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Collective Memory — What Is It? Author(s): Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam Source: History and Memory, Vol. 8, No.

1 (Spring - Summer, 1996), pp. 30-50 Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/01/2011 14:31
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Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam Collective Memory - What Is It?

that seems to recur in the There is a fascinating phenomenon in a while there emerges a new social sciences: every once innovative term, like a bright shining star,with some great promise of clearing up old controversies and shedding new light on an all too familiar field of knowledge. Soon enough this new term takes over the whole territory, infiltrating every cultivated lot and new ownership on it. claiming In recent years we encounter this phenomenon quite regularly in the field of history. Today it is almost impossible to read a text in history that does not mention the term "collective memory" or

appearance of these terms isby no means accidental. Itmay reflect influence of both linguistic philosophy and the methodological on intellectual literary criticism on history, more particularly on to enquire this phenomenon, history.We would like to ponder term a which expands the useful working whether this ismerely historian's explanatory capacity, or whether we are rather witness a certain term is forcing itself like ing an act of intrusion whereby an a molten rock into earlier formation, jostling aside older yet still effective working terms, and unavoidably obliterating fine distinctions that have so farwell served historical research. We will in an then consider the function of the term "collective memory" In other words, we hope to be able attempt to clarify its meaning. some to lay the ground for future "map of uses and abuses" of
the term.







To begin with, let us recall how historians used towrite when the term "collective memory" was not so prevalent. Let us take, for 'Yizkor' Book of example, an article by Jonathan Frankel, "The on Second in It the A Note National Myths 1911 Aliyah."1 a to our be with attention because it seemed topic dealing caught that is at the very heart of the discussion on collective memory, yet

have become group's psyche.2 It seems clear that for Frankel "legends" and "myths" constitute the realm of the 4'collective subconscious.all ancient time (Judah Maccabee and Bar-Kokhba) much these had influenced the collective conscious until the year 1914." The author focuses on a controversy within the pioneering Labor movement of the Second Aliyah (wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine." is related to the realm of the "collective conscious." context of each "conscious/' The usage is distinct. the sharp antago nism between Jewish life in exile and the redemptive heroic Jewish struggle in Palestine. first and then with the word combined with the word "subconscious. socialism] could foster only partially and through constant adapta tion. over the publication to young in 1911 of a memorial (yizkor) book that was dedicated not once pioneers who had been killed by Arabs while acting as guards in the Jewish colonies in Palestine. The alterna tive term that is used. the collective subconscious a source of inspiration to the faith and devotion which these imported ideologies [modern nationalism. Now the word "collective" appears twice in Frankers article. while at the same time craving for integration into other elements of the Jewish past.Collective Memory What Is It? in the whole article is the termmentioned. In the second instance he writes: Indeed. in the first instance Frankel writes: Legends and 31 national myths . Frankel shows how new myths of the new Zionist society conflicted with certain elements of Jewish tradition. which appears immediately in the title. 1904-1914). is the old familiar "myth. the images of blood and soil.which so enchant the ." But what if Frankel were to adapt his language to the new jargon and use the term "collective memory"? Where would itfit in his text? Assum ." while the emergence of new "images. as well as the image of the new Palestinian Jew as a direct heir to the warriors of ." emanating perhaps from "imported ideologies.

This tension between tradition and change is handled somewhat differently when taken from a "memoriologist" point of view as is proficiently demonstrated by Pierre Nora: of history. is that there is at least one advantage to the conscious-subconscious dichotomy: it separates the sphere that is dominated by factors "beyond our control" (psychological or mental fixations. our individual memory memory The . On the one hand. nothing more in fact than sifted and sorted historical traces. a memory without a past that ceaselessly reinvents tradition. propelled by change. organize the past. and even a duty to change.e.the source of historical (i. would he substitute "collective memory" for "collective subconscious" only? Or would he give up the distinc tion altogether and use "collective memory" to cover both realms? Of 32 classification of myths and legends as course." and the differentiation here is between "real memory" and historical . our memory. we find an integrated. all-powerful. even though theymight have their hidden roots in the subconscious. exemplified in but also retained as the secret of so-called primitive or archaic societies and and unviolated. history's main concern. inherited notions. The gulf between the two has deepened inmodern times with the growing belief in a right." then. which is how our hopelessly forgetful modern societies. The point we wish tomake here. actualizing. And change is. confronts us with the The "acceleration brutal realization of the difference between real memory . Frankel's to the "subconscious" may be challenged by arguing pertaining that these are already refined products of the conscious. linking the history of its ancestors to the undifferentiated time of heroes. a capacity. origins and myths and on the other hand. traditional or conventional stereotypes) from the one that is susceptible to new ideas and therefore constitutes the playground of the great drama of change.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam ing that he wished to retain his distinction between subconscious and conscious. without becoming involved in the question of which pertains to what.3 key word in the above passage is of course "memory. after all. dictatorial memory commanding. spontaneously unself-conscious.

