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Figure 11.1 Photograph on a wall in Sailor Bar, Soi 8, Pattaya Source: Michael Hviid Jacobsen, 2017

beaches, the many highly rated golf courses, the night-time entertainment, the cornucopia of exotic foods and perhaps also the widespread sex industry. However, besides the tourists, Pattaya, as mentioned, also accommodates a large community of expat inhabitants who in many cases have lived there for a long time. Many of them are Westerners and men of which the majority have already retired (obtaining a permanent visa is quite difficult if you are not actively working or retired), even though the composition of the expat com­ munity has also changed throughout the years – previously primarily Brits, Australians and Americans, but now also many Germans, Scandinavians, French and Israeli, to mention a few nationalities. The same goes for the tourists, and in recent years particularly Russian, Chinese and Indian tourists (for the latter part primarily big groups of men) have started to flood the city with a whole section of central Pattaya now catering specifically for Indian tourists. All in all, Pattaya is a constantly changing city and it is a place that contains many stories – happy and sad – and not least many myths. The stigmatised city Due to the aforementioned rise and continued presence of a widespread and quite visible sex industry in Pattaya throughout the past forty to fifty years, the city has in many circles earned itself a rather bad name. In the public imagination, Pattaya is a stigmatised city – it is, deservingly or not (depending on one’s personal predilections), burdened with a ‘territorial stigma’, a term once coined by French sociologist Loïc J. D. Wacquant (2007). This reason for this ‘territorial stigma’ is undoubtedly the omnipresent sex industry with a multitude of massage parlours, go-go bars and street-walking sex workers.

Living in nostalgia


Adding to this, numerous bars and discothèques make the city closely asso­ ciated with sinful and forbidden nocturnal activities. It is indeed a place of pleasure, entertainment and relaxation catering for all those who frequent the place as visitors or permanent dwellers. For example, French author Michel Houellebecq in the novel Platform gave a fictional yet incisive account of this life of sex tourism in Thailand and how it relied on a consumerist exploitation and feelings of human loneliness (Houellebecq 2001). Whenever Pattaya is portrayed in newspaper reports or television documentaries, the focus is almost exclusively on the ‘dark sides’ of Pattaya – its sex, its alcohol and drugs, its wild night life and all the problems that flow from this Pandora’s Box. Thus, most media stories, in international newspapers and television or in the Thai media, tend to focus on the negative sides of Pattaya city life: drug abuse, sex industry, alcoholism, suicide, violence, diseases and so on. It is indeed difficult to find any positive stories, and most often a one-sided bleak picture has been painted of the life being lived there and of the people living it. True, there are many conspicuous and hidden problems (social, financial, mental and health-related) in Pattaya, some of which are undoubt­ edly intimately connected to the prevalence of sex and abuse, but the place is also a home for thousands of foreign people – particularly Westerners (but increasingly so also Russian and Eastern European nationals) – who associate the place with many other less stigmatised activities. Despite this, the majority of those who have studied Thailand, tourism and migration have tended to focus on different dimensions of the predominantly ‘white masculine’ exploitation of the local poor population under the auspices of global sex and prostitution capitalism (see, for example, Bishop and Limmer 2018; Cohen 1982; Davidson 1995; Garrick 2005; Husson 2017; Neal 2018; Nuttavuthisit 2007; Odzer 1994; Pack 2011; Prideaux et al. 2004; VanLandingham et al. 1993; Wilson 2008). While not denigrating the utmost importance of this specific research focus, it has, however, meant that many other dimensions of tourist and migrant life in Thailand/Pattaya than those associated with the sex industry have often been overlooked. Moreover, this longstanding interest particularly in the sexual dimensions of Western tourism in and migration to Thailand also means that there exists what in research has been called a ‘stigma by association’ for those visiting or living in the city of Pattaya. Just visiting the place, let alone deciding to live your life there (and even to study it), is regarded with ill-concealed suspicion. The crepuscular city Besides the aforementioned ‘stigmatised’ characteristics of Pattaya life, one of the first and very noticeable things that will strike the visitor is the fact that it is a crepuscular city – there is, at least seemingly, hardly anything going on during daytime apart from the normal touristy activities near the beach area. It is a city that does not come to life until dusk. Upon my arrivals in the city by taxi normally around the early morning hours, only Thai people – working in the restaurants and bars, massage parlours, fruit markets, shops, construction


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

business, driving renovation trucks and so on – seem to be awake preparing for a long day’s work ahead. At this time, you may also come across the odd for­ eigner (or farang as they are called in Thai) riding his motorbike or walking the dirty streets full of potholes and broken pavement. It is a city that sleeps late. Breakfast is therefore served in most restaurants throughout the day, and even though the bars start to fill up from around lunchtime (perhaps because there is happy hour until the end of the afternoon), the place seems relatively quiet and sleepy for most parts of the daytime. However, when the sun starts setting over Pattaya Bay, the city quickly comes to life as if someone turned on a switch panel. People start to gather in the bars, the 10 bath busses are packed, res­ taurants are filling up, the Walking Street is crowded, neon lights are turned on and music starts to sound from every nook and cranny (at least this is the case during the high season). The city is now ready to rumble. This is also the time when many foreigners start to show up for the night scene. One of my infor­ mants was a 69-year-old Scottish man called Craig, who had lived in the city for several years; he told me: ‘Around 7 o’clock in the night you will see the disability parade showing up in the streets and heading for the bars.’ The notion of ‘disability parade’ is referring to the many disabled, otherwise impaired (some even in wheelchairs) and often elderly groups of foreigners moving into the bar areas for a good time out – sometimes on their own, at other times in the company of Thai wives, other female company or in groups of friends. The thing is, as one will discover after some observations, that it is often not just any old bar they are heading for – most seem to have a local bar (perhaps even a reserved seat or table). To most of the men I talked to during my visits, the chosen bar was far from coincidental but of vital importance to their social life. ‘My home away from home’, as an Australian (Dean) expat in his mid-60s called his favourite bar. It was this experience of looking for a ‘home away from home’ that became one of the triggers for my explorative study of nostalgia in this particular setting.

About the study Surprisingly, social life in Pattaya is in itself not very much studied within social research. Only a few published studies seem to deal specifically with this otherwise stigmatised, legendary and magnetic city (see, for example, Egan 2009; Jaisuekun and Sunanta 2016; Longjit and Pearce 2013), and per­ haps unsurprisingly predominantly the focus has been on some of the traps and human miseries related to its sex tourism industry (see, for example, Gray 2012; Jones 2012; McCamish 2002; Monk-Turner and Turner 2017; Neal 2018; Thompson, Kitiarsa and Smutkupt 2016). When I arrived in Pattaya for the first time on holiday some six-seven years ago, what struck me imme­ diately was the sight of numerous Western men walking in the streets or sitting in the bars often accompanied by younger Thai women. This was an unfamiliar sight. Moreover, it was difficult not to notice a considerable age difference between the couples. I was not prepared for this, having little to no

Living in nostalgia


knowledge of Pattaya apart from what could be read every now and then in the tabloid newspapers. Based on my initial wondering and curiosity and armed with my sociological imagination, I decided to visit the city again and start talking to some of these men about their everyday lives in Pattaya, listening to their stories and living in their city with intervals whenever pos­ sible. This resulted in 12 visits to Pattaya during the past five or six years – each visit lasting from 2–3 weeks at a time. During this time, I would mingle with, talk to and observe these expatriates, and learn about the way everyday life unfolded for some of them. I would often have casual and unplanned conversations with them in bars or from reclining chairs in massage parlours. Some I interviewed more formally, in other cases I just jotted down thoughts and experiences from coincidental conversations on a notepad or slips of paper in a bar to be transcribed upon my return to the hotel. Other times I was observing them, observing myself and otherwise just being-in-the-city as a methodological strategy.4 A few men I interviewed via Skype or email correspondence after my returns from Pattaya. Besides simply talking to and mingling with people, another dimension of my ‘data collection’ consisted of scanning and reading the local newspapers Pattaya One and Pattaya Mail and looking online at the posts, blogs and shared stories of expats living in Thailand in general and specifically in Pattaya (e.g. through homepages such as Thai Visa, The Thaiger, Expattaya,, Pattaya Expats Club and Pattaya Unlimited). From scanning the content of these fora, it became clear that the feeling of nostalgia was a recurrent topic among expats. Moreover, I bought and read some of the hugely popular – and among newly arrived foreigners quite mythical – books based on often humorous first-hand experiences in Thailand’s nightlife underworld such as Stephen Leather’s Private Dancer (Leather 2005), Iain Corness’s Farang (Corness 2007) and Neil Hutchison’s Money Number One (also called the ‘Pattaya Bible’) (Hutchison 2001/2013). These accounts provided me with some hints into the way Pattaya was perceived by others who had decided to share their own experiences. As should be obvious, my ‘methodological strat­ egy’, as it were, was thus markedly mundane and impressionistic. I would engage in informal everyday conversations with farang residents (the ‘permanent tourists’) and always let them know that I as a researcher was looking for their stories, experiences and reflections on life in Pattaya. Initially, I thought that this would deter many from speaking to me, not least since Pattaya life, as mentioned, is generally stigmatised. However, it turned out that almost everyone was more than keen to share their thoughts and found it interesting that someone actually wanted to hear their side of the story. Many, however, did not want their real names mentioned. To abide by the codes of research ethics, all my informants were therefore anonymised, leaving only their approximate age, years of living in Pattaya, nationality as well as other types of information they agreed to make available (their pseudonyms were often chosen by themselves). It was my initial ambition to write a small book on my many observations of everyday life as it was lived in public among expats living in Pattaya, and this chapter on nostalgia is therefore only a fragment of what was learned and


