Recollections of France: Memories, Identities and Heritage in Contemporary France

Recollections of France: Memories, Identities and Heritage in Contemporary France

Recollections of France: Memories, Identities and Heritage in Contemporary France

Recollections of France: Memories, Identities and Heritage in Contemporary France

Synopsis

Since the 1980s, France has experienced a vigorous revival of interest in its past and cultural heritage. This has been expressed as part of a movement of remembering through museums and festivals as well as via elaborate commemorations, most notably those held to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Revolution in 1989 and can be interpreted as part of a re-examinaton of what it means to be French in the context of ongoing Europeanization. This study brings together scholars from multidisciplinary backgrounds and engages them in debate with professionals from France, who are working in the fields of museology, heritage and cultural production. Addressing subjects such as war and memory, gastronomy and regional identity, maritime culture and urban societies, they throw fresh light on the process by which France has been conceptualized and packaged as a cultural object.

Excerpt

Memories, identities and heritage have become the new holy trinity for contemporary academic research. In France, this fascination is borne out by a wide variety of sacred texts, be they Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de mémoire (1984–1993) or the more recent Patrimoine et passions identitaires, edited by Jacques Le Goff in 1998.

The purpose of the present volume is to explore the relationship between this surge in academic interest and a demonstrable shift in public consciousness and public passions; the contributors exemplify the many and varied forms that these passions take. Its originality resides in the fact that it brings together university scholars and French professionals working in sectors where this shift is particularly in evidence. The combination of a theoretical gaze and practical experience affords a unique insight into France as a cultural construct, highlighting the role played by memory, identity and heritage as manifestations of change at every level of French society.

Change has indeed been profound and has had far reaching consequences. The shift from a rural to an urban society has now been more or less completed in France: the most recent census of 1999 indicates that nearly 80 per cent of the population have adopted an urban way of life. Social problems such as the growth in inequalities and lack of opportunities are therefore increasingly delineated within an urban framework, except when beleaguered French farmers, faced with insurmountable financial problems, make their desperate voice heard. Following the convergence of urban and rural societies, a large consumption of ruralité on the

1. For details of these and other texts mentioned in this introduction, see the general bibliography at the end of this volume.

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