Historians' memory is a human faculty. Memory... memory is by nature multiple and yet specific. its claim to belongs to everyone and to no one." and treatment of the "fundamental between Nora's opposition" memory and history which carries with ita whole set of philosophi with far-reaching implications for the entire cal presuppositions discipline of historiography.. calls for analysis and criticism . It is the unreliability of memory that requires historians to apply critical analysis and . plural. and yet individual. while history can only conceive the relative. "real memory" Nora's (clearly identified by him as collective)4 and the opposition replaces Frankel's "collective subconscious. an equal though "anti become thetical" rival: Memory is life.5 Of course there is a huge difference between Frankel's naive discussion of the occurrence of change in national "images.. the well-known fact thatmemory is an unreliable source of valid history. 33 History..Collective Memory What Is It? evidences or "traces") which is. collective.." to Frankel's between memory and history is analogous implicit and myths" and "new images" between "legends opposition which are obvious evidence of historical change. no memory at all. History ... Memory is absolute. on the other hand. on a par with history. as implied.... a mere tool. in Nora's account.6 It strikes us that Nora's characterization of history in the above passage would be acceptable even to positivist historians. whence universal authority. only accommodates those facts that suit it. For Nora does not simply refer to the obvious gap between history and memory.. Memory. This is certainly not the same memory historians since Thucydides have normally referred to. Mem .. is the reconstruction. representation affective and magical. on the contrary. is no longer a servant of history. on the other hand.. that is. it is.. History. yet a vital means for the reconstruction of the past... It remains in permanent evolution. but not his treatment of memory.. of what is no longer. always problematic and incomplete. ory is a perpetually actual phenomenon history is a as it is of the insofar past. Memory has in fact a separate significant corpus... personal and therefore fallible.

9 terms are problematic .7 Nora himself acknowledges these two notions of memory. In any case. Memory for Nora is associated with "the remnants of experience still lived in the warmth of tradition. is aware. not just mental." Speaking of "collective action" can hardly be justified even if every individual member of the group could be said to be to speak of a group as some acting in the same way. and remembers. To quote Amos Funkenstein: . which is. neither can it speak or is a mental act. is "absolutely and completely personal. memory as Nora and other "memoriologists" verification methods Nora's 34 major point is that there is some entitywhich is living. it is collective memory. in the silence of custom." . consciousness and memory can only be realized by an individual who acts. Just as a nation cannot eat or dance. and therefore it remember. they can only be performed by individuals. The belief inmemory as an actual living entity appears to be the (we can indeed define underlying supposition of memoriologists as one who conceives of memory as an actual a memoriologist living entity).."8 To thiswe must immediately is what implies here that true memory respond that if Nora historians are really after. capacities that is.10 Of course any act. rather. then he ismisinterpreting their quest. for the "true" version or facts of a given event.because ory" is no exception they are conceived of as having are in that fact actualized only on an individual level.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam in order to substantiate it as a source of the difference between evidence." with "collectively remembered values. to Historians importance generally do not attribute as much do.. This is implied by his complaint that has only intensified the effort to history's "scientific methodology establish critically a 'true' memory.and "collective mem All "collective" . a with will and integral entity capacity of its own is to commit the "concrete of namely of treating a general fallacy generalization. However. authentic memory and which has been completely distorted by historians and their critical methods. Remembering is absolutely and completely personal. traditions"." with "skills passed down by unspoken in other words. in the repetition of the ancestral.

