Historic enchantments – materializing nostalgia

Jennifer Kitson, Kevin McHugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Efforts to remedy existential anxiety and the sense of ‘homelessness’ permeating modern life invariably invoke ideas and practices swirling around dwelling and nostalgia. Geographies probing the materiality of loss and memory have elaborated and critiqued nostalgia in both regressive and progressive postures. We argue that amorphous and sensual qualities of nostalgia make it a propulsive force in dwelling. Moving beyond nostalgia as a representation of, or personal longing for, ‘the past’ or ‘home’, we engage historic practice as transpersonal, affective currents coursing through bodies, objects, and things. Nostalgia is an enchantment with distance that cannot be bridged. We explore nostalgic distance vis-a-vis practices in residential historic preservation in the Coronado district in Phoenix, Arizona. Practice, performance, and materiality of historic inhabitation illuminate nostalgic distance as an undertow in the making of historic sensibilities, subjectivities, and places. The elusiveness of nostalgia whispers enchantments, engendering attentiveness to what is near, to sensing closely. Nostalgic practice, performance, and materiality give rise to an everyday aesthetic of pastness, an embodied ethics of care rather than strict adherence to historic preservation codes and guidelines. We contribute to rethinking nostalgia and residential historic preservation as modes of sensing in which all bodies, objects, and things – human–nonhuman, animate–inanimate – have capacities to affect and to be affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-508
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 11 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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