Culture and Memory Research

The defined research area Culture and Memory Research addressing important questions concerning the perception of temporality and the complex relationship between past, present and future

Holocaust museum i Paris

The discourse about the way we handle temporalities and the way past interacts with present and future is not new. Different uses and interpretations of the past give different prerequisites for the future. The result of such recognition is the attendant insight that knowledge about the mechanisms that come into force, that is, what is remembered and what has been forgotten, is of extreme importance for the community.

When judge Baltazar Garzón in 2008 broke the amnesty pact in Spain that had been active since the end of the Franco regime, he also chose to break a national pact of silence. When French independent groups in October 2011 decided to actively commemorate the Paris massacre of 1961 during the Algerian War, they also provoked a reaction against the nation’s colonial past. When Norwegians decided to remember 22nd of July 2011 with massive collective manifestations, they also chose to challenge the history of the nation and the future perception of their own past and identity.

These few examples show us to what extent past events may be used by different actors, individuals or groups, and in different contexts in order to create, in the present and for the future, a collective perception or feeling of past and identity in time and space.
By «using» concrete past events, these individual or collective actors chose to forget or silence others: the production of meaning is a process of selection.
All these examples tell us something about historical and more generally past events. They illustrate interactive relationships between understanding of the present, expectations for the future and interpretation of the past, in other words, how remembering and forgetting are perpetually intertwined, how they interact in order to establish a collective discourse on the past and how they influence the terrain of the politics.