Theories of Social Remembering

Theories of Social Remembering

Theories of Social Remembering

Theories of Social Remembering


brilliant; an impressive tour de force Network

• Why does collective memory matter?

• How is social memory generated, maintained and reproduced?

• How do we explain changes in the content and role of collective memory?

Through a synthesis of old and new theories of social remembering, this book provides the first comprehensive overview of the sociology of memory. This rapidly expanding field explores how representations of the past are generated, maintained and reproduced through texts, images, sites, rituals and experiences. The main aim of the book is to show to what extent the investigation of memory challenges sociological understandings of the formation of social identities and conflicts. It illustrates the new status of memory in contemporary societies by examining the complex relationships between memory and commemoration, memory and identity, memory and trauma, and memory and justice.

The book consists of six chapters, with the first three devoted to conceptualising the process of remembering by analyzing memory's function, status and history, as well as by locating the study of memory in a broader field of social science. The second part of the book directly explores and discusses theories and studies of social remembering. After a short conclusion, which argues that study of collective memory is an important part of any examination of contemporary society, the glossary offers a concise and up to date overview of the development of relevant theoretical concepts. The result is an essential text for undergraduate courses in social theory, the sociology of memory and a wider audience in cultural studies, history and politics.


This book explores the workings of collective memory by presenting theories and research in this rapidly expanding field. As a result of many recent studies investigating how social memory is generated, maintained and reproduced through texts, images, sites and experiences, the concept of collective memory has become one of the more important topics addressed in today's social science. Although the conceptualization of the notion of memory varies, the increased number of approaches across all disciplines recognizes the importance of social frameworks and contexts in the process of remembering. This recent revival of interest in the concept of collective memory in inter- and cross-disciplinary studies of remembering presents sociology with a unique opportunity. In order to take full advantage of this, we must start with an overview of theories of social remembering. Moreover, if the role of sociology is to investigate the different ways in which humans give meaning to the world (Trigg 2001: 42), and if memory is crucial to our ability to make sense of our present circumstances, researching collective memory should be one of its most important tasks. The aim of this book, therefore, is to examine the contribution of sociological theories to our understanding of the workings of memory, and to evaluate to what extent such studies have challenged our understanding of various forms of collective memory and their role in different societies.

The process of remembering has always fascinated people because it is so fundamental to our ability to conceive the world. Memory, because it 'functions in every act of perception, in every act of intellection, in every act of language' (Terdiman 1993: 9), is the essential condition of our cognition and reflexive judgement. It is closely connected with emotions because emotions are in part about the past and because memory evokes emotions. Memory is also a highly important element in the account of what it is to be a person, as it is the central medium through which identities are constituted: 'A really . . .

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