How Societies Remember by Paul Connerton

As part of my research, I wanted to look outside the photographic realms of remembering. So I decided to look at how societies remember in general, which is how I came across How Societies Remember by Paul Connerton.

In this book, the first half was entirely useless to me, as it was just going over examples of how societies used to remember key events in historical times; he used examples of wars, and how the villagers would actually only remember the key events that held more significant value to them, and how they chose to remember certain events.
However it was only on page 20 in the book that it became much more relevant, as Connerton begins to talk about “how memories they pass onto their children, can scarcely be said to refer to the ‘same’ event.” (Connerton, 1989) This is very interesting to think about as it links in to what I looked at in the “Making Histories, Making Memories” in particular to the dream space in which memories are personal. I criticised this in saying that we cannot be certain as to what we remember is true. This backs up this idea on that nothing can be the same event as we all tend to block up certain memories in order to better or worse the idea.

It then goes on to talk about how “we come to know each other by asking for accounts.” (Connerton, 1989) This again links in to how memories are passed on through family generations and how when we see something in particular, we can instantly relate to those memories we remember. This passing on helps us to understand the context of these of these histories.

Connerton then goes on to talk about a different type of memory claims:

  1.  Personal Memory claims -> Where we refer to acts that we remember their objects life history. This is because as they are located in our personal past. This helps us in knowing about the concept of ourselves.
  2. Cognitive Memory claims -> Where we remember the meaning of words, lines, stories etc However with this, we do not need any previous information in order to “retain and use memories of this class.” (Connerton, 1989)
  3. Capacity to reproduce certain performances -> We cannot remember these things, but it is only in the performance we remember. So really this memory is when we need to refer to it as a guide.

The rest of the article was then based on habitats and behaviour, with more research onto information that had no relevance to me at all anymore. So for me, the information I take from this is the different types of memories one can get when interacting with the objects.
So for my project, I want the viewer to really experience the personal memory claims as this is where is the most relevant information comes from.

Connerton, P. (1989). How societies remember. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, pp.20-40.


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