David Lepoutre, Isabelle Canoodt

Immigrates Families Memories Publication date : January 20, 2005

A family's collective memory has come to be regarded today as intrinsically valuable, as can be seen in the passion for family photographs and photo albums, the craze for genealogical research, the success of books about family secrets, and even the popularity of psychotherapy. Drawing on the results of a survey carried out among a population of 53 adolescents in a junior high school in a Paris working-class suburb, David Lepoutre shows how today's dominant psychological approach (specific family history, particular family relations, family secrets) is inadequate to grasp fully the variety and reality of family relations and the methods of remembrance. The sociological and anthropological analyses presented here show the variety of types of family memories and the extent to which they differ depending on migratory context, culture of origin, demographics, class, and the surrounding mass culture of the host nation.
The originality of Lepoutre's methodology lies in the inclusion of the "informers" (the teenagers) in the study. He has incorporated photographs taken by the students to interviews with them and to a series of observations made by an ethnographer over a period of four years. This section of the population (young people from working-class or immigrant families) is rarely the subject of such inquiries. Lepoutre questions the very notion of "a family's memory" as well as the classic categories that comprise it (place, genealogy, images).

David Lepoutre, an ethnologist, is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Amiens. He is the author of Cœur de banlieue, a book about teenage street culture in a large housing project in the Paris suburbs. It was published by Editions Odile Jacob in 1997, and reissued in paperback in 2001.