Theory after Memory

  • Richard Crownshaw
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


That memories can be shared is fundamental to the formation of cultural memory. Cultural memory is inherently collective. What, though, does sharing really entail? What happens to memory when it is collectivised? Can the collective really claim the memories of the individual? There has been of late a constellation of work around (or at least indebted to) the theories of Maurice Halbwachs that strives to overcome the binary thinking that opposes individual to collective memory. For Halbwachs the ‘past is not preserved but is reconstructed on the basis of the present’ (1992, p. 40). Memory reconstructs the past via collective frameworks, which are not the collection of individual memories — and so collective after the fact — but the instruments by which images of the past are generated in line with the ‘predominant thoughts’ of the society in each epoch (Halbwachs, 1992, p. 40). The individual remembers in the group, but the group also remembers in the individual (Halbwachs, 1992, p. 40). So, ‘no memory is possible outside frameworks used by people living in society to determine and retrieve their recollections’ (Halbwachs, 1992, p. 43). The coherence or at least contiguity of the individuals’ memories is informed by the fact that they are part of the totality of the group’s thoughts (Halbwachs, 1992, p. 52).


Traumatic Event Collective Memory Traumatic Memory Memory Study Sovereign Power 
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  1. 3.
    Hirsch cites L. MacCann and L. A. Pearlman (1990) ‘Vicarious Traumatisation: A Framework for Understanding the Psychological Effects of Working with Victims’, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3.1, 131–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Richard Crownshaw 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Crownshaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of English and Comparative Literature, GoldsmithsUniversity of LondonUK

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