National memory Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_memory

Atomic bombing memorial in Hiroshima. The remains a building with the skeletal structure of a dome at the top sits among modern Japanese buildings and green space.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States military at the end of WWII has shaped Japanese national memory throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries.

National memory is a form of collective memory defined by shared experiences and culture. It is an integral part to national identity.

It represents one specific form of cultural memory, which makes an essential contribution to national group cohesion. Historically national communities have drawn upon commemorative ceremonies and monuments, myths and rituals, glorified individuals, objects, and events in their own history to produce a common narrative.[1]

According to Lorraine Ryan, national memory is based on the public's reception of national historic narratives and the ability of people to affirm the legitimacy of these narratives.

A large pickup truck has three clearly visible flags mounted onto it. The modern US flag, the Confederate Battle flag, and a Confederate National flag.
Conflicting versions of national memory can be seen in this image, as the modern United States flag is flown alongside a Confederate National flag and a Confederate Battle flag. These flags represent the legacy of two armies that were historically in direct conflict with one another during the American Civil War. Despite two of these flags representing an enemy of the United States, they are all flown together with the intention of communicating the owner's modern patriotism.

Conflicting versions, dynamicity, manipulation and subjectivity[edit]

National memory typically consists of a shared interpretation of a nation's past.[2] Such interpretations can vary and sometimes compete.[2] They can get challenged and augmented by a range of interest groups, fighting to have their histories acknowledged, documented and commemorated and reshape national stories.[3] Often national memory is adjusted to offer a politicized vision of the past to make a political position appear consistent with national identity.[4] Furthermore, it profoundly affects how historical facts are perceived and recorded and may circumvent or appropriate facts.[4] A repertoire of discursive strategies functions to emotionalize national narrative and nationalize personal pasts.[5]

National memory has been used calculatedly by governments for dynastic, political, religious and cultural purposes since as early as the sixteenth century.[6]

Marketing of memory by the culture industry and its instrumentalisation for political purposes can both be seen as serious threats to the objective understanding of a nation's past.[7]

Lorraine Ryan notes that individual memory both shapes and is shaped by national memory, and that there is a competition between the dominant and individual memories of a nation.[8]

Hyung Park states that the nation is continuously revived, re-imagined, reconstituted, through shared memories among its citizens.[9]

National memories may also conflict with the other nations' collective memory.[10]

Role of the media[edit]

Reports that are narrated in terms of national memory characterize the past in ways that merge the past, the present and the future into "a single ongoing tale".[11]

Pierre Nora argues that a "democratisation of history" allows for emancipatory versions of the past to surface:[7]

National memory cannot come into being until the historical framework of the nation has been shattered. It reflects the abandonment of the traditional channels and modes of transmission of the past and the desacralisation of such primary sites of initiation as the school, the family, the museum, and the monument: what was once the responsibility of these institutions has now flowed over into the public domain and been taken over by the media and tourist industry

— Nora 1998, 363[11][7]

However, national history being passed on by the culture industry, such as by historical films, can be seen as serious threats to the objective understanding of a nation's past.[7]

International media[edit]

Nations' memories can be shared across nations via media such as the Internet (through social media and other means of widespread communication)and news outlets. [12][13]

Effects and functions[edit]

National memory can be a force of cohesion as well as division and conflict. It can foster constructive national reforms, international communities and agreements,[4] dialogue as well as deepen problematic courses and rhetoric.

Identity crisis can occur in a country due to large-scale negative events such as crime, terroristic attacks (on a national or international scale), war, and large changes made over a short period of time. The negative mood created by these events will eventually find a way to be expressed.[4][14] This crisis can also occur during periods of economic political uncertainty, which can lead to citizens becoming uncertain of and questioning their own identities or losing them altogether. [15]

New developments, processes, problems and events are often made sense of and contextualized by drawing from national memory.

Critical national memory[edit]

Critical history or historic memory cuts from national memory's tradition centric to national heritage and orients itself towards a specialized study of history in a more sociological manner.[12]

It has been proposed that the unthinkable ought not to be unmasked but that instead what made it thinkable should be reconstructed and that the difficulty of discussing the non-places or the bad places of national memory make it necessary to include forgetfulness and amnesia in the concept.[16] The absence of belief in a shared past may be another factor. [4]

National memory may lead to questioning the nation as it is as well as its identity and imply a societal negotiation of what the country wishes to be as a nation. To understand the links between memory, forgetfulness, identity and the imaginary construction of the nation analysis of the discourse in the places of memory is fundamental as in all writings of national history an image of the nation is being restructured.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Memory, History, and Colonialism" (PDF). German Historical Institute London. 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b Paces, Cynthia (September 2009). Prague Panoramas: National Memory and Sacred Space in the Twentieth Century. University of Pittsburgh Pre. ISBN 9780822977674. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  3. ^ Weedon, Chris; Jordan, Glenn (April 2012). "Collective memory: theory and politics". Social Semiotics. 22 (2): 143–153. doi:10.1080/10350330.2012.664969. S2CID 144517857.
  4. ^ a b c d e Graber, Samuel J. Twice-divided Nation: The Civil War and National Memory in the Transatlantic World. ISBN 9781109024135. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  5. ^ White, Geoffrey M. (December 1999). "Emotional Remembering: The Pragmatics of National Memory". Ethos. 27 (4): 505–529. doi:10.1525/eth.1999.27.4.505. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ Gillis, John R. (1994). Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691029253.
  7. ^ a b c d Bruyn, Dieter De. "World War 2.0: Commemorating War and Holocaust in Poland through Facebook". Digital Icons. ISSN 2043-7633.
  8. ^ Ryan, Lorraine (28 November 2012). "Cosmopolitan memory and national memory conflicts: On the dynamics of their interaction". Journal of Sociology. 50 (4): 501–514. doi:10.1177/1440783312467097. S2CID 145565890.
  9. ^ Park, Hyung yu (April 2011). "Shared national memory as intangible heritage". Annals of Tourism Research. 38 (2): 520–539. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2010.11.013. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  10. ^ Pomian, Krzysztof. "Divided memory: European sites of memory as political and cultural phenomenon" (in Polish). Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b Garde-Hansen, Joanne (29 June 2011). Media and Memory. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748688883. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  12. ^ a b Koshar, Rudy J. (9 November 2000). Germany's Transient Pasts: Preservation and National Memory in the Twentieth Century. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807862629. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  13. ^ Neiger, Motti; Meyers, Oren; Zandberg, Eyal (2011), Neiger, Motti; Meyers, Oren; Zandberg, Eyal (eds.), "On Media Memory: Editors' Introduction", On Media Memory: Collective Memory in a New Media Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 1–24, doi:10.1057/9780230307070_1, ISBN 978-0-230-30707-0, retrieved 2021-03-20
  14. ^ Snegovaya, Maria (2015-05-17). "National Identity Crises Threaten World Order". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  15. ^ "Globalization and Identity Crisis: A Theoretical Explanation and the Turkish Example". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  16. ^ a b Montaño, Eugenia Allier. "Places of memory. Is the concept applicable to the analysis of memorial struggles? The case of Uruguay and its recent past" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]