Together in Time: Historical Injustice, Collective Memory, and the Boundaries of Membership
MetadataShow full item record
How, if at all, should we remember the histories of injustice and atrocity that haunt most modern states? Since World War II, it has become commonplace to suggest that properly responding to injustices requires societies to remember them, and to remember the experiences of those they touched. But what specific value might memory in this sense constitute in or contribute to the lives and societies of those coping with troubled history? This question raises two issues. The first is ontological: what does it mean to say that a society should remember in the first place? Is it to say that the individuals who make up society should each privately remember, or is to say that the society as a whole should somehow create or maintain a collective memory that is not reducible to the sum of individual cognitive processes? The second issue is normative: what exactly can memory so conceived do to ameliorate the undesirable legacies that historical injustices leaves on the world? How might remembering help us to move forward, or help us to lessen the pains we can’t leave behind? This study takes on both of these issues. On the first, I suggest that when we speak of societies remembering, we’re speaking of irreducibly social processes, by which individual memories are translated into publicly available traces of the past, which can then inform recollection by others, perhaps at some distance from the original event. On the second, I suggest that this sort of remembering can be valuable in the wake of injustice as a way of combating the legacies of persistent harm and exclusion that sometimes follow victims long after an injustice is over, and challenge their abilities to stand, participate, and identify as full members of the political community. Memory in this sense is crucial for re-negotiating the boundaries of membership, and for rebuilding a more inclusive public world.