The sins of memories past?




There is an interesting piece from the Dublin Review of Books entitled: Troubles with Remembering; or, The Seven Sins of Memory Studies.  The piece is actually a review on: Remembering the Troubles: Contesting the Recent Past in Northern Ireland, by Jim Smyth (ed), University of Notre Dame Press, 218 pp, $40, ISBN 978-0268-101749.

The past of course is entirely memory, albeit in the context of events that are fact. The review quickly becomes a wider exploration of the nature of memory, and in particular “Memory Studies”, and more particularly the seven deadly sins thereof: laxity, dualism, crudity, moralism, insularity, myopia, and overlooking forgetting.

Though it may seem inappropriate to label it terms of sin, the writings of Memory Studies frequently suffer from a tendency to moralism.

Readers are repeatedly told how a society should remember, without sufficient pause for consideration of the attainability, if not the dubious desirability, of imposed attempts to socially engineer memory.

Such patronising use of the modal “should” is particularly noticeable in the emerging sub-field of “transitional justice”, which is clamouring for pride of place within Memory Studies and has already achieved a notable status in debates on “dealing with the past” in “post-conflict” Northern Ireland

From the review:

‘The unnerving confidence displayed when instructing communities on the supposed correct way to remember, relies on a rhetoric of ethics, which under scrutiny can turn out to be little more than a cover-up for political opinionating’.

No ‘can’ about it.

Worth reading the entire piece.