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

absorbed throughout my many visits. Moreover, my initial strategy was to interview and talk only to Danish nationals in Pattaya, however due to the relatively limited number of permanent residents as well as my impression that similar stories were told across nationality boundaries, the decision was to include all the Western men I encountered as part of my research popula­ tion. There was also an ethical dimension to this. As mentioned, I started out wanting to only learn and write about Danish men like myself who decided to live permanently in Pattaya. Having met with and talked to a few of them, I quickly learned that I needed to expand my perspective (not least because it quickly became difficult to find new ‘informants’ without interviewing people who knew each other intimately), and I soon discovered that the experiences of the French, English, German, Swedish, American, Australian, Belgian and other nationalities were in fact quite similar. Their stories, their defeats and victories, their worries and revelations, their dreams and adversities, their routines and active life choices were almost always recognisable and in line with what my initial Danish contacts had told me. Many of the men I talked to and got to know during my visits were retired, some worked in the city or had their own business, others had simply fled their home country for various reasons (e.g. in order to avoid the authorities at home), but most had made a voluntary and informed lifestyle choice and moved their life away from the hustle and bustle of their native countries in order to start over again in a new and more comfortable place. Thus, the motivation for living in Pattaya was not the same for everybody. For some, it was obvious they were running away from something (crime, social problems, family troubles, debts, etc.), for others it was a desire to live a life of their own choice (‘the good life’), for yet others it was premised on an apparent dissatisfac­ tion with the state of affairs in their own countries (the tax system, politics, gender equality, immigration and so on). A humorous expression often heard across these different paths leading to Pattaya was the notion of ‘climate refugees’ – that these men had seemingly decided to move to the city due to the bad weather conditions back home to the more favourable weather situation (but also, I sus­ pected, the better prices and possibilities for female company) in Thailand. Even though I need to emphasise the diversity of those living permanently in Pattaya – regarding their life-experiences, their financial situation, their family backgrounds, their ways of life, habits, state of mind and so on – I did quite quickly discover some commonalities. One of my main findings was the experience of ambivalence of everyday life among the expats living there permanently. For some life was almost seen as exclusively good and generous making it possible to live ‘the good life’ however defined (O’Reilly and Benson 2009), for others, however, it was almost one-sidedly marked by pro­ blems, regrets and sorrows (such as loneliness, financial worries and romantic entanglements), but in most cases I sensed an underlying ambivalent attitude towards the city: Pattaya was good and bad, exciting and dull, home and ‘extended holiday’ (as an Australian guy who had lived there almost for the past two decades years called it). It was a place that provided for many

Living in nostalgia


pleasurable experiences, but also a place that potentially brought a lot of problems. Or as one of my main informants, retired English school teacher John (73), who had lived in Pattaya for the better part of the last decade, contemplatively stated: ‘On any given day, Pattaya can be heaven or it can be hell.’ I also heard many stories from expats who missed home but who, on the other hand, also found it utterly unthinkable to return again. As one of the men, an Irish man Eric (64), who had lost a substantial part of his money after marrying and divorcing a Thai lady, stated: ‘It would be a terrible defeat for me to go back. Most people back home think I’m doing well and living the good life down here.’ He was now looking for a way to make money again through teaching English classes. Another man – Otto from Germany (58) who had resigned from his job in order to live off a family inheritance but had spent most of the money already – told me that he knew that he would be seen as a failure if he returned to his family and local community again. He also revealed that he did not tell anyone in his family or even his close friends that he was rapidly running out of money. This inherent ambivalence of everyday life in Pattaya – loving the city’s possibilities but also experiencing many problems – was thus an integral part of life for many of the men I talked to. Despite certain commonalities and indeed also many differences (making it more appropriate to look for narrative patterns than trying to construct ideal types), it became obvious to me during my studies that look­ ing for one plot, one pathway or one storyline is never a productive strategy when dealing with people’s lives. Even in the apparent uniformity, there are always traces of diversity. Finally, it needs to be stressed that I specifically aspired to conduct a nonnormative study of Pattaya life as the stories about the widespread demor­ alisation, decay and despair in the city already abound in the media and in some parts of the existing research. My ambition was to understand these men, not to evaluate or judge their decisions or ways of life. It is perhaps easy to find reason to frown upon the lives they live – a life of drinking, idle talk­ ing, relaxing, having fun, sometimes even having numerous sex partners and so on. However, in my view sociology in general and perhaps micro-oriented studies of closed populations in particular do not benefit from being norma­ tively guided (Jacobsen 2018:6–8). As sociologists we study norms; however, we do not get to determine what is normatively right or wrong. The purpose of sociology is not to pass judgment, but to provide sober and interesting knowledge. In my experience, sociological normativity is often an obstacle for genuine understanding.

Nostalgia and expat everyday life As mentioned earlier, Pattaya is a city that sleeps late and stays awake until the early hours – at least when it comes to many of the tourists visiting but also for some of the farangs living there. It is often not until the early after­ noon that the streets get busy and the bars start filling up. Everyday life in


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Pattaya is for many ‘permanent tourists’ quite predictable. They have their reg­ ular routes, rhythms and routines. For some, everyday life is lived through an assortment of leisurely activities such as trips to the exclusive golf courses in the nearby area or participating actively in other types of sports, for others everyday life consists of work and family related activities, for yet others life is primarily lived in the narrow streets of central Pattaya (the so-called Soi Buakhao-Soi Diana-Soi Lengkee area) that is particular popular among permanent residents due to its many bars, massage parlours and relatively cheap prices. On a closer look, one will often find here the same men sitting in the same spots in bars at the same time day after day chatting, drinking, relaxing, joking, reading the news­ paper, watching sports on television and so on. To outsiders, it may be difficult to detect what this seemingly meaningless and monotonous life actually consists of. Below we will explore some of the dimensions (however far from exhaustive) of the experiences of everyday nostalgia of life among expat men in Pattaya. Experiencing nostalgia Initially when talking to these men, one will discover that there is a lot of repetition, ritual talk and defence mechanisms involved. I quickly heard all the familiar scam stories of men who lost everything because they fell desperately in love with a Thai lady and invested all their money in businesses, which they lost upon divorce; guys who mistook a ladyboy for a lady; or who dramatically ended up jumping from one of the tall buildings near the beach road due to unrequited love, bankruptcy, depression or loneliness (which is why Pattaya is sometimes referred to as the ‘suicide capital of Thailand’). After some time, when the initial suspiciousness had receded thus allowing one to move beyond the facades of formality and bar chitchat, it turned out that there was often a lot more at stake. From my conversations, it soon turned out that the topic of nostalgia was a familiar experience for many of them (albeit often not framed, recognised or intellectualised as nostalgia), but it was unexpectedly not a simple or straightforward type of nostalgia about how the ‘old days were so much better’ (Davis 1979). Rather, it seemed much more a reflexive and prac­ tical type of nostalgia that not only informed the way some of these men thought or felt but also how they acted. For them, nostalgia was a lived experience and something creating meaning in their everyday lives (Rieter 2015). Perhaps this nostalgic feeling is particularly fuelled by the fact that these men now live as a diasporic group far away from the well-known routines and cultural practices of their native home. As Anne-Meike Fechter observed in her study of European and American expatriates living in Indonesia: They could be considered as a diasporic group in the age of global capitalism, as they congregate in national communities, are driven by a sense of nostalgia for their native country, engage in the re-creation of national or regional cultures in their host country. (Fechter 2007:162)

