chapter  2
37 Pages

Commemorating Hurt

The past, Marx wrote bitterly in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, ‘weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living’ [Marx (1852)1973:147].

Not everyone shares Marx’s cynicism. Remembrance of things past2 is a fundamental resource for actors and social groups living in the present, who, to Marx’s disgust, ‘conjure up spirits of the past to help them… borrow their names, slogans and costumes…’ (Marx 1973: 147).3 We do not leave our past behind; it’s a palpable presence in our present, and we actively commemorate and remember the past in monuments and memorials, in texts, images, songs, stories, rituals, art, and in evocations of the spirit of persons. It is in society that people acquire memory (Halbwachs 1992), localising the

present in the past. The most personal memory is given meaning within social frameworks, and is collective, not only because its content is shared, but because the process of remembering is shared (Eves 1996: 3). Tidying up what is perhaps elusive, more process than thing, Paul Connerton argued that ‘images of the past and recollected knowledge of the past… are conveyed and sustained by (more or less ritual) performances’ (Connerton 1989: 3-4). The emphasis on reiterated acts — done and redone — as a ‘store’ of and for memory (Connerton 1989: 65) forefronts the performative as a crucial mode of remembrance.