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Introduction Embodying Memory in Spain

  • Alison Ribeiro de Menezes

Abstract

Memory has become a central focus of much academic work in the humanities today, arguably replacing the concentration on ideology that characterized the mid-twentieth century. As fallout from the exhaustion of postmodernism’s querying of the grand narratives of History and Society, memory constitutes a new epistemological approach to the relationship between the individual and society, and to our perceptions of the relations between the past, the present, and the future. Memory is not simply individual; it is also social and collective, and it has manifold cultural dimensions that are embedded in our sense of shared identities. Memories—personal, collective, and cultural—are thus part of how we see ourselves and others, and these intersections have a currency beyond the academic sphere, in national and transnational debates concerning the burden of traumatic and unmastered pasts. Memory is also increasingly a global phenomenon, widely theorized and examined both in national and transnational contexts. As a cypher for unspeakable horror, the Holocaust is the fundamental point of reference; more recently, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has come to be taken as a worldwide benchmark for transitional justice processes, as have, to a lesser extent, prosecutions with regard to human-rights crimes in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.

Keywords

Memory Study Peace Process Cultural Memory Traumatic Past Grand Narrative 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity ( Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000 ), chap. 2, on individualism; seeGoogle Scholar
  2. Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997 ), on the intergenerational transmission of trauma.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Rafael F. Narvaez, “Embodiment, Collective Memory and Time,” Body and Society 12, no. 3 (2006): 51–73, (here 51). My approach is distinguishable from more specifically feminist theories of embodiment; from performance practice and notions of repertoire, although these might usefully be used to inform future historical and ethnographic explorations of memory’s secretion in individual and concealed collective acts and rituals during, for instance, the Franco era; and from “hard” psychological and philosophical perspectives on embodied cognition, except in so far as affect is broached in chapter 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    In Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 5, Thomas Lemke defines biopolitics as “the emergence of a specific political knowledge and new disciplines such as statistics, demography, epidemiology, and biology. These disciplines make it possible to analyse processes of life on the level of populations and to ‘govern’ individuals and collectives by practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, disciplining, therapeutics, and optimization.” Aspects of a historical biopolitics do emerge as relevant to my discussion, and a nuanced exploration of Agamben’s notion of “bare life” might well prove fruitful for navigating specific historiographical discussions regarding violence and atrocities by both sides during the Civil War, and by the Franco Regime in the immediate postwar period. Nevertheless, I have not made a biopolitical perspective the structuring principle of this volume, as my aim is to trace the contours of Spain’s new debates about the past within the framework of shifting horizons of collective and cultural memory, and to focus on the conjunction of new discourses of individual rights and a concern with embodied rather than emplaced memory. Indeed, the negativity of Foucault’s perspective on embodiment in Discipline and Punish and the lack of agency implicit in Agamben’s “homo sacer” are at odds with my stress in this book on agency, resilience, and active efforts toward the overcoming of trauma. See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan ( London: Penguin, 1991 );Google Scholar
  5. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998 ). Excellent discussions of nationalist and Francoist repression from a biopolitical perspective that also acknowledges the broader early twentieth-centur y European medical context can be found inGoogle Scholar
  6. Michael Richards’s “Morality and Biology in the Spanish Civil War: Psychiatrists, Revolution, and Women Prisoners in Málaga,” Contemporary European History 10, no. 3 (2001): 395–421; “Spanish Psychiatry c. 1900–1945: Constitutional Theory, Eugenics, and the Nation,” Bulletin of Spanish Studies 81, no. 6 (2004): 824–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 4.
    Nelly Richard, The Insubordination of Signs: Political Change, Cultural Transformation and Poetics of the Crisis, trans. Alice A. Nelson and Siliva R. Tandeciarz ( Durham: Duke University Press, 2004 ), 10. Rafael Gil’s 1980 film, Y al tercer año recusitó, employs a comic mode to imagine the resurrection of dictator Franco, who hitchhikes from the Valle de los Caídos just one year before the attempted coup without causing much disruption to society.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 5.
    Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, ed., trans., and intro. Lewis A. Coser ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992 );Google Scholar
  9. Jan Assmann, “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity,” New German Critique 65 (1995): 125–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 8.
    The Civil War poetry of Rafael Alberti, César Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, and Miguel Hernández is well known, and the poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca is an iconic victim of the war. See also the work of a later generation of poets, such as José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Félix Grande, Antonio Gamoneda, and José Hierro. Marina Llorente notes that until now few critics have considered how poets have addressed the postmillennium Spanish memory boom. She discusses two younger poets, Isabel Pérez Montalbán and David González, both of whom were born in 1964 and who thus belong roughtly to the generation of many of the writers and directors discussed in this book; see “La memoria histórica en la poesía de Isabel Pérez Montalbán and David González,” Hispanic Review 81, no. 2 (2013): 181–200. Of dramatists closely concerned with memory under and after the Regime, Antonio Buero Vallejo is one of the most significant and extensively studied. More recently Juan Mayorga’s Himmelweg (2004) raises intriguing parallels between Spain and Germany, and Laila Ripoll has adaptated Armengou and Belis’s Los niños perdidos (2005). María delgado is currently completing a study of memory and the Spanish stage; see also Helena Buffery, “Effigies of Return in Spanish Republican Exile Theatre,” in her edited volume, Stages of Exile ( Bern: Peter Lang, 2011 ), 229–47; Lourdes Orozco, “Performing the Spanish Civil War on the Catalan Stage: Homage to Catalonia (2004),” in Guerra y m emoria en la España contemporánea/War and Memory in Contemporary Spain, ed. Alison Ribeiro de Menezes, Roberta Ann Quance, and Anne L. Walsh ( Madrid: Verbum, 2009 ), 273–85;Google Scholar
  11. Catherine O’Leary, “Memory and Restoration: Jerónimo López Mozo’s El arquitecto y el relojero,” in Legacies of War and Dictatorship in Contemporary Portugal and Spain, ed. Alison Ribeiro de Menezes and Catherine O’Leary (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011 ), 149–67.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Lesley Lelourec and Gráinne O’Keefe-Vigneron, eds., Ireland and Victims: Confronting the Past, Forging the Future ( Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012 ).Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    John Green, “Decade of Centenaries Must Respect All Factions,” Irish Times December 27, 2012.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Kathleen Stewart, “Nostalgia: A Polemic,” Cultural Anthropology 3 (1988): 227–41 (here 227).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 13.
    Antonio Gómez López-Quiñones, “A Secret Agreement: The Historical Memory Debate and the Limits of Recognition,” Hispanic Issues Online 11 (2102): 88–116. http://hispanicissues.umn.edu/assets/doc/05_GOMEZ.pdf.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    This is explored from an ethnographic perspective by Layla Renshaw, Exhuming Loss: Memory, Materiality and Mass Graves of the Spanish Civil War ( Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2011 ).Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009 ).Google Scholar

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© Alison Ribeiro de Menezes 2014

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  • Alison Ribeiro de Menezes

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