Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)


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For example, the central memory of the Serbs, the lost Battle of Kosovo in , symbolizes the permanent Muslim intention to colonize them and therefore is one of the obstacles to harmonious relations between Serbs and Muslims Ray Without memory - that is, without the checking of, and reflection upon, past records of institutions and public activities - we will have no warnings about potential dangers to democratic structures and no oppor- tunity to gain a richer awareness of the repertoire of possible remedies. Memory, understood as a set of complex practices which contribute to our self-awareness, allows us to assess our potentialities and limits.

Its task is to provide social groups or societies with identities and a set of unifying beliefs and values from which objectives are derived for political programmes and actions. Memory, when employed as a reservoir of officially sanctioned heroes and myths, can be seen as a broad and always to some degree invented tradition that explains and justifies the ends and means of organized social action and provides people with beliefs and opinions. In order to understand the produc- tion of social memory we need to examine how a group maintains and cultivates a common memory. One way to start studying the social formation of memory is to analyse social contexts in which memories are embedded - groups that socialize us to what should be remembered and what should be forgotten; so-called mnemonic communities.

These groups - the family, the ethnic group and the nation - are examples of the main mnemonic communities which socialize us to what should be remem- bered and what should be forgotten. Typically, such a bias expresses some essential truth about the group and its identity and equips the group with the emotional tone and style of its remembering.

The fact that memories are often organized around places and objects suggests that remembering is something that occurs in the world of things and involves our senses. This was well understood by the ancient Greeks see Chapter 2. Halbwachs, on the other hand, brings to our attention the fact that there are as many ways of representing space as there are groups and that each group leaves its imprint on its place.

He shows how Jews, Romans, Christians and Muslims rewrote the history of Jerusalem by remodelling the space according to their religious beliefs. The discovery of several strata of memory superimposed on the Holy Land leads Halbwachs to argue that memory imprints its effect on the topography and that each group cuts up space in order to compose a fixed framework within which to enclose and retrieve its remembrance.

Seeing the urban landscape as the battleground for the past, where the past remains open and contestable, he argues that the city can be read as the topography of a collective memory in which buildings are mnemonic symbols which can reveal hidden and forgotten pasts. The nation is the main mnemonic community, for its continuity relies on the vision of a suitable past and a believable future. Typically the creation of such a past is the task of nationalist movements, which propagate an ideology affirming identification with the nation state by invoking shared memories Gellner Such movements owe their suc- cess, therefore, to memory, which they effectively employ to establish a sense of continuity between generations.

However, as nations need to establish their representation in the past, their memories are created in tandem with forgetting; to remember everything could bring a threat to national cohesion and self-image. Forgetting is a necessary component in the construction of memory just as the writing of a historical narrative necessarily involves the elimination of certain elements. The role of forgetting in the construction of national identities has been noticed by Ernst Renan, who, in , insisted that the creation of a nation requires the creative use of past events.

In order to ensure national cohesion there is a need to forget events that represent a threat to unity and remember heroes and glory days.


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Anderson argues that being reminded of what one has already forgotten is a normal mechanism by which nations are constructed. Hobsbawm and Ranger It has also been argued that our relation to the national past can be better described not so much as remembering but as forgetting. Billig sug- gests that established nations depend for their continued existence upon a collective amnesia. Forgetting, however, can also be highly organized and strategic, as examples from less open and democratic societies illustrate. They, like all new states, were busy constructing the national self- consciousness and used official ceremonies, education and socialization to create and foster a single, national, Marxist-Leninist class-based interpret- ation of the national history Wingfield Politically and culturally oppressive states impose forgetting not only by rewriting and censorship of national history, but also by the destruction of places of memory.

The Chinese communist government, for example, aimed to destory all places of memory, such as temples and monasteries, after the occupation of Tibet in The processes of globalization, diversification and fragmentation of social interests further enhance the transformation of memory from the master narrative of nations to the episodic narrative of groups.

The denationaliza- tion of memory, on the one hand, and an arrival of ailing and dispersed memories, on the other, in the context of the growing cultural and ethnic pluralization of societies, have provided a new importance to ethnic iden- tities, whose formation is based on traditional memory narratives. With ethnic memories surfacing in affiliation with the politics of identity, which itself is a result of the increas- ing importance of discourses of human rights in the global and postcolonial world, memories of past injustices are a critical source of empowerment.