Living in nostalgia


This was also true of many of the men I spoke to, who embraced nostalgia, they lived in it, they reproduced it, and they admitted it. A Scottish man, Callum (67), who had stopped working a few years ago and decided to sell everything in order to move permanently to Pattaya after coming here several times as a tourist, stated: I think a lot about the past and my past life but don’t we all? God knows, I’ve many regrets but most people do, I guess. When you ask me about nostalgia, I think everybody is nostalgic. But down here [in Pattaya] nostalgia is not something bad. I often talk to my mates about the things I miss from back home, but I’d prefer living here to [name of city in Scotland] any day. From my conversations, it was obvious that despite nostalgic sentiments for the country left behind, many expats still preferred their new Pattaya life to that of the old country – often associated with feelings of being either marginalised, lonely or unhappy. Nostalgia, however, was not only about missing one’s ori­ ginal homeland. Also Pattaya itself was missed if – for some reason – the men decided to move back home. ‘Pattaya is a city that you’ll never forget’, according to Dirk, a 63-year-old Austrian informant who had lived in the city on and off for the past 15 years. He mentioned that even when he moved back to Europe to take up work for a few years to subsidise his life in Pattaya, the city remained with him, he thought about the place all the time, it had, in his own words, almost become an ‘obsession’. When he was in Pattaya, he missed Austria (and thus frequented the Austrian/German bars and restaurants), but when he was back in Austria, he constantly longed for Pattaya. However, not all I spoke to embraced living in nostalgia equally fondly or voluntarily. For example, a Belgian man, Raymond, in his late 60s, who had now lived in Pattaya for 8 years after selling his business back home in order to live ‘the free life’, told me: ‘You know, I miss home, particularly around the holidays … But I’m stuck here. My savings won’t last long back home.’ Before he left Belgium, he had calculated that he could live the good life on his savings until his death. To him, however, living in his home city in Belgium was out of the question for financial reasons. But dark clouds were now also gathering around him in Pattaya, especially since the inflation rate had steadily gone up in Thailand and his savings and pension payments had gone down due to the devaluation of the euro. He thus confided in me that his days were often full of concerns over the ability to continue his present lifestyle in Pattaya and considerations about if he should move up to a cheaper region in northern Thailand as it would be impossible for him to relocate back to the Belgium he otherwise frequently missed. Consuming nostalgia The fact that nostalgia is often, and perhaps particularly within a migration context, associated with the possession and/or consumption of certain material objects or cultural artefacts is not a new insight (see, for example, Emontspool


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

and Kjeldgaard 2012). To most of the men I met, nostalgia was related very much to the country, city and family left behind, but also to the national flag, the football team back home, the favourite bar, the local news or other symbols reminding them of home – allowing them to live a life far away from home but still being connected to what they left. One way of soothing the at times painful and characteristically bittersweet feeling of nostalgia was through the con­ sumption of particular foods and drinks and listening to music reminding one of home. Besides bars, discos and massage parlours, Pattaya also hosts hun­ dreds of restaurants catering for specialised national food experiences. Espe­ cially one will find many bars and restaurants offering, for example, Australian, Irish, English, German, French, Indian, Russian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch or Belgian foods and drinks – catering not only for tourists but also for the per­ manent residents. In this way, there is always the possibility for buying German sausages, drinking Guinness draught beer, having English kidney-and-steak pie, Swedish meat balls and similar specialties. As mentioned earlier, these nationally-oriented bars and restaurants are regularly frequented by many of the permanent dwellers who have their preferred places and sometimes even reserved tables and chairs. For all practical intents and purposes, these bars function, in Sherri Cavan’s (1966) apt terminology, as ‘home territory bars’ to the men. To them, the ‘national bar’ provides the opportunity not only for consumption but also for meeting up with their fellow countrymen and to stay connected with the ‘old country’. Aussie Dean (68), who had lived in Pattaya almost since the turn of the century – starting out running a bar, but had retired a few years ago – reflected on the nostalgia associated with the local/national bar scene: To many of the guys who come here [in his own favourite Australian bar], this is the high-point of their day. Apart from the bar and the mates they have here, there is not much going on … For an Australian to go to an Australian bar is like going home … It’s like a home away from home. Besides hosting and arranging many different tours, outings and competitions for the expat communities, he informed me that many of these bars specialise in creating a particular kind of atmosphere for the expats. In his own bar that was sold on a few years ago, when his wife died, it was therefore important to have a large selection of Australian beers, an Australian menu, Australian newspapers, Australian sports on television, Australian music and artefacts creating a sense of Australia. It was his impression that the bar served as a kind of sanctuary for those living far away from home and who wanted to remain connected to the memories of their country. The men I talked to also told me that music played a significant role in their lives and parti­ cularly music from ‘the old days’. They particularly liked to visit bars that had live music performance, which made it possible for them to request special songs often reminding them of their lost youth or their home country (or both).

Living in nostalgia


Another of my informants, Englishman Tommy (57), who lived in Pat­ taya but who on a regular basis went back to England to keep a connec­ tion to his friends and family intact, stated in an email conversation: ‘Indeed nostalgia is food and drink to the expats. The pre-iPhone and internet days when girls where less European influenced and so on were the good days.’ In fact, a few of my informants mentioned the ‘good old days’ in Pattaya before mobile phones became widespread among the Thai women making them more concerned with the screens of the phone and less sociable. One of them, Mark (72) from the Midlands, fondly recalled when he first moved to Thailand (first Bangkok and then later Pattaya) some twenty years ago: When I first came here in the late 1990s, there were no cell phones and the Thai ladies would pay attention to you and work hard to show their interest. Today, they all sit with their bloody phones and don’t care about what’s going on … They even call you all the time if they’ve got your number, so never give your number … Technology has destroyed a lot of the intimacy here. You see the same going on in Bangkok, Phuket and [Koh] Samui. So among some of the expats in Pattaya – especially those who had lived in the city for a long time – there was an acute sense of nostalgia over the ‘lost Pattaya’ that had disappeared with the more recent influx of mass tourism, mobile phone technology and the gradual but relentless transformation of the cityscape with grand international hotel chains and gigantic shopping malls leading to the demolition of the old ramshackle quarters of the city. Thus, ‘the good old days’ not always referred to the country left behind, but sometimes also to the city of Pattaya that was now no longer the same as before – before mass tourism, before the refurbishment of whole areas of the city previously catering particularly for the expats and before the systematic commercialisation of city life. Some expressed a concern that what could perhaps be described as their ‘colonial lifestyle’ and not least the nostalgia associated with it (Lorcin 2013) was being threatened by rising price levels, mass tourism and the loss of privileges.5 Others said that the city had lost much of its charm and allure and was increasingly becoming too expensive and overcrowded – especially with Chinese, Russian and Indian tourists. For this reason, many of the expats also expressed their critical perspective on tourism in general and also on the ‘tourist experience’ of Pattaya (although most of them had in fact themselves started out as tourists in the city). These people (the tourists) would allow themselves to be seduced merely by surfaces, scams and fall into all the obvious tourist traps, not experiencing the real and authentic everyday life of the city. The ‘permanent tourists’, on the other hand, had already learned their lesson (sometimes the hard way) and thus ridiculed the inauthenticity and superficiality of ordinary tourist life (see, for example, MacCannell 1973; Frow 1991).


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

Routinising nostalgia Many of my informants were well aware that their everyday life to an outsider seemed highly structured, predictable, boring and perhaps even shallow, although many of them insisted that Pattaya is a city in which anything can suddenly happen. I quickly discovered that bar life for many of the expats was closely associated with live sports on television and big screens. Whether they were Danes, Australian, English, Italian or Norwegian, the all seemed to take a keen interest in televised sport events such as football, rugby, golf or motorsports. Almost all the bars have marquees outside announcing (often hand-written in chalk) the coming week’s live screenings, and to many expats this information was of key importance when planning the week ahead. As the aforementioned English expat John (73), being an avid supporter of a London-based football team, told me: ‘I often plan my nights out in advance from reading what the week’s game schedule looks like.’ He also insisted that following his favourite football team was important, first of all because it created a sense of homeliness and connection to his roots, but secondly because it also kept boredom and a creeping sense of loneliness at bay. He often felt bored and lonely – believing also that he suffered from depression – and going to his favourite bar to watch a few games every week was a high point that, at least for a brief period of time, made him part of a community of people, although he would often decide to sit on his own and only drink water or tea (being an ex-alcoholic). For other expats I spoke to, they would plan in advance to meet up for dinner before a game or sports event and then afterwards go to the pub together and enjoy the evening. Even though their groups could consist of a mix of different nationalities, I nevertheless discovered that these groups were in fact often quite nationally/regionally homogeneous. In Pattaya there is a famous and by now legendary combined bar/restau­ rant/bookshop in one of the pothole streets that particularly attracts a crowd of expat regulars. Already from the early morning hours the place fills up with men who come for a cup of coffee or tea, to buy/exchange a book and to have a chat with the usual crowd. They can sit there for a long time talking about politics, the weather, the old country, money, Pattaya, football, music, love affairs and so on. Many of the men I met here and spoke to told me that to the many regulars it was important to come to this place or similar places, preferably from the morning hours, because it would ‘set the tone’ for the rest of the day. It was here that friendships were being forged and maintained, it was here that news from back home was shared and it was here that a sense of community was created. From listening to and participating in their con­ versations, it was obvious that many of them felt nostalgic and that sharing news or rumours about what happened in their hometown or local area in their country of origin (which to most in this particular place was somewhere in England) was a way not only to stay updated but also of retaining a feeling of still being part of the past. Thus, for many of these expats, nostalgia prac­ ticed as a routinised everyday life with repeated patterns of activity served as

