There he studied philosophy with Henri Bergson , who had a big influence on his thought. Initially, when first meeting Durkheim, Halbwachs was looking for advice on how to move from his previous focus on Philosophy to Sociology. Halbwachs also began to focus on scientific objectivism rather than his Bergsonian Individualism. In he returned to Germany to study Marxism and economics in Berlin. He also had a son, Pierre Halbwachs, who influenced Deleuze in the s.
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The social group may be a small, cohesive unit like a family whose members are all known. Regardless of the size and complexity of the social group, the group needs to construct and maintain an identity that unites its members.
Collective memory discourse began with the work of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim stated that collective thought required individuals to physically join together to create a common experience that was shared by the group. Since the collective effervescence experience required the physical gathering of the community, it was important for groups to devise methods of extending that unity when the group disbanded. He believed that totems, natural items that have been deemed sacred, held immense power and suggested that they provided individuals with a device to individually remember the unity of the effervescent group experience.
Although Durkheim claimed that the collective effervescence provided the transmittal of the past to the present, his emphasis on collective thought was based upon individual memory and the celebrations and totems that triggered those memories. Spontaneous memorial activities erupted throughout the United States. People gathered throughout the day and night, held candlelight vigils and marked the area with flowers, candles, posters, chalk drawings, and flags.
Numerous participants discussed the sense of community that existed among the diverse individuals. Across the country, individuals left spontaneous groups and needed a totemic object to maintain the sense of solidarity and unity. Halbwachs suggested that all individual memory was constructed within social structures and institutions.
He claimed that individual private memory is understood only through a group context; these groups may include families, organizations, and nation-states.
Halbwachs argued that the only individual memories that are not constructed through the group context are images from dreams. He believed that dreams are different from virtually every other human thought because they lack structure and organization. Halbwachs stated that every collective memory depends upon specific groups that are delineated by space and time; the group constructs the memory and the individuals do the work of remembering.
Halbwachs further developed the Durkheimian concept of maintenance of effervescence during periods of group isolation and social calm. Durkheim stated that totems provided a continual reminder of effervescence to members of the group. Halbwachs expanded the idea of totems to include commemorative events that serve as reminders of a collective memory. Halbwachs suggested commemorative events were important to reinforce autobiographical memories that he believed faded with time without periodic memory reinforcement.
The annual anniversary commemorations of September 11th, gatherings of the survivors, bereaved and other people who did not directly experience the attacks, provide continued memory reinforcement with the roll call of the dead, bagpipes, recitations and floral offerings. Finally, Halbwachs departs from a Durkheimian approach by adopting an instrumental presentist approach to collective memory. A presentist approach states that social constructions of memory are influenced by the needs of the present.
Halbwachs stated that collective memory is shaped by present issues and understandings. Groups select different memories to explain current issues and concerns. In order to explain the present, leaders of a group reconstruct a past using rationalization to choose which events are remembered, those that are eliminated, and rearrange events to conform to the social narrative.
Nora further claimed that groups select certain dates and people to commemorate, deliberately eliminate others from representation collective amnesia , and invent traditions to support the collective memory.
He noted that the representations of collective memory are those that have been selected by those in power; collective memory is both a tool and an object of power. Nora claimed that as modernity emerged, traditions lost social meaning and significance. Hobsbawm suggests that the social changes that occurred as a result of modernity destroyed customs and required the establishment and modification of new traditions for the purpose of establishing authority, social control and solidarity.
These invented traditions imprint certain values, beliefs and norms that suggest a continuity of a nonexistent past and create social identity and the rituals and symbols are used to unite and energize modern society. David Lowenthal joins the chorus of instrumental presentists. He suggests that national histories are constructed to address present interests and cites the development and commodification of a heritage and nostalgia industry in the British heritage sites as examples of this social construction.
Foucault also suggested that the postmodern desacralization of tradition has created a social void that has been filled with commemorative activity that is used as a tool of those in political power.
John Bodnar carries instrumental presentism even farther than Halbwachs. Bodnar states that public memory is not an accurate representation of the past, but is focused upon the needs of both the present and the anticipated future.
Bodnar differentiates between vernacular and official representation. Vernacular memories originate from the people and are used to explain those events that most immediately impact the masses. Official memory is created for a purpose of stabilization of the status quo.
The sanctification of the official memory suggests that a memory has been selected by some group that has obtained the power to represent and interpret these memories. Over the past twenty years, memory studies have been used to explore the relationship between memory and trauma.
Kenneth Foote , a cultural geographer, has examined how physical space is impacted by tragic and violent American events. Sites of violent tragedy are sanctified when society transforms a previously profane site to sacred status. A sanctified site is a public place that is reserved for the memory of a specific person or group of people; there is typically a durable marker that has been officially ordained during some form of dedication ceremony.
These locations are geographically separated and are maintained for long periods of time. Sites of designation are marked as special sites, but do not have a connotation of consecrated space. Obliteration, usually reserved for violent tragedies that induce community shame, removes the sites from public use; the buildings and landmarks associated with the site are eliminated and there is no official mention or marker identifying the site.
There are obvious examples of sanctification, dedication, and rectification at the sites of the bombing of Pan Am , the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. References: Anderson, Benedict. New York: Verso Bodnar, John. Remaking America. Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. New York: The Free Press. Foote, Kenneth. Austin: University of Texas Press. Foucault, M. DF Bouchard, S. Halbwachs, Maurice . On Collective Memory, ed.
Lewis Coser. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger. Invention of Tradition.
New York: Cambridge University Press. Lowenthal, David. Nora, Pierre, Share this:.
The social group may be a small, cohesive unit like a family whose members are all known. Regardless of the size and complexity of the social group, the group needs to construct and maintain an identity that unites its members. Collective memory discourse began with the work of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim stated that collective thought required individuals to physically join together to create a common experience that was shared by the group.
La Mémoire collective