Collective Memory

This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries. Previous Chapter: 3.3.6 Megatrend

Not only imaginaries have recently received increased attention in the social sciences.1 As part of the “cultural turn in sociology,”2 researchers – especially in Europe and South America – have been increasingly concerned with collective memory since the last decade of the previous century, as it was substantially coined as a concept by Maurice Halbwachs34

Halbwachs’ core thesis is that individual memories are collectively formed. Although they are located in the individual, they are socially constructed and based on the present needs. Through group interaction, personal memories are reinterpreted. This occurs based on the currently dominant prevailing ideas within the group.5

In contrast to Polak’s “pull of the future,” which pulls the present towards the future, one could speak here of a “push of the presence,” which pushes the present into the past or, according to Halbwachs, reinterprets the past based on the present.

Aleida and Jan Assmann have elaborated on Halbwachs’ theses and defined various subtypes, such as cultural memory, which describes the process by which a society communicates its own identity.6 Ryan brought the concept of cultural memory together with Taylor’s Social Imaginaries and Strauss’ interpretation (cf. chapter 2.2.3) and came to the following conclusion:

“There is evidently a high degree of overlap between the concepts of ‘cultural memory’ and ‘cultural imaginary’ (or cultural model), as interrelated ways of denoting a society’s implicit self-understanding, mediated in images, stories, and rituals.”7

Sebald and Weyand, in turn, have suggested that collective memory and Future Imaginaries not only share similar characteristics but may also be directly related:

“The importance of social memories even seems to increase to the extent that the self-evidence of a continuation of the past in the near future decreases. Only the setting apart of the new from the remembered traditional makes the new a new thing (just as embedding the new in the traditional makes it familiar).”89

These are individual indications of the new research topics that could arise if a “futural turn” supplemented the “cultural turn” in sociology.

Next Chapter: Conceptual challenges and inconsistencies

  1. Binder, W. (2019). Social imaginaries and the limits of differential meaning: A cultural sociological critique of symbolic meaning structures. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 44(S2), 17–35. 00371-2, p. 18 

  2. Herbrik, R., & Schlechtriemen, T. (2019). Editorial for the special issue “Scopes of the Social Imaginary in Sociology” in the ÖZS. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 44(S2), 1–15., p. 3 

  3. Halbwachs, M. (1925). Les Cadres sociaux de la mémoire. Paris: Librairie Félix Al- can. 

  4. Banchs, M. A. (2014). Imaginaries. Representations and Social Memories. Papers on Social Representations, (Volume 23), p. 7 

  5. cf. ibid., p. 8 

  6. Assmann, J. (2011). Cultural memory and early civilization: writing, remembrance, and political imagination. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press., p. 25 

  7. Ryan, S. M. (2015). Catholic Iconography, Cultural Memory and Imaginaries. The Sacred Heart in Irish Emigrant Identity. In D. Pezzoli-Olgiati (Hrsg.), Religion in Cultural Imaginary (S. 230–253). Nomos., p. 3 

  8. Sebald, G., & Weyand, J. (2011). Zur Formierung sozialer Gedächtnisse / On the Formation of Social Memory. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 40(3)., p. 174 

  9. Original quote: „Die Bedeutung sozialer Gedächtnisse scheint sogar in dem Maße zuzunehmen, in dem die Selbstverständlichkeit einer Fortsetzung der Vergangenheit in der nahen Zukunft abnimmt. Erst die Absetzung des Neuen vom erinnerten Hergebrachten macht das Neue zu einem Neuen (wie die Einbettung des Neuen in das Hergebrachte es vertraut macht).” 

Notes mentioning this note

Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.