chapter
Regimes of memory: an introduction
Pages 22

The continuing growth of interest in memory in the contemporary West, both inside universities and in the wider culture, is a phenomenon that has been widely debated in recent years.1 This present-day fascination with memory, which might be likened to the ‘discursive explosion’ around sex that Michel Foucault traced from its beginnings in the seventeenth century,2 raises problems for those struggling to understand memory’s meanings or its contemporary prominence, as this volume attempts to do. In his chapter in this volume, Michael Lambek highlights this difficulty by arguing that ‘in making “memory” the object of study, we run the risk of naturalizing the very phenomenon whose heightened presence and salience is in need of investigation’ (p. 211). Lambek continues by asking ‘how can we understand memory without enlarging its discourse? How do we acknowledge the salience of memory without contributing to either its objectification or romanticization?’ (p. 211). Any volume focused on memory, including this one, clearly runs these risks, to which might be added the risks of making essentialist, universalistic or monolithic claims about memory. Nevertheless, our hope is that this volume’s concern with what we are calling regimes of memory – its primary concern with the ‘outside’, rather than the ‘inside’ of memory, and with epistemological rather than ontological questions – might mitigate such risks by foregrounding studies whose field of enquiry is not memory’s essence nor its ontology, but discursive productions of ‘memory’.