adopt the latter view." "psyche.. distinct. ultimately preceded naturally." society. living substance that can actually be separately or independently from the members who experienced "tribe. etc. he reaches the conclusion that "there are no recollections which can be said to be purely interior . all of which represent a a of a Even the nation. "spirit. with tribe. the theoretical anchor for all memoriologists. by examining the notion of private memory on the level. The employment can be justified only on a of "collective memory" metaphorical level . customs. give as if casually. or a memory of its own. or a will.Collective Memory What Is It? ization as though itwere some concrete entity.. This is the only sense in a nation or a society can be said to exist. Though they are obliged to admit that "in the last analysis. "Nation." psychological their "method of introspection. cults. let us scrutinize Halbwachs' is never really first Our observation that Halbwachs theory. beliefs. traditions. The relation between private memory and collective memory is but another manifestation of this old debate: over society or is s/he does the individual take precedence by it? Memoriologists. traditions."11 they claim categorically are actually produced and formed in a that individual memories social context." "society" are general comprise such a group." "nation" that these terms have any real. it is upon the individual and upon the individual alone that the constraint of memory weighs. to a greater or lesser degree.and this is how historians of old have always employed it as a general code name for something that is supposedly behind the myths. starts." and pretty soon." names whose sole substance lies in their actual members who share common myths." it is not necessarily suggested by historians "tribe. which 35 We thus broach the classic question of the relation between the individual and society. preserved . but never as a separate. following "the psychologists on their terrain. respect to the latter most commonly used terms "society. through using careful analysis. single organism with a mind. He rather function.12 Since everyone cites Halbwachs. In this they all fall back on the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs whose elaborate work on "the social frame works of memory" provides. bothered to elaborate the theoretical foundation of the concept of to which he assigned such a major "collective memory" social nor a did he of clear definition it.

it establishing the individual obliteration of in the resulted appears. For though Durkheim states that "innate" ideas cannot be penetrated and known (hence the advantage of "social facts" over "mental facts"). they have "no reality and no fixity. Whatever existence they might have in the individual consciousness can be traced only in the collective representations that characterize social life. In Durkheim's theory ideas are or actualiz accessible only through their social manifestations ations. perceptions effort seems to have been concentrated on While Durkheim's former are the autonomy of sociology." quite pervasive in the history of ideas." 36 From the above description itbecomes apparent thatHalbwachs bases his theory on Durkheim's thesis. His mental might appear as a natural derivative of the Durkheimian position.14 seems to have attempted to apply Durkheim's analysis Halbwachs to the level of consciousness's most elementary faculty: memory.15 We have here perhaps a classic example of what might be called "the pupil's syndrome." nor does he deny their existence. personal. within the frameworks. conclusion operation. by Durkheim.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam only within perceivable. no substance our most outside immediate." The . its social context. but merely "collective representations. Yet seems to take Durkheim one step further. Halbwachs' effort. individual and collective representations. "social individual memory." they cannot be for they do not draw from clear considered as true "recollections" as are such possible only in a social environment. It ismost significant that we no longer find the term "individual in representations" Halbwachs' serve to images" which replaced by "individual in the mind of an "isolated the inner occurrences describe individual. complete consciousness as real and determinant. for him. he carefully refrains from making any statement as to the nature of these "individual representations. but in effect it is quite a deviation from it. that even has memory. whereby the natural drive to ameliorate a certain theory and extend it to its full conse analysis. according towhich "social are to and independent of individuals both external phenomena" and their mental representations. like the raw materials of a dream." These images are. abandoning Halbwachs still maintained between the fine distinction."13 The verifiable and meaningful only way memory can be is externally.

. social class. types. as though by means of collecting "collective memory" various blurred impressions (pictures) from various sources and molding them into a well-structured and stable memory. through this description between personal memory and social memory. sometimes undermining to there is really no such thing as Halbwachs. religion: to mind by relying on the "The individual calls recollections For frameworks of social memory.which was the point of departure for Halbwachs' discussion the (his argument against psychological .and even more impose forcibly their form on the opinions and feelings of their members. As indeed coincide and become Halbwachs himself remarks in his conclusion: ." towhich Halbwachs of the relation discover. but rather two points of view from which society can simultaneously consider the same objects that it situates in the totality of its notions or in its life and history. one social and the other individual. always within the framework of a certain social group ."16 example.Collective Memory What Is It? quences often ends in stretching the theory beyond its limits and its preliminary assumptions..patterns that also refers as comprise the "family memory. only "real memory" memory." Halbwachs ory" because of its obvious affinity to "collective" and to the way is formed. However. ideas and images do not designate two Halbwachs does not provide us with a clear theory which would describe prefers the term "recollection" to "mem 37 the family's "traditional armor"."17 and explain the way collective memories are formed. that the dichotomy between the two . His argument rather inclines toward a somewhat literarydescription of how one recollects one's past experiences. According the is "collective "individual memory''. for "there exist customs and modes of thinking within each particular family that equally . of our states of conscious ness. it cannot be dissociated from the general conception of memory) completely blurred until they simply two sides of the same coin. whatever "individ ual image" one has of a certain person or an event in one's family.18 We now It seems to us thatHalbwachs shunned the central problem raised at his moment main thesis the he had to face its theoretical very by .

