Reflections on Memory, Trauma, and Politics, #5–Last of the Series


This is the last of a series of seven consecutive entries, originally written in my philosophical journal last year, occasioned by my reading of British political scientist Duncan Bell’s collection of essays by diverse scholars, Memory, Trauma, and World Politics (Pallgrave Macmillan, 2006).  The entry below consists solely of three citations from three different pages of the same article from that collection, with no further commentary from me.  The passages do indeed speak for themselves, and echo other passages from other authors I have cited, with remarks of my own, in earlier posts.  At issue are the different ways of remembering and memorializing trauma and its victims.  What political scientist Maja Zehfuss points to in the three passages cited below is the expropriation of victims’ memories by, and exploitation of those same memories in service of salving the conscience of, those same victims’ victimizers–the perpetrators of the abuses at issue.  Though in the case that concerns Zehfuss, the process of expropriation and exploitation was presumably unintentional, there are no doubt all too many other cases that can be adduced in which it is fully intentional.  There are, too cases in which one is uncomfortable attributing either full intention to the expropriators and exploiters of victims’ memories–perpetrators fully knowingly using such a process of memory-robbing to compound the abuse of the victims being robbed of their memories–or inadvertance and ignorance to them, as seems to hold for the case Zehfuss is discussing.  That is, there are cases in which, I would suggest, there is indeed the insertion of ignorance and inadvertance into the situation, but that ignorance itself turns out to be all too motivated, as it were, and the inadvertance all too planned, so to speak.

I will eventually be returning to that issue of an all too motivated ignorance in some journal entries I have already designated for eventual posting on this site.   For now, I will only suggest that, for a prime example, the Bush administration invasion of Iraq, using recurrent references of various sorts in various venues to the memory of the victims of “9/11” seems to fit such a bill.

Friday, May 5, 2008

In Bell, Maja Zehfuss, “Remembering to Forget/Forgetting to Remember” (pp.213-230), p.215:  On May 8, 1985, anniversary of German surrender in 1945, “Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker–urging incidentally that 8 May 1945 should be seen as liberation–cited the cabbalistic saying inscribed at the Yad Veshem memorial [to Holocaust victims, in Israel]:  ‘Wanting to forget prolongs the exile, and the secret of redemption is remembering.’ . . . On Helmut Dubiel’s view, it became clear . . . that Weizsäcker’s discussion had not been differentiated enough.  The saying had been ‘stripped of its Jewish origin’ and strangely referred to ‘the possibility of a moral emancipation of the perpetrator through memory of guilt’.  Klaus Naumann also criticized that von Weizsäcker seemed to be unaware that the caballa deals with ‘the victims of historical injustice,’ not the perpetrators.”

P.219:  In 1988 in his acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German bookk  trade, novelist Martin Wolser criticized what he called “a ‘monumentalization’ of German disgrace” in the “planned [German] Holocaust memorial,” which “has also been called a ‘Kranzabwurfstelle‘ (a place to drop wreaths).  In other words, official commemoration may actually conceal forgetting:  the dropping of wreaths by politicians creates no more than an illusion of remembering.”

P. 220:  Andreas Huyysen (in Twilight Memories:  Marking Time in a Culture of  Amnesia, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 214) “argues that the issue is not whether to forget or to remember, but rather how to remember and how to handle representations of the remembered past.’  The argument ‘against forgetting’, with its implied imperative ‘remember’, is a move in the struggle over to remember.”

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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