Beyond Disciplinary Communities NUBS 3.06
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.7. Interscalar approaches to memory

Collective memories have emergent properties, they transcend the individual, yet they cannot be completely dissociated from it. Indeed, the notion of collective memory is based on the interactions between public narratives of the past (whether presented by official representatives or historians) and individual memories (experienced and/or transmitted by the population) that operate according to their own logic but affect each other. Their interactions can be approached in a top-down manner, examining how collective memories evolve and transform in response to the changing cultural and sociological contexts, and the functions that they serve, or from a bottom-up perspective, by assuming that extant collective memory must take its root in the collection of individual memories.Within this panel, we argue that studies of collective memory should include analyses at multiple scales (micro, meso and macro). Across four talks from different disciplines, we will examine how analyses of the different scales interact and inform one another.

Thomas Van de Putte

Why cultural memory matters for self-presentationCultural memories play a key role in today's political debates: statues are being toppled,Trump and Brexit are understood through the memory prism of fascism and colonialnostalgia, and a war is fought over memory in Ukraine. Why are these past events, most ofwhich we haven't witnessed ourselves, so important to us? On the basis of both a corpuslinguistic and a micro-discourse analytical study of repeated focus-group interviews with tenresearch participants, I demonstrate how representations of the past, and attributions ofmeaning to the past are central to how we position and present ourselves to others in face-to-face interactions. For personal identity, I arg ...

NUBS 3.06 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
28 attendees saved this session

Collective memories have emergent properties, they transcend the individual, yet they cannot be completely dissociated from it. Indeed, the notion of collective memory is based on the interactions between public narratives of the past (whether presented by official representatives or historians) and individual memories (experienced and/or transmitted by the population) that operate according to their own logic but affect each other. Their interactions can be approached in a top-down manner, examining how collective memories evolve and transform in response to the changing cultural and sociological contexts, and the functions that they serve, or from a bottom-up perspective, by assuming that extant collective memory must take its root in the collection of individual memories.

Within this panel, we argue that studies of collective memory should include analyses at multiple scales (micro, meso and macro). Across four talks from different disciplines, we will examine how analyses of the different scales interact and inform one another.



Thomas Van de Putte

Why cultural memory matters for self-presentation

Cultural memories play a key role in today's political debates: statues are being toppled,
Trump and Brexit are understood through the memory prism of fascism and colonial
nostalgia, and a war is fought over memory in Ukraine. Why are these past events, most of
which we haven't witnessed ourselves, so important to us? On the basis of both a corpus
linguistic and a micro-discourse analytical study of repeated focus-group interviews with ten
research participants, I demonstrate how representations of the past, and attributions of
meaning to the past are central to how we position and present ourselves to others in face-
to-face interactions. For personal identity, I argue, they are at least as important as the
more affective, autobiographical narratives we share with others.

But why is that the case? The explanation I offer in this paper is twofold. First, narrating
cultural memories allows us to demonstrate our alignment to different groups, with social
identities and ideals. Cultural memory narratives support and give credibility to the
discursive construction of social roles and social identities that individuals find salient. In this
paper, I discuss the roles of teacher, Italian citizen, progressive activist and scholar.
Secondly, I argue that telling cultural memory narratives also allow us to be perceived as
knowledgeable. They contribute to our epistemic authority in interactions with others. In
the many empirical examples in this paper, I show how narrations of cultural memory
support epistemic authority in various self-presentations. I look at various epistemic stances
on the past and which role they play in interactions. But the investment in epistemic
authority does not only respond to the deep psychological need to be valued as
knowledgeable by our peers, I also argue that the discursive investment in knowledge and
epistemic authority is a pre-requisite for memory to become cultural.


Aline Cordonnier

Functions of family memories of WWII at the micro, meso and macro levels

We are more than our autobiographical memories. While past research has discussed in
depth the functions of autobiographical thinking, few studies have examined how vicarious
memories from close others - in particular family members - can impact us. We create a
sense of self by recalling personal events, but also by embedding it within family identity,
built on stories from our family past. We share personal and family narratives to bond or
teach others, but also to help us make decisions. Vicarious memories therefore serve similar
functions to autobiographical memories. But when these family stories become part of
collective narratives, they can have major impacts on individuals' social identity, inter- and
intragroup relations, and their interpretation of the world. Accordingly, individual and
collective memory have parallel functions. In our study, we met with families with an
ancestor who either resisted during the Second World War or was judged for collaboration
after the war. We interviewed participants from three different generations and asked them
whether it was important for them to know and transmit their family stories about the war
and why. Answers were coded as serving personal or collective functions. Within these two
categories, functions were coded as self, social and directive. Results show that these war-
related family stories tend to serve important functions for the self and for social
relationships at the individual level and more directive functions at the collective level.
Stories of the resistance also seemed to have a more collective impact than stories of the
collaboration.


