Does it Pay to Remember?

Does it Pay to Remember?

The Economy of Memory in Comparative Perspective:

Cases from Ibero-America and Southeast Asia



Group Members:

Dr. Ran Shauli and  Dr. Silvina Schammah-Gesser

Almost three decades have passed since the start of the groundbreaking collaborative project Lieux de mémoire/Realms of Memory. Since then, the field of memory studies has grown rapidly enough to raise concerns over the marginalization of other popular fields of study, such as those related to class, ethnicity and gender (Winter, 2000; Confino, 2002; Kansteiner, 2002; Suleiman, 2006). The majority of studies on collective memory have so far focused on the nation state as the central framework of analysis. They dealt with problems ranging from "coming to terms with a troubled past” (Maier, 1988; Nuttall and Coetzee 1998; Aguilar, de Brito and Gonzalez-Enriquez, 2001;Confino and Fritzche 2002); to the representation of the past in literature, art and personal narrative; to the ways in which historical memory shapes social relations, constructs identities, communities, and new visual spaces, and affects national policies (Judt, 1992; Herf, 1997; Koshar, 2000).

Notwithstanding their paramount theoretical and empirical contribution, the bulk of these studies have underestimated the economic nature of memory, especially of traumatic memory. Like other human endeavors, remembrance consumes time, space, material and mental resources, that is, manifestations of historical memory, especially those related to war, do not simply "appear". They are the product of conscious decisions but they also depend on the availability of resources, and on the willingness of people and governments to allocate these resources to produce manifestations of memory. Therefore, memory production, commodification, dissemination and maintenance can be seen as a venture.