it is the good the of nothing old individual.a framework "society. yet point It is quite clear that we are confronting here a variation of the . rational. by cognitive a way explains how the individual conceptualizes his perceptions of external objects.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam if real memory is a social reconstruction.20 location where individuals can "retrieve" room two at for different interpre there this is However.of raw images into rational constructs? 38 as opposed to the individual."19 Halbwachs' line of thinking has made us believe for a moment that he will bestow concreteness on society . they are unique in kind. then he consequences: has to explain how dream-like images of "private consciousness" become transformed into the stable. hence the power of manipulation exercise over individuals' minds or memories. If anything remains concrete. reconstructed conceptions of the social framework. Halbwachs' a us to is that social idea is the basically conceptualization heritage that society is able to function. since. we find him qualifying his original position that dismissed private memory. is correct." Society thus functions individuals are capable of transforming their where concrete real obscure images into clear concepts." He in an "image of an collective entities find their concretization or images that are in "events incarnated individual person". and presenting the latter as a complementary "point of view" to that of "collec furthermore admits that all recollections of tive memory. Halbwachs must have been aware of this.the fundamental the gap between epistemological problem sensuous and the rational to which Kant had already offered an as the elegant solution by postulating his theory of "categories" in all mechanism rational which (shared creatures). To sum up. and what remains abstract is something called as a location . What miraculous procedure is responsible for the transformation . toward the end of his discussion. and (b) it sticks to the concrete only by the individual is the stumbling The inconcreteness of "collective memory" block in Halbwachs' theory.which takes place by the mere transition from a single individual to a group of individuals . but in the final analysis he says sort. Kant's solution at least has two advantages: (a) it offers an explanatory mechanism (missing in Halbwachs' which can be represented account). then we have societyas a If this reading of Halbwachs their recollections.

that society in the individual's memory and molds it "intervenes" according to its "rational needs. laws. alludes to the fact that society is not a mere "framework" but some entity thatmight be consid ered real. it is. social dynamics is at work by which. the fact that of only within the social framework are individuals capable their seems and them. that it is society in "rationality. and yet "society" here is neither more nor less than what individuals put into it. take over and as the of this themselves so-called "society. individuals. exchange views and ideas and form common notions (which subsequently may be to this referred to as "collective"). Society. of between rival Ideally. though again Halbwachs deprives us of a proper philosophical argument on the matter. The very existence of a "collective memory. In reality. certain individuals or a group of 39 dealing with concrete individuals who either speak for themselves or claim to speak in the name of "society"." which cannot be said to be composed of individual memories." or as rather than individuals which engages Halbwachs would more likely put it. though. through . Society manifests customs. it is by means of this capacity. that it is only within society that individuals are able to exercise their rationality. society is no longer the According sum of its individuals' input. that institutions. according an arena contest is notions. the act of conceptual ization still takes place in theminds of the individuals within "soci ety" where they go through processes of socialization. of This concepts forming being cognizant to imply quite strongly.Collective Memory What Is It? tations. to the second interpretation. ceremonies. than that of the individual. ifnot immediate ly. according to Halbwachs. social products. often enough." Society is thus capable of reconstructing its is.21 According society's most significant feature is its "rationality. This may be a softer interpretation of Halbwachs' conception. so to speak. However." that is. the output of individuals' input. According to the first interpretation. the better notions should win and lead the field." It spokesmen assign should be pointed out that throughout this description we are its reality through etc. attributing to it a reality that is in a way more significant to Halbwachs. powerful and presumptuous enough.. norms. description. then in the long run. It is rather a kind of state of affairs which cannot be reduced to its individual components. since he himself tends to conceive of society in a rather Platonic sense.

" Although Halbwachs makes no special argument about history. We may confidently sum up our analysis of Halbwachs with the has become the "collective memory" following conclusion: on the notion real which (factual) history. that is. For the substitution is This products generally. tion.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam past at any given moment. actual past events by means of conventional methods of verifica 40 tion."23 but rather that produced by society which "pronounces judgments" without in history according to its hesitation and generally finds meaning fluctuating needs. History thus becomes a tool for the ideological and moralistic needs of society. of entire fields of scientific knowledge. sorts of in all human cognitive effect stands for which concept most unfortunate. If Halbwachs' no room taken seriously. and history as a corroborated version of past that events. deciding between rival versions. What is lost in the latter is the dialectical tension between the old simple personal memory as a questionable source of evidence. Instead we now have history as "collective memory. proposing theoretical models which would explain them. it is quite obvious that meaningful history. Halbwachs' notion of history writing is of course entirely different: it is rather an intentional formation of the past without any obligation to "historical truth." a as in the called either fabricated narrative is. the all-pervading has become "collective memory" Indeed. degeneration. and real (personal) memory. through this process. We now reach a very interesting point which has a crucial argument is to be implication for history writing. of sophistica and not. as is the case with history. Furthermore. of one general and rather vague term for a variety of other more a clear sign of conceptual specific and defined ones is usually as some would like to think. is not that produced by historians who "increasingly resist drawing general conclusions and lessons from the events of the past. replaces predominant one hand. even by a disintegration. for him. it is usually accompanied by a deterioration. and finally. then there is really for history as a as a effort aimed at reconstructing methodical science.22 The past becomes. a reflection of society's needs rather than a reflection of the real events which once took place. on the other hand. (once "myth") . elucidating processes which relate them to each other.

