Collective Memory


Definition: Social constructs in regard to experience or goals; subjective. Memory has its own history (recent phenomenon of the 20th century). Memory can be referred to individual memory or psychology. 

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Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945)

Key terms: Collective Memory, Social Frameworks 

"It is in the society that people normally acquire memory. It is also in the society that they recall, recognise and localise their memories."

  • French psychologists, "father of memory"
  • Collective memory influences out past and what we think of it 
  • Collective memory shows that it would never happen if we were isolated - must happen in society. 
  • Individual memory, hence, must happen before collective memory 
  • How this relates to cinema --> formed and shaped for specific auidences from the creator's memory. No such things as objectified films or other mediums. 
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Pierre Nora (br. 1931)

Key terms: les lieux de mémoire - sites of memory 

"We speak so much of memory because there is so little left."

  • We don't want the burden - leave it to the state
  • Individualistic/narcastic. 
  • We feel the past through these symbols
  • Crisis of memory 
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Jan Assmann (1938) and Aleida Assman (1947)

Key terms: cultural memory, communicative memory 

"Cultural memory works by reconstructing, that is, it always relates its knowledge to an actual and contemporary situation." (J)

"While social fors of memory are short-lived because they depend on embodied and interactive communication, political and cultural formats of memory are designed for a long-term use to be transmitted across generations." (A) 

  • Memory - the best censor of the past
  • Temporal horizons - something between memory and history 
  • What happens outside daily communications of memory? 
  • Memory has to be alive - emotional distance to those carrying it. 
  • Fixed points - essential parts e.g. prayers, passion of Christ (repitition). Cultural memory allows these practices to be preserved. 
  • Memory is an umbrella term - there are different genres, studied separately to nations and groups 
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Benedict Anderson (1936)

Key terms - Imagined Communities (nations)

"It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear them, yet in their minds of each lives the image of their communication." 

  • Historians - no collective memory 
  • Nothing in common. Familitary created by a shared image e.g. the press and the internet create a stronger sense of affiliation 
  • Past is based on the convictions rather than factors - we forget the past as our own 
  • Unity over different events 
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Marianne Hirsch (1949)

Key terms - Postmemory, trauama and second generation 

"Postmemory describes the relationship of the second generation to powerful, often traumatic, experiences that preceded their births but that were nevertheless transmitted to them so deeply as to seem to constitute memories in their own right." 

  • Postmodernist, post-secular
  • Transference of memory e.g. the Holocaust survivors 
  • Greatest challenge - find the generation a voice without destructing their 2nd memory 
  • Claimed that children of Holocaust survivors have been affected to the extent that the experience has been imprinted on them --> secondary memory 
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Alison Landsberg

Key terms - Prosthetic memory 

"Prosthetic memories... become part of one's personal archive of experience, informing one's subjectivity as well as one's relationship to the present and future tenses." 

  • Made possible by advanced capitalism and mass cultural which presents narratives of the past, organising people's perceived memory 
  • Solutions for 2nd traumas - cinema is a great platform to reserve trauma and to build empathy. 
  • The experimental side of film makes it more than an action - a bodily experience. Ultimately creates emphathy - more powerful for one to experience an emotion than to just present it. 
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Timeline of Memory

1. Interwar

  • History of nations based on the memory of nation constructions. 


  • Carries throughout and within the Soviet Union - clashes of narratives and series of repetitive silence.

3. 1990's 

  • Interaction of history and memory. Undermined the collective view of the past. 

4. 20th century 

  • Cannot forget - need offical remembering. Interactive memories so we cannot forget (Berlin Holocaust Memorial) 
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Paradox of Memory

History of these events was different to the memory. It can be stated hat there is "too much history" - people detach from the past. 

Nietzsche - if we cling to the past, we forget elements. It is healthy to move forward. 

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