The family is another group that plays a crucial role in the construction of our memories. These memories, objectified in old letters, photographs and family lore, are sustained through family conversations, as past events are jointly recalled or co-memorized Billig Middleton and Edwards illustrated this process by researching how families collectively remembered past events by talking about photographs.

As much research shows, children learn to remember in the family environment, guided by parental intervention and shared remin- iscence. We do not remember ourselves as very young kids very clearly, so we rely on the memories of older members of our family, with the result that many of our earliest memories are actually recollections of stories we heard from adults about our childhood.

Presently we witness two processes: This trend has been popularized by the mass media, with many books and films blending private and public memories. At the same time there is a trend that suggests that families are less and less capable of maintaining their traditions due to changes in their structures and memberships, and this reflects the wider fate of memory in modern society. The decline of the extended, multi-generational family is leading to the destruction of a social framework that ensured the transmission of collective memories from one generation to the next. As family size and stability declines, the depth of family memory also suffers.

All three communities of memory nation, ethnic group and family are affected by the growing differentiation of society, the globalization of the world and by the development of new means of communication. These factors have also caused changes in the functioning of the institutions of memory. Schools and textbooks are important vehicles through which societies transmit the idealized past and promote ideas of a national identity and unity. Textbooks have always been updated and rewritten to present the acceptable vision of the past, and although now, due to international pressures and national voices, textbooks are frequently the subject of external and domestic scrutiny, in many national narratives past events that could harm social cohesion and the authority of the state are still underplayed.

Another institution which increasingly shapes our collective memory is the legal system. Not only is the legal system itself an enormously influen- tial institution of collective memory, but in many countries changes in col- lective memory are legally induced. In all societies, to a considerable extent, courts, through their input in deciding historical questions, form collective memory. Postwar Europe saw many criminal prosecutions which aimed to influence national collective memories, the Nuremberg trials being the main example.

Today, due to the proliferation of the language of human rights and the new strength of the politics of identity, we see an increase in demands for governments to address historical injustices com- mitted in their name. A further important institution of memory is the museum. Museums originated in the late eighteenth century as monuments to wealth and civic patrimony, in the form of collections of material objects in courts and churches.

Although museums have much in common with other institutions of memory, their authoritative and legitimizing status and their role as symbols of community constitute them as a distinctive cultural complex Macdonald Museums are unusual not only because their development is con- nected to the formation and honouring of the nation state, but also because of their role in the social objectification of the past and organized memory around diverse artefacts.

Today, however, their authority as the curators of national treasures and the dictators of distinction and taste is challenged. With many museums fundamentally transforming their practice of col- lecting and exhibiting, their function now bears a strong relationship to memory production Crane a. In this process of transformation from the position of traditional cultural authority to a new role as cultural mediators in a more multicultural environment, museums redefine their strategies of representation of the past and find spaces for marginalized memories.

This new opportunity for excluded memories, in the context of the decline of the management of public memory by the state, has resulted in the increased articulation of memory by various agencies from civil society and the enormous explosion of heritage and con- servation organizations and movements. The shift from relying only on face-to face exchanges to depending on mediated interaction has pro- foundly affected the ways in which people organize material for recall as well as their modes of reconstructing the past Thompson Rapid technological advancements in the field of communication in the late nine- teenth and twentieth centuries and the creation of the mass audience have ensured that the media is an extremely powerful instrument of ordering our knowledge of the past.

In the nineteenth century it was the press that was the central means of communication and that provided people with images of groups that they could identify with. The press helped the transition from the local to the national by turning existing societies, through highlighting the common past and a constant repetition of images and words, into national communities Anderson The nature of this media and their interest in meeting public demands for instant entertainment are not without impact on the content and form of representations of the past.

Thus, the input of media into how and what we remember is a crucial factor influencing the status of memory in contemporary societies. The shift from oral culture, through writing and print, to electronic pro- cessing of the word has induced changes in the experience of time, brought about a new conception of the past and created growing possibilities for abstract thought.

Thus, it can be said that the evolution of the role and form of social memory has been shaped by technological changes in the means of communication, and this is one of the most important factors structuring the status of memory in modern society. The status of memory Our discussion so far suggests that we rely on many social frameworks, institutions, places and objects to help us remember. The relationship between memory and objects is rather complicated because material objects, operating as vehicles of memory, can be of various types e.

Moreover, they provide us either with images and words, or both, while at the same time memory does not reside specifically in any image or word. Thus, the dependence on either words or images results in contrasting cultural values and also in contesting roles of memory. In order to throw light on changes in the status and meaning of memory, it is useful to have a quick look at discussions of the cultural consequences of the shift from oral culture to literacy. The assertion that technological change means the devalourization of memory has been a permanent element of the history of memory since ancient times.

