The Importance Of Memory Studies

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Memory studies is the umbrella term for the theoretical approaches that will be discussed in this chapter. It is a fairly new field of studies, due to its quite recent emergence during the 1980s “as an urgent topic of debate in the humanities” (Craps, Rothberg 517). In its beginning, it was mostly concerned with the memories of individuals, or memories of groups or communities like families, cities, countries and ethnicities. Hence, “[e]arly work in memory studies focused on the way memories are shared within particular communities and constitute or reinforce group identity” (517). According to Richard Terdiman “memory is the past made present” and “is a contemporary phenomenon, […] that, while concerned with the past, happens in the present;…show more content…
However, Craps and Rothberg advocate the importance of making a connection between the Holocaust and other historical events like slavery and colonialism, since they regard these topics as interconnected (518). The scholars further argue that claims for the suffering of one victim group being unique denies “the capacity for, or the effectiveness of, transcultural empathy” (518). Therefore, they opine that it is important not to insist “on the distinctiveness and difference of one’s own history”, since this behaviour “can indicate a kind of blindness, a refusal to recognize the larger historical processes of which that history is a part” (518). As a result, Rothberg has introduced the term multidirectional memory in the process of studying “the significance of Holocaust memories in the age of decolonization” (Erll…show more content…
Accordingly, remembrance of the Holocaust has helped to enable remembrance of other historic events. Nevertheless, Rothberg also mentions the zero-sum game, which revolves around the claim that the history of one group, e.g. the Holocaust, blocks out the history of other groups; a logic that he calls competitive memory (Rothberg “Rethinking” 211). Since Rothberg negates the idea of competitive memory, he proposes to think of it as “multidirectional memory that redescribes the public sphere as a field of contestation where memories interact productively and in unexpected ways” (213). Accordingly, he further regards collective memory not as competitive, but “as subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing; as productive and not privative” (Multidirectional Memory 3). Multidirectional memory travels; it moves back-and-forth in unexpected ways and connects collective memories from different groups that seemingly do not fit together, but ultimately do. As an example, Rothberg mentions “the experience of Jewish difference within modern Europe – and the frequently violent reaction Jews confronted”, since it “foreshadows many of
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