The Collective Memory Reader
Jeffrey K. Olick
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In the last few decades, there are few concepts that have rivaled "collective memory" for attention in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, use of the term has extended far beyond scholarship to the realm of politics and journalism, where it has appeared in speeches at the centers of power and on the front pages of the world's leading newspapers. Seen by scholars in numerous fields as a hallmark characteristic of our age, an idea crucial for understanding our present social, political, and cultural conditions, collective memory now guides inquiries into diverse, though connected, phenomena. Nevertheless, there remains a great deal of confusion about the meaning, origin, and implication of the term and the field of inquiry it underwrites.
The Collective Memory Reader presents, organizes, and evaluates past work and contemporary contributions on collective memory. Combining seminal texts, hard-to-find classics, previously untranslated references, and contemporary landmarks, it will serve as a key reference in the field. In addition to a thorough introduction, which outlines a useful past for contemporary memory studies, The Collective Memory Reader includes five sections-Precursors and Classics; History, Memory, and Identity; Power, Politics, and Contestation; Media and Modes of Transmission; Memory, Justice, and the Contemporary Epoch-comprising ninety-one texts. A short editorial essay introduces each of the sections, while brief capsules frame each of the selected texts.
An indispensable guide, The Collective Memory Reader is at once a definitive entry point into the field for students and an essential resource for scholars.
the structuralist a n t h r o p o l o g i s t R o g e r B a s t i d e . In his book The African Religions of Brazil ( i 9 6 0 ) , Bastide extends a n d r e v i s e s H a l b w a c h s ' s i d e a s on religious m e m o r y . A c c o r d i n g to a strict reading of Halbwachs, religious m e a n i n g s s h o u l d be lost w h e n they a r e u n m o o r e d f r o m the social f r a m e w o r k s of their original c o n t e x t s . But, as B a s t i d e s h o w s , the syncretic African religions of
boom, how much it is a response to widespread dilettantism (a common problem when scientific and lay terms coincide), and how much of it, instead, is due to the institutional conditions for memory studies as a field of scholarship. In 1998, Olick and Robbins offered the following characterization of what they called "social memory studies:" "Scholars have viewed social memory narrowly as a subfield of the sociology of knowledge and broadly as 'the connective structure of societies.' They have
itself: and men and ages which serve life by judging and destroying a past are always dangerous and endangered m e n and ages. For since we are the outcome of earlier generations, we are also the outcome of their aberrations, passions and errors, and indeed of their crimes; it is not possible wholly to free oneself from this chain. If we condemn these aberrations and regard ourselves as free of them, this does not alter the fact that we originate in them. The best we can do is to confront our
we then try to cut out all those traditional ideas and judgments which are a part of the family proper, practically nothing remains. Or rather, try how we will, we cannot make this kind of dissociation. We cannot distinguish, in our remembering of the particular event, between "the image which has but one place and time" and the notions which reflect in a general way "our experience of the acts and manner of life of our parents." . .. Halbwachs gives in detail a number of instances which he
sleep, some of them remain, because in dreaming, "the contact between us and society is never entirely gone; we still utter words, we still understand their meaning." Yet they remain few in number and in an imprecise form; that is why, in our dreams, the images of the past appear only in pieces, too disconnected from each other and from the rest of the social past to be recognized as memories. The things that we remember may be solely personal; the frameworks of memory, without which memories