COLLECTIVE MEMORY



Collective memory is a dynamic topic that can be discussed through a number of disciplines. In my paper I will attempt to dissect this subject of collective memory as clear and consisely as possible through the exploration of narratives, novels, music, poetry and history.
Collective memory is defined as the breadth of procedural knowledge the community acquires through experience when interacting with each other and the world. Research in collective memory is a relatively new area capturing the interest of scholars in social psychology, memory, sociology, and anthropology -- that our own memories are not entirely personal. The core idea is that collective attitudes and behaviors are created and shared through common experiences and communication among a group of people. Sometimes we are confronted with memory criticism.
What is meant by memory criticism is simply close readings that people do, people coming from a number of different disciplines, when we look at sites of remembrance. This could be texts, movies, monuments, ceremonies, rituals, cemeteries, anything which marks memory. What is meant by “we”, is a little more complicated. We all come from different intellectual traditions, we use different analytical tools, maybe we should know what we are doing and why, when we critically approach how the past is dealt with. So there is that agenda. But the more I think about it, the more I really want to speak about the collective “we”, occasionally, or often, attending to the past, or to remembrance.
In an ad in Harpers magazine, for Zeiss binoculars (that\'s a German company), their quality was attested to by the fact that these binoculars were regularly used by the border guards at the Wall in Berlin and look at how successfully they caught so many people. Now, it is very difficult to define what got broken here. But it\'s a similar idea, I think, to what is behind people\'s opposition to Disney doing exhibits about slavery in theme parks. A place where dreams come true, has the audacity to display Pirates of the Carribean. It represents an important but nasty and wicked era in history, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Solutions are tried in various types of mixtures of forgiving and forgetting and remembering and recording and just closing chapters. Disney attempted to be politically correct by excluding the black presence in this exhibit. Which I feel is a mockery and misrepresentation of history. We need sacred memory--that somehow it\'s very important that we have it. So the common lay person can see this insult committed by Disney. One needs to acknowledge that for some people, memory is sacred and they will kill in the name of memory and they will do all kinds of things. Whereas for other people, it holds almost no importance. So the argument is simply to recognize that memory will matter differently to different people, but not to ignore the fact that it can have a lot of power, motivating action. Culturally narratives help to organize a set of differing historical experiences and render those experiences more broadly noticed. That is, the narrative itself becomes a vehicle for exchanging ideas, feelings and attitudes about differing historical experiences across and within existing generations. Among the distinguishing features of collective or cultural memory are its construction by a national or social group, its social quality, its indirect and sometimes contradictory to official histories, and its interest in appropriating the past into a contemporary dynamic of power, identity formation or determination of cultural norms. Its documents can be as diverse as acts of commemoration and monuments, memoirs, novels and films, works of art, jokes, children\'s textbooks, written or filmed testimony relating to a particular cultural event or era. In this paper I will explore cultural memory as it informs narratives, novels, and poetry.
For example, Equiano’s Interesting Narrative’s, Thought and Sentiments of the Evils of Slavery by Ottobah Cugoano, and the film Amistad are works that help catalyzed the abolition of slavery. Equiano (Guatavas Vassa) and Ottobah Cugoano (John Stewart) were ex-slaves who gained their freedom and were educated enough to articulate their collective memory of the middle passage and evils of slavery. Cugoano and Equiano were among the ranks and files of the British anti-slavery movement. Their contributions were in terms propaganda as well as the moral