The Touch of the Past: The Pedagogical Significance of a Transactional Sphere of Public Memory

  • Roger I. Simon


What might it mean to live our lives as if the lives of others truly mattered? One aspect of such a prospect would be our ability to take the stories of others seriously, as not only evocations of responsibility but also as matters of “counsel.”Walter Benjamin referred to counsel as, “less an answer to a question than a proposal concerning the continuation of a story which is just unfolding” (1969, 86). For Benjamin, in order to seek and receive counsel, one would first have to be able to tell this unfolding story. On such terms, for the lives of others to truly matter—beyond what they demand in the way of an immediate practical solidarity—they must be encountered as counsel, stories that actually might shift our own unfolding stories, particularly in ways that might be unanticipated and not easily accepted. In what way then might the stories such as those of Betsy Anderson, Mary Yassie, and Charlie Kithithee be encountered as counsel? In order to explore the possible terms of such an encounter, I will address here the importance of a sphere of public memory as a transactional space, not for the consolidation of national memory, but for mobilizing practices of remembrance-learning (Eppert, 1999) in which one’s stories might be shifted by the stories of others.


Aboriginal People Transactive Memorial National Memory Historical Memory Historical Consciousness 
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© Roger I. Simon 2005

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  • Roger I. Simon

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