Valerie Rosoux 

Dealing with the colonial past: why it matters at the macro, meso and micro level. The Belgian case.

This paper questions the impact of the Commission established in 2020 by the Belgian Parliament to deal with the colonial past. It explores the effects of this political process on (1) the strategic narrative of the past presented by official representatives, (2) the public representations of the past transmitted by associations' spokespersons, and (3) individual memories of the same past. This case study allows us to examine the interactions – often tempestuous between these different scales (macro, meso, and micro). It shows that the tensions, misunderstandings, and even contradictions related to this issue do not take the form of a rational debate, but of a deadlock characterized by anger, resentment, shame, and guilt. My personal involvement in the experts' panel since the beginning of the process implied a systematic reflexiveness. This experience paradoxically led to two distinct situations. On the one hand, my position as a white Belgian scholar did impact the negotiations between experts and forced me to question my own, taken for granted, representations of the colonial past. On the other hand, the succession of meetings with Belgian Afro descendants' associations, former colonials' associations, and Burundian, Congolese, and Rwandan scholars and policymakers made me feel like I was a third party in a situation similar to a peacekeeper in a post conflict setting. The vast majority of these meetings (in Belgium, Congo, Rwanda or Burundi) share common characteristics: the distributive dimension of the processes, the highly emotional character of the dynamics, and the pervasiveness of justice claims. In terms of methodology, the analysis is based on a two year participating observation that included: (1) the participation in the first group of experts appointed to write the initial report of the Parliamentary Commission (10 academics and Afro descendant militants, from August 2020 to October 2021); (2) the participation in the second group of experts in charge of the hearings and final report (academics and practitioners, from January to December 2022); (3) the participation in the official visit of Belgian.


Wouter Reggers 

When cultural memory contradicts self-presentation

The presentations of this panel demonstrate the importance of cultural memories for the
identity and self-presentation of individuals and social groups. Indeed, cultural memories
are as essential as individual memories for the way in which we perceive ourselves and
present our identity to others. However, when we are facing difficult or controversial pasts
of which diverging memory narratives contradict each other, another question arises: Given
the dependence of social identity on cultural memories, how do people deal with cultural
memories that conflict with their identity or are seen as threatening to their self-
presentation?
My research is focused on interactions between collective memories and individual
memories among families that were involved in collaboration with the German Nazi regime
during the Second World War. Through an oral history approach, I examine how these
different memory narratives are communicated and shared on the family level. When
collective representations of the past contradict the personal stories that are shared within
the family, this can trigger emotional responses or foster conflictual tendencies among
descendants of collaborators.
In this paper, I focus on this last scenario. Using preliminary research findings and intuitions,
I explore the ways in which these descendants engage with collective memories that they
perceive to be incomplete, unjust or false. This exploration is guided by three questions.
First, when do descendants engage with divergent representations of the past? In other
words, which collective memories are transmitted within the family, and from where do
these memories enter the family sphere? Secondly, how do the interactions between
diverging memories impact the positioning and self-presentation of these family members
within Belgian society? And lastly, when negative emotions or conflictual tendencies arise,
against whom are these directed? Who is the "other" in the self-perception of these
families?


Louise Balliere

Collective memories and colonial memoirs. The interactions between personal stories and public narratives in the Belgian recollections of the colonial past.

Collective memory research has long disregarded personal recollections in their studies of grand
narratives. Yet, the constant interactions between such public narratives and individual memories have
proven to be a crucial aspect of the complex memory phenomenon. Their relationship should thus be
viewed as one of negotiation and mutual influences. This paper explores these interactions through the
case study of colonial memories in Belgium. A critical discourse analysis of newspaper articles and
colonial memoirs will show how individual narratives interplay with the discourses of prevailing
collective memories.
The last fifteen years of the twentieth century have seen several shifts in the Belgian attitude towards
its colonial past. The collective amnesia in the Belgian society of the previous decades was indeed
beginning to crumble around the 25 th anniversary of Congolese independence. A nostalgia for colonial
times resurfaced, supported by the publication of a series of colonial memoirs. This way, several
members of the slimming generation of former colonists shared their personal accounts of the
increasingly criticized episode of national history. After all, the end of the twentieth century was not
just a time of nostalgic recollections, but simultaneously harboured growing criticism against the
Belgian colonial past. This phase of competing voices was the playing field of various memories and
narratives – collective and individual. The case study therefore demonstrates the diverse ways in
which individual and personal recollections of a collectively remembered historical event influence
and interact with collective narratives.

Université catholique de Louvain
Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Psychology
,
UCLouvain, Belgium
Research Director - Professor
,
FNRS - University of Louvain
Doctoral Researcher
,
UCLouvain - FNRS
PhD candidate
,
Universite catholique de Louvain
Université catholique de Louvain
No attendee has checked-in to this session!
Upcoming Sessions
276 visits