However, many writers protest against misconceptions about the value of memory in oral cultures and against the notion of memory crisis with the rise of literacy Ong ; Carruthers ; Le Goff ; Goody These scholars argue that the distinction between oral and literary societies is misleading because, as the continuation of the oral component in literary societies illustrates, the possession of writing does not mean that a society has ceased to be an oral culture as well.

The majority of researchers agree that the rise of literacy does not necessarily bring the devalourization of memory and that learning by hearing material and reciting it does not necessarily imply an ignorance of reading. The reliance on living memories, associated with the oral transmission of a living past persisted long after the advent of print, and indeed continues to the present day Ong In all cultures, not only in those without writing, memorizing is a part of everyday life Goody Nevertheless, although preliterate cultures do not necessarily differ in terms of tasks and the value they assign to memory, the content of memory and the principal domain in which memory crystallizes have been affected by various processes such as the transformation of the technical means of preserving the past, changes in the experience of time, the increased interest in the past and the occurrence of dramatic events.

Hence, literate societies, where records reveal the past is unlike the present, differ from oral cultures in their attitudes to the past. In literary cultures, past events, removed from living memories and fixed to printed pages, lose their vividness and immediacy. Moreover, as nobody could be expected to remember the content of continuously expanded libraries, the past is not entirely known. However, printed texts facilitate critical approaches and open inquiry into the past Ong In contrast, oral societies live very much in the present and only with memories which have present relevance and which articulate inconsistent cultural inheritance.

The immediacy of communication, information overload, the speed of changing images, the growing hybridity of media, all further expand and problematize the status of memory. We have unlimited access to facts, sources and information, which we can store, freeze and replay. At the same time, visual images can interfere with and confuse our memories. This decline of the credibility of photographic images and other visual evidence, together with the overabundance of flick- ering and changing narratives and images, is a threat to the status of memory as it raises the question of whose vision of the past and whose memories should be trusted.

The importance of institutional trust means that technological change is not the sole factor responsible for the status of memory.

Both the shift in means of communication and the changes in modes of social organization, including changes in the practice of power, influence the nature of mnemonic practices. In other words, the structuring of memory in society is shaped by technological changes in the means of communication and the transform- ation of the dominant institutions of society.

Memory, as the main source of collective identity, has always been employed by various social forces to boost their control and standing. Similarly, the emergence of the nation state was accompanied by inventions of new memories to enhance national identities.

Today, memory is more distant from traditional sources of power, while at the same time it becomes increas- ingly shaped by mass media. The following presentation of the role of main mne- monic communities and institutions of memory aimed to expand our under- standing of the social formation of memory. Discussing further the status of memory, we noted how changes in modes of communication and social organization influence the structure and status of memory.

This history, linked to a large degree to the history of changing modes of communication and techniques of power, will be dis- cussed in the next chapter. History, Culture and the Mind, pp. Patterson eds Memory, pp. The history of collective memory can be divided into five periods Le Goff The first phase refers to the collective memory of people without writing.

The second period, antiquity, is characterized by the predominance of oral memory alongside written memory. The period from the sixteenth century until the present is characterized by the progress of written memory connected with printing and literacy. The last, current phase is parallel to the revolutionary changes of the present day and results in memory expansion LeGoff Memory in oral cultures The notion of an oral culture refers to a society without writing or to a society in which the capacity to produce and understand written symbols i.

Goody and Watt offer a fascinating set of studies of the impact of literacy on societies ranging from Greece in the seventh century bce to pre-Columbus America i. In oral cultures people assumed that things were as they had always been, because oral transmission accumulates actual alter- ations unconsciously, continually readjusting the past to fit the present Goody The main contrast between memory in a society in which communication occurs in forms other than written documents, and memory in societies collecting written documents and transforming them into testimony, is con- nected with their different conceptualization of the distinction between past and present Le Goff Oral cultures provide a milieu of living memory where the past expands beyond 10 to 12 generations in lineage structure or a year span.

The oral transmission of the past means that the past is bound to the present for its survival. The past exists only in so far as it continues to be held in living memory, and it is so remembered only as long as it serves present needs. The second significant difference is connected with the orientation of col- lective memory in oral societies towards the time of origin and mythical heroes. In an oral culture, the past refers essentially to a mythical creation or Golden Age, with personal genealogies claiming to run to the beginning of time.

