The Collective Memory Reader
Edited by Jeffrey K. Olick, Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi and Daniel Levy
There are few terms or concepts that have, in the last twenty or so years, rivaled "collective memory" for attention in the humanities and social sciences. Indeed, use of the term has extended far beyond scholarship to the realm of politics and journalism, where it has appeared in speeches at the centers of power and on the front pages of the world's leading newspapers. The current efflorescence of interest in memory, however, is no mere passing fad: it is a hallmark characteristic of our age and a crucial site for understanding our present social, political, and cultural conditions. Scholars and others in numerous fields have thus employed the concept of collective memory, sociological in origin, to guide their inquiries into diverse, though allegedly connected, phenomena. Nevertheless, there remains a great deal of confusion about the meaning, origin, and implication of the term and the field of inquiry it underwrites.
The Collective Memory Reader thus presents, organizes, and evaluates past work and provides essential materials for future research on the questions raised under the rubric of collective memory. Combining seminal texts, hard-to-find classics, previously untranslated materials, contemporary landmarks, as well as unusual extensions, it provides a foundational resource for teaching and research in the field, including wide-ranging reference points and exemplars from the vast literature. Most important, in both its selections as well in its editorial contributions, The Collective Memory Reader provides a novel life-story for the field, one that appreciates recent innovations but only against the background of a long history.
In addition to its major editorial introduction, which outlines a useful past for contemporary memory studies, The Collective Memory Reader includes five sections--Precursors and Classics; History, Memory, and Identity; Power, Politics, and Contestation; Media and Modes of Transmission; Memory, Justice, and the Contemporary Epoch--comprising eighty-eight texts. In addition to the essay introducing the entire volume, a brief editorial essay introduces each of the sections, while brief capsules frame each of the 88 texts.
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by Jeffrey Olick