On the Matter of Forgetting and 'Memory Returns'

H.B. Muzaini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Much geographical attention is paid to issues of memory and its relationship to place. Yet, there has been less disciplinary interrogation of what goes on when one forgets. This paper argues that forgetting, as it involves active embodied, material and spatial practices of producing absences, is just as salient as its counterpart, and worthy of analysis on its own terms. Drawing on the personal experiences of individuals who went through the Second World War in Malaysia, this paper first examines individuals' strategies for obscuring if not obliterating memories that are personally traumatic and injurious to well-being. The paper then shows how these memories can re-emerge, frequently in an involuntary or unexpected fashion, despite attempts to render them passé. In doing so, the paper espouses forgetting as a ‘productive’ practice; yet such practice is frequently incomplete as the material limits – as well as supports – explicit efforts to keep the past in the past. More broadly, it challenges the valorisation of ‘presence’ in human–landscape interactions to expose the ways ‘absence’ too is imbricated in the everyday milieu.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-112
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • geographies
  • history
  • landscapes
  • ghosts
  • place


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