old Yugoslav aphorism goes: 'The future is not hard to predict, but the past
is forever changing.' The essays gathered in this volume all deal in one way
or another with the way people organize their collective memories of a past,
and particularly a national past. The range of topics is remarkable, and the
essays themselves are uniformly excellent - beginning with Jeffrey K. Olick's
States of Memory illuminates the construction of national memory from a comparative perspective. The essays collected here emphasize that memory itself has a history: not only do particular meanings change, but the very faculty of memory - its place in social relations and the forms it takes - varies over time. Integrating theories of memory and nationalism with case studies, these essays stake a vital middle ground between particular and universal approaches to social memory studies.
The contributors - including historians and social scientists - decribe societies' struggles to produce and then use ideas of what a "normal" past should look like. They examine claims about the genuineness of revolution (in fascist Italy and communist Russia), of inclusiveness (in the United States and Australia), of innocence (in Germany), and o inevitability (in Isreal). Essayists explore the reputation of Confucius among Maoist leaders during China's Cultural Revolution; commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States Congress; the "end" of the postwar era in Japan; and how national calendars - in signifying what to remember, celebrate, and mourn - structure national identification. Above all, these essays reveal that memory is never unitary, no matter how hard various powers strive to make it so.
More books by Jeffrey Olick