Living in nostalgia


a kind of bulwark against uncertainty, unpredictability, boredom and lone­ liness and was a kind of emotional trigger for creating a sense of continuity of identity and self when confronted with discontinuity (see, for example, Milli­ gan 2003; Wilson 1999). In this way, my findings supported the perspective of Fred Davis, who in his classic sociological study of nostalgia once observed how ‘nostalgia thrives on transition, on the subjective discontinuities that engender our yearning for continuity’ (Davis 1979:49). These men craved some sense of continuity in a life that had in many ways been discontinued and uprooted when they left their native home. Some of my informants not only acknowledged the importance of connecting to their native country by watching the televised sports events or joining the daily chat in the bar but insisted that this was what – especially during difficult times – made it meaningful and bearable to live so far away from home in a very different cultural context. Joe, a 69-year-old man from the southeast of England, who had lived in Thailand for almost a decade (first in the Issan region in the northern part of the country with his first Thai wife and now in Jomtien just south of Pattaya with his new girlfriend), stated that most of his friends, especially during Christmas and New Year, were perhaps ‘more English than the English’. By this he meant that many of the traditions and festivities from back home in England were exaggerated and extended well beyond their normal duration and expression in Pattaya. For example, he would eat Christmas dinner in December (and even January) more times than he ever would have done it in England and he would listen to British Christmas tunes more than he remem­ bered ever doing before. Moreover, following the intensive Christmas football program would be a means for him for simultaneously forgetting and remem­ bering the life, relationships and traditions he had left behind. As he stated: I admit that during Christmas I miss ‘old England’ (gesturing the inver­ ted commas with his fingers). But the few times I’ve actually gone back to celebrate Christmas since I moved here, I’ve been sad to see that it’s not really what I missed. You see, the country I left is no longer what I miss. To him, the actual experiences with homecoming far from lived up to the high expectations of his imagined homecoming. He had many times thought that he would eventually return to an England that would had changed for the better since his departure, but each time he returned to Thailand feeling increasingly disappointed with his ‘old England’. He thus declared that he had decided that he wanted to die in Pattaya. Denying nostalgia Even though most of the men I spoke to – at times after some tergiversation and consideration – recognised nostalgia as an important emotional experi­ ence in their everyday lives, not all of them accepted the premise that they lived nostalgic lives. Some insisted that they never felt any longing or


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

nostalgia for the country they left behind and that their reasons for leaving it were as relevant today as when they had decided to move. They felt no regrets and, as Joe above, did not miss the ‘old country’. Some even felt offended by being asked about nostalgia as if being nostalgic was automatically associated with something negative. A Danish man, Torben (59) – who had lived in Pattaya on and off for the past decade, who had gradually developed a substantial alcohol problem with an increasingly intolerable debt in the local bar scene, and whom I talked to several times during my visits – told me that he was sentimental but certainly not nostalgic. He did not miss Denmark as such (stating that he positively ‘hated the place’), but since his financial situation was now increasingly problematic (most bars had closed his tap), he missed the money, the security, the welfare, the friends and the sense of free­ dom he had left back home. Now he was stuck – unable to live in Pattaya as well as unable to return home. Yet others saw nostalgia as something not relating so much to space/place (and thus to physical movement) as to age (and to temporal transition) – it was not about missing home but rather about missing one’s youth. An Irishman, Paul (71), owner of a local pub, who had lived in Pattaya since 1998 and in his own words had seen so many different ‘human tragedies’ since his first arrival, remarked: I don’t think I am a nostalgic really, but I know many people down here who are. You need to remember that many of us down here are old guys who no longer have the power [here referring to ‘power’ in the sense often used in Pattaya of being sexually functioning, by showing an underarm raised in the air as a phallic symbol] and they miss their youth and when they could go out and go on all night with the ladies. Impotence is a bad thing down here, you know. Why do you think you can buy Viagra or Cialis everywhere down here? It’s for us, the old guys. Even though some of the men thus resisted the very idea of them being nos­ talgic, most nevertheless admitted that their everyday lives, at least as seen from the outside, were lived in rather routinised and predictable ways and that they did take great pleasure from frequent visits to their favourite ‘national’ bars and restaurants, watching their local football team, eating the same national dishes and discussing news from back home. They seemed to find a certain comfort in knowing what the day would bring and that it would not diverge much from the previous one. Many of them on a regularly basis felt bored, lonely, lazy and that they were somehow wasting time, however they did it voluntarily and insisted that they would probably have been just as bored, lonely and lazy back in their own countries. They did not miss the busyness and the problems of the life they left behind. In fact, most of the men I talked to had no intentions of ever going back. Although they were not necessarily happy, the preferred Pattaya and its daily predictability to the uncertainty of returning home again. Neil (44) – a man who had lived in Thailand without a valid visa for a few years and who had been in trouble

Living in nostalgia


with the authorities back home resulting in his decision to leave – told me that ‘even a bad day in Pattaya is better than a good day in [anonymised city name]’. So among the expats I met, there were different attitudes towards the nostalgia for their countries of origin – some desperately missed home, whereas others had found a new and, according to them, better one; most, however, I sensed were ambivalent. Politicising nostalgia In many of the conversations I overheard and/or engaged in with the different men I met during my visits, the topic of politics quickly and often almost automatically came up, which in many ways links well with the topic of nos­ talgia. I would always ask, as one of my initial questions, why they had decided to move to Thailand and Pattaya in the first place? What were the pushes and the pulls? The weather, the prices, the women and the ‘good life’ were frequent replies. Some even responded: ‘Why not move down here?’ Often, however, the men (especially Europeans) would also insist that they were infuri­ ated with what they saw as liberal and lenient immigration policies in their home countries and that the problems of mass immigration to Europe particularly from the Middle East throughout the later years had played a significant role in their decision finally to move. Even though they were mostly aware that they themselves were now the immigrants in a foreign country, they regarded these two scenarios as completely incomparable. Many of them strongly rejected that they had any racist sentiments but expressed that they felt they had been betrayed by their politicians and in this way their nostalgia for their countries of origin most often referred back to the ‘old days’ before mass immigration and not to what was seen as an intolerable contemporary situation. During my visits, I encountered many Scandinavians – Danes, Swedes and Norwegians – particularly because I initially wanted to speak primarily with Danish residents. Also among this group some expressed sadness or frustra­ tion with what was going on ‘back home’: the current politics of immigration were wrong, the politics of gender equality were wrong, the politics of sexual minority rights were wrong, the tax system was rubbish, the political system was bankrupt and so on. Even though others also expressed other political opinions, many seemed to have lost their hope for the future in their home countries. Particularly the gradual transformation of the role and image of the man (and thus changing notions of masculinity) were frequently mentioned. In this respect, Thailand for them was seen as a haven, because more tradi­ tional notions of gender/sexuality still prevailed here. Just as many of Sam Pack’s informants had stated that ‘Thailand is the last place left in the world where men can be men’ (Pack 2011:3), I also heard many identical responses. Although I did not systematically ask the men I spoke to about issues of masculinity and gender equality, the topic nevertheless popped up almost by default. For example, Kjetil (66), a Norwegian expat who had only lived in Pattaya for the past two years after retirement, explained how he felt that his


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

lifestyle choice (and that of other Pattaya-based expats) to move to Thailand was seen by many outsiders: ‘All the feminists back home see us as pigs … [They say] we only think with our dicks.’ He also elaborated how many of his friends and former colleagues had expressed considerable suspicion when he informed them of his decision to move to Pattaya. He felt that he needed to justify why he left Norway, almost as if it was because he was incapable of finding a suitable Nor­ wegian woman his own age (he had been divorced for several years). To sum up, many of the men during our conversations expressed what I decided to call a ‘nostalgia of discontent’: they felt anger over current immi­ gration policies, the ongoing feminisation of society, rising crime rates and increasing price and tax levels all making it impossible to live the ‘good life’ back home, which made them move to Thailand/Pattaya. In her study of political dissatisfaction among right-wing sympathisers in the American South, Arlie R. Hochschild (2016) described this as a feeling of being ‘stran­ gers in their own land’. A similar feeling was also prevalent among many of the Western men I spoke to – dissatisfaction coupled with disappointment – leading to their exodus (at least this was a recurrent rationalisation). In short, ‘the West’ was no longer what it used to be, and even though many of them were nostalgic about what they had left behind, they also insisted that things had recently taken a turn for the worse in Western Europe. They almost felt they had been forced to move. To others, however, it was rather the pull than the push factor that had influenced their decision. Jim (52), a Canadian from a rural region of the country, had in Pattaya finally found the courage and the freedom to live his life as he wanted – being a homosexual born into a Christian family in a small town in Canada had been a problem all his life. Pattaya now offered him a refuge in which to live, express and practice his sexuality as he wanted, and he felt no nostalgia for his past or the experiences associated with it. Whatever their specific (and admitted) reasons for moving, to most of the men I met, Pattaya – despite its obvious problems and pit­ falls – was regarded as a retreat, a refuge, a sanctuary.

