Genealogy and Archaeology: Analyzing Generational Positioning in Historical Narratives

By Lenz, Claudia | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Genealogy and Archaeology: Analyzing Generational Positioning in Historical Narratives


Lenz, Claudia, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

The field of Memory Studies in respect to the Second World War and the Holocaust comprises research on how the past is constructed, transmitted and used in public as well as in personal interpretations, narratives and practices. With increasing distance from the historic events, the question whether and in which way these historic events can have a meaning for younger generations becomes increasingly significant. This draws attention to the transmission of individual/biographical memory as intergenerational transfer on the one hand, and to the ways in which individual ways of making sense of the past are informed by generational self-positioning.

In this article, I will focus on this topic of generational self-positioning and its impact on the ways in which individuals make sense of the past. I will introduce two types of generational positions which correspond with different modes of generating, or constructing memory and individual historical accounts. Both of them have different impact on the possibilities of attaching meaning to events from the past and they offer different possibilities for identification. Drawing on Michel Foucault's notion of genealogy and archaeology, I suggest to coin these modes of generational self- positioning genealogical and archaeological historical consciousness. By this, an analytical tool making the functioning and effects of generational positioning "legible" is introduced.

First of all let us discuss a few premises put forward by the theory of historical consciousness that are relevant to the question of generation-specific interpretations of the past and manners of sense-making, as well as to the significance of references to the past for the establishment of generational identities and affiliations:

GENERATIONS AND HISTORICAL CONSCIOUSNESS

References to the past, as a dimension of temporality, represent a crucial factor in the development of subjectivity as well the formation of identities, i.e., both individual and collective self-assurance and self-understanding.

Memories, understood as "imagined past," always represent the result of a whole series of mental operations: What is demanded is the selection and configuration of "elements of past" in the light of present-time issues and expectations for the future. Arranged in this way in representational systems and narratives, the past can become an object and point of reference of inter-subjective communication. It is only through this process that past events become a "past" or even "history" that is invested with sense and meaning. (See Rtisen 1994; Mulle/Rusen, 1997; Straub, 1998).

Since the present from which one refers to the past is in continuous flux, with time, different other events and periods or eras move into the focus of historical consciousness which can derive varying profit from them.

Three things are thus clear:

1) For the younger members of a society, or of any other social group for that matter, a partly different set of points of reference to the past becomes relevant in terms of present-time orientation than for the older ones.

2) This is of course in no small measure also a result of the different time-specific "option structures," i.e., narratives circulating in the media, as well as references to the past updated through commemorative events.

3) Common points of reference in the past can, by contrast, be used by members of various generations in a totally different, even contradictory way for their respective identity and orientation needs. (See Lenz, 2009).

Nevertheless, transmitted memories possibly represent the most powerful "emotional putty" and a crucial functional element of generational relationships. In traditional societies it was the task of the older generations to pass on both the practical knowledge of everyday life as well as the prevailing value and norm systems to the younger generation, which was sufficient to secure the social survival and existence of the descendents.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Genealogy and Archaeology: Analyzing Generational Positioning in Historical Narratives
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.