2016 | 17(4) | 95-106
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SOCIOLOGY OF EMOTIONS: Collective Memory – Who owns the past?

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When defining memory, we may look at it as a multiphase process or as a quality of a particularperson. What is most interesting is the fact that several individuals might have different memories of the same event. Past events, significant ones (or perceived as such)from the point of view of a community, become part of the oral or written history. It isnot important for memories to be based on actual events, just that the community sharesa belief in their authenticity. This same mechanism applies to their interpretation: it isonly important that a community interprets events in the same way. This is one of thecrucial elements bonding the community together. Collective memory is a part of cultureand it uses its own criterion for truth: true is what society decides to be true, not necessarilywhat is true according to historical facts. Collective memory involves two psychologicalmechanisms which are worth exploring: the subjective interpretation of events andthe collective system of meanings. Ethnic minorities create their own concepts of socialworlds, and they also create specific interpretations of historical events. It must be notedthat in modern times, when minorities do not live in isolated enclaves, they must maintainequilibrium between two worlds: their own and the one of the dominant group. The dominantmajority has at its disposal the public and mandatory educational system, as well asthe media and cultural institutions, often subsidized by the state. It is in the interest of theminority to reach a situation in which it can in its own culture.
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