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No 7 - 2007

Family Memory. Family Stories and Genealogies in the 21st Century
Directed by Denise Lemieux, Éric Gagnon

Introduction: Family as Memory
Denise Lemieux, Éric Gagnon

It may seem strange to be interested in family memory in the Western world at the turn of the twenty-first century. What memory could it be, in a society turned towards the present and where the family seems more concerned with the happiness of its members than with the perpetuation of its inheritance? Is memory not reserved for the « traditional » family concerned about ensuring its continuity and its own reproduction? Is it not reduced, in the « modern » family, to the evocation of memories full of nostalgia during parties and meetings? Yet memory remains an important dimension of family life and a constitutive dimension of any relationship of descent; it is even central to the formation of the individual as a differentiated and autonomous being, as Vincent de Gaulejac shows in the article that opens this issue of Enfances, Familles, Générations. This is what the articles published here, all from French-speaking countries, help to recall, while underlining the transformations experienced and continued to be experienced by family memory in Western countries.


The Geneaological Imperative
Vincent de Gaujelac

“Individuals are the product of a history of which they seek to become the subject.” This enunciation raises a certain number of theoretical issues, more particularly with regard to the nature of its underlying historical determinism: what history are we talking about? What does it mean to be “the product of a history”? What is the basis of this law of production and reproduction? What is the driving force behind this quest for the subject? By its very nature, genealogy encourages each individual to distance themself from the family magma through a dual principle of identification and differentiation. Working with a genealogical tree allows one to understand the extent to which history is an active force and to become aware of the impasses and contradictions that may lead some people to be unwilling to act as transmitters.Résumé anglais.

Keywords: genealogical tree, genealogical impasse, clinical sociology, family tale, social trajectory

History of France and Family Memory: Interlacing and Variations in Appropriation Under Socio-Historical Constraints
Marie-Laetitia des Robert

To feel that one is French and to raise oneself on or peripheral to the foundations of this reference is the result of an individual, social, and group construction in which the family plays a definite role. More especially, the collective memory built up from the interlacing of one’s forebears’ biography with national history and its role in developing feelings of membership in French society will differ significantly according to the socio-historical context. The model of strong convergence and memorative appropriation that ensured identification through filiation during the 1919-1939 interwar period gave way, amongst natives born after 1940, to relationships modified by the interlacing of ancestral history with national history, along the lines of four typical configurations. The memorative model has triumphed over the historical model: priority is now given to the right to inventory and to individualization.

Mots-clés: family memory, appropriation, affiliation, history, sense of belonging, France

Patrimony, Genealogy and Identity: The Enrichment of Family Memory in Quebec and Acadia in the 20th Century
Caroline-Isabelle Caron

In this article we discuss the contribution of XIX-XX century genealogy in Quebec and Acadia to the creation of a symbolic patrimony. The knowledge of their genealogical background is a precious asset for those members of the family who identify with their past; and its value is great enough to require that they preserve and transmit it to future generations. Genealogy nourishes a process of “distinction” (in the sense given to it by Bourdieu) in both the genealogist and his or her family. Those who recognize themselves in their family history differentiate and distinguish themselves from others whose family history differs from theirs.

Mots-clés: genealogy, patrimony, identity, Quebec, Acadia

Family Memories and Siblings: Fraternal Ties that Outlast Time
Evelyne Favart

In the present article, family memory is perceived through narrations by adult brothers and sisters of their shared past memories. Family memory provides siblings with a common grounding. This experience is closely bound to issues of identity, for the traces of the past that remain in the present make themselves available to the brothers and sisters. In practical terms, we have considered brothers and sisters as the bearers and creators of family memories, forged through collective and individual negotiations around these symbolic representations.


Affiliations and Family Memories: The Perspective of Young Adults who Have Lived in a Blended Family
Bérangère Véron

In this article we wish to look at the feelings of family affiliation experienced by young adults who have lived in a blended family setting. It would appear that their rapport with lineage and memories is subject to blurred but internalized standards that privilege a symbolic and voluntary affiliation to the parental lineage. Whatever the quality of the ties with the step-parental lineage, it does not lead to an interrelational cathexis; the inherited and intimate memory of the step-parent/custodian is not incorporated into that of the Ego. It is more likely that the latter will integrate those memories shared with the step-parent into its own memory.