"collective the function (though dubious one) of private acknowledging memory.28 And yet it is among historians. today enjoys considerably improved the shaping of "collective memory". and contrasts the channels of memory with historical knowledge. that we witness a even growing inclination to use the term "collective memory." speaks of history as "perpetually suspicious of memory. . for example." generally speaking. argues that the Jews have relinquished history for the sake of memory. instinctive reservations. on the contrary. memory. previously designated by "myth.24 They still retain the old terms and distinctions of their profession. where "collective memory. something to be overcome. while paying their respects toHalbwachs this creation." Yerushalmi. history Anita Shapira. at the same time. as the father of however." undermines the it distinction between and though memory."27 We have seen that even with distinct followers of Halbwachs the tension between memory and history remains. As long as we stick to the term "stereotypes" we confess to a weakness. covers the areas 41 is actually affecting the work of professional historians.Many. a limitation in the work of the historian.25 to avoid the conflict between history and Funkenstein hopes with the memory help of the concept of "historical consciousness" as a mediator between "collective memory" and historiography. express. However." starts off with a note on the relation between academic and "collective memory. most of them oppose collective memory to history. or even expressing the creative whim of a particular historian." historiography that the fact that historical research claiming notwithstanding it has no effect on methods.Collective Memory What Is It? service of social-ideological needs. something that never attains a status equal to that of critical research. who represents a radical view of "collective memory." historians are indeed often captivated or predisposed by conven tional images and ideological fixations.29 memory" Had she chosen to speak of stereotypes instead of "collective we would have no argument with her statement. Not all of those who have adopted "collective memory. who inmost cases are unaware of itsunderlying theory and who by nature of their profession must be especially aware of the gap between history and memory.26 Even Nora. in an article on "Historiography and Memory: The Case of Latrun 1948.' and use itprofusely necessarily embrace the theory behind the term.

The term "collective memory" becomes inter changeable with themore distinguished "historical memory." memory" collective responsibility for the Holocaust. the German the Holocaust. social elites.31 History memory. historical research."30 Consequently.e. one cannot speak of "a determined German reordering of collective memory" any more than of "a ." which in this context does not even claim to reflect actual memories of shared experiences of the past of either some stereotypical "morally correct" Jews or Germans. including those substantiated by historical no to of be search. it turns out that history has been duped by memory all along.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam we seem to introduce "collective memory. for there signify "a determined German reordering of collective memory." culture toward Jews since 1945 as "a discourse of antagonistic on the one hand.concludes that "there is no such thing as a shared collective western memory of the Holocaust. the Jewish "collective memory" of memories": "collective and on the other hand. a a the i. without of rejection of "history guilt. and historians "pretends a to rather than "seek certain historical memory" shape actually reconstruct the past.32 Stern's account of the on "popular attitudes of contradictory coexistence (based ." seems to be it for Germans what signifies for Jews. "academic historical writing" merely to be based on impartial research". "a whole line of 'memory agents' that shape the picture of the past according to the needs and agonies of the present."34 The difficulty in Stern's analysis is due to the employment of "collective memory. According potent something professional historians join politicians." and the next move is to relate to "collective memory" as if itwere a once we historical 42 version on a par with any other historical version or re interpretation. suspicious longer appears On the contrary. in Frank Stern. but rather to be shared with all humanity. From such notion of the Holocaust a general point of view.both anti-Semitic historical consciousness" in "German images") and philo-Semitic33 ." imply as as to Shapira. Particularly within the German-Jewish context there exist only contrary and As a result Auschwitz will never even antagonistic memories. and furthermore project this picture back onto the historical research that cannot free itself from them. in a lecture on "Jews in the Minds of Germans refers to the attitude of German political the Postwar Period.

Itmust be quite clear that any definition of "memory" would revolve around the ability to retrieve some impression of some past experience or some past event that has had some on our In minds. as was claimed before. but as an explanatory tool it is useless and even misleading. In order to prove our point about the metaphorical aspect of to engage it would be beneficial in a "collective memory. a metaphorical memory" some property attached to some generalized entity such as "soci ety. * insist that the only legitimate use of the term "collective one. to is the ask whose "collective memory" have right one. unfortunately." It has the advantage of being a vivid and illustrative descrip We 43 tion. Halbwachs would have us realize that all apparently "sponta neous" feelings are ultimately "regulated through the structure of the family" such that whatever memories we have of people and .an obvious though. individuals are not able to retain pure personal impressions unless these are transformed into some general patterns which are sustained by the social group to which any individual never actualize as belongs. any event. memory is a personal human impact to is actual that related personal experience. task which should always constitute an essential much-neglected to the introduction of any new term into the vocabu prerequisite of any discipline.35 Memories authentic reflections of some contingent occurrences but are overtaken by some ready appropriate are which stereotypes kept by the entire group. their attire and habits. as though someone were writing a learned treatise on seraphim and cherubim in heaven. On the one the what makes historian at all wonder other hand. namely as is." semantical analysis of the term .Collective Memory What Is It? otherwise one would Jewish reordering of collective memory". capable of recognizing us in historical all of "collective discussions Let admit: memory" texts sound somewhat bizarre. describing them as real entities and not creatures of myth and imagination. Let us check faculty itagain with Halbwachs. According to him. may and memories collective evaluating them. lary To begin with. "collective memory" must be some type of memory.

Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam in our family life. shared by many provincial nobles of the . All these details are intentionally collected to evoke effectively the characters of his parents and the monotony of this sequestered existence . it is not some special night that inspires him." While Halbwachs may be right in suggesting that Chateaubriand may have taken recourse to typical patterns of a certain way of life. family personal as an author. convey the author's personal experience in the past. briand writes about his family evenings at themanor of Combourg.37 The scene described by Chateaubriand. in a passage where in War Tolstoy's accurately conveyed . his half bald large cap only which stood up straight . according toHalbwachs. events 44 of many rather the "recollections reconstructs a "bygone reality": evenings" from which he So it is. without responding. after all. does not. he preferred to use certain stereotypes which would "evoke effectively" a certain "type of life" in the minds of his readers. had no genuine in no way does this imply that Chateaubriand It members. he inclined his dry and white his cheek toward us. his of memories merely proves that. that he [Chateaubriand] says of his a wore seen I wool which have white "He robe of father: was a on head covered by him.and to reconstruct the habitual atmosphere of period such strange family evenings."36 This is illustrated with When Chateau writings of the French author Chateaubriand. This tension between authentic personal memory and its or account is beautifully and stereotypical artistic representation and Peace.. then. and the small tower to the west. but saysHalbwachs. for example." Regarding a onto herself that "threw with mother he says she sigh one of the old daybeds in blazing Siamese style.which was. these no longer consist of individual of images specific persons and things but are rather an expression of "ideas and traditional judgments which define the mind of the an example taken from the family.." He mentions "the great silver candlestick with its candle" and the clock which scanned this nightly walk. it rather summarizes "the idea of a type of life.

38 truthful young man and would never have told a deliber ate lie. and as sounds well. and he had fallen exhausted. he had rushed down like a hurricane on the enemy's square. either they would have not believed him or. If he had told the truth to his listeners who. everything exactly have meant the exercise of considerable self-control to confine himself to the facts.Collective Memory What Is It? young Rostov is asked to recount his heroic feats in the battle of to be his first combat experience: Schoen Graben which happened He [Rostov] described the Schoen Graben affair exactly as men who have taken part in battles always describe them . as to tell it had been would Besides. He began his story with the intention of telling but imperceptibly. And that was what he told them. if what would have thought Rostov himself to blame to those who describe generally happens cavalry charges to him. had heard numerous descriptions of cavalry charges and had formed a definite idea of what a charge was like and were expecting a precisely similar account from him.that is. sprained his arm and then run from the French men into the woods as fast as his legs would carry him. It is quite obvious that this version is as close to what Halbwachs refers to as "collective memory" as can be. and so on. but not in the least as they really had been. yet is it a collective memory? Surely this is a verymisleading term. worse still. forgetful of himself and all on fire with excitement. as they would like them to have been. hacked his way in. Rostov was a horse. unconsciously and inevitably he passed into falsehood. as they have heard them described by others. that he had fallen off his 45 interesting contrast here between Rostov's genuine to personal memory and the stereotyped version he volunteered tell his audience. It is very difficult to tell the are rarely capable of it. everything exactly as it happened. how his sabre had tasted flesh. He could not tell them had not happened simply that they had all set out at a trot. like himself. His truth and young people listeners expected to hear how. slashing the French right and left. Young There is an .

