11783 - Towards a dual research framework on memory: Analysing the tension between the ¿invented¿ and the ¿real¿ past

Scholars have used the framework of “memory” in a variety of ways. In my own work on the ‘politics of memory’ in post-authoritarian Brazil I conceive of the construction of memory as a constant struggle between different agents with diverse strategies and goals. I analyse how the past is ‘remobilised’ or ‘reinvented’ in contemporary political struggles (e.g. the Truth Commission crisis). In my paper I critically reflect the relation between memory studies and ‘traditional’ historical research. The memory boom coincides with the advent of postmodernism and the disbelief in the possibility to reconstruct the past “how it really was”. Yet, the question must be raised whether memory studies should substitute the professional reconstruction of events of the past (or the ‘historian’s spadework’, as Serbin put it). If the goal is to prevent violence and human rights crimes from reoccurring, it is necessary to study and comprehend its developments and mechanisms. Therefore, I suggest a dual research framework to analyse ‘memory politics’ – the politicising of the past in the present on the one hand, and its relation to ‘what happened in the past’ on the other hand. It is precisely the tension or mismatch between these two levels which is the most revealing. While memory studies are valuable tools to sharpen the eye for contemporary manipulations and (re-)inventions of the past (Hobsbawm), I argue that they can only be fully understood, if past mechanisms of violence and human rights violations are being studied and made intelligible as well.

Keywords: remembering, historical methods, relativism, politics of memory, Brazil

Author: Nina, Schneider (..., Germany / Deutschland)


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