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Marie-Claire Lavabre “Historiography and Memory”

Lavabre, Marie-Claire 2010. Historiography and Memory. – Tucker, Aviezer (ed). A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography. Oxford: Blackwell: 362-371

Pierre Nora understood memory in terms of realms, distinguishing historiography and history from memory. Realms manifest themselves in discussions of the political uses of the past, of traditions and of national identities (Gildea 1994). (363)

„As a first approximation, collective memory is a remembrance or series of remembrances, conscious or not, of an experience which has been lived through and/or mythified by a living collective identity of which history is a component part.“ [Nora 1978] The distinction between historiography and memory, or between „historical memory“ and „collective memory“ allows an independent concept of memory to be formulated. (364)

Historians affirmed that it was their vocation to criticize memory at the very moment when society itself became impassioned by its own past. Social and the political movements and interests developed a stake in the historiographic debate about memory. Consequently, the exact meaning of „collective memory“ has become contested. (365)

[…] the question of identities is indeed present in all inquiries about memory, whether the emphasis is placed in the effects of heritage and history, or on the individual or social functions of selective reference to the past (Strauss 1992). (365-366)

Monumental historiography, which has great pedagogical value, is a remedy to resignation. It forms a foundation for believing in cohesion and is based on a heroic vision of a civilization throughout time. It brings together things which are unrelated, generalizes them and declares them identical. In this sense, monumental historiography violates the actual reality of the past and can even be a mere mythical fiction. (366)

Traditional historiography belongs to the individual who „looks faithfully and lovingly at his/her origins.“ […] It moves its consumers from individual historiography to collective historiography, an identification with a mythical home, family, or town. However, traditional historiography also recognizes all that is ancient and outdated as equally worthy of respect, and discredits all that is new. (367)

Finally, critical historiography judges and condemns, provides „the strength to break and dissolve a fragment of the past in order to ensure survival.“ […] But there is nonetheless a risk that the reality of the past be judged by the yardstick of what is true in the present. Critical historiography can then become illusory and obscure identity […] (367)

To put it briefly, the three forms of historiography identified by Nietzsche describe different uses of the past. All of these are part of what we now call memory. (367)

[…] the definition of collective memory wavers continually between the idea that stresses the group as such, and the idea that, on the contrary, stresses the individuals who make up the group and embody the collective memory. […] Memory is said to be collective not because it is the memory of the group as such, but because the collective, or the social, is the state in which individuals exist. (368)

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