Doctoral candidate Ruohua Han successfully defended her dissertation, "Exploring the Sharing of Autobiographical Memories and Memory Objects in Chinese Families," on June 15.
Her committee included Associate Professor Lori S. Kendall (chair), Associate Professor Jodi A. Schneider, Assistant Professor Rachel M. Magee, and Associate Professor Linqing Ma (Renmin University of China).
Abstract: Autobiographical memories can be told as oral stories and recorded in/evoked by objects with material form (i.e., they can be anchored in "memory objects"), and they can be shared, withheld, and received in everyday life. This dissertation aims to understand how Chinese individuals experience information practices of sharing and receiving autobiographical memories in families, including decision-making considerations about what to share/withhold and how memory objects might be involved in such practices. Based on semi-structured interviews and fieldwork with 32 participants, the findings revealed that parental practices of sharing memories with children could be synthesized into the styles of open/reserved referential guiding and preventive/motivational role modeling. Memory objects can affect the shaping of parents' images, help parents provide guidance that is sensitive to children's characteristics, and help parents retain/expand the guidance value of their memories. The findings suggest that parents' approaches to sharing memories with children may reflect rapid changes in generational life experiences in China and tensions between traditional and newer ways of conceptualizing parent-child relationships. Under this background, memory objects can weave together information exchange, encountering, and avoidance in families, offering opportunities for illuminating, leveraging, and questioning past identities and their meanings across generations.