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Homeless heritage : collaborative social archaeology as therapeutic practice

To be defined by a lack of something – homeless – creates problematic identity challenges and fundamentally ruptures a person’s sense of ontological security. Archaeology as a contemporary material and creative practice involves working back and forth between material culture (landscapes, places and things) and intangible heritage (memories, stories and experiences). Through this work, narratives emerge which inform identities, challenge dominant stereotypes and aid a sense of belonging which enhances resilience and self-esteem among those involved. This thesis presents fieldwork conducted in the U.K. between 2008-2013 in which contemporary homeless people were engaged as colleagues (rather than participants) and facilitated to interpret the heritage of homelessness in ways and words meaningful to them. Working collaboratively with archaeology students, homeless colleagues mapped and documented landscapes and undertook two archaeological excavations of homeless sites. Two co-curated interactive public exhibitions were produced. This thesis considers how the archaeological process – counter-mapping, field-walking and talking, working as a team, identifying sites and artefacts of significance and constructing narratives – can be shown to have significant therapeutic effects. Memory and identity work are considered in relation to psychological observations concerning the qualitative benefits of hope and its role in motivating people. Recent neuroscience work is also drawn upon. Findings suggest that neural plasticity can be affected by the social environment in health damaging or health promoting ways (McEwan 2012). Significant positive outcomes from the Homeless Heritage project include increased ‘social connectedness’, independent living and employment among those involved and suggest that collaborative archaeological work can provide positive social environments and function as low level support. It is suggested that associated health benefits offer a potentially rich avenue for further collaborative research between archaeologists interested in how the discipline might function in socially useful ways and neuroscientists keen to explore non-pharmaceutical approaches to treatment of trauma and social sustainability.
Date January 2014
CreatorsKiddey, Rachael
PublisherUniversity of York
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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