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Introduction Remembering Otherwise: Civic Life and the Pedagogical Promise of Historical Memory

  • Roger I. Simon

Abstract

There is a saying attributed to the Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the eighteenthcentury founder of the Hasidic movement, that “forgetting leads to exile; remembering leads to redemption.” Today, few can utter this proverb without equivocation. Elie Weisel has recognized as much, stating that, until he visited Bosnia, he always believed remembrance would lead to redemption, now he was not so sure.1 In Bosnia in the mid-1990s,Weisel witnessed the lethal consequences of practices of remembrance that reproduced forms of enmity in which one’s identity is enhanced by the removal and annihilation of another.Within this prospect of remembrance, hate is engendered by memory and returns recursively to simplify memory. Clearly, redemption will not be realized amid such dynamics of remembrance; this underscores Adorno’s insistence that for the sake of the possible, one must comprehend the impossibility of redemptive thought from the standpoint of an unredeemed world. Yet, given the light shed by the proposition that the antonym of “forgetting” is not “remembering” but the prospect of justice (Yerushalmi, 1989, 117), the irresolvable difficulties of redemptive thought do not release one from the obligations of remembrance. Indeed, these obligations require a reappraisal of the links between civic life, historical memory, and the educative force of various practices of remembrance. At stake in such a reappraisal is a response to the question of the political character of remembrance; more specifically, how and why a social, and often conflictual, practice of remembrance might be central to establishing the conditions necessary for democratic life.

Keywords

Global Memory Public Life Transformative Learning Civic Life Public Time 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Roger I. Simon 2005

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  • Roger I. Simon

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