My vernacular memory

"My Vernacular Memory" begins with the deconstruction of the cultural category of depopulation, placing it within the reflection of anthropological on the culturally constructed nature of territory, space, place, movement, and the fundamental connections to consider in relation to auto and hetero representations of space, aided by other tools of investigation and experience such as map-elicitation, photo-elicitation, and place-elicitation.

Drawing from my repertoire of vernacular memory, through the intersection of photographs from my past and present, both from private and public albums, I have been able to project phenomena that transversely traverse both my personal history and the local history. This includes transformations that lead us into voids, abandonments, but also into processes of cultural creativity in a specific geographical area – that of the small villages in Matera, Basilicata (Italy), such as my hometown, Grassano. In the synergy between ethnographic practice and self-narration, it has been possible for me to visually represent the spatial, subjective, and collective dimension in which cultural experiences and anthropological readings of the flows of women and men are situated.

During my PhD research, I had the opportunity to explore how vernacular memory conveys meaning and cultural significance both in my personal history and in the history of my community. This exploration began with family narratives and extended to the broader tapestries of more extensive universes, woven from stories that intertwine with each other.

How did I understand vernacular memory?

Vernacular memory operates on the plane of self-representation; it is a practice that incorporates official and private visions, possessing a subversive charge that returns to us the vast array of ways to understand, live, and represent the relationship between humans and time. It draws from one's own history and the history of all humanity, evoking images and visions that allow us to enter into synergy with the vernacular imaginary that becomes a projection of one's place and community. Vernacular photography is thus permeated by vernacular memory in the nodes, in the connections of the imaginary that we are called to evoke through the prompts of encounters and discursive elicitations.

Memory is, therefore, a fertile field of inquiry because it is a space dense with representation where relationships and practices that fill public, private, and symbolic spaces emerge. It also reveals significant disparities and idiosyncrasies important to understand to delve into the furrows of the memory of places and deconstruct colonial, exoticizing, monolithic, and essentializing views.

For further insights, please refer to:

  • Berardi Marina, The use of visual and digital methods in an ethnographic research on depopulation in Visual Ethnography Journal Vol. 12 n.1 2023


  • Berardi Marina, Vernacular imaginary, forms of visual memory, elicitation and aesthetic community in an ethnographic research in Visual Ethnography Journal Vol. 11 n. 2 2022


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