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Memorialisation and remembrance: on strategic forgetting and the metamorphosis of psychiatric asylums into sites for tertiary educational provision

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This paper builds on earlier investigations of psychiatric asylum closure by focusing on their not infrequent successor role as educational facilities. We ask two questions: what conditions underpin a transition to educational re-use, and how is former asylum use remembered and memorialised in the successor context? Through recounting and interpreting the histories of acquisition and adaptation at two sites (Carrington, Auckland and Lakeshore, Toronto), we build a narrative that suggests a variable response to the shadows cast by stigma and the vilification of asylum. We distinguish between memorialisation (material reminders on site) and remembrance (narratives of past use). Former asylum sites, we contend, are attractive for educational users for their campus-like settings, range of buildings and (now) suburban locations. For city residents and planners replacing one institutional use with another keeps the site green, brings employment, and retains semi-public access. Memorialisation is often strategically low-key and remembrance more personal and individual. The net result is a relict landscape that speaks to the transcendence of stigma despite the relatively recent demise of the asylum.

Keywords: memorialisation; psychiatric asylum; relict landuse; remembrance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Environment, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand 2: Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada 3: School of Geography, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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