Memory, moreover, is the only frame of reference by which to judge the past, and therefore it plays an important role in maintaining the order and cohesion of the group. Since in oral cultures all relationships must be explained in terms of the past, memory coordinates and cements social relations Evans-Pritchard Oral traditions consist of records of mythology, lists of kings, genealogies, legends and clan names, so the memory of people without writing provides a parallel historical foundation for the existence of ethnic groups or families - that is, myths of origin.

In many such cultures oral tradition is helped by a specialist e. Ritualistic chants are repeated from per- formance to performance, while habit and custom ensure the memorization of practical, technical and professional knowledge without revealing the specific nature of the habit Ong This type of memory is gained through apprenticeship and is based on a respect for custom and habit. The unique flexibility of oral traditions is linked to the transformative nature of their knowledge, which is stored in a way that cannot be recalled precisely.

The same argument is developed by Le Goff Stressing that oral cultures are in a state of continuous creation, Goody warns against the danger of speaking about a collective memory in such societies: Memories vary as does experience. Although with the rise of literacy, impro- visation becomes increasingly difficult and innovation is institutionalized, social memory, freed from dependence on rhythm and being the subject of systematic criticism, is in the process of continuous change Goody and Watt Furthermore, since modern societies offer individuals the possibility of belonging to many groups and a choice of different sets of identities, social memories in those systems are not exclusive but multilayered and overlapping.

There is yet another similarity between social memory in oral cultures and memory in modern societies. In both cases we can observe the workings of a general principle of structural amnesia, which directs our attention to the role of social institutions in guiding and controlling memory Evans- Pritchard In both type of society, remembering and forgetting is selective but not accidental - what is forgotten is not forgotten randomly.

The art of memory Despite the invention of script, antiquity was characterized by the pre- dominance of oral memory, as oral modes of expression continued to con- vey a sense of the past that did not discriminate between the mythical and the historical Eisenstein For ancient philosophers, who held memory in the highest esteem, remembrance was that of pure and timeless forms, not of temporal constructs.

They viewed memory as a source of immortality and wisdom and did not distinguish between the past and imagination, nor between the past and myth. However, the trend towards the secularization of memory and the discovery of the technique of improving memory induced a slow process of transformation in this relationship.

This new technique, ars memoria, or the art of memory, is attributed to the poet Simonides of Ceos c. Orators, in order to associate the texts and ideas to be remembered with the image of a place, relied on paintings, sculptures and buildings as aids in the process of the placement of allegorical images within a Active architecture. Thus, when they were mentally walking around imaginary objects as if they were statues in a palace, gallery or theatre, their remembering was enhanced. This suited a rising literary culture which still relied on memory for the organization of knowledge, and hence on the art of memory, as a part of an education based on rhetoric.

To sum up, in the largely oral culture of Greek and Roman antiquity, where wax tablets were little more than a memory aid, most of what people wanted to say in a speech still had to be committed to memory and therefore they relied on a procedure to facilitate remembering that turned memory into an imaginary space; this was the art of memory. Thus, with memory seen as an essential element of virtue, the technology of memory was continuously recommended as a vital factor in the formation of moral character. Memory in pre-modern Europe In the medieval period oral transmission still played an important role and a trained memory continued to be highly valued as the essential means of the preservation of knowledge and the main safeguard against the loss of manu- script scrolls Yeo Until the late Middle Ages, writing was still regarded as a mere adjunct to memory and the collected knowledge was seen as worth committing to memory.

Thus the art of memory played a central role in the scribal culture of Western Europe. Despite the fact that the use of writing as a support for memory intensified, it was only after the invention of printing in the s that books came to be seen as supplementing memory Le Goff The importance of oral transmission was also due to the fact that the world of manuscript literacy in the Middle Ages was for the most part a sphere of elite culture, while folk memories, rooted in oral means of trans- mission, were dominant.

Generally, it can be said that throughout most of the Middle Ages, literate elites shared with pre-literary folk a common reliance upon oral transmission to teach most of what they knew about the past Eisenstein This lack of awareness about, or denial of, the difference between the past and the present, along with ignorance of the reality of the past meant that medieval interest in antiquity was predicated on its relevance to present concerns and experiences. However, the gradually increasing fascination with classical sources and the growing authority of old manuscripts brought about new attitudes towards the past, which was presented as being exemplary of human practices, and towards memory, which was recon- sidered as a capacity to make the experiences of the past live again Lowenthal The rise of Christianity brought with it an attendant understanding of history as the unfolding of a divine plan.

