University of Neuchatel
Thesis: Remembering the collective past: norms, identities and perspective taking
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Research supervisor: Prof. Tania Zittoun
One of the main aims of my dissertation is to explore the construction of the memory of collective events from the perspective of the person, by articulating the mediated, dialogical and pragmatic aspects of remembering. However, if this perspective has the advantage of restoring the agency of the subject, it bears the risk of individualising the accounts made of collective events by forgetting that the narratives we use often have a long socio-historical past. In an effort to avoid this pitfall, I have tried to summarise how different authors in memory studies – mainly Wertsch (2002, 2008), Halbwachs (1950) and Bartlett (1995) – have articulated these two levels. It points to the role of the mastery and appropriation of cultural materials (Wertsch, 1997) in giving shape to future accounts of the past, making reconstructive memory a process enabled and constrained by cultural tools. I believe that this summer university would help me to locate the works of Vygotsky within this framework, giving me the possibility to use it to articulate further these different levels of analysis.
Moreover, in order to move beyond the dichotomy between the individual and the cultural, I also wish to adopt a dynamic and developmental perspective. Indeed, one way to avoid individual or social deterministic explanations of the memory of collective events is to look at how accounts of the past are internalised to be later reworked, reimagined and reconstructed with the input of other experiences, making of reconstructive memory a form of imaginative thinking. Because of this, Vygotsky’s works on how imagination develops (Vygotsky, 2004) and on how history and ontogeny interlace (Vygotsky, 1997) have proven extremely useful tools. Therefore, exploring these further, not the least by discovering their subsequent development in the socio-historical tradition, would be an inestimable resource for my research.