Treasury, Guardian, Cognitive Process: Memory Studies in Canada and Germany
(University of Manitoba – University of Trier – University of Greifswald)
Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
We live in one of the great ages of memory, a time in which forces have converged to push memory to the forefront of our moral, political, scientific, and aesthetic lives. Some have even referred to the current moment as being characterized by a “memory boom.” The standard view of this boom is that it has come about owing to a variety of factors, including, a decline in confidence in “modernist” narratives of progress over the course of the twentieth century, the rise of consumer culture, which has turned nostalgia into a commodity, and multiculturalism and individualism, which have in related ways fragmented our collective sense of self, forcing nation-states to turn to the real or imagined past to buttress their legitimacy. Memory has been further bolstered by the Holocaust and other such horrors, which have called into question the integrity of our moral imaginations and ushered in what has been called “a culture of trauma and regret.” We find this culture at work in public institutions such as memorials and museums, as well as in the proliferation of media representations of the personal past. It is also evident in such socially and politically transformative agencies and processes as truth commissions and public inquiries.