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Unformatted text preview: 39.8 22.? 3.03 wagon: 30303 mi :wwSQ. fiwqua QNEQSQQ > hangar 8:3 3 Ema—SE mommmsmfio: 23 >26 <55:me maswcamr 9:55? 3.89 @33ng Noojgu. $9-73. all! rilllll'llllllpllillllir OOZZOZEmbSI 0;” ficmagfib 0033va mmwcanamm H wmm Emaism Ara, Bmeli 3mm 6mm: wmuaucamq mag 83353.3.an 8 «Sc 3 2- 0: gym: 9n :5 5423mm? 2n EmEQCSm scacmnw 8 33 (m Ow 9m 0,0333% LR 3mm firm La? :5 35313 3 11m 8333:3820: 33 cm mcEmnw 3 n0u<1€écw8$gg b2. 3% 32:3 Sufism 9. 833c3nmmo: o.n 11m 3m$1m_ 3 <0: 33 cm 9m mcgmfl om 831mg 303303 E391 firm b2. Do :on .smEodm 21m sozom 4.2 PIERRE NORA: FROM BETWEEN MEMORY AND HISTORY: LES LIEUX DE MEMOIRE The acceleration of history: let us try to gauge the significance, beyond metaphor, of this phrase. An increasingly rapid slippage of the present into a historical past that is gone for good, a general perception that anything and everything may disappear — these indicate a rupture of equilibrium. The remnants of experience still lived in the warmth of tradition, in the silence of custom, in the repetition of the ancestral, have been displaced under the pressure of a fundamentally historical sensibility. Self-consciousness emerges under the sign of that which has already happened, as the fulfillment of something always already begun. We speak so much of memory because there is so little of it left. Our interest in lieux de mémoire where memory crystallizes and secretes itself has occurred at a particular historical moment, a turning point where con- sciousness ofa break with the past is bound up with the sense that memory has been torn —- but torn in such a way as to pose the problem of the embodiment of memory in certain sites where a sense of historical centinuity persists. There are lieux de mémoire. sites of memory, because there are no longer milieux dc mémoire, real environments of memory. Consider, for example, the irrevocable break marked by the disappearance of peasant culture, that quintessential repository of collective memory whose recent vogue as an object of historical study coincided with the apogee of industrial growth. Such a fundamental collapse of memory is but one familiar Source: Pierre Nora, ‘Beiween Memory and History: Les Linux dc Memoire‘, trans. Marc Roudebush, in Representations, No. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter—Memory (Spring 1989). pp. 7—12. FROM LES LIEUX or Manama W example of a movement toward demOcratization and mass culture on a global scale. Among the new nations, independence has swept into history societies newly awakened from their ethnological slumbers by colonial violation. Similarly, a process of interior decolonization has affected ethnic minorities, families, and groups that until now have possessed reserves of memory but little or no historical capital. We have seen the end of societies that had long assured the transmission and conservation of collectively remembered values, whether through churches or schools, the family or the state; the end too of ideologies that prepared a smooth passage from the past to the future or that had indicated what the future should keep from the past — whether for reaction, progress, or even revolution. Indeed, we have seen the tremendous dilation of our very mode of historical perception, which, with the help of the media, has substituted for a memory entwined in the intimacy of a collective heritage the ephemeral film of current events. The ‘acceleration of history,’ then, confronts us with the brutal realization of the difference between real memory — social and unviolated, exemplified in but also retained as the secret of so-called primitive or archaic societies — and history, which is how our hopelessly forgetful modern societies, propelled by change, organize the past. On the one hand, we find an integrated, dic- tatorial memory « unself—conscious, commanding, all—powerful, spontaneously actualizing, a memory without a past that ceaselessly reinvents tradition, linking the history of its ancestors to the undifferentiated time of heroes, origins, and myth — and on the other hand, our memory, nothing more in fact than sifted and sorted historical traces. The gulf between the two has deepened in modern times with the growing belief in a right, a capacity, and even a duty to change. Today, this distance has been stretched to its convulsive limit. This conquest and eradication of memory by history has had the effect of a revelation, as if an ancient bond of identity had been broken and something had ended that we had experienced as self-evident — the equation of memory and history. The fact that only one word exists in French to designate both lived history and the intellectual operation that renders it intelligible (distinguished in German by Gescbichte and Historic) is a weakness of the language that has often been remarked; still, it delivers a profound truth: the process that is carrying us forward and our representation of that process are of the same kind. If we were able to live within memory, we would not have needed to consecrate lieux de me’moire in its name. Each gesture, down to the most everyday, would be experienced as the ritual repetition of a timeless practice in a primordial identification of act and meaning. With the appearance of the trace, of mediation, of distance, we are not in the realm of true memory but of history. We can think, for an example, of the Jews of the diaspora, bound in daily devotion to the rituals of tradition, who as ‘peOples of memory’ found little use for historians until their forced exposure to the modern world. Memory and history, far from being synonymous, appear now to be in fun— damental opposition. Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its W I45 PIERRE NORA name. It remains in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its successive deformations, vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and peri— odically revived. History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer. Memory is a perpetually actual phenomenon, a bond tying us to the eternal present; history is a repre- sentation of the past. Memory, insofar as it is affective and magical, only accommodates those facts that suit it; it nourishes recollections that may be out of focus or telescopic, global or detached, particular or symbolic — responsive to each avenue of conveyance or phenomenal screen, to every censorship or projection. History, because it is an intellectual and secular production, calls for analysis and criticism. Memory installs remembrance within the sacred; history, always prosaic, releases it again. Memory is blind to all but the group it binds — which is to say, as Maurice Halbwachs has said, that there are as many memories as there are groups, that memory is by nature multiple and yet specific; collective, plural, and yet individual. History, on the other hand, belongs to everyone and to no one, whence its claim to universal authority. Memory takes root in the concrete, in spaces, gestures, images, and