patterns according are molded. sparing especially their children the sordid story. Halbwachs' interpretation ignores the possibility of any real personal memory the and. Survivors of the are known to have kept silent about their experiences Holocaust formany years. unpainstakingly. The absurdity of this position may well be illustrated by the kind some terrible personal of reaction people who have experienced ordeal exhibit.. They our impressions to which rational mechanism. they do burning a to out. This tension to "dry" facts and the rhetoric of the between commitment illuminates story-teller perhaps the historian's perennial vacillation two roles . Stereotypes are not social an are part of our cognitive indispensable begin with.." and the artistic one. waiting We believe that a strict analysis of the way stereotypes are formed would show that Tolstoy's account is much more accurate than or collective products to Halbwachs'. both Rostov and Chateaubriand made the same artistic so as to make move their story more effective. or rather not preserve their own memories. in order to please his audience. for burst riper time flickering inside. But this does not mean that and degradation. not irksome event or rather keep that memory sharing it even with their closest relatives. to ensure that our internal ordered world does . Now one may well argue that this behavior is due to some overt or covert social pressure. they are made so as to protect us from impacts of the outside world.the scientific one. and the survivors know it. They usually tend to suppress the memory of that to themselves. These stereotypes cannot and should not be identified as "collective memories. People usually do not like to be dragged to hell by those who have gone through hell.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam Rostov.39 However." In fact. as for themselves. They have nothing to do with ''memory'' and they are hardly "collective. postulates "collective" mold as the only kind of memory. They are not made to be affected by our impressions. they are not anxious to revive the humiliation so they keep silent. on the contrary. that of telling an attractive story. genuine exchanged memories of personal experience for some well-known stereotypes of battle and heroism. but also provides an account of the relation between the two. while Tolstoy's interpretation not only preserves personal memory as the origin and fountainhead of all 46 stereotypes. that of reconstructing between history "as it really was.

they are the forms we think or feel are best suited to the social environment. in its turn. as suitable in a social environment. Yet the important observation here is that the origin of social stereotypes is the very same as the origin of all other stereotypes: the individual human mind. with "collective" or "social" stereotypes. Their main function is to facilitate and ensure the social framework and the social bonds. "Collective memory" is but a misleading new name for the old familiar "myth" which can be identified. We started with Halbwachs from the individual's psychology and we have returned to that same psychology. the of collective memory and the mechanism mechanism of personal are one and the same and located in the same individual memory mind. 47 dwell side by side with opposite personal convictions or memories. There is no mystery here. that is. collective memory is but a myth. without causing These One can recite the social or "collective" cliches without involving his or her personal convictions and therefore without really giving them up.Collective Memory What Is It? of the external world. which for us have meaning Stereotypes are kinds of generalizations. but the main difference are between them is that while generalizations supposed to be affected by contingency. can social stereotypes or "collective memory" Psychologically. under every new message or are of kinds descriptions of states of affairs Stereotypes pictures and a promise of controllability. are two the slightest inconvenience. Social stereotypes are the patterns we apply to social conditions. myths are not crumble another. Social stereotypes differ from other stereotypes only in subject. or rather to the individual's mind. The circle is complete. separate domains and each one demands a separate treatment. Collective memory is actually a fabricated version of that same personal memory adjusted to what the individual mind considers. . rightly or not. Indeed. Etiquette is a prominent example of such stereotypes. stereotypes can remain immune. There is a special group of stereotypes which are related to social conditions or social states of affairs.