Troubles in paradise As indicated a few times already, not everything was quiet or safe cruising for these expats. From the above, it seems that everyday life in Pattaya in general provided the freedom, the fun, the company, the opportunities and the life­ style they desired. Pattaya, at least to many of them, was paradise found, but also homeland lost. In this way, the men’s experiences mirrored the apt words of Kirsi-Maria Hytönen (in her study of working-class women in Finland) when she observed how ‘nostalgia is a longing for the past, the safe and familiar world where things are better. Nostalgic narration has been compared to a search for a lost paradise’ (Hytönen 2013:96). At the same time, however, the aforementioned rapidly changing conditions in the city of Pattaya also caused distress and growing dissatisfaction. To these men, paradise was found but now perhaps also in danger of being lost again.

Living in nostalgia


Despite a seemingly carefree lifestyle, there were thus problems hovering in the horizon for some of them – problems that sometimes either reinforced or reduced their sense of nostalgia. These problems often related to financial, health-related and/or judicial issues – problems that could eventually force them to return home. Some of these worries and problems of Pattaya expats have also been reported in unofficially conducted surveys showing that expat life is not always easy or trouble-free.6 As mentioned earlier, some of the men I talked to – and some of the stories they could tell me about other men (often a ‘friend’s friend’ or at times what seemed to be widespread urban legends among expats) – dealt with monetary problems. Some lost their money in unlucky love affairs or marriages with Thai women, others just spend their savings, inheritances or pensions much quicker than expected. A regular preoccupation particularly among many of the retired expats would thus be to check the daily exchange rates (e.g. pounds, dollars or euros against the Thai baht currency) in order to see how long they could still keep going on what was left or consider if they needed to adjust their lifestyle. Whereas some were financially secure, others seemingly lived close to the edge. Some took up part-time employment as private Eng­ lish teachers in order to supplement their pensions and keep up their current living standards. A Danish man, Poul (72) – telling me he only had a rather small pension (folkepension) – said: ‘I live down here, because I can go out every night and eat and drink and have a good time. If I was home in [city in Denmark], I would be sitting all alone in a bedsit not being able to afford anything and not having any social life.’ Even though he often missed Den­ mark (and he would regularly go to one of the Danish restaurants in the city to enjoy Danish specialties and company), he insisted that he preferred to die in Pattaya to ever going home again. After all, in his view it was better dreaming nostalgic dreams than having to return to an unaffordable nostalgia. Health was also a major concern for many of the expats, especially since the majority of the men I met were in their early 60s and up. Some informed me that they suffered from complications of diabetes, others from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hepatitis or other health-related problems, but many were also in good shape (in fact, quite a few went regularly to the fitness chain Tony’s Gym in order to exercise). Many admitted that their lifestyle with regular if not daily bar visits (often simply called ‘the good life’) contributed significantly to obesity and liver problems. Many were covered by private medical insurance, but some feared getting seriously ill or being involved in an accident and being unable to afford the private Thai healthcare system or instead having to settle with the much less efficient public system. When I talked to them about getting ill and perhaps eventually ending up dying in Pattaya, many (contrary to the aforementioned perspective of Poul) said they preferred going home if they became seriously ill and required extensive treatment. They would not want to die a miserable death in Pattaya. Those who were married or had steady girlfriends (and thus often financial responsibilities) were keener on staying in case of illness, whereas the singles expressed a desire to return to the standard of their national healthcare systems.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

A final issue that was often discussed – and which made many of the expats acutely aware that they could eventually be forced to return to their home country – related to the availability of visa extensions. Even though Thailand has some special options for retired foreign residents, the rules change and are quite complicated and the visas will have to be renewed on a regular basis (which costs money). To some, this almost became a part-time preoccupation to make sure that their stays could be legally extended. Other expats – who often lived there without valid visa arrangements – were forced to obtain visas on the black market. I asked one of the men, an unemployed Dutch man called Franck (54), who lived off minimum welfare benefits and was thus not allowed to leave his country, about this, and he responded: ‘It’s a circus, this visa thing. But if you want to stay here, you’ll go through a lot. For me the alternative is unacceptable. I live here under the radar.’ He said that Holland was no longer the place for him (due to some of the reasons mentioned earlier), but he constantly feared that his extended stay in Pattaya would be discovered and cut short either by the Dutch or Thai authorities. And what about the sex, then? Since this study was conducted in the notorious ‘Sin City of Southeast Asia’, there must have been something about sex in my ongoing conversations with these expat men? True, it was frequently mentioned and sometimes vividly described, but it was not a topic pursued in its own right. I found that starting to talk about sex with the expats not only seemed tedious but also created a certain distance – it was a conversational topic they had already covered so many times before. Many of the men I talked to throughout my visits admitted that they had initially taken opportunity of the widespread availability of sexual services in massage parlours, from bar girls and from internet dating sites. However, after having lived there for quite some time, most of them had either found permanent company or had given up on the sexual cornucopia. Many of them actually regarded themselves as valiant guardians of the girls working in the massage parlours or as freelancers against drunken or violent tourists and had formed friendships with the ladies of the local commu­ nity. Some also told me that after for some time having enjoyed the widespread accessibility of sexual satisfaction, they started to miss a more stable life and the thrill of the chase from back home (almost a kind of romantic nostalgia). Even though they were often critical, as mentioned, of the changing gender roles in the West, they were nevertheless not blind to the fact that love/sex in Pattaya often required financial transactions (captured by commonly heard expressions such as ‘Cheap Charlie’, ‘No money, no honey’ and the like).

Conclusion This chapter has advanced a more mundane perspective on nostalgia than many of those positions, classical as well as contemporary, associating nostalgia either with psychological/mental disorder or ideological/political construction – in either case mostly as something undesirable and problematic. The chapter has provided a much more bottom-up and positive perspective on nostalgia as

Living in nostalgia


meaningful lived experience. Based on an exploratory empirical study of parti­ cipants in the expatriate community in Pattaya, Thailand – a city widely known and infamous for its explicit sex industry, flamboyant night life and many tourist traps – the chapter has sought to show how nostalgia offers an important emo­ tional experience for many of these expats. Many of them revealed to me, despite often being initially dismissive of feeling nostalgic, how nostalgia in fact con­ stituted an emotional link back to the country they left behind and how their everyday lives were often lived in the shadow of this nostalgia. Many of their thoughts, feelings and actions centred around nostalgic sentiments, and in describing their actions – such as by going to nation-specific bars, ordering certain types of food and beverage, listening to music reminding them of their past/youth, following news stories and sports results from their respective homelands – the chapter has thus shown that nostalgia is not just something people feel or think, it is also something they actually ‘do’. The study has thus revealed that nostalgia as lived experience comes in many different shapes and guises. For some of the men I talked to and interviewed during my many visits, nostalgia served as an emotional tranquilliser. It brought them into contact with places, people and experiences that were meaningful to them. It calmed them down and made their everyday lives fuller, more predictable and reliable. Nostalgia, as one of my informants stated, is ‘a part of my life and I really can’t imagine living my life without it’. In this way, nostalgia for many of the expats performed the important task of maintaining individual identity and continuity far away from what used to be home. Nostalgia was also a driving force for creating a sense of community and belonging, especially in relation to the bars and restaurants these men frequented and to the social events in which they participated, thus constituting an integral part of many of these men’s everyday and leisurely lives. Although not exclusively, the English expats pre­ ferred English bars, the Germans German bars, Australians Aussie bars, Danes the Danish bars, and so on. In this way, their nationality – despite having left their native country – still mattered and in many cases perhaps mattered even more now than previously. It is important to remember that the majority of the men I talked to had already left the labour market and free time was thus in abundance. For them, large parts of everyday life were therefore lived in bar settings or by participating in leisurely activities (such as golf tournaments, dart competitions, music and quiz nights or the many bar birthday parties). To them, nostalgia was simultaneously longing and belonging – it was a longing back to their country of origin, but also a way of connecting them to their (new) life abroad. For others, however, nostalgia was experienced as a trap – they were tormented by thoughts about what they had left behind. They were deeply ambivalent about their lives in Pattaya, unsure if they had made the right choice and if going back would per­ haps be a better solution. They were homesick, lonely and frustrated – and felt trapped. For some of those I spoke to there was apparently nothing to go back to, but for most, I sensed, living a nostalgic life in Pattaya was seen as a much more viable, comfortable and promising alternative to living more lonely, miserable and much less interesting lives in their home countries.