Medieval thinkers believed in God as being the cause of all historical processes, and saw humans as carrying out the will of God. The Christian experience of history, which was associated with expectations of salvation Carruthers Being rooted in oral transmission and commemoration practices, lay memory contained a popular recounting of the family-centred past and memories of the dead.

There was no clear distinction between the past and the present as ordinary people felt the past to be so much a part of their present that they perceived no urgent need to preserve it Duby In the Middle Ages, the art of memory was placed in the context of logic and moral philosophy rather than rhetoric, with the scholastic philosophers - who were central to medieval scholarly life, literature and the arts - being its main practitioners Yates With the value of the art of memory enhanced further by St Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century Samuel Memory, because of its identification with prudence, rigorous discipline and the highest pursuits, was highly valued, although practiced mainly by the preaching orders.

A new mnemonic landscape, associated with the sacred landmarks of pilgrim routes, burial grounds, churches and shrines, became the essence of the early Middle Ages. Although the humanist philosophers rejected the art of memory, for the hermetic philosophers it still had a special appeal as it allowed for the revival of the belief in the magical power of memory, alchemy, astrology, cabalism, and magic. Soon, however, the relationship between memory and knowledge changed and this led to a gradual but systematic erosion of the value put on memory. The development of print culture, which ensured the standardization, dis- semination and fixity of the text, underwrote the gradually established sta- bility of the vision of the past Eisenstein Additionally, the emergence of this new awareness and appreciation of the past was assisted by the Renaissance rediscovery of the classical world and the growing understand- ing of antiquity as a different realm.

While for ancient or medieval authors, historical facts were atomic entities, immedi- ately perceivable and understandable and hardly in need of interpretation, from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onward a new perception of historical facts emerged. The context of historical facts is not at all given: The strengthening of this new perception of the past, which led finally to seeing the past as a different realm, was further helped by the use of letters to preserve memory, the establishment of archives from the thirteenth cen- tury , libraries, the dissemination of printed books, secularism and the increasing scrutiny of evidence Lowenthal All these trends gradually reinforced the importance of written documents beyond the monopoly of a small elite, therefore textualizing the past and historicizing memory in more concrete ways.

By removing ideas, personalities and events from the milieu of oral tradition and giving them a specific time and place in collective memory, texts enabled readers to comprehend the historicity of the past in a more profound way: In the Middle Ages, memory enjoyed a high status not only because it was valued enormously as a container of virtues and an instrument of thought, but also because of concern about loss of knowledge.

Since until the eight- eenth century even printed books were not perceived as a safe container of knowledge Yeo In the monastic tradition of the Middle Ages, the written word was treated differently as it was assumed that what was writ- ten in books must eventually find its way into the personal memory, and therefore the book was not regarded as an alternative to human memory, but as an aid to memory Carruthers However, the spread of dic- tionaries and encyclopedias gave the public access to an enormous amount of knowledge about the past, as well as the progress of science and phil- osophy, and as a result transformed the role and content of memory Le Goff During the Enlightenment, the art of memory was rejected in favour of observation, experience, intelligence and reason, which meant the end of the art of memory and the emergence of a clear difference between the mythical and the historical.


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  • Although during the Enlightenment the mnemonic technique lost its standing, a concern with memory continued in many philosophical works. Nonetheless, as Hacking Yet, as the arenas for religious and political activity were broadening and as many fundamental issues became subjects of dispute, the rivalry over who owned memory and whose vision of the past was to be honoured in official memorials and monuments became one of the most important political issues, first in England and later in all modern societies. Memory in modern society The history of memory since the eighteenth century has been influenced by many factors, including new technological developments, the advent of a middle-class readership, a growing detachment from religious worldviews, an increasing process of industrialization and urbanization, as well as nationalism.

    All these trends led to expansion of the possibility of abstract thought and produced a new awareness of the distinctiveness of history Olick and Robbins Since it is beyond our capacity to dis- cuss all these changes here, in this section we only briefly summarize the main trends related to the history of memory in this period.

    The eighteenth century was a unique period in the history of memory because at that time the meaning of memory at once broadened and dimin- ished. First, within this period the vast advancement of literacy and the expansion of sciences gradually expanded memory. The progressive mass of information produced by increasingly specialized disciplines and the multiplication of books meant that memory, however finely trained, was no longer an adequate container of knowledge Yeo This realization, that individual memory could not cope with the expansion of knowledge, provided a new rationale for the publication of dictionaries and encyclopedias, and the creation of museums, archives and libraries, which were supposed to condense and preserve knowledge and memories.

