Collective Memory After Violent Conflict: A New Framework for Analysis

Collective Memory After Violent Conflict: A New Framework for Analysis

Markus Breitweg (Independent Researcher, Germany)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8392-9.ch001

Abstract

This chapter develops a framework for the analysis of collective memory in post-conflict settings. It is argued that so far collective memory is not sufficiently theorized within peace and conflict studies, even though in the aftermath of violent conflicts competing memories easily become subject to salient struggles that may even result in yet another outburst of violence. It is these competing representations of the past that researchers should more thoroughly concern themselves with and that they lack an appropriate heuristic device for. Focusing on processual and multidimensional concepts from the fashionable field of memory studies, the author proposes a new framework for analysis that offers categories and ideal-types for practice-oriented research. Based on poststructuralist discourse analysis, the framework allows to link discursive structures and patterns of identity, on the one hand, to actual agency on the other hand, thus facilitating effective interventions.
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Introduction

When practitioners and academics from the field of Peace and Conflict Studies (PCS) seek to manage, resolve, or transform the violent appearances of social conflict, sooner or later “dealing with the past” is seen as a necessary task. So, why another contribution to what can be called a commonplace in PCS? Because there is a gap between PCS’ need for dealing with the past on the one hand, and meaningful theoretical debates in the field of Memory Studies (MS) on the other. For PCS, this gap leaves an oft-cited notion undertheorized: collective memory.

Part one of this chapter illustrates how the concept of collective memory is discussed in MS. Taking Olick’s call for a processual and multidimensional understanding seriously, it argues that Assmann’s theorizing along distinguishable interrelated memory dimensions comes close to what is needed as an answer to this call, but would benefit from explicit discourse theoretical clarifications. A closer look at how PCS make use of these theoretical advancements reveals that a new framework for analysis is needed in order to make collective memory a useful heuristic device, especially when it comes to sustainable peacebuilding interventions. Part two introduces Hansen’s poststructuralist discourse analysis as an appropriate ontological and epistemological clarification of Assmann’s theorizing, which provides the framework with a heuristic capable of depicting the struggles over memories as one form of discourse. This emphasis on the ontological significance of language also impacts on how memory discourses should be studied. Adopting a “mind-world monist” (Jackson, 2011) position, the author reasons that the framework for analysis should use ideal-types, that is deliberately oversimplified categories. Part three synthesizes the framework by developing Assmann’s memory dimensions into such ideal-typical categories. It furthermore theorizes about their interplay and adds “impulses” as intervening factors. Listing potential key actors and presumably important discursive traces for each category, ideal-typical expectations regarding the behavior and characteristics of these actors and factors are discussed. A distinction is made between short- and long-term constellations of collective memory in post-conflict settings, before it is finally demonstrated how the framework’s ideal-types and ideal-typical expectations may be used practically. For the latter purpose, indicators and techniques to assess the internal consistency and external hegemony of memory discourses are sketched out.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ideal-Type: A deliberate oversimplification that allows case-specific explanations by providing analytical entry points.

Collective Memory: The discourses in a society referring to past events. They are stabilized and contested by societal actors who are themselves embedded in these discourses.

Narrative: The representation of a particular situation or process, embedded in a discourse. The specific story that is being told.

Discourse: A connected series of utterances, expressed by human actors. It contains more or less sedimented structures and is contested in its attempt to construct, reconstruct and adjust policies, and identities of its actors.

Poststructuralism: A school of thought to which language is ontologically and methodologically significant. It distinguishes itself from classical structuralism by defining discourses as historically conditioned, changeable and as driven by human agency.

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