Mots-clés: blended family, multiparenting, family memory, lineage, affiliation

Portrayals of Love: Photographing Weddings in the Second Half of the 20th Century
Martine Tremblay

Photography is used here as an instrument to capture the symbolic relationship that is constructed at the time of the wedding. The photo session is a ritual within a ritual, narrating an idealized story of the couple and their family relationships. Underlying this portrayal is a commonalty of patterns and values that can be seen to structure social relationships. By opting for a ritualized wedding ceremony in the latter years of the XX century, young people are indicating that, even if they have thrown off the shackles of parental authority, they have internalized the standards that structure the conjugal relationship and filiation.

Mots-clés: wedding, ritual, photography, social relationships, symbolic relationships

The Family Photograph in the Digital Era
Irène Jonas

As part of the domestic ritual, the cult of the family photograph album perpetuates those family events and the people involved in them that “deserve” to be preserved and passed on. However, with the exponential increase in the production of family photographs, thanks to digitalization and to the computerized reprocessing of old family photographic archives, one has to wonder whether we are not altering the way in which this family memory is being constructed. Digitalization appears to be opening up vistas of an ongoing, rather than episodic photographic life and an all-inclusive memory, something quite at odds with the actual process of memorization, which involves selective storing and discarding of events. Is there not a danger that an excess of family memory, a dream of “photographing everything,” a fantasy in which we “keep everything,” a passion for “saving everything” may well lead to an over-saturated memory?

Mots-clés: family photograph, trace, memory, style digital

Social and Political Uses of the Family Memory: From Self-Rehabilitation to Introducing Order to Historical Chaos
Michèle Vatz Laaroussi

In the following text, we shall be developing a hypothesis according to which family memory plays an articulatory and co-constructive role in the space between individual identity and family group identity. More especially, thanks to its functions of transmitting, of reviving the past, and of creating awareness of a trajectory and of the passage of time, it opens up a new space between the individual and the social, between the intimate, the private, the collective and the public arenas. And somewhere within this space between the individual, the family and the social, unfamiliar uses – therapeutic, social and political – of the family memory develop, with the purpose of caring for individuals, helping families, tending the suffering, and healing the ruptures inflicted by the families themselves and by the social and historical contexts. And, finally, family memory contributes to the furtherance of the notion of the individual as a citizen. The present analysis derives from a panorama of hitherto unappreciated uses of family memory, and it allows us to reflect on the issues, limitations and possible perverse impacts of these new links between family memory, family subject and social stakeholder.

Mots-clés: family memory, self- and collective rehabilitation, social and political issues, history

Internet and the Gene: Genealogy and New Technologies
Caroline Legrand

The purpose of the present article is to take a second look at ongoing mutations in the field of genealogy. We are not so much interested here in the new strata of population that have discovered an interest in their long-gone ancestors, but rather in the arrival on the genealogical market of two new techniques of investigation or communication, as represented by computerization and genetics. We will analyze the use made of these technologies by genealogists and question the most recent forms of interpretation to which they give rise.

Mots-clés: parenthood, genealogy, genetic, identity, Internet

Social Capital and Intergenerational Ambivalence: Parental Support for Young High School Drop-Outs Without a Diploma
Marc Molgat

In the present article, we will highlight the contribution of the relational dynamics between young people and their parents in the production of social capital that can facilitate the school-to-work transition. The case studied relates more specifically to young adults (n=32) who abandoned their secondary-level studies and whom we interviewed four to six years after they had left school. Although, recently, the relationship between young people and their parents has been mainly described in terms of intergenerational agreement, the notion of intergenerational ambivalence allows one to take more accurate stock of the relationship between parents and children at the time when the latter abandoned their studies and, subsequently, during the process of schoolto-work transition. Our analysis indicates that the absence of ambivalence or the potential for tolerating and resolving such ambivalence appear to be essential conditions for the production of social capital. The parent’s level of education would seem to have little impact on these dynamics.

Keywords: young people, parental support, social capital, ambivalence, intergenerational relationships

Relationships Between the Mother’s and the Child’s Psychological Well-Being in Context of Divorce
Catherine Cyr-Villeneuve, Francine Cyr, Geneviève Carobene

This article focuses on the role of the mother’s psychological well-being on the difficulties she observes in her child and the direct influence of her emotional distress on her child, in the context of divorce. 37 mothers and children completed measures of the mother’s
psychological distress (PSI) and the child’s psychological well-being (CBCL, RCMAS and CDI), The statistical analysis shows that in the context of divorce, the mother’s psychological distress is linked with the global difficulties she observed in her child. The results also revealed that in context of a divorce, maternal distress is associated with the child self-reported depression. The results discussed take into account the specificities of the Québec context.

Mots-clés: psychological state, mother, children, divorce/separation, relationship