    Third, the Enlightenment weakened the importance and status of memory as it set out to destroy the authority of tradition, seen as associated with backwardness and reactionary beliefs. Elistorians, who believed that their age surpassed any previous period in knowledge, not only studied the past but also made judgements upon it. The appeal of the notion of rationality and progress meant that the past was viewed as the bastion of ignorance and irrational tradition: Seeing history as a kind of continuous progress of reason and knowledge gave tradition a bad name and resulted in a lack of interest in memories of the past.

    The belief that progress could be achieved through the development and application of scientific knowledge enhanced a fascination with the future and promoted a rejection of the traditional past. Consequently, each nation created its own commemorations, and supplied the collective memories with monuments of remembrance and new traditions, which were deliberately designed to symbolize national unity, to ensure state legitimacy and build political consensus.

    After the Revolu- tion, the French constitution declared that: The national celebration, anthem and flag became means to symbolize the uniqueness of the nation and were used in the service of national memory. From that moment on, state-designed and state-sponsored commemoration practices multiplied, while the style of celebrations broadened, particularly with the use of coins, medals, postage stamps, monuments and memorial days as new means of commemoration Ozouf During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods, state pat- ronage resulted in raising monuments which focused public attention on the aspirations of the state.

    At the same time, these eras initiated the democra- tization of memory by erecting memorials not to kings or generals but to ordinary warriors, with the first monuments to dead soldiers constructed in Lucerne and dedicated to the memory of members of the Swiss Guard killed on 10 August Laqueur The Third Republic also con- tinued the construction of an official memory by developing, for example, secular education designed to replace religion as a source of collective iden- tity, with Republican values and memory.

    The Republic likewise manipu- lated the practice of national unity by inventing public commemorative celebrations to enhance officially approved memories and to propagate the state glory. In contrast, the continuity of the British state and a lack of comparable state patronage did not produce new commemorative practices, official holidays or patriotic celebrations. However, by the seventeenth century there was a insistent focus on public memory in England which was used for political and religious purposes. A resulting accom- plished vision of the past was incorporated into the calendar, reiterated in sermons, and exhibited in memorials and monuments.

    In the next century, the break with the past brought about by the industrial revolution was remembered by all classes: The nineteenth-century trade union movement in England established its own labour rituals, celebrations and parades, while the bourgeoisie expressed its civic pride by collecting national treasures and contributing to the creation of museums. The creation of museums in most cities and large towns in Britain can be seen as the mani- festation of the civic pride of the emerging middle classes, whose national- ism expressed itself in the celebration of the lives of great men and artists.

    Also the National Trust, created at the end of the nineteenth century as a bulwark of the aristocracy, soon became a middle-class heritage mass movement Wright ; Hewison The further expansion of social movements concerned with conservation and heritage, together with the rise of an enthusiasm for voluntary subscrip- tion for the construction of monuments commemorating national heroes, suggests that national memory was created not just from the sense of a break with the past.

    In the second part of the nineteenth century, as the public directed its attention towards monuments of men of peace, local demands for neoclassical monuments of war heroes decreased. This suspicion of memories led historians to reject myth-making about the past and to rely on written documents. Yet, at the same time, ballads, proverbs, legends and songs e.

    Following the earlier interest in antiquity, and rejecting the notion of uniformity among all cultures, the Romantic movement declared that each historical period had a unique character. Arguing that differences between the present and the past were incommensurable Lowenthal At the heart of the Romantic movement in nineteenth-century Europe was the concept of memory as a power of the soul, a nostalgia for the past and a focus on the imaginative power of memory. For Herder, for example, a nation was not a state but a cultural entity whose members spoke the same language, possessed the same habits, had a communal past and common memories Berlin Its idea of memory was premised on a sense of loss.

    The memory discourse in this period was dominated by the metaphor of evo- lutionary progress in nature. In the late nineteenth century, with the process of the secularization of thinking about the human mind underway, neurobiological studies of the functioning of memory, combined with experimental studies of recall and the psychodynamics of memory contributed to the development of empirical investigations of memory. These studies were underpinned by the assump- tion that there is objective scientific knowledge about memory. This has led, according to Hacking , to the replacement of moral and spiritual reflection on the soul with empirical facts about memory.

