It represents one specific form of cultural memory, which makes an essential contribution to national group cohesion. Historically national communities have drawn upon commemorative ceremonies and monuments, myths and rituals, glorified individuals, objects, and events in their own history to produce a common narrative.
According to Lorraine Ryan, national memory is based on the public's reception of national historic narratives and the ability of people to affirm the legitimacy of these narratives.
Conflicting versions, dynamicity, manipulation and subjectivity
National memory typically consists of a shared interpretation of a nation's past. Such interpretations can vary and sometimes compete. They can get challenged and augmented by a range of interest groups, fighting to have their histories acknowledged, documented and commemorated and reshape national stories. Often national memory is adjusted to offer a politicized vision of the past to make a political position appear consistent with national identity. Furthermore, it profoundly affects how historical facts are perceived and recorded and may circumvent or appropriate facts. A repertoire of discursive strategies functions to emotionalize national narrative and nationalize personal pasts.
Marketing of memory by the culture industry and its instrumentalisation for political purposes can both be seen as serious threats to the objective understanding of a nation's past.
Role of the media
Pierre Nora argues that a "democratisation of history" allows for emancipatory versions of the past to surface:
National memory cannot come into being until the historical framework of the nation has been shattered. It reflects the abandonment of the traditional channels and modes of transmission of the past and the desacralisation of such primary sites of initiation as the school, the family, the museum, and the monument: what was once the responsibility of these institutions has now flowed over into the public domain and been taken over by the media and tourist industry
However, national history being passed on by the culture industry, such as by historical films, can be seen as serious threats to the objective understanding of a nation's past.
Nations' memories can be shared across nations via media such as the Internet.
Effects and functions
National memory can be a force of cohesion as well as division and conflict. It can foster constructive national reforms, international communities and agreements, dialogue as well as deepen problematic courses and rhetoric.
Identity crisis can occur due to bad memories (such as national crimes) or the absence of a belief in a shared past.
Often new developments, processes, problems and events are made sense of and contextualized by drawing from national memory.
Critical national memory
It has been proposed that the unthinkable ought not to be unmasked but that instead what made it thinkable should be reconstructed and that the difficulty of discussing the non-places or the bad places of national memory make it necessary to include forgetfulness and amnesia in the concept.
National memory may lead to questioning the nation as it is as well as its identity and imply a societal negotiation of what the country wishes to be as a nation. To understand the links between memory, forgetfulness, identity and the imaginary construction of the nation analysis of the discourse in the places of memory is fundamental as in all writings of national history an image of the nation is being restructured.
- Every Second Counts (video contest)
- Holocaust Memorial Days
- National heritage site
- Cultural heritage
- Memory space (social science)
- National memorial
- National monument
- Memory work
- External memory (psychology)
- Identity formation
- Historical negationism
- Media manipulation
- Genocide denial
- National History Museum
- National archives
- National day
- Public opinion
- Reconstructive memory
- Social amnesia
- Collective trauma
- Collective behavior
- Les Lieux de Mémoire
- War memorial
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- Les Lieux de Mémoire
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