Bridgett Town: Lived Spaces
Lefebvre argues that nothing “quite emancipates itself from activity, from use, from need, from ‘social being.’”3 Therefore, the archive, being a repository, a place, a thing of history, cannot extricate itself from the social spaces that created it or the silence it buttresses. Trouillot states, “Silences enter the process of historical production at four crucial moments: the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives); the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).”4 So when the archival history remains all but silent concerning the community surrounding Bridgett Town, that silence, like the process that created it, is a social construct. McKitterick states, “[B]lack geographies cannot be fully understood if they are primarily conceptualized through utterances such as ‘invisible’ or ‘peripheral.’”5 Therefore, to extricate black geographies, they cannot be allowed to remain the hostage of Hostile Nostalgia which relegates them to the silent, invisible periphery. The silence created between the making of the source, and the making of the archive is the barrier that allows Hostile Nostalgia to take hold as the archive is at once cited as the source material for nostalgia while simultaneously its silences act as a barrier to further investigation.
When works such as the 1941 WPA project Prince William: The Story of Its People and Its Places,6 the 1982 booklet Crossroads of the Past: A History of Haymarket, Virginia,7 and 1994’s A History of Prince William County8 neglect to record the history of an African American community of several hundred people with its own store, church, and school, it shows the temporally compounded effect of placing a barrier between a space and its own history. Once the silence is wrought and the barrier is created, Hostile Nostalgia is able to reinforce itself with each archival iteration based on the previous work until challenging that narrative is seen as belligerent and ahistorical. A phenomenon on display in the current battle over history textbooks, Virginia Gov. Younkins's couched executive order “ending the use of inherently divisive concepts,”9 and Florida’s attempt to remove all lessons that cause discomfort.10
The first step to overcoming Hostile Nostalgia is to reconstruct what Lefebvre referred to as the Lived Space: “The user’s space is lived - not represented (or conceived).”11 While the collected archives of books and articles may have disregarded Bridgett Town, the clues for its discovery are nonetheless on maps, in newspapers, written in government documents, and buried in cemeteries. Beyond these sources are the ancestors of those who created the community, the history passed on through stories.
The Griot was the memory keeper in African communities.
For this project, the Griots are the descendants of the people
who founded Bridgett Town after the Civil War.
The space where people live contains the reality of a community’s identity. Documenting the details of these places, how they were shaped by people, and, in turn, how they shaped those same people’s lived experiences is a vital process in overcoming Hostile Nostalgia, which uses the sweeping narratives of great men to overshadow the lived experiences of particular, marginalized groups of people.
The Day to Day Lives of the People of Bridgett Town
Places such as schools, churches, and stores are socially constructed arenas wherein people's public and private lives converge. In terms of black geography, these are the spaces that are sites of “displacement that reward and value particular forms of conquest.”12 These are the lived places where the divergence of power between the dominant culture and the marginalized struggle over what Trouillot calls the “moment of fact creation,”13 which will, in turn, affect what is valued in the collective nostalgia.
The dominant culture’s belief that the past was better than the present is predicated on Hostile Nostalgia’s supposition that that same dominant culture operated unchallenged in the idealized past. Rogenhofer et al. argue, “Resentment at the dissipating guardrails and comfortable social positions of the past is thought to inspire a retrospective outlook, in which a shared and glorified past is elevated into a political benchmark.”14 Therefore, the concealment of particular narratives by Hostile Nostalgia is necessary to support the sentimentally motivated treatment of that same past. By uncovering the lived realities of marginalized groups, the oppression hidden in the nostalgia comes to light and challenges the mythology of a particular time or space.
This inevitably leads to questions of how Lefebvre’s notion of Conceived Space or conceptual space was organized to support the creation of the veil that hides the realities masked by the Hostile Nostalgia
by Kristina Nohe
1 Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 2nd Vintage International ed (New York: Vintage International, 1995), 1.
2 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford, OX, UK ; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell, 1991), 229.
3 Ibid., 83.
4 Michel-Rolph Trouillot and Hazel V. Carby, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2015), 52.
5 Katherine McKittrick, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 6.
6 Writer’s Program, Prince William: The Story of Its People and Its Places (Prince William County: Virginia Conservation Commission, Federal Works Agency, & Works Projects Administracion, 1940), https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/viewer/30121/?offset=0#page=1&viewer=picture&o=&n=0&q=.
7 Robert L. Crewdson, Crossroads of the Past: A History of Haymarket, Virginia (Prince William County Historical Commission, 1982), https://www.familysearch.org/library/books/viewer/30121/?offset=0#page=5&viewer=picture&o=&n=0&q=.
8 Ed Miller, Home Place: Prince William County (Prince William County Historical Commission, 1986), 103–5.
9 Glen Youngkin, “Executive Order: Number One (2022)” (Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of hte Governor, January 15, 2022), https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/governor-of-virginia/pdf/74---eo/74---eo/EO-1---ENDING-THE-USE-OF-INHERENTLY-DIVISIVE-CONCEPTS,-INCLUDING-CRITICAL-RACE-THEORY,-AND-RESTORING-EXCELLEN.pdf.
10 Iris Palazesi and Alex Brick, “The Florida Senate BILL ANALYSIS AND FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT” (The Florida Senate, January 14, 2022), https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2022/148/Analyses/2022s00148.pre.ed.PDF.
11 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 362.
12 McKittrick, Demonic Grounds, 12.
13 Trouillot and Carby, Silencing the Past, 52.
14 Julius Maximilian Rogenhofer et al., “The Resentful Undergrowth of Nostalgia: Ontological Insecurity, Relative Deprivation and Powerlessness,” The British Journal of Sociology 74, no. 2 (March 2023): 174, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12991.