    Memory, as the instrument through which positivist science sought to secularize the soul, has become the subject of the new sciences of memory which have pro- foundly influenced western culture. Laboratory work on recall, anatomical and statistical studies of memory, investigations in experimental psychology and pathological psychiatry all provided new knowledge about memory, as opposed to the art of memory, which taught us how to remember Hacking Being creatures of the nineteenth century, and being rooted in the French culture of the period, these sciences tried in a systematic way to uncover facts about memory and to establish scientific laws about its subject by studying pathological memory and forgotten traumas.

    The nineteenth century was a time of the great technological develop- ment. The spread of new technologies, such as photography, radiography and cinema cameras revolutionized ways of preserving and recalling memory. After , human memory became compared to a photographic plate containing a record of our visual experience.

    As the eyes of the camera recorded experience, the collection of images captured on film resulted in a new opportunity to preserve images Sontag and see them move. All these new means of storing and preserving historical events resulted in the proliferation of documents and archives. Those were used by various institutions, such as the medical profession and the police to record names, dates and cases. However, not all thinkers of that period accorded history such a promin- ent status.

    For instance, Nietzsche , who rejected the view that mean- ing is revealed in history, saw memory as the imposition of values that become fixed and obligatory. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, as a result of a massive disruption of traditional forms of memory, a feeling of anxiety about memory emerged as the dominant trend. This crisis of memory manifested itself in an overwhelming sense of loss, anxiety and uncertainty, with the past being rejected on the one hand and appreciated as a lost mentality on the other Terdiman Matsuda speaks likewise of a memory discourse, which emerged in late nineteenth-century Europe as a response to the acceleration of history.

    In psycho- analysis Freud and in philosophy Bergson the most influential works on the topic of memory were created see Chapters 5 and 6 for further discus- sion. Yet memory was absent from the social sciences, with the majority of scientists following the prejudices of the Enlightenment and rejecting tradition.

    memory in psychology in hindi

    Weber , for example, argued that traditional modes of belief and conduct could not help us to stand up against the power of rationality and to stop the inevitable process of rationalization, and therefore were irrelevant for the modern world. There were also opposing orientations to the role of memory in the artistic world. On the one hand, the nineteenth century avant-garde was interested solely in the future, invention, innovation and originality: On the other hand, the role of memory was emphasized in many literary works proposing to look at memory not in historical terms but rather as an act of imagination.

    For Walter Benjamin , the war experience was a decisive moment in a longer-term trend, typified by a decline of storytelling that left people without the possibility to tell their tales and without com- municable experiences to tell. Thus, the experience of the Great War engendered not only forgetfulness but also a distinctive form of memory. The war influenced the nature of commemoration practices, forms of war memorial and types of mourning Winter Widespread state-sponsored commemorative practices after the war which, for example in France, practically left no town without a war memorial Sherman , were exploited by national- ist leaders to create an identification of states with mass memory.

    The interplay between private and collective memories, so characteristic of these type of practice, contributed to the democratization of the cult of the dead, and this further enhanced the impersonalization of national memory Gillis a.

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    In the interwar period, the debate about memory entered the field of sociology. This relationship, argues Halbwachs, can be attributed to two processes. First, it is an effect of the expansion and homogenization of collective memory that can be explained by the growing specialization and differentiation of modern societies.

    The emergence of the bourgeoisie and the modern capitalist economy, in particular, are seen as responsible for the destruction of a social framework and depth of collec- tive memory Halbwachs [J Second, the disintegration of collective memory in modern societies can be seen as a result of the process of the destruction of a social framework that ensured the transmission of collective memories from one generation to the next; a process brought about by the contemporary fragmentation of space, time and institutions, as well as by the growing number and plurality of groups to which individuals belong.

    This collapse of the comprehen- sive collective memory is, however, accompanied by a the fascination with memory. Thus, the end of the twentieth century, in a remarkably similar way to the end of the nineteenth, was characterized by a memory crisis. Consequently, we witness a process of denationaliz- ation of memory as well as trends towards the fragmentation and democra- tization of memory. As previously marginalized groups have access to resources and to the public space to cultivate and express their memories, they undermine, in turn, the authoritative memory of the dominant culture.

    This process of the expansion of various group memories, in the context of the growing importance of the politics of identity, has resulted in the politi- cization of memory. The enhancement of the sacrality of memory manifests itself not only in the growing significance of group memories but also in the proliferation of conservation movements, museums and heritage sites see Chapter 1.

