In the 1980s 'memory' emerged from the historiographical wilderness as a topic of renewed interest and serious inquiry. The literature of remembrance then exploded in the 1990s and continues to expand in the 2000s. Yet much of the writing of the 'memory boom' lacks sustained critical reflection, although there exists an abundance of self-contemplation.This thesis contextualises the phenomenon of memory studies theoretically and historically. The origins and ongoing utility of memory can be understood by exploring how memory has provided an alternative to 'myth' and 'history' in a discipline confronting the challenge of postmodernism. In the broader historical and political context, 'memory' denotes a different relation to the past, particularly the recent past and the Second World War. Memory expresses the collapse of the post-war ideological, historiographical and political systems in the last two decades of the twentieth century. As the meaning of the Second World War, embodied in those ideologies and systems, unravelled, the incoherence of the past and its uncertain relevance in present-day society made memory the most potent and allusive term in the historiographical market. Auschwitz, the most extreme manifestation of the war, has inevitably been the archetypal site of the politics of memory. The two terms, Holocaust and memory, have achieved a ubiquity matched only by the uncertainty of their repeated invocation. Yet while the emergence of memory clearly reflects the new configuration of world politics (and identity politics) since 1989, its uses and abuses must also be understood in the context of what traditionally has governed historical writing: the politics of the nation-state.
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2002|