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CULT 362 Memory Studies


History And Collective Memory

Past Identity History Religion
Student Name: Onur Oral Student ID: 9089 Due Date: 13.06.2010

History And Collective Memory May 27, 2010


Past Identity History Religion

Abstract: This paper will discuss about collective memory and social identities in Turkey and its history. I seek to show the idea of collective memory, which is shaped by religious beliefs and individual cultural histories in the process of time. Primary methods are textual analysis from different sources about identity, collective memory, religion and history, and interviewing people from different ages and religious beliefs in order to get the difference of cultural histories. In this study, I also show hownational history plays a role in creating a nation-state/national identity, which is related to collective memory of the Turkish society.

Keywords: History, collective memory, social identity, nationalism, religion

If aforementioned idea is about past, individual history plays an important role in national and individual identities. It shapes common pasts and values, also makes individuals feel as a parts of a national society. It makes us to question who we are, and where we came from. But if aformentioned idea is about history, religion is one of the most important subjects that shapes individuals perspective and judgments. Islam in Turkey stands in the central role which has played a huge role in the evolution of Turkish society and polity. Islam is not only a religion in Turkey, it is also

History And Collective Memory May 27, 2010

the grammar according to which a large segment of Turkish society communicates.(Toprak, 1981). When religion and past plays a huge role in the evolution of a society, both ideas are consisted of collective memory. The relation between history, collective memory and religion are attached and influence to each other. An individuals identity shaped in childhood by culture and the nation which individuals born, and cultures affected by religion and beliefs. According to Anthony Smith, nationalism has become a placeholder religion in the modern era; Individuals to persisting communities whosegenerations form indissoluble links in a chain of memories and identities. (Smith A. , 1986).According to Anthony Smith, the idea of separation from other communities through the creation of a national historiographys incorporation into the collective memory of a nation is crucial for creating national identities.(Smith A. , 1986) Historical memory, always appearing in the form of historical narrative, is one form for the content of collective memory, but collective memory is also the framework in which historical remembering occurs.(Crane, 1995) In order to understand and examine that concept, the method I will do is questioning people with different ages and religious beliefs. People who I have interviewed did not want to give their names, in order to prevent a confussion; A is 25 year-old male, believes in Islam and studies in a college in Istanbul, Turkey. B is 21 year-old male, believes in Judaism and studies in a college in Istanbul, Turkey. C is 53 year-old male, believes in Islam and construction engineer in a private company.

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Onur: Where were you born? And did you grow up there? A: Izmir. I lived there with my family until I was 19. Ever since, I am in Istanbul. B: Istanbul, all through my life. C: I was born in Konya, grew up there, after my marriage I moved to Istanbul with my family.

Onur: Do you talk about politics and/or religious beliefs with one of your family member? Do those discussions lead you to ask questions and/or to tell your idea even if it does not fit to theirs? A: Actually we do not talk to much about politics and religion. I am from Izmir and our political perspective is known by others. And religiosly, I have never talked about that issue wih my family. They never asked me what I believe in, and I have never asked them what to believe in. B: We always talk about politics and religion. Because of being minority in this society, we have to protect our culture, beliefs etc... I have learned about politics and religion by my familys experiences about past issues, and their knowledge about our history. C: When I was a child, we did not talk about any issue. We could not. For example, My dad told us who to vote, what to believe. And we can not do anything else except that. But when I have my own children, my own family, I tried to talk about those issues, not to make the same mistakes like my father. Both religiosly and politically, I tell

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them what I believe and give my reasons. If my son does not agree with me, its OK for me if he has a good reason.

Onur: Do you know Turkish history and/or the city you are living roughly? A: Yes, I know our history in details. Not only studied in books, I also believe that I am curious about reasons of political actions. I always research and brainstorm about the reasons of actions. B: Yes, I believe I know Turkish history roughly.But I know the historical and todayss treatment to Jews in Turkish society in details. C: Yes, especially I know Turkish political history in details. I have seen and lived most of the important historical events when I was a child.

Onur:Do you know how Turkish society gained its independence?If you think about those times and emphatize yourself with those people who has battled to gain independence, do you believe you would do the same things like them? A: Of course I would do the same things. I love my country even if I do not like my society. I always believe in M.K. Atatrk and his ideology. His decisions were always prudential, he always thought about future while considering past. My opinion about politics is same with that ideology.

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B: I know and red about Turkish liberty war from books. I am not really interested in Turkish history, but I know what they have done to gain independence. If I was there, I guess I would battle against opponents, but thank God, I was not there in those times. In my opinion battling should be the last resort. Negotiation is a way better solution for disagreements. C: Actually my family has lived those times. I know what they had been through. I would battle against rivals blindly. Because I know how people in those times suffered.

