On Collective Memory Analysis

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Introduction

‘How do we recollect our past through our mental pictures of the present?’ This is a question that both Halbwachs and Assmann try to uncover in their works On Collective Memory (1992) and Collective Memory and Cultural Identity (1995).
Halbwachs’ main thesis is that the memory of people can only function if it occurs in a collective context. He tries to uncover this by questioning how the past is represented not only in the individual’s consciousness but also in the collective consciousness and the mechanisms that it entails. From this he introduces the concept of collective memory which is used to illustrate the individual’s part in forming the past. Additionally, Halbwachs (1992) states that this is executed by the collective
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Halbwachs (1992) points out that the collective memory “manifests itself in the traditions of the family, of religious groups, and of social classes” (p. 40). He analysed this through stating two problems which he then identifies as being one. First, by sharing the perspective of the group and second, by the group manifesting itself in the memories of the individual. This can be seen in agreement with Assmann’s (1995) assessment of the individual memory composition as being in relation to a group and socially mediated. From here it should be noted that Assmann’s concept of communicative memory corresponds to, according to Assmann, Halbwachs’ collective memory as it relates to oral history. Additionally, Assmann agrees that the individual memory is comprised of others, in this case groups that share common aspects of their past and collective memories.
According to Halbwachs, the present is recrudescing to the past. This is illustrated through an example of the visitation of childhood memories. Halbwachs (1992) points out
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There are a few characteristics that are present in both Assmann’s and Halbwachs’ concept on memory, but Assmann elaborates further on Halbwachs point. This for instance can be seen when he discusses the characteristics involving reflexivity. Halbwachs’ collective memory includes reflexivity, in accordance with Assmann’s definitions of it, as Halbwachs’ (1992) states “one can escape from a society only by opposing to it another society” (p. 49). Nonetheless, Assmann (1995) elaborates on this by branching and distinguishing it further as he includes practice-reflexive, self-reflexive and reflexive of its own image.
It can be noted from this that Assmann’s cultural memory differs from culture to culture as a collective as each culture can base its self-image on different aspects of the past. However, Halbwachs distinguishes more the certain roles within society engrossed by the “nostalgia for the past” (Halbwachs, 1992 [1952], p.

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