Memory

What is memory? this is the faculty by which the brain/ mind stores information and remembers it.

Why study memory?

1. Memory connects us to a sense
of history and continuity ‘Memory forges the chain of tradition that passes events on from generation to generation’
Walter Benjamin, Schriften, 2 vols.
(Frankfurt, 1955), I, 429.

2. Memory is connected to our
sense of identity ‘Memory is a central, if not the central, medium through which identities are constituted.’
(Olick and Robbins, 1998 p. 133)

3. Memory is produced through discourse (Misztal, 2003) .
Furthermore, those who control the discourse, can dictate what memories survive and which don’t.
All goes back to Foucault… For Foucault memory is a site of struggle and a ‘discursive tool’.

‘where memory is concerned, the personal is political.’
(Susanna Radstone, 2008 p. 33)

Collective Memory
Maurice Halbwachs On Collective Memory (1925)
• Memory is collective as much as it is individual
• What is worth remembering is defined by the social
group
• Our personal memories cannot be untangled from our social context within a group
• He was primarily interested in the family but thought memory also operated on a societal level.
• Memory is not static, it is a process. Memories are always being reconstructed and revised based on the
present context.

How are collective memories constructed?
• Pierre Nora (1998)
– Groups are able to create collective memories by focusing on particular dates, people, places and objects and ignoring
others.
• ‘These are technologies of memory, not vessels of memory in which memory passively resides’

(Sturken 1997 p. 9 quoted in Shazad 2012, p. 379-380)

for example:

what dates, places, people and places does England focus on when constructing the memory of England?

What does it ignore?

What does that say about how England ( Englishness) is constructed?

Postmodernism – Jameson
• ‘Jameson argued that postmodern media and, in particular, film, were suffused by a pastiche and nostalgia that substituted for a truly historical consciousness. For Jameson, postmodernism is simply incapable of grasping or remembering historical reality, and postmodern subjects are condemned to a schizophrenic experience, bereft of memory and any sense of continuity through time.’ (Radstone & Hodgkin, 2005 p. 22)

Pastiche
• Pastiche has taken over from parody
– Unlike parody ‘Pastiche is…amputated of
the satiric impulse … Pastiche is thus blank parody, a statue with blind eyeballs’ (Jameson, 1986 p. 65)
• We must resort to pastiche because there is no norm to parody anymore.
– ‘the advanced capitalist countries today are now a field of stylistic and discursive
heterogeneity without a norm.’ (Jameson,
1984 p. 65)
• Pastiche is linked to nostalgia

Nostalgia and Historicism
• Historicism is ‘the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past, the play of randomstylistic allusion’.

(Jameson, 1984 p.
65-66)
• The past has ‘become a vast collection of images, a multitudinous photographic simulacrum.’ (Jameson, 1984 p. 66)

Schizophrenic
• Jameson uses the term ‘schizophrenic’ as metaphor for the fragmentation of the subject.
• The schizophrenic is not anchored in space or time.
• According to Jameson, schizophrenia is the ‘breakdown of the relationship between signifiers’

(Dunst, 2008 p.
119)

Postmodernism – Baudrillard
• We are obsessed with the past in more extreme ways than before. To such an extent that representations of the past stand in for it.
• Such representations often have a correctional impulse.
– ‘Baudrillard warns that what we are attempting, through the processes and practices of commemoration and remembrance is not just an investigation of the past, of history, but also an effort to “correct” it.’ (Godfrey & Lilley 2009, P. 289)

‘prosthetic memory’
‘Memory is unmoored yet dominated by media. Forgetting – or perhaps a new careless memory – becomes the default
condition when there is no need to remember: that social obligation is carried by our digital networks and prostheses, ‘prosthetic memory’ as Alison Landsberg calls it.’ (Hoskins, 2012 p. 19)

New Memory Ecology
‘rather than hiving ‘memory’ off into distinct and separate zones or even ‘containers’ – the body, the brain, the social, the cultural etcetera – an ecological approach is interested in how these together work or don’t work in producing memory. Put differently, remembering is not reducible to any one part, but is made through an ongoing interaction between all the parts.’
(Hoskins, 2012 p. 24)

Summary
• Memory is produced through discourse.
• Collective memory is produced by objects, dates, people and places that are foregrounded (while others are ignored)
• Postmoderism ushers in an era of pastiche – obsessed with the past but providing no critique of it.
• There is no need to remember as prostheses carry out this job for us. How do these new technologies contribute to
memory construction?

Bibliography
• Dunst, A. (2008) ‘Late Jameson, or, After the Eternity of the Present’ New
Formations 65 (Autumn) pp.105-118
• Halbwachs, M. (1925) On Collective Memory
• Hoskins, Andrew (2011) Media, Memory, Metaphor: Remembering and the
Connective Turn, Parallax, 17:4, 19-31
• Jameson, F. (1984) ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’
New Left Review I (146) pp. 53 – 92
• Olick, J. K. and Robbins, J. (1998) ‘Social Memory Studies: From “Collective
Memory” to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices’ Annual Review of
Sociology Vol. 24, pp. 105-40
• Radstone, S. & Hodgkin, K. (2005) Memory Cultures: Memory, Subjectivity, And
Recognition London: Routledge
• Radstone, S (2008) ‘Memory Studies: For and Against’ Memory Studies 1 (1) 31 –
39.
• Shahzad, F. (2012) ‘Collective Memories: A Complex Construction’ Memory Studies
2012 5 (4), 378 – 391.
• Sturken M (1997) Tangled Memories. California: University of California Press.

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