The dreams of the future move in the temporal dimension of past life, fed by memory … out of which all wishes and hopes are deduced.
Reinhart Koselleck, Terror and Dream (2004)
Critical theory and collectivememory 1
Over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, collectivememory has become a central concept in the humanities and the social sciences. 2 Its surge in scholarly importance coincides with a number of broader social movements, most notably the student revolts of 1968, when the first generation that came of age in the
National history and collectivememory
The nationalisation of culture
In 1815, following the second, definitive defeat of Napoleon, the most
urgent requirement was the rebuilding of the political fabric of Europe,
which had been torn asunder by the revolutionary and Bonapartist
whirlwinds that had swept through it. In the fond belief that the turmoil
of the previous twenty-five years had been no more than a passing
madness, Tsar Alexander I and the Austrian Chancellor Metternich
presided over a coalition of absolute monarchs that aimed to restore the
The development of the European Union as a community-based project of integration with decision-making powers outside the constitutional architecture of the nation-state is the most significant innovation in twentieth-century political organisation. It raises fundamental questions about our understanding of the state, sovereignty, citizenship, democracy, and the relationship between political power and economic forces. Despite its achievements, events at the start of the twenty-first century – including the political, economic, and financial crisis of the Eurozone, as well as Brexit and the rise of populism – pose an existential threat to the EU. Memory and the future of Europe addresses the crisis of the EU by treating integration as a response to the rupture created by the continent’s experience of total war. It traces Europe’s existing pathologies to the project’s loss of its moral foundations rooted in collective memories of total war. As the generations with personal memories of the two world wars pass away, economic gain has become the EU’s sole raison d’être. If it is to survive its future challenges, the EU will have to create a new historical imaginary that relies not only on the lessons of the past, but also builds on Europe’s ability to protect its citizens by serving as a counterweight against the forces of globalisation. By framing its argument through the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Memory and the future of Europe will attract readers interested in political and social philosophy, collective memory studies, European studies, international relations, and contemporary politics.
Sacralisation and militarisation in the remembrance of the ‘cursed soldiers’
Marije Hristova and Monika Żychlińska
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.
This article considers how the reburial and commemoration of the human remains of the
Republican defeated during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) is affected by the social,
scientific and political context in which the exhumations occur. Focusing on a particular
case in the southwestern region of Extremadura, it considers how civil society groups
administer reburial acts when a positive identification through DNA typing cannot be
attained. In so doing, the article examines how disparate desires and memories come
together in collective reburial of partially individuated human remains.
The 1948 war that led to the creation of the State of Israel also resulted in the destruction of Palestinian society, when some 80 per cent of the Palestinians who lived in the major part of Palestine upon which Israel was established became refugees. Israelis call the 1948 war their ‘War of Independence’ and the Palestinians their ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe. After many years of Nakba denial, land appropriation, political discrimination against the Palestinians within Israel and the denial of rights to Palestinian refugees, in recent years the Nakba is beginning to penetrate Israeli public discourse. This book explores the construction of collective memory in Israeli society, where the memory of the trauma of the Holocaust and of Israel's war dead competes with the memory claims of the dispossessed Palestinians. Taking an auto-ethnographic approach, it makes a contribution to social memory studies through a critical evaluation of the co-memoration of the Palestinian Nakba by Israeli Jews. Against a background of the Israeli resistance movement, the book's central argument is that co-memorating the Nakba by Israeli Jews is motivated by an unresolved melancholia about the disappearance of Palestine and the dispossession of the Palestinians, a melancholia which shifts mourning from the lost object to the grieving subject. The book theorises Nakba co-memory as a politics of resistance, counterpoising co-memorative practices by internally displaced Israeli Palestinians with Israeli Jewish discourses of the Palestinian right of return, and questions whether return narratives by Israeli Jews are ultimately about Israeli Jewish self-healing.
Between 1921 and 1965, Irish and Scottish migrants continued to seek new homes abroad. This book examines the experience of migration and settlement in North America and Australasia. It goes beyond traditional transnational and diasporic approaches, usually focused on two countries, and considers a range of destinations in which two migrant groups settled. The book aims to reclaim individual memory from within the broad field of collective memory to obtain 'glimpses into the lived interior of the migration processes'. The propaganda relating to emigration emanating from both Ireland and Scotland posited emigration as draining the life-blood of these societies. It then discusses the creation of collective experiences from a range of diverse stories, particularly in relation to the shared experiences of organising the passage, undertaking the voyage out, and arriving at Ellis Island. The depiction at the Ellis Island Museum is a positive memory formation, emphasising the fortitude of migrants. Aware that past recollections are often shaped by contemporary concerns, these memories are also analysed within the broader context in which remembering takes place. The book then examines migrant encounters with new realities in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. The formal nature of ethnic and national identities for Irish and Scottish migrants, as exhibited by language, customs, and stereotypes, is also explored. The novelty of alleged Irish and Scottish characteristics emphasised in accounts presumably goes some way to explaining the continued interest among the children of migrants. These ongoing transnational connections also proved vital when migrants considered returning home.
This book provides a unique perspective on the Allied bombing of France during the Second World War which killed around 57,000 French civilians. Using oral history as well as archival research, it provides an insight into children's wartime lives in which bombing often featured prominently, even though it has slipped out of French collective memory. The book compares three French towns with different experiences of bombing: Boulogne-Billancourt , Brest, and Lille. Divided into three parts dealing with expectations, experiences and explanations of bombing, the book considers the child's view of wartime violence, analysing resilience, understanding and trauma. The first part of the book deals with the time before bombing. It examines how the French prepared for war and preparations made specifically for bombing, showing how state-level and municipal-level preparations. The second part considers the time during bombing and its aftermath. It discusses the experience of being bombed, examining children's practical, sensory and emotional responses. The fascinating and frightening scenes in the immediate aftermath of bombing that made lasting impressions on children, including destruction, chaos and encounters with violent, public death. Changes in status as a result of bombing becoming a sinistre, refugee or evacuee had far-reaching consequences in some children's lives, affecting their education and economic situation. The last section looks at the way in which air raids were explained to the French population. It considers the propaganda that criticised and defended the Allies, and an understanding of the history of Vichy.
While women directors continue to be a minority in most national and transnational film contexts, there are those among them who rank among the most innovative and inventive of filmmakers. Filmmaking by women becomes an important route to exploring what lies outside of and beyond the stereotype through reflexivity on violence and conflict, and through visual and narrative explorations of migration, exile, subjectivity, history or individual and collective memory. By documenting and interpreting a fascinating corpus of films made by women coming from Latin America, the US, Portugal and Spain, this book proposes research strategies and methodologies that can expand our understanding of socio-cultural and psychic constructions of gender and sexual politics. It critically examines the work of Hispanic and Lusophone female filmmakers. It 'weaves' several 'threads' by working at the intersections between feminist film theory, gender studies and film practices by women in Latin America, the US, Portugal and Spain. The book explores the transcultural connections, as well as the cultural specificities, that can be established between Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Latino contexts within and beyond the framework of the nation state. It suggests that the notion of home and of Basque motherland carry potentially different resonances for female directors.
I reflect on the place of If Beale Street Could Talk in the
corpus of Baldwin’s writings, and its relationship to Barry
Jenkins’s movie released at the beginning of 2019. I consider also what
the arrival of the movie can tell us about how Baldwin is located in
contemporary collective memories.