When memories take a stand: cultural memory and mediations
Deadline for contributions: 01/01/2018-15/06/2018
Semioticians at Tartu School Juri Lotman and Boris Uspensky defined culture as the non-hereditary memory of the community, namely, a memory that is not contained within genes, but within a symbolic system made out of prescriptions and contradictions, restrictions and conflict. This is what Aleida Assmann, among others, has called cultural memory. This memory is disputed through social practices that we can referred to as mediations: processes of cultural circulation that occur between the institutionalized productions of meaning and the appropriations resulting from the use that the commons make of it.
If political uses of memory tend to select, stabilize and, ultimately, neutralize the past in an intentional and biased way (a common past that must be preserved and commemorated; a past to be proud of and to take to one’s heart), the memories that take a stand (Didi-Huberman, 2008) are set into motion and evolve from the impact of repressed affects (Freud, Benjamin, Warburg), unveiling “a past that is still alive, plural and off beat; activating it in order to destabilize a certain autism of the present” (Martín Barbero, 2011). When the rediscovery of the trauma and the coming into being of the awareness about the historic wounds (which is to say of the shift from a narrative of the winner to a narrative of the scars, from the place of heroism to the place of the victim’s suffering) do not find their recognition in the institutional figures, icons and symbols (whether it is due to censorship, lack of political interest or ignorance), they end up resulting in the suppuration of those wounds, which eventually find visibility in the popular culture that’s reproduced through mass means or through mass means which are circumscribed to the popular (for we mustn’t forget that such mediations are subjected to a two-way movement).
Where political uses of memory take sides and defend a common memory (a single memory, cliché-memory, derived from “common sense” and closed, inasmuch as it represents the authorized and canonical version of it), the memories that take a stand survive disseminated and are built through interconnections, through share points which are nevertheless unique, as an infinite amalgamation of monuments, signs, untraceable tracks, victories and defeats (Delgado, 2008). The power of these memories is not what they have become, but rather what they are to become. These memories do not ambition power, though they challenge power through the distortion of the temporal order fixed by the politics of memory and its institutional derivations.
Memory has today become a controversial and contradictory realm, not so much threaten by suppression or censorship but by the overabundance of information (Todorov), as well as by the so-called “empire of the instantaneous” (Reyes Mate), to which a narrative industry –turned factory of the present that rapidly loses its consciousness of the past– is constantly subdued. In an age marked by generalized amnesia and by a lack of historical consciousness, this feeling of rupture between past and present finds a counter-point in the nostalgic enthusiasm towards an over-represented past in the so-called “commemoration era”: the proliferation of memorial museums and of cities as museums, the touristification of memory places, the fascination towards retro and vintage design, the renewed appreciation of flea markets, the rise of historical novels and TV series. While media policies about memory help articulate a “common memory”, which is usually the representation of the national memory, subjected to chauvinistic appropriation, commercialization and fetishism, we cannot ignore that the past is always up for debate. Memories do not belong to a single time. They imply a confrontation sometimes dormant, a tense coexistence of disparate times. Thus, we better think of memory as a palimpsest and a collage, not as a linear narrative.
As harvesters who bend down to collect what’s left after the crop of memory, in this issue of the IC Journal we invite researchers to explore the ways in which a community relates to its past through mediations taking place, often suddenly and unexpectedly, through all sorts of social mechanisms (both material and immaterial) that belong to the realm of social imaginaries and perform a symbolic role within processes of remembrance.
Contributions focusing on how memory can take a stand or on the ways in which mediated discourses on the pasts (including the mechanisms these mediations use, or their sociopolitical effects) will be particularly welcome. Therefore, we are looking for original papers that can contribute to a deeper understanding of the intersections between memory studies, and culture industry and media studies.
Topics of interest include but are not limited to the following:
- The relationship between history, memory and mediation.
- Memory discourse, war, peace and human rights.
- Official memories and counter-hegemonic memories (the memory of the labor movement, memorialists’ proposals from different social movements, or the memory of the Revolution).
- Memory policies and communication and media regulations (communication policies of the past), as they both are the framework in which the dialogue about memory will be addressed. We would like to put the accent on the need to reorganize culture industries, as well as the communication policies that may help in this respect, thus broadening the possibilities of minority memory discourses of accessing mainstream communication channels.
- Memories, symbols and mediations: flags and emblems, maps and cartography, biographical texts about heroes, monuments and ruins, text-books, travel guides, graffiti, film, dark tourism, plazas, marginal suburbs, music, rites and commemorative celebrations, comic, photography, contemporary art, science-fiction and digital practice, popular religion, superstition, ghosts and its regression.
- Memory, trauma and commemoration: how to narrate the traumas of the past.
IC Journal is now considering proposals for book reviews to be published at the “Bibliografica” section. Reviewers might send their proposals at e mail address “email@example.com” or to Belén Zurbano (firstname.lastname@example.org) as coordinator of this section.
Assmann, A. (2011). Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Delgado, M. (2008). Lo común y lo colectivo. El espacio público como espacio de y para la comunicación. Madrid: Medialab Prado. Disponible en http://medialab-prado.es/mmedia/0/688/688.pdf
Didi-Huberman, G. (2008) Cuando las imágenes toman posición. Madrid: Antonio Machado
Lotman, Y. y Uspensky, B. (1978). “On the semiotic mechanism of culture”. En New Literary History 9(2): 211–232. Disponible en http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Lotman-SemioticMechanism-1978.pdf
Martín-Barbero, J. (2011). El país que no cabe en el museo de doña Beatriz. Recuperado de: http://www.revistaarcadia.com/impresa/articulo/el-pais-no-cabe-museo-dona-beatriz/25905
Mate, R. (2013). La piedra desechada. Madrid: Trotta.
Todorov, T. (2013). Los abusos de la memoria, Barcelona: Paidós.