    In the past 50 years historic sites around the globe have multiplied from thousands to millions and 95 per cent of existing museums postdate World War II Lowenthal Britain, where popular enthusiasm for the past has been visible since the s, is seen increasingly as manufactur- ing heritage instead of manufacturing goods Hewison The growing significance of heritage, with the National Trust having over 2 million mem- bers, making it the largest mass organization in Britain Urry It can also be seen as motivated by economic interest as a commodified heritage benefits local economies Hewison This devo- tion to the past has, however, undergone a social transformation from a conservative nostalgia and desire to preserve the past to a more democratic representation of the past Samuel This trend expresses itself particularly in the development of various theme parks, which aim to bring the past to life by immersing people in direct sensory experiences.

    As the heritage industry enjoys new developments, takes on new functions and moves to storing and presenting cultural heritage in a digital form, it also faces new threats connected with its further commercialization. Integrated digital systems have enriched our access to archives, museums and libraries, and the potential for greater visual literacy has also been expanded by the provision online exhibitions and new ways of collect- ing, storing and producing memories.

    Projects of generating memory are now technologically complex and often include clips of oral testimonies and video interviews. The role of the media has also undergone change as a result of new tech- nologies, which have increased our ability to store and transmit memory, allowing more freedom and creative possibilities. These new developments have been preparing us for the arrival of cosmopolitan memory Levy and Sznaider Our growing reliance on new electronic means of communication from TV to the internet for memory-keeping and memory-construction makes us dependent on media representations of the past.

    Our contact with the past increasingly takes place through the electronic media, which are based upon a presupposition that they, unlike the press which reports and comments, represent the world Tester Generally, the importance and the nature of mass media have established the new role of mediated and delocal- ized traditions as a means of making sense of the world and creating a sense of belonging.

    It has shown changes in the status and meanings of memory, from its mythical and sacred status in antiquity, through its high position in the pre-modern period where memory was seen as source of knowledge and truth, to the erosion of its value in modernity.

    Full text of "[ Barbara Misztal] Theories Of Social Remembering"

    The history of memory reveals changes in the custodianship of remembering, from the religious authorities, through the state to the media. Further reading Hacking, I. Europe, , in E. Ranger eds The Invention of Tradition, pp. This is followed by a dis- cussion of the presentist tradition which assumes that images of the past are strategically invented to suit present needs. The third part describes work on social memory which argues for a more complex view of the relation between the past and the present and between the dominant, or official, memory and popular memory.

    The final section presents some recent studies that con- ceptualize memory as actively restructured in a process of negotiations through time. Whereas Durkheim mentions memory solely in relation to traditional societies, which want to preserve a sacred memory of their origin, Halbwachs insists on the importance of memory in all types of society and argues that modern societies might prefer to refashion their past in order to further some present political objective.

    His assertion that every group develops a memory of its own past that highlights its unique identity is still the starting point for all research in the field. Halbwachs [] also notices the relationship between the duration of a group and its memory. He argues that a group memory lasts only as long the group and that the prominence, and therefore also the duration, of a collective memory depends on the social power of the group that holds it. Moreover, collective memory is by definition multiple because there are as many memories as groups. In other words, when there is a plurality of social frameworks or a multiplicity of memberships, there are many memories.

    The succession of remembrances and the plurality of memories are the result of changes occurring in our relationship to various collective milieus: Through all these changes groups need stable supports and frames of refer- ence that enable them to rediscover the past in the present and feel their own continuity.

    Both time see Chapter 5 and space see Chapter 1 play a crucial role in anchoring group recollections and hence in ensuring their preservation. A group colonizes time by ordering important dates within a commemorative sequence.

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    The preservation of recollections also rests on their anchorage in space, which - because of its relative stability - gives us the illusion of permanence: Collective identity precedes memory, therefore social identity deter- mines the content of collective memory. Collective memory, being both a shared image of a past and the reflection of the social identity of the group that framed it, views events from a single committed perspective and thus ensures solidarity and continuity.

    Thus, memory is not only plural and changeable but is also a crucial condition of social order and solidarity. Halbwachs illustrates a link between collective memory and social solidarity on a national scale by showing that shared stories define the nature and boundaries of entire societies to whom the stories belong. The underlining argument is that a stable identity, personal or national, rests on an awareness of continuity with a beloved past. A Journal for Couples. A fun bucket list journal for couples: Hours of Sudoku puzzles to enjoy! The perfect gratitude journal for couples to show their appreciation, love, and gratefulness for each other on a weekly basis.

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    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)
    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)
    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)
    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)
    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)
    Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society) Theories of Social Remembering (Theorizing Society)

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