Construction of a Collective Memory Between Jewish Term Paper

  • Length: 9 pages
  • Subject: History - Israel
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #5093389

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Construction of a Collective Memory Between Jewish and Islamic Turks

Assmann (2001) writes that sociologist Maurice Halbwachs and Aby Warburg, art historian developed two theories of "collective or social memory." (p.125) Assmann states of collective or social memory that the "…specific character that a person derives from belonging to a distinct society and culture is not seen to maintain itself for generations as a result of phylogenetic evolution, but rather as a result of socialization and customs." (2001, p.125) The cultural survival of this group or type of what Assmann refers to as a "pseudo-species" is stated to be a "function of cultural memory." (2001, p.125)

Cultural Memory

Cultural memory is defined as a concept "through a double delimitation that distinguishes it first, "from what we can communicative or everyday memory which in the narrower sense of our usage lacks cultural characteristics; and secondly, "from science which does not have the characteristics of memory as it relates to a collective self-image." (Assmann, 2001, p.125) Communicative memory is reported to include "those varieties of collective memory that are based exclusively on everyday communications" or that which is constitutes an oral historical account. (Assmann, 2001, p.125) Everyday communication, according to Assmann "is characterized by a high degree of non-specialization, reciprocity of roles, thematic instability, and disorganization." (2001, p.125) This is reported to generally occur "between partners who can change roles." (Assmann, 2001, p.125)

Occasions are stated to be such that "more or less predetermine such communications, for example train rides, waiting rooms or the common table…" including the rules that regulate this exchange. Communication results in the individual composing a memory that is first of all, socially mediated and secondly, which relates to a group. (Assmann, 2001, paraphrased) Oral history has greatly contributed to the understanding of the qualities of collective memory in their everyday form. Assmann states that once the individuals removes themselves from the occasion of everyday communication and then enters "into the area of objectivized culture there is a resulting change in practically everything. In fact, Assmann states that the transition "is so fundamental that one must ask if the metaphor of memory can still be applied.

Assmann states that communicative memory which is characterized "by its proximity to the everyday…." Cultural memory is likewise characterized "by its distance from the everyday. Distance from the everyday (transcendence) marks its temporal horizon." (2001, p.129) In other words, cultural memory contains a "fixed point, its horizon does not change with the passing of time. These fixed points are fateful events of the past, whose memory is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance)." (Assmann, 2001, p.129)

These are referred to as "figures of memory" and Assmann states that in the "flow of everyday communications such as festivals, rites, epics, poems, images, etc., form 'islands of time', islands of completely different temporality suspended from time." (2001, p.129) The cultural memory involves such "islands of time" which are expansive in nature into "memory spaces of retrospective contemplativeness." (Assmann, 2001, p. 129) Characteristics of cultural memory stressed by Assmann include those as follows:

(1) The concretion of identity or the relation to the group. Cultural memory preserves the store of knowledge from which a group derives an awareness of its unity and peculiarity.

(2) Its capacity to reconstruct: No memory can preserve the past. What remains is only that which society in each era can reconstruct within it contemporary frame of reference.

(3) Formation: The objectivation or crystallization of communicated memory and collectively shared knowledge is a prerequisite of its transmission in the culturally institutionalized heritage of a society.

(4) Organization: This means: (a) the institutional buttressing of communication through formulization of the communicative situation in ceremony; and (b) the specialization of the bearers of cultural memory.

(5) Obligation: the relation to a normative self-image of the group engenders a clear system of values and differentiations in importance, which structures the cultural supply of knowledge and the symbols.

(6) Reflexivity: cultural memory is reflective in three ways: (1) it is practice-reflexive in that it interprets common practice in terms through proverbs, maxims, ethno-theories; (b) It is self-reflexive in that it draws on itself to explain, distinguish, reinterpret, criticize, censure, control, surpass and receive hypoleptically; (c) It is reflexive of its own image insofar as it reflects the self-image of the group through a preoccupation with its own social system. (Assmann, 2001, p.130-132)

II. Prescriptive Forgetting

The work of Connerton (2008) entitled "Seven Types of Forgetting" states that "prescriptive forgetting is precipitated by an act of state, but differs from erasure because it is believed to be in the interest of all parties to the previous dispute and because it can therefore be acknowledge publicly." (p.61) Prescriptive forgetting is such that a prototype was provided by the Ancient Greeks, who were "acutely aware of the dangers intrinsic to remembering past wrongs because they well knew the endless chains of vendetta revenge to which this so often led. And since the memory of past misdeed threatened to sow division in the whole community and could lead to civil war, they saw that not only those who were directly threatened by motives of revenge but those who wanted to live peacefully together in the polis had a stake in not remembering." ( p.61)

III. Repressive Erasure

Repressive erasure, states Connerton is a form of forgetting "in its most brutal form, in the history of totalitarian regimes, where 'the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." (Milan Kundera cited in Connerton, 2008, p.60) History has forgotten it seems how many Jews now live in the country of Turkey or the Jewish history that is held within the country boundaries of Turkey. Many Jewish escaped from Spain to Turkey during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. In fact, Christopher Columbus's diary tells of how the same month that he was given the order to "undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies" that their Majesties [Ferdinand and Isabella] "issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories." (Telushkin, 1991, p.1) Reports state that the expulsion spoken of by Columbus "was o cataclysmic an event that ever since, the date 1492 has been almost as important in Jewish history as in American history. On July 30 of that year, the entire Jewish community, some 200,000 people, were expelled from Spain." (Telushkin, 1991, p.1)

The report goes on to state that tens of thousands of refugees lost their lives attempting to reach safety. Specifically stated is "In some instances, Spanish ship captains charged Jewish passengers exorbitant sums, then dumped them overboard in the middle of the ocean. In the last days before the expulsion, rumors spread throughout Spain that the fleeing refugees had swallowed gold and diamonds, and many Jews were knifed to death by brigands hoping to find treasures in their stomachs." (Telushkin, 1991, p.1) The report explains that the expulsion of the Jews was a "pet project of the Spanish Inquisition, headed by Father Tomas de Torquemada." (Telushkin, 1991, p.1) It was the belief of Torquemada that "as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they would influence the tens of thousands of recent Jewish converts to Christianity to continue practicing Judaism." (Telushkin, 1991, p.1) It was concluded by the king and queen that the Jews "were expendable" and the expulsion degree was issued and the Jews given four months to convert to Christianity. The Spanish Jews who ended up in Turkey and other countries including North Africa and Italy are known as the Sephardim Jews as Sefarad is the Hebrew name for Spain. During World War I, there were approximately 2.9 million Muslims either killed or forced to migrate to Turkey. (Telushkin, 1991, paraphrased)

IV. Incorporating Practice and Inscribing Practice

Paul Connerton writes in the work entitled "How Societies Remember" that versions of the past are preserved "by representing it to ourselves in words and images. Commemorative ceremonies are pre-eminent instances of this. They keep the past in mind by a depictive representative of past events. They are re-enactments of the past, its return in a representational guise which normally includes a simulacrum of the scene or situation recaptured." (p.72) There are reported to be two different types of social practice that are used, including, that referred to as incorporating practice and therefore "…a smile or handshake or words spoken in the presence of someone we address, are all messages that a sender or senders impart by means of their own current bodily activity, the transmission occurring only during the time that their bodies are present to sustain that particular activity." (Connerton, nd, p.72)

The second type is called "inscribing practice" it is stated therefore that the modern devices for storage and retrieval of information, print, encyclopedias, indexes, photographs, sound tapes, computers, all require that we do something that traps and holds information, long after the human organism has stopped informing." (Connerton, nd, p.72) It is stated that…

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