UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Faculty > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 201 > Collective Memory Definitions
Lieu de memoire definitionLe Grand Robert definition of Lieu de memoire, from 1993 ed. (Nora v.3, 608)

Collective Memory: Definitions

page compiled by Harold Marcuse
(professor of German history at UC Santa Barbara)

Harold Marcuse homepage
, Collective Memory Seminar homepage

begun January 5, 2007, updated 1/12/07

pre-1990s Definitions
1990s Works
Links to Definitions Online

Introduction (back to top)

As part of a 2007 graduate seminar on "History in the Public Realm: Collective Memory?" I thought it would be useful to collect the definitions of various types of memory that scholars have come up with. Given the wide range of meanings "collective memory" can have (for example an object or a process), there are also a number of cognate terms. I first offer in this box a bulleted list of the terms, then below, in chronological order, quotations with exact citations.

  • communicative vs. cultural memory (Jan Assmann 1988)
  • collected memory (James Young)
  • collective remembering (David Middleton and Derek Edwards 1990)
  • collective remembrance (Winter and Sivan 1999, to emphasize social agency)
  • commemoration (John Gillis 1994, Sider & Smith 1997)
  • countermemory (Foucault Language, Counter-Memory 1977; James Young)
  • dominant memory (Foucault)
  • experiential memory
  • generational memory
  • heritage (Pierre Nora 1991: patrimoine)
  • historical consciousness (Amos Funkenstein 1989; Jörn Rüsen: Geschichtsbewusstsein)
  • historical memory
  • historical representations
  • memory (John Gillis 1994, Andreas Huyssen 1995)
  • national memory (Pierre Nora 1984)
  • nostalgia (Michael Roth 1989, Charles Maier 1993, Peter Fritzsche 2002)
  • official memory (Henri Rousso 1991, John Bodnar 1992)
  • popular historymaking (Rosenzweig & Thelen 1998)
  • postmemory (Marianne Hirsch 1997, Andrea Liss 1998)(2nd generation memory)
  • print memory ([Benedict Anderson])
  • public memory (John Bodnar 1992, Harold Marcuse 2001)
  • social memory (Connerton 1990; Fentress & Wickham, 1992)
  • sociomental topography of the past (Eviatar Zerubavel, 2003: also mnemonic traditions, battles)
  • traditions (invented) (Eric Hobsbawm 1983)
  • transactive memory (D.M. Wegner, 1988, in: Mullen & Goethals (eds.), Theories of Group)
  • vernacular memory (John Bodnar 1992)

These are distinguished from forms of individual memory/remembering:

  • autobiographical memory
  • flashbulb memory (Brown & Kulik, in Cognition vol. 5, 1977, pp. 73-99)

Additional terms denote the transmission of memories

  • vectors of memory (Henri Rousso 1991; Nancy Wood 1999)

pre-1990s (back to top)

  • pre-1940 Halbwachs: "While the collective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent body of people, it is individuals as group members who remember."--The Collective Memory (posthumous/prior to 1940; New York: Harper & Row, 1980), 48
    • "It is through membership of a social group--particularly kinship, religious and class affiliation--that individuals are able to acquire, to localise and to recall their memories." (after Connerton 1989, 36)
  • 1989 Connerton:

1990s (back to top)

  • 1991 Michael Kammen: "societies in fact reconstruct their pasts rather than faithfully record them, and that they do so with the needs of contemporary culture clearly in mind – manipulating the past in order to mold the present."--Mystic Chords of Memory (1991)
  • 1994 Iwona Irwin-Zarecka: "A 'collective memory'--as a set of ideas, images, feelings about the past--is best located not in the minds of individuals, but in the resources they share. There is no reason to privilege one form of resource over another--for example, to see history books as important but popular movies as not."--Iwona Irwin-Zarecka, Frames of Remembrance: The Dynamics of Collective Memory (Transaction, 1994), 4
  • 1997 Jeffrey Olick: "collective memory ... should be seen as an active process of sense-making through time" --J. Olick and D. Levy, "Collective Memory and Cultural Constraint," Amer. Sociological Review 62(Dec. 1997), 921-936
  • 1997 Kenneth Foote: "The relationship between tragedy and theh negotiation of meaning suggests an important connection between landscape, culture, and social or collective 'memory.' In one sense culture refers to collective beliefs and values, the social conventions and traditions that bind individuals to a group or community. These are values that shape everyday life but transcend the individual and surpass the individual's ability to change them. They are values that build gradually, change slowly, and sweep from generation to generation. Culture is, in this sense, a sort of collective or social memory. This concept of memory provides an important bond between culture and landscape, because human modifications of the environment are often related to the way societies wish to sustain and efface memories."--Kenneth E. Foote, Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Austin: Univ. Texas, 1997, revised and updated 2003), 33.

2000s (back to top)

  • 2001 Gary Edgerton: "collective memory is the site of mediation where professional history must ultimately share space with popular history. ... a term referring to the full sweep of historical consciousness, understanding, and expression that a culture has to offer. [italics in original] " --Gary R. Edgerton and Peter C. Rollins (eds.), Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 5.
  • 2003 Eviatar Zerubavel: "Yet collective memory is more than just an aggregate of individuals' personal memories, and such inevitably personal relief maps connot possibly capture what an entire nation, for example, collectively considers historically eventful or uneventful. To observe the social 'marking' of the past, we therefore need to examine the social time lines constructed by entire mnemonic communities. For that we must turn to unmistakably social sites of memory." Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past (Univ. of Chicago, 2003), 28.
  • 2006 Jennifer Jordan: "collective memory shapes the urban landscape in part at the observable intersection of four specific factors: land use, landownership, the resonance of the site's meaning with a broader (often international) public, and the presence or absence of what I call a 'memroial entrepreneur,' which is to say, someone willing to lobby on behalf of memorialization. Memory thus shapes the landscape through the day-to-day practices of memorial construction, which range from international debates about art and history to the bureaucracies of local parks departments, historic preservation offices, or property registries." --Jennifer Jordan, Structures of Memory: Understanding Urban Change in Berlin And Beyond (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Stanford, 2006), 2.

Links (back to top)

page created by Harold Marcuse on January 5, 2007; last update: see page header (links on 6/19/15)
back to top; Harold Marcuse homepage