objects; history binds itself strictly to temporal continuities, to progressions and to relations between things. Memory is absolute, while hiStOry can Only conceive the relative. At the heart of history is a critical discourse that is antithetical to spontaneous memory. History is perpetually suspicious of memory, and its true mission is to suppress and destroy it. At the horiZOn of historical societies, at the limits of the completely historicized world, there would occur a permanent secularization. History’s goal and ambition is not to exalt but to annihilate what has in reality taken place. A generalized critical history would no doubt preserve some museums, some medallions and monuments — that is to say, the materials necessary for its work — but it would empty them of what, to us, would make them lieux tie memoirs. In the end, a society living wholly under the sign of history could not, any more than could a traditional society, conceive such sites for anchoring its memory. Perhaps the most tangible sign of the split between history and memory has been the emergence of a history of history, the awakening, quite recent in France, of a historiographical consciousness. History, especially the history of national development, has constituted the oldest of our collective traditions: out quint— essential mz'lz'eu dc memoirs. From the chroniclers of the Middle Ages to today’s practitioners of ‘total’ history, the entire tradition has developed as the controlled exercise and automatic deepening of memory, the reconstitution of a past without lacunae or faults. No doubt, none of the great historians, since Frolssart, had the sense that he was representing only a particular memory. Commynes did not think he was fashioning a merely dynastic memory, La Popeliniere merely a French memory, Bossuet a Christian and monarchical memory, Voltaire the I46 FROM LES Lirux or MEMOIRE memory of the progress of humankind, Michelet exclusively the ‘people’s’ memory, and Lavisse solely the memory of the nation. On the contrary, each historian was convinced that his task consisted in establishing a more positive, all-encompassing, and explicative memory. History’s procurement, in the last century, of scientific methodology has only intensified the effort to establish critically a ‘true’ memory. Every great historical revision has sought to enlarge the basis for collective memory. In a country such as France the history of history cannor be an innocent operation; it amounts to the internal subversion of memory-history by critical history. Every history is by nature critical, and all historians have sought to denounce the hypocritical mythologies of their predecessors. But something fundamentally unsettling happens when history begins to write its own history. A historiographical anxiety arises when history assigns itself the task of tracing alien impulses within itself and discovers that it is the victim of memories which it has sought to master. Where history has not taken on the strong formative and didactic role that it has assumed in France, the history of history is less laden with polemical content. in the United States, for example, a country of plural memories and diverse traditions, historiography is more pragmatic. Different interpretations of the Revolution or of the Civil War do not threaten the American tradition because, in some sense, no such thing exists — or if it does, it is not primarily a hiStorical construction. In France, on the other hand, historiography is iconoclastic and irreverent. It seizes upon the most clearly defined objections of tradition — a key battle, like Bouvines; a canonical manual, like the Petit Lavisse — in order to dismantle their mechanisms and analyze the conditions of their development. It operates primarily by introducing doubt, by running a knife between the-tree of memory and the bark of history. That we study the historiography of the French Revolution, that we reconstitute its myths and interpretations, implies that we no longer unquestioningly identify with its heritage. To interrogate a tradition, venerable though it may be, is no longer to pass it on intact. Moreover, the history of history does not restrict itself to addressing the most sacred objects of our natiOnal tradition. By questioning its own traditional structure, its own conceptual and material resources, its operating procedures and social means of distribution, the entire discipline of history has entered its'historiographical age, consummating its dis— sociation from memory — which in turn has become a possible object of history. It once seemed as though a tradition of memory, through the concepts of history and the nation, had crystallized in the synthesis of the Third Republic. Adopting a broad chronology, lietween Augustin Thierry’s Lem—es 5117‘ l’bistoire de France (1827) and Charles Seignobos’s Histoire sincere de la nation francnise (1933), the relationships between history, memory, and the nation were char— acterized as more than natural currency: they were shown to involve a reciprocal circularity, a symbiosis at every level 7 scientific and pedagogical, theoretical and practical. This national definition of the present imperiOusly demanded justi- fication through the illumination of the past. It was, however, a present that had I47 PIERRE NORA been weakened by revolutionary trauma and the call for a general reevaluation of the monarchical past, and it was weakened further by the defeat of 1870, which rendered only more urgent, in the belated competition with German science and pedagogy — the real victors at Sadowa — the development of a severe d0cumentary erudition for the scholarly transmission of memdry. The tone of national responsibility assigned to the historian - half preacher, half soldier — is unequalled, for example, in the first editorial of the Revue historique (1376) in which Gabriel Monod foresaw a ‘slow scientific, methodical, and collective investigation’ conducted in a ‘secret and secure manner for the greatness of the fatherland as well as for mankind.I Reading this text, and a hundred others like it, one wonders how the notion that positivist history was not cumulative could ever have gained credibility. On the contrary, in the teleological perspective of - the nation the political, the military, the biographical, and the dipIOmatic all were to be considered pillars of continuity. The defeat of Agincourt, the dagger of Ravaillac, the day of the Dupes, the additional clauses of the treaty of . Westphalia — each required scrupulous accounting. The most incisive erudition thus served to add or take away some detail from the monumental edifice that was the nation. The nation’s memory was held to be powerfully unified; no more discontinuity existed between our Greco-Roman cradle and the colonies of the Third Republic than between the high erudition that annexed new territories to the nation’s heritage and the schoolbooks that professed its dogma. The holy nation thus acquired a holy history; through the nation our memory continued to rest upon a sacