“Finding the Orphaned Irish Parts of Me” at the New Cut: Defining Self-Identity Through Encountering an Archaeological Site | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


This paper presents a case study of a participant’s experience of exploring and connecting to the New Cut docks, in Bristol, UK, which had been excavated by Irish immigrant labourers between 1804 to 1809. This particular site was sought out by the British born, second generation Irish participant to “find the orphaned, Irish parts of me”, in order to explore the potential for healing self-determined aspects of personal identity suppression and denial of unwanted traits, through direct connection to their ancestors. Using this case as an example of the phenomenon of archaeotherapy, which encourages direct site visitation, exploration and communion, the chosen site has the potential to offer connectedness, understanding, and health and healing, in ways that promote well-being and belonging in diasporic communities. It is further suggested that heritage sites offer a unique ability to support participants, mirroring personal heritage in a manner that invites storytelling, yarning, and meaning making. This unique ability, where the site and participant are in embedded communication, suggests the site has agency and is an active therapeutic facilitator in its own way, inviting challenging and sense-making narratives that support a positive outcome. This research has direct ramifications for UK based “social prescribing” projects that are currently being delivered by well-being, archaeology, heritage and ecotherapy organisations. Non-clinical approaches to well- being and mental health outreach in a variety of settings, including organisations who work with displaced communities and with politics of identity, will also benefit from the findings of this study.


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