Michael Hviid Jacobsen

It needs to be stressed that this study is not representative (merely indicative) of expatriate experiences in Thailand, and that expats in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, in the northern part of the country or even in the surrounding areas of Pattaya may feel misrepresented. It is my impression, however, that the stories told and experiences shared can also, with adequate caution, be found among and extrapolated to other settings. Besides providing a view on nostalgia as lived experience among expatriates, the chapter has also shown that Pattaya for some people is in fact something else and much more than what often is being told in tabloid stories or displayed in tourist magazines. It is a place where people live their relatively quiet and monotonous everyday lives, often far away from what was previously ‘home’, and a place where they have their daily routines, friend­ ships, financial, health, legal and romantic problems, emotional ups and downs, high hopes and (at times dashed) dreams of living ‘the good life’.

Notes 1 By now, there is a growing number of studies dealing with Western expats’ experi­ ences of living in different parts of Thailand (see, for example, Botterill 2017; Cohen 1984; Koch-Schulte 2008; Lafferty and Maher 2014; Vielhaber et al. 2014). 2 This number should be seen against the approximately 400,000 annual foreign visi­ tors to the city back in 1980 (Wahnschafft 1982:431), thus documenting an expo­ nential rise in the tourist industry in Pattaya throughout recent decades. 3 The actual numerical size of this community is not easily determined, but Thai authorities estimate that the community of expatriates in the country as a whole amounts to somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million. See https://asiancorresp Another recent survey has shown that 19% of the total number of expats in Thailand live in Pattaya, meaning that the expat population in Pattaya is probably somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. See­ before-and-a-significant-fall-in-working-western-expats-now-in-thailand. 4 My ‘sampling strategy’ was admittedly more loose than structured or systematic, relying on a combination of snowballing, convenience sampling and what I call ‘coincidence sampling’. 5 Patricia Lorcin has suggested a useful distinction between ‘imperial nostalgia’ and ‘colonial nostalgia’, stating that ‘the former is associated with the loss of empire – that is, the decline of national grandeur and the international power politics con­ nected to economic and political hegemony – and the latter with the loss of socio­ cultural standing or, more precisely, the colonial lifestyle’ (Lorcin 2013:97). Applying this conceptual distinction to my study of Pattaya expats, the men I talked to somehow seemed to experience both types of loss. 6 See some of the results of these reports at and (retrieved July 2019).

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Note: Page numbers in italic refer to figures, those in bold to tables. Significant endnotes are indicated by a lower-case n and the note number after the page number, e.g. 144n5. 21st Century Fox corporation 151 absence, recognition of 73 acculturation 39 ad-induced nostalgia 168 adaptation 191; personal 193; tensions of 191 adversity 39 advertising 168; attitudes to memorabilia 169, 176–177; as bonding stimulus 170–172; theory and practice 173–174 aesthetics 172 affect 168 age, and transmigratory nostalgia 194 ageing 175 ageism 127 agitation, sublime 105–106 Ahmed, Sara 188 alienation 121 ambivalence 82–84 Ankersmit, Frank 104, 106–109, 113–114 anticipatory nostalgia 172–173, 175 appraisals 51–52 Arendt, Hannah 113 artefacts 166 Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) role 185 attachment: anxiety 53; security 113; to other cultures 195–196 attitudes 168–169 attraction 195 Augé, Marc 16 authenticity, persistence of 120–121

Baccolini, Raffaela 20 Bach, Jonathan 103 Baker, Stacey Menzel 168–169, 172, 176 Bakunin, Mikhail 117 Batcho, Krystine I. 20, 34, 36 Bauman, Zygmunt 2, 16, 78–97, 117, 189–190, 202 behaviour 165; conflict over 177–178; and identity 166; variations in 173 Beiser, Morton 59 Bell, Aubrey Fitz Gerald 75 belonging 221 Benjamin, Walter 110, 112 Benn, Tony 122 Berger, Peter L. 190 binary options 132, 136, 140, 142–143, 144n5 Blackwell, Trevor 118–119 Bloch, Ernst 67, 75, 80, 84, 120 Blunt, Alison 119 Bond, Taylor 73–74 bonding, process of 169–170 bonding stimuli: advertising and branding as 170–172; public consumption sites as 172–173 Bonnett, Alastair 150 boredom 216 Boren, Zachary 73 Boym, Svetlana 12, 20, 67, 88–89, 91, 116, 125, 133, 150, 186 Bradbury, Jill 69–70 branding: as bonding stimulus 170–172; theory and practice 173–174 Brexit 6, 16, 87, 142, 183 British English Teachers (BET) 184, 189

Index Brown, Stephen 171

Buddhist traditions 191–192

Calhoun, Craig 123

capitalism 80–81; and nostalgia 14–15;

sex and prostitution 205

carrier 190

Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Pietro 32

Catastrophe see Holocaust

Cavan, Sherri 212

charity 54–55

Chateaubriand, René de 111–112

Cheung, Wing-Yee 56, 58

childhood: commodification of 151;

remaking of 150–154

choice 165

Christmas 215

Clark, Christopher 113

Clegg, Stewart R. 89

climate refugees 208

collecting, and nostalgia 174–175

collective effervescence 138, 142

collective nostalgia 60, 168, 177

colonial nostalgia 222n5

commercialisation, of nostalgia


communism 120

Compassionate Friends 73

computer-generated imagery (CGI) 152

conflict, over impacts on future

generations 177–178

conquerors 135–137

Conquest Rally see Turkey,

Conquest Rallies

conservatism 117

constructed assumptions, about

Japan 192–193

consumer capitalism 10

consumer identities 165–166

consumer research, and nostalgia 167

consumerism 23; exploitative 205

consuming nostalgia 211–213

consumption activities 166

content analysis 50–51

continuity of identity 68, 72, 215

Corness, Iain 207

cosmetic plastic surgery 175

Coulter, Natalie 151

counter-memory 124

counter-nostalgia 124

creative thinking 91

creativity 58–59, 67

Creativity Scale 58

critical thinking 90


cultural exchange, and transmigratory nostalgia 191–196 culture: experiencing other 183–184;

global hybridisation of 190

dangerous memory see memories, dangerous Davis, Fred 1, 6–7, 10–12, 15, 19–20,

50, 55, 58, 72, 124, 168, 215

DeLillo, Don 15

demagogy 120

demographics 173

denial, of nostalgia 215–217 depression 41, 59, 102, 172, 186, 214

diagnosis 114

Dickinson, Hilary 149

digital culture 150

disappointment 218

discontent, nostalgia of 218

discontinuity 215

disease, nostalgia as 6–11, 31, 47, 66,

102, 167, 186

Disney see Walt Disney corporation Disney World 172

Disneyland 167

displacement 191

dissatisfaction 178, 218

dochakuka 190

Dodman, Thomas 131

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor 60–61 Draaisma, Douwe 195

