Places of Memory

When I began my reading on the topics, I found myself a little lost initially. All the concepts that we have become familiar with over the course are present, however, this idea of “social memory” is a strange one. After reading some more, it began to make more sense to me. Every “cause”, if you will, needs a basis or some kind of historical reasoning for being in existence. It can be seen with almost every social movement.

I got a little bit lost again when reading Pierra Nora’s findings on social memory, but it made it easier for me to understand when I tried to relate the findings back to previous ideas and concepts of political geography. One example is the idea of place, identities, and social movements as all being “social processes”. Nora says that because a social memory has history, the where of the memory changes through time. I took this to mean that a memory has the same events or occurrences, but can be applied to various social environments; whatever may suit the needs. Social groups or movements all over the world can take one single event and use it to form the base for their particular movement. These social memories, therefore, can also be described as “social processes” for all intensive purposes.

The part of the reading about national places of memory in capital or symbolic cities I found to be very intriguing. The article does a good job at describing the significance of these places of memory. They connect past and present regimes or states. When you go into the city and see the giant sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, it very obviously paints the picture that this is a man who is respected and cherished for his accomplishments and life. That could only lead to the understanding that the current state strives to accomplish things of similar magnitude. Another good example is going to Germany and seeing the old concentration camps that are set up to be memorials today. These places of memory form a very strong connection to the past cruel regime of Germany, but in the case of Germany and the concentration camps, it works in the other direction. Instead of this leading us to believe that the current German state holds this representation of past states in high regards, it instead shows us that the current German government acknowledges that these horrific things happened, and they are forever going to be grieving for it.

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