Collective memory and narrative templates

Social Research: An International Quarterly 75 (1):133-156 (2008)
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An episode of social conflict between Russian and Estonian "mnemonic communities" is used as a framework for exploring issues of collective memory. In order to understand the strong Russian reaction to the Estonian decision to move a memorial statue, it is argued that the notion of "deep memory" is needed, a notion that is, in turn, grounded in the construct of a "narrative template." The particular narrative template examined is the Russian "Expulsion of Foreign Enemies" plot line. The call for recognizing a distinction between abstract narrative templates, on the one hand, and "specific narratives," on the other is viewed as applying to a wide range of cases where mnemonic communities seem to exist in implacable opposition. In such cases deep memory and the narrative templates around which it is organized are set forth as strong underlying conservative forces that resist change in collective memory at a deep level. It is suggested that debates grounded in formal history may help overcome this resistance to change but that such efforts will be limited as long as the forces of deep collective memory are not recognized



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