Eagleton, Terry 118

Ekwelle, Goldberg 18

elites 106

Elkind, David 69–70 embarrassment 51

emotional effervescence 12

emotions 1, 3, 159; bittersweet 31–32, 41,

167; as capital 188; feel-good 37–38;

malleable 165; nostalgic 6–11, 133,

167–168; temporal changes in 165

enemies, populistic use of 138–141 environmentalism 121–122, 127

ephemerality 73

Erbakan, Necmettin 134

Erben, Michael 149

Erdog˘ an, President Recep Tayyip 132,


Event Reflection Task (ERT) 34, 37–38, 53–58 everyday life, and nostalgia 185–188 exile 39–40, 111–113 existential function 56–57



existential nostalgia 12

existentials 172

expatriate nostalgia 201

expatriates (expats): communities of 23,

201; daily life 209–210, 220–222;

experiencing nostalgia 210–211;

troubles of 218–220

experiences: collection of 175; liquid 175

Experiences in Close Relationships

Scale–Revised 53

eye-to-eye validation 71

falsification 123

fan-driven campaigns 155

farangs 202, 206–207, 209

fascism 117, 125

Fatih 134–135, 137, 139–140 Fechter, Anne-Meike 210

feminisation 218

feminism 119

Fischer, Michael 119

food 212

forward dreaming 67

Foucault, Michel 124

framing strategies 169

Freeman, Mark 73, 75

Freud, Sigmund 93, 102, 148, 150,

154, 158

Fritzsche, Peter 104, 111–112, 114, 126

Frosh, Paul 186

future generations, impacts on 177–178 future-oriented function 57–59 future-oriented nostalgia 12–13, 57–59 gender equality 119, 217

gestalt 165

Giddens, Anthony 188

Giroux, Henry 150–151 Glazer, Peter 123–124 global localisation 190

globalisation 5, 14, 186, 202; and

postmodern society 190; and

transmigratory nostalgia 189–191

glocalisation 190–191, 196; and

individual identity 192

goals, conflict over 177–178 Gomez, Isabella 157

goods and services, symbolism of 167

Goulding, Christina 172

grandchildren 135–137 gratitude 51

Greene, Gayle 126

Greer, John M. 87

grief 71, 73

groups 60; diasporic 210; tensions

within/between 175–177

guilt 1, 13, 51, 117

Hannah, Michelle 191

Hardt, Michael 121

Harper, Ralph 17–18, 66

health problems, of expats 219

Heidegger, Martin 106

helping 55

Henderson, Geraldine 169, 176

Hepper, Erica G. 35, 48

heritage visiting 172

Hess, Mickey 2, 4

Higson, Andrew 15

historical nostalgia 168, 172

historical responsibility 108–109

history 101, 104, 109, 114; cultural

123–124; Ottoman 131; without subjects 106–107

History Workshop movement 123

hoarding 175

Hobbes, Thomas 86

Hobsbawm, Eric 117

Hochschild, Arlie R. 133–134, 218

Hofer, Johannes 7–9, 31, 33,

47, 66, 131, 148, 167,

179, 201

holding 71

holistic thinking 91

Holocaust 78–79, 82, 84, 108

home territory bars 212

homecoming 215

homeland lost 218–220

homesickness 7–8, 11, 33, 119, 148,

167, 185, 201, 211

homosexuality 218

Houellebecq, Michel 205

Howland, Elihu 18, 67, 73, 76

Hutcheon, Linda 125

Hutchison, Neil 207

Hyndman, Henry 122

Hytönen, Kirsi-Maria 218

idealisation 165

identity 168–169; and behaviour 166;

formation 57; and glocalisation

192, 195; and nostalgic emotions

167–168; theory 166

ideological nostalgia 12

imagination 105, 109, 167, 169, 195,

202; afflicted 8, 186; heightened

Index 187, 196; nostalgic 183–184;

public 204; utopian 86, 91

immigrant nostalgia 201

immigration 186, 217–218

imperial nostalgia 222n5

impermanence 73

information, false 178–179

inspiration 58, 67

internationalisation 184–185, 190

interpersonal competence 54

interpreted nostalgia 12

interregnum 2, 88, 94

ironic nostalgia 125

irrationality 117

Ivcevic, Zorana 58

Iyer, Aarti 59

Jacobsen, Michael Hviid 71, 187

Jameson, Fredric 91, 153

Jansen, Robert S. 141

Japan 184; constructed assumptions

about 192–193

Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET)

programme 183–185; investigation

of 188–189

Jetten, Jolanda 59

Josselson, Ruthellen 71

Kalinina, Ekaterina 149

Kant, Immanuel 109

Kaplan, Harvey A. 32

keepsakes 40

Keightley, Emily 19, 149

Kennedy, Patricia 168

Komar, Luba 40

Kompare, Derek 154

Köneke, Vanessa 36

Koselleck, Reinhart 103

Kozinets, Robert V. 171

Kundera, Milan 111, 113

Ladino, Jennifer 124

laggards 177

Lam, Theodora 192

Landwehr, Achim 7

Larsen, Jeff T. 32

Lasch, Christopher 126

laziness 216

leaders, appeal of 133

Lears, Jackson 123

Leather, Stephen 207

Lefebvre, Henri 187

Left, the, and nostalgia 117–127

Legg, Stephen 124


Leone, Massimo 171

Lessing, Doris 75

Levinson, Daniel 194

Levy, Sidney 167

life theory 187

life-world 188

lifestyle migration 201

liminality 74

liquid modernity 82, 84–85, 92–93 live-action remakes 152–154; as

nostalgia fuel 151

lived experience 187, 221

loneliness 72, 186, 205, 214, 216

longing 112–113, 221; feigned 158;

unresolvable 125

Lorcin, Patricia 222n5 loss 168; acceptance of 41

love 121, 140

Lucasfilm 151

Luyckx, Koen 194

Lyotard, Jean-François 105–106 McGraw, A. Peter 32

McLuhan, Marshall 184

maladaptive nostalgia 59

malchronesis 92

manipulation 123

marginality 74

market segmentation 173

marketing, theory and practice 173–174 Markus, Hazel 2, 68, 70

Martin, Alexander 119

Martin, Dan 71

Marvel Studios 151, 159

Marx, Karl 117–118, 120–121 masculinism 119

masculinity 217

Mass Observation Project (MOP) 186

mass rituals 132

mass tourism 213

Maurer, Georg 120

May, Vanessa 186 Mead, George Herbert 67

meaning, search for 195

Meaning in Life Questionnaire, Presence

of Meaning in Life Subscale 56

meaning-making, localised 190

media 22, 184, 186, 205, 209;

encouragement of nostalgia by

147–150, 154, 158–159; objects 15,

149, 151, 154, 158–159; outlets 132;

power 151, see also social media

mediated nostalgia 22, 147, 157



Mehmed II, Sultan (Mehmed the Conqueror) 132, 135, 137, 139–141 melancholia/melancholy 104, 148, 150, 154, 158–159 memoires 39–40 memorabilia, attitudes to 169, 176–177 memories 20, 73, 75, 168–169; autobiographical 168–169; bittersweet 40, 66; collection of 175; collective 168–169; dangerous 101, 110–114; false 169; malleable 165; and nostalgia 125–126, 195, 197; politics of 123; and relationships 38; sanitising of 176–177; valenced 169 Menke, Manuel 149 Mignolo, Walter 117 migration 186, 191, 217 Miller, Janet L. 75 mimicry 147 mindfulness 33, 74 minority rights 217 mobility 202 Monbusho English Fellows (MEF) 184, 189 monetary problems, of expats 219 mono no aware 73, 75 mood, positive 35 More, Sir Thomas 82 Morgan, Lewis 120 Motley, Carol 169, 176 mourning 148, 150, 154, 158 Muller, Adam 18 Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support 54 multidimensional scaling 51–52 mura-hachibu 193 museums 172 music 35, 56–57, 171, 212 mutual understanding 191 Nakasone, Prime Minister Yasuhiro 185 Naqvi, Nauman 16 narrative analysis 39 Natali, Marcos 116 national bars 211–212, 216, 221 National Parks 172 nationalism 4, 6, 12, 101, 131, 133; and populism 144n5 nationality 208; importance of 221 nature, problem of 121–122 Negri, Antonio 121 neo-Ottomanism 132, 134, 143n2, 144n3 Netflix 155–157

new technology 149 Newman, David B. 38–39 Niemeyer, Katharina 149 nomads 202 non-events 68 non-political nostalgia 12 Nosco, Peter 186 nostalgia 1–2, 23–24, 43–44, 60–61, 66–68, 75–76, 89–93; academic interest in 3–5; and ageing 175; ambivalence of 17–19, 33–34, 41–43; and capitalism 14–15; categories of 3; cognitive-emotional character of 36–37; and collecting 174; commercialisation of 13–15; consistency of 147, 159; consuming 211–213; contemporary 3–6; as cultural phenomenon 10; in daily life 38–40; definition of 35, 48–53, 102–104; denial of 215–217; diagnostic signs of 8; of discontent 218; as disease 6–11, 31, 47, 66, 102, 167, 186; as emotion 6–11, 167; as emotional tranquilliser 221; evaluations of 17; and expatriate life 203, 209–211, 220–222; features of 49–50; forms of 124; functions of 53–59; historical progression of 7–9, 148–150; hostility to 119; ideology of 12; impact of 37–38; inevitability of 147, 159; and the Left 117–119; limits of 59–60; main dimensions of 9; manipulation of 21–22; and memory 125–126; notion of 7; paradox of 31–32, 41–43; politicisation of 12, 15–17, 22, 217–218; and populism 132–134, 141–143; and positive mood 35, 187; psychology of 47; and radicalism 119–127; and related concepts/ experiences 72–75; reviled 117; routinisation of 214–215; as safe haven 15–16; social quality of 102; stimuli for 212; timeline of 36; typologies of 10–13; and war 2, see also individual types of nostalgia Nostalgia Inventory (NI) 34, 36–37 nostalgia literature 4 nostalgia studies 2, 4, 20, 90 nostalgia wave 14 nostalgic bonding 165; dark side of 174; process of 169–170 nostalgic emotions, and identity 167–168 nostalgic gratification 177 nostalgic media craze 159

