Thursday, July 07, 2005

Feldman on the narratological model model of social memory

From Feldman, Allan. "Political Terror and the Technologies of Memory:
Excuse, Sacrifice, Commodification, and Actuarial Moralities." Radical History Review 85 (2003) 58-73.

"Theorists of social memory have identified the conditions under which it is culturally reproduced, specifying the crucial roles played by legitimized agents of memory, collective recollection practices, and formal spaces for the articulation and public depiction of memory. Paul Connerton sees cultural memory as intentionally mediated by social actors and as embodied in performance practices that can intervene in the meaning systems of the present. [footnote 1] Complementing this model of memory as performance is the work of philosophers of historiography such as Hayden White, Paul Ricoeur, Paul Veyne, and Reinhart Koselleck, who concur that the historical event is not that which happens but that which is narrated. [footnote 2] The narratological model does not simply assert that history is reduced to texts, but alerts us to the situation that formulaic and ideological depiction can leave vast realms of experience unnarrated and dehistoricized—and thus inaccessible to a society as a cultural resource. The act of historical narration in a variety of written, oral, aural, artifactual, and visual media depends on the attention or inattention paid to the social and political contingencies of its own action and knowledge. Representations of the past are only realized through social and personal perspectives, standpoints, and positions that both constrain and create meaning—the trinity of place, time, and person gives birth to shifting and multiple historical perspectives. Both theorists of cultural memory and philosophers of historiography view the social capacity to narrate the past, to objectify and to collectivize historical experience, as a cultural process subjected to uneven social and political conditions of constraint and possibility, as the Popular Memory Group discusses. [footnote 3]

1. Paul, Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

2. Hayden White, The Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978); Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Paul Veyne, L'inventaire des différences (Paris: Seuil, 1976); Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: The Semantics of Historical Time (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985).

3. Popular Memory Group, "Popular Memory: Theory, Politics, Method," in Making Histories: Studies in History-Writing and Politics, ed. Richard Johnson (London: Hutchinson, 1982), 4.

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