Onur: Do you remember any specific moment about Turkish Liberty War? A: Well, even if I personally did not live in those years, I remember that women carried cannonballs, bullets and many other stuff to help men in the war. I have also seen a photography of that exact moment. It was a moment that it should not be forgetten. B: I know that Turks allowed Jews to take refuge in Turkey, and a Jew person lower a Greek flag in Izmir. Thats what I remember specificly. C: I remember a video that our Turkish women carried cannonballs in anakkale front-line. That moment represents the unity of Turkish socuety and equality of women and men.

Onur: If you have a chance to change an event or and action about your societys past, what event would it be?

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A: To be honest, I would force Kurdish groups to immigrate from our country. Maybe you could not guess the problems and troubles that those minor groups could stir up, but with historical experiences, I would force them to immigrate to another society. B: Actually, I would not change anything. In my opinion there is no right or wrong event and/or action in history, there is consrquences for actions and/or events. C: I dont know how would I do that but I would try to prevent the deaths of our soldiers. As I said, i dont know how would I do that, but at least thats what I would try to change, try to prevent.

As you can see national history and individual history plays a crucial role in creating a national and individual identity. Even if this relationship between national history and national identity seems clear, it is more complex that it is seen. According to Anthony Smith, the configuration of national identities are not static, but dynamic. It evolves every second. Creating nations involves ceaseless re-interpretations, rediscoveries and re-constructions; each generation must re-fashion national institutions and stratification systems in the light of myths, memories, values and symbols of the past.(Smith A. , 1986) Furthermore, nations are not homogeneous in reality. As HomiBhabhaargues the nation is a space that is internally marked by cultural difference and the heterogeneous histories of contending peoples, antagonistic authorities, and tense cultural locations.(Bhabha, 1990)

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Anthony Smith talked about multiple interpretations in national past. The same historical fact can be interpreted differently by different groups and can serve varying memories. Accordingly, certain historical explanations might emphasize certain historical memories and develop divergent national identities that contest each other. This process of re-interpretation is thus the product of dialogues between major social groups and institutions within the boundaries of the nation, and it answers to their perceived ideals and interests.(Smith A. D., 1986). Also collective memory plays an important role on the creation of the national identity. Memory, the main focus of this paper,has different perspectives from different researchers, writers and philosophers, and it is seen as an attribute to information. Moreover, collective memory is understood as a process of remembering and forgetting (Middleton, 1990), thought and imagination in terms of past, present and future (Brockmeier, 2002). Without memory individuals would not know about who they are, what they are and where they are. According to Bruner, Individuals would be purified from the features, which makes them human,the ability to think, without memory. Memory and remembering plays a crucialrole in ones sense of self is thus important for personal and social identity.(Bruner, 1996)As Olick says collective memory is the active past that forms our identities. (Olick, 1998)The renegotiation of collective memory either by regulatory standards or by historical circumstances causes, as a consequence, the

History And Collective Memory May 27, 2010 change of the content of the national identity. The meaning the facts and the relationships from the past gain in the present circumstances (some of them do not change at all, some

are rejected and the importanceof some other changes) changes the meaning of the content of national identity and the construction of collective memory.(Avdela, 1997)(Strarigoula, 2009) Consequentially, by examining the dimension of individuals memories, this study has shown how history and religious beliefs organized memories. Above all, the process of constructing collective memory shaped by political, historical and religious beliefs, which events make individuals to remember. Yet, as this research has shown, individuals are active scholiasts and learners of the information, which is presented to them, and collective memories embody influences and interpretations. In the end, collective memory, identity and shared history are related and always involve active individuals who remember, rather than having memories imprinted on their minds. As J.R. Gillis told Identities and memories are not the things we think about, but things we think with.(Gillis, 1994).

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Avdela, E. (1997). Time, History and National Identity in school. In What is our country? Athens: Dragona. Bhabha, H. (1990). DissemiNation: Narrating the Nation in Nation and Narration. USA: Routledge. Brockmeier, J. (2002). Remembering and Forgetting: Narrative as Cultural Memory. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bruner, J. (1996). Group Narrative as a Cultural Context of Autobiography. New York: Cambrodge University Press. Crane, S. A. (1995). Writing the Individual Back into Collective Memory (Vol. 102). The American Historical Review. Gillis, J. R. (1994). Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Middleton, D. (1990). Collective Remembering. London: Sage. Olick, J. K. (1998). Social Memory Studies; From Collective Memory to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices. New York: University Press. Smith, A. (1986). The Ethnic Origins of the Nations. England: Blackwell Publishing. Strarigoula, P. (2009, June 9). Unity and Diversity of Euro-Medit erranean Identitie. Retrieved June 5, 2010, from Unity and Diversity of Euro-Medit erranean Identitie: istotle/Pantouvaki.pdf Toprak, B. (1981). Islam and Political Development in Turkey. New York, NY: E. J. Brill.