Reconceiving binaries: The limits of memory

Susannah Radstone

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92 Citations (Scopus)


This essay explores the conceptual terrain of memory's mediation and articulation across and within the public sphere. After defining the key terms of mediation and articulation, it proposes that a dominant trend in memory research today is the extension and application of terms associated with personal memory to domains beyond the personal - a trend which has the effects of hardening into literality what might better be regarded as a series of compelling metaphors - the 'traumatization' of a nation, for instance, or the 'healing' of a culture - while drawing attention away from the processes of articulation through which past happenings and the meanings and affects associated with them are discursively produced, transmitted and mediated. This trend might be resisted without reaffirming binary divisions between the personal and the public, by attending more closely to the various and particular articulations of memory by the diverse institutions of the public sphere. From particular studies of memory that have engaged with the sufferings of individuals and groups, the essay draws out some thoughts about what the 'personalization' of the conceptual terrain of memory research may screen as well as some suggestions for future research. If the personalization of memory studies hinders a focus on questions of power and structural inequalities, this essay proposes countering that tendency, in particular, by an attention to processes of the recognition of memory and the relations between recognizing authorities - processes that are at once cognitive, affective and political.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-150
Number of pages17
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Historical harpsichords
  • Pleyel
  • Wanda Landowska

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