Monday, 27 March 2017
Paula Nicolson, emeritus professor in the Department of Social Work at Royal Holloway College, University of London, is both knowledgeable and articulate. Her book uses branches of her and her husband's family trees to tease out how various people have been impacted by their past and their ancestor's pasts.
The book is in two parts.
Part I: Developing Contexts starts with a chapter establishing the theoretical background -- the relationship between genealogy and the construction of self-identities, developing ideas from theories of psychology and social development. There is also a short chapter dealing with genealogical research methodology.
Part II: Psychological and historical process applies the theory to the experiences of people in the family trees. We see the approach to understanding the impact of the death of a parent, sibling or relative, family discord, immigration to a different culture, change in family circumstances and more. It's fascinating material.
But, as a physical scientist I'm uncomfortable with the qualitative approach based on case studies, albeit rooted as academic discipline and in psychiatric practice. There are so many factors at play, and people react to stresses so differently, that I question how confidently one can ascribe an individual's behaviour, likely deceased and not someone you can talk to, to his or her deceased ancestor's experience. Perhaps a psychologist could tell me the deeper reason for my discomfort!
The book is certainly thought provoking. I wondered, for instance, about the influence of physical geography on behaviour. What if any is the influence of living by the ocean, in a mountainous or prairie landscape, or a cold or highly variable climate? We've all experienced the depression of a string of cloudy dreary days, and felt invigorated by bright sunshine. Do sunny ways prevail for those raised in sunny climes?
The paperback has 132 pages which includes a 7 page index, 9 pages of references and 12 blank pages. I borrowed the book from the Ottawa Public Library where, as I write, there are 13 holds on 2 copies.
Publisher: Routledge (December 1, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
at 12:00 am