chapter  1
16 Pages

Public memory

One of the hallmarks of the 20th century is memorialization, the incessant drive to record everything for posterity’s sake. The fear that no trace will be left of those who perished in wars, genocide, civil wars and other catastrophes, or that their memory will be distorted, has led to this memorializing of life and death. Of course, this obsession with memory can also be attributed to the fact that the 20th century was probably one of the most brutal in recorded human history as well as one of the most technologically advanced.1 Jeffery K. Olick, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi and Daniel Levy (in their impressive volume on public memory) suggest that in recent history a new phase has opened in memory studies. With the fall of communism and abandonment of utopian ideologies and visions, a more nostalgic turn toward collective pasts has developed, which has come to serve

as repository of inspiration for repressed identities and unfulfilled claims … The memory boom … unleashed a culture of trauma and regret, and states are allegedly now judged on how well they atone for their past misdeeds rather than on how well they meet their fiscal obligations and inspire future projects.