Index nostalgic paradigm 9

nostalgic readymades 150

nostalgic transference 126–127

nostophobia 1

not yet 80, 84, 91

Nurius, Paula 68, 70, 72

objects, nostalgia-evoking 170

optimism 34, 37, 40–41, 57–59, 67;

decrease in 60

Ostalgia (Ostalgie) 16, 22, 101–103, 112

out-groups, creation of 176

outdated practices, justified

nostalgically 178

Ozeki, Ruth 73

package 190; diplomacy 184

Papastergiadis, Nikos 17

paradise found 218–220 participation 176

past: experience of 104; gone but

present 32–33; longing for 5–6;

objective 106–107; out of reach 126

past-oriented nostalgia 12–13 pathological nostalgia 40–41 patriotism 120

Pattaya, Thailand 202, 221; as crepuscular

city 205–206; historical transformation

of 203–204; Soi Buakhao-Soi Diana-Soi

Lengkee area 210; stigmatisation

of 204–205; study of


Pedersen, Alan 73

people, the 120

permanent tourists 202, 207, 210

personal fable 69–70 personal growth 33

Personal Inventory of Nostalgic

Experiences (PINE) 38

personal nostalgia 168

perspective-taking 179

Peters, Roderick M. 31

Petersen, Anders 71

phenomenological nostalgia

12, 67

phenomenology 188

Pickering, Michael 19, 149

Pixar 153

Plato 113

political mobilisation 141

political nostalgia 12, 217–218 politics: left-wing 116; and nostalgia 3,

131; rituals in 133

polyrhythms 187


populism 4, 6, 120, 131, 136; ideal

type of 141–142; and nostalgia

132–134, 143

positive mood, and nostalgia 35

possessions 172

possible selves 68–70, 72; other 70–71;

unrealised 71

Possible Selves Theory 21, 67–68 postmodern society 190

postmodernity 84–85 prefabricated nostalgia 150

present-oriented nostalgia 12–13 pride 51

private nostalgia 11

products, symbolism of 167

prosocial behaviour 55, 67

prospective nostalgia 67

prospective thinking 90

prototype theory 48–50; exemplars 49–50 psychographics 173–174 psychology, of nostalgia 47

public consumption sites, as bonding stimuli 172–173 public nostalgia 11

racism 186

radicalism 22, 116, 118, 127–128;

and nostalgia 119–127

Rahman-Jones, Imran 153

re-enactments 176

Reagan, President Ronald 185

realism 109

Reed, Isaac Ariail 142

reflective nostalgia 12, 20, 88, 125, 186

reflexive nostalgia 11–12, 20, 126, 210

refugees 59–60 regret 120

relationships 75; and memories 38

remembering 20

reminiscing 20, 75, 195

repetition, TV reruns 154–158 research 34–35 residential tourism 201

restorative nostalgia 12, 87–89, 125, 186

retirement migration 201

retro 14; themes 171

retrotopia 16, 21, 79, 87–94

retrotyping 149

reunion shows 155

reverie 67

rhythms 187

Rieff, David 113

Ritivoi, Andreea Deciu 69



ritual 166; and mobilisation of emotion

133, 143

Roberts, David D. 104

Robertson, Roland 5, 14–15, 190

roots, meaning of 119–120 Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale 56

routinisation, of nostalgia 214–215 Routledge, Clay 56

Royce, Mike 157

Rubio, Diego 16

ruins 112, 114

rupture 105

Sacks, Oliver 195

sadness 72

sandwich method 138–141 sanitisation 176–177 Sargent, Lyman Tower 82–83 saudade 75

saviours 135–137 Scanlan, Sean 116

Scharrer, Erica 151

Schiller, Friedrich von 109–110 Schutz, Alfred 188

Scott, Susie 67–70, 73

Seabrook, Jeremy 118–119 seating distance 55

Sedikides, Constantine 67, 72, 186

self, the: nostalgia as positive resource for 194; tensions within 174–175 self-absorption 113

self-compassion 51

self-conceptions 70

self-continuity 57

Self-Continuity Index 57

self-esteem 56, 194, 197

self-identity 194

self-images 70

self-oriented function 55–56 self-perception 37

sentimentalism 14, 17, 20, 43, 185;

and childhood 151

sex drive, nostalgia for 216

sex problems, of expats 219

sex tourism 205–206 shame 51

Sherry, John F. 171

Shikh, Simran 36

Shoah see Holocaust signature story 173

simple nostalgia 11

Singer, Dan 157

slavery 176

Smith, Tiffany Watt 7

snowball technique 189

social connectedness 113

social function, of nostalgia 53–55 social media 5, 155–157, 175–176,

189–190, 196

social performance theory 132

social reality 188

social research, and nostalgia 21

socialism 80–82; British 122–123 sociological normativity 209

sociology 89–90; of emotions 3;

of nothing 68

Socrates 113

solid modernity 82, 85, 92–93

solidarity, yearning for 122

Solinger, Frederick 75

Southampton Nostalgia Scale (SNS) 36–38 souvenirs 40, 172–173 spin-off shows 155

Stangleman, Tim 123

Star Wars 171–172 Starobinski, Jean 6

Steiner, Tina 124

Stephan, Elena 55

stereotypes 189

Stern, Barbara 168

stimulus-response-preference path 170

streaming services 155–156 subjectivity 113

sublime 101, 107, 114; agitation 105–106;

historical 105; taming of the 109–110

suicide 167; in Pattaya 205, 210

Sun, Chyng Feng 151

Survey of Anticipatory Nostalgia 36

Tabar, Linda 124

Tannock, Stuart 66

Tassler, Nina 156

tax 217–218 technology 213

television: cancelled series 154–155; national sports on 214–215; reruns on 154–158 temporal tourism 171

territorial stigma 204

Tester, Keith 81

Thailand 202, 222

Thomas, Rob 155–156 Thomas, William I. 201

Thompson, Edward P. 123

threshold 74

time, suspending properties of 32–33 Tocqueville, Alexis de 106

Index tourists, permanent 202, 213

transcendence 84

transition 215

transmigratory nostalgia 183–184,

187, 196–197; and age 194; and cultural exchange 191–196; development of 192; and globalisation 189–191 transnational nostalgia 186

trauma 107

trigger events 33

Trojan horse strategy 171

Trump, President Donald 16, 87,

133, 141

Tsapovsky, Flora 186

Turkey 131; Conquest Rallies

131–132, 134–135; historical context

132; Islamist Refah Party (RP)

134; Justice and Development

Party (AKP) 131, 134, 136; Kurdish

majority party (HDP) 139, see also


Turner, Bryan S. 9, 90

Turner, Victor W. 74

Twitter 156–157

typologies, of nostalgia 10–13

uncertainty 120

utopia 79, 89–93; the activating presence

80–82; central tenets of 80; concrete

84; consuming 84–87; gamekeeping

85, 94; gardening 85–86, 94; hunting

84–87, 94; solid-modern misuses

of 82–84

vagabonds 202

van Dijck, Jose 10

van Tilburg, Wijnand 51, 57

Vess, Matthew 55, 187, 194

vicarious markers 71–72

Vieira, Fátima 90–91

village exile 193

vintage 14

visas 220

Volkswagen 171–172

Wacquant, Loïc J. D. 204

wakefulness 187–188

Walt Disney corporation 171;

remaking of childhoods by 150–154, 159

war, and nostalgia 2

Ward, Paul 123

White, Hayden 109–110

Wildschut, Tim 50, 56, 59, 67

Williams, Raymond 118

Wilson, Janelle L. 9–10, 20,

67, 74

WisoPanel 51

yearning 168

Yorke, Christopher 92

Young, Robert 117

youth, nostalgia for 216

Zhu, Xiaojin 58

Zinchenko, Alexander V. 40

Znaniecki, Florian 201

zombie television series 154