firstput it: "Of the events I have not ventured tion. emanating the dialectical from a new should be a reminder that myths. I have described from others informa nothing I made because of them. 5 Itmust be said: the opposition inFrankel's article isbetween old myths tradition new are and new images Thus. of 13. W. not first and other or some forming myths. but rather products source which we shall try to expose 8-9. chap. Halbwachs.. bk. Funkenstein. "Between History and Memory. 13 Ibid. "Between History and Memory: Les Lieux de Memoire. and Its Methods. 26 (Spring 1989): 8." of whom laborious accounts of one eye-witnesses varying with the other." Memory "Collective Consciousness." 8 Nora.11 Nora. Halls (New York. 12 Maurice task was and particular inquiry. 7. ed. radical position in his concluding . Representations. 22. of memory." Collective Memory. D. trans. no. and Historical 16. ed. 1982). 10 Amos 11 Nora.. 169. of ideology 6 Nora. to from chance speak own. no. Memory On and History. nor but what the most according I either careful to any notion of my or learned saw myself History and Memory. This generally. 1. 13. retreats as we show from below. their memory in the action "Between 9 Ibid. History. 1 (Spring/Summer 1989): 6." History& Memory 1. "Between of the war 7 This is how Thucydides. The Rules of Sociological Sociology 15 Halbwachs remarks. Steven this Lukes. 95-96. 2 3 4 Ibid. 167. purely ideological sphere. side or development and ideology a is within foremost related in this essay. Coser (Chicago. Pierre 69. and trans.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam Notes 48 1 Yahadut Zemanenu 4 (1987): 67-96 (inHebrew). Ibid.. Method and SelectedTexts on 14 Emile Durkheim.. 1992). Lewis A. The different of the same occurrences gave or their interest 9.

." and image according is contained to image" 49 possessed them. 27 Nora.. 183. extent 18. His for view is radical to the substituting thereby it into the actual location The end turning result is that because to one stand in opposition history and memory he has to declare lieux de memoire as "another another. of collective says Halbwachs." a context memory provides the course of their investigations.. 174. 62-63). Hutton." to in 22 Ibid. 58. 10. it is a substance rather Ibid. 22." We thus no to 28 However. 46). 12.. "Between of Memory "Collective Memory in which is manifested mentality" is too contrived to invoke credibility. as Halbwachs emphasizes than a generalization. thinks that Halbwachs failed of his opposition between and history of guided by "the perspective memories that sustain the it into living In that respect. 25 Ibid.. longer deal Patrick H. Halbwachs refers to Plato and Spinoza collective who seem to representations a content richer contains and this. 175. Hutton "collective argues." . 175. Ibid.. 69. tradition" historian's field which "brings of vision. see also 181 and 188. 26 He nurture in fact argues what he that both calls "collective memory" and and "historical consciousness. of "collective memory. provide because than him a fertile for for discussing ground these "ideas philosophers "Idea. history. 9. 43. 24 Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi.Collective Memory What Is It? 16 Halbwachs." the monument living memory. This maneuver Funkenstein. 1982). Ibid. for the events encounter that historians in "The Role of Memory in the are and History. that memory. or the way he describes how one of one's brother (pp. both that notion sensible individual a sensible images. in that passage." recognize. 23 Ibid. and Historical Consciousness. the way See. In the concluding chapter of his book." historiography all three form corresponds perfectly the the crucial point about Anyway. 20. Halbwachs describing evokes for example. Zakhor: JewishHistory and JewishMemory (Seattie.. 17 18 19 20 21 Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. On Collective Memory. 71... basis the historians for example. 182. 182. 44." 10. 175. representation. image. 19. is that himself Platonic idea. on "The Reconstruction of the Past" by the chapter begins a in us when the feelings which arise re-encountering favorite childhood book the "mental (p. on even with the events but with sites. 171. the together what he calls "collective each individual.

of what Germans for this choose to 50 would magnify the story remember and what they tend to forget: they Frank rather then deal with the fate of six million anonymous are attitudes opposite is just another expression 10. These apparendy philo-Semitism of Anne victims. of my narrative may be disappointing to have before of what their eye a true picture to be useful. no 1 (1991): 59. while Consciousness. not the show-piece if those who happened satisfied. 279. possession. Jews in the 5. Harmondsworth. 56. Rosemary Edwards (1957. 15. . 39 And But historical this. an hour. 33 Minds 32 Frank Stern." History and Theory30. counterpart personal Lev Tolstoy.." On Collective Memory. 30 Ibid. from its social "Collective be memory Memory separated Yerushalmi makes the and Historical 7. trans. War and 1971). of Germans. 1993).. 60. in accordance with this view that no "personal" argues can context.." Stern. 31 Ibid. memory. is how Thucydides put it: "Very likely the strictly character wish to the ear. can hand down "trans in the Minds 36 38 37 Ibid. 14. xv. Halbwachs. 59. of bk. chap. I have written then I shall be what is an everlasting 22. Peace. 29 Alpayim 10 (1994): 9 (inHebrew). (Bloomington. 1.Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam Historiography of the French Revolution. 34 35 of Germans in thePostwar Period really complementary." pronounce My history History. Jews Funkenstein statement the group that only Zakhor. 57. again. 9.