Title: PhD Student
A doctoral student at Pasts in the Present cluster, Aarthi Ajit specialises in the study of orality and the role of memory in the intergenerational transference of material culture. Her research is focused on how values, heritage and memory travel from the past to the present through memories of ancestral house complexes in Kerala, South India, which no longer exist, known as tharavads. She hopes to examine the socio-cultural reasons of why tharavads in Kerala have been/are being demolished, in order to explore what this entails for contemporary heritage practices amongst Keralite emigrants abroad, also known as the Malayali diaspora. At stake with the migration trajectory of Malayalis is a particular displacement of memory, beginning with actual bodily displacement from the family tharavad. This has implications on how vernacular history and values are transmitted to the next generation via objects which contain memories of the original ‘home’. By inquiring how ancestral and present-day 'responsibilities' for descendants of demolished tharavads in Kerala are created, inherited, and reproduced, Aarthi will study how oral histories and objects originating from the ancestral house complex could act as catalysts of cultural memory which endure beyond the physical life of the tharavad.