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Social Theory: Collective Memory. Bin Xu Assistant Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies Florida International University. What is a Nation?. Mnemonic Communities: Nations. Ernest Renan. “What is a Nation?” (1882) Purpose of the piece: to challenge the idea of race-based nation

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social theory collective memory

Social Theory: Collective Memory

Bin Xu

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Asian Studies

Florida International University

mnemonic communities nations
Mnemonic Communities: Nations
  • Ernest Renan. “What is a Nation?” (1882)
  • Purpose of the piece: to challenge the idea of race-based nation
  • Political dimension of this purpose
ernest renan what is a nation
Ernest Renan. “What is a Nation?”
  • “A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle.”
  • Two thing constitute the soul: shared past; willingness to live together in the present.
  • Influence: civic nationalism
  • Problems: 1) separatism?; 2) forced forgetting?
anthony smith the ethnic origins of nations
Anthony Smith. The Ethnic Origins of Nations
  • Primordialism and modernism
  • Smith’s ethnie concept
anthony smith the ethnic origins of nations1
Anthony Smith. The Ethnic Origins of Nations
  • The central role of myths and memories in ethnie:
  • A collective name
  • A common myth of descent
  • A shared history: A distinctive shared culture
  • An association with a specific territory
  • A sense of solidarity
anthony smith the ethnic origins of nations2
Anthony Smith. The Ethnic Origins of Nations
  • Full and empty pastrediscovery and reconstruction
  • Landscape and myth:
  • Poetic space: sacred sites of memory
  • Common elements of a national myth: origins in time; origins in space; ancestry; migration; liberation; the golden age (heroes); decline; rebirth
american national myth
American National Myth
  • A myth of origins in time
  • A myth of origins in space
  • A myth of ancestry
  • A myth of migration
  • A myth of liberation
  • A myth of the golden age
  • A myth of decline
  • A myth of rebirth
masada
Masada
  • http://www.mordagan.com/links/masada/
  • 3 years of resistance (70
  • Josephus’s narrative of Masada: collective suicide.
  • The Book of Jossipon(around 10th century)
rediscovery of masada
Rediscovery of Masada
  • Revived interest in Masada (and Josephus) in the late 19th century
  • 1927 poem Masada
  • 3 aspects of the national myth of Masada:
  • A powerful story
  • A challenging site
  • Interesting archaeological remains
  • Archaeological excavation (20:00): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8e0VjsLZjE
the myth of masada
The Myth of Masada
  • “Masada is a symbol. Masada is a guideline. Masada is longing. Masada is a loud cry. Masada is a tower of light…Masada is a symbol of Jewish and human heroism in all its greatness.” (p.68)
  • Continuity between the Antiquity and modern State of Israel
  • Selective representations: downplaying the suicide; highlighting readiness to die.
masada and the holocaust
Masada and the Holocaust
  • Heroism vs. disgrace; heroes vs. victims
  • The suicide theme reemerged as a heroic narrative
  • “The Masada of Warsaw” (Jewish Ghetto uprisings in 1942-1943)
mnemonic practices
Mnemonic Practices
  • New commemorative rituals: reading Josephus
  • Youth pilgrimage: since the pre-state period
  • Challenging physical conditions
  • Demanding activities
  • Group solidarity
  • Climbing up as a patriotic ritual
the state s sponsorship
The state’s sponsorship
  • 1969 reburial service of remains of 27 excavated defenders
  • The state’s control of the site
  • Ceremonial events
  • New infrastructures (roads, cable car, stairs, hostels)
changing memories of masada
Changing Memories of Masada
  • Since the 1960s: Masada and the Holocaust (victimhood emphasized)
  • The image of besieged Masada as a symbol of Israel (Yom Kippur War in 1973)
  • Masada and the Holocaust coexist in Israel’s contemporary commemorative culture
historical debates
Historical debates
  • Historical facts vs. stories
  • Jewish tradition: collective suicide is not glorified
  • Legal debate: suicide or murder or martyrdom
  • “The Masada complex” (hard-lined stance without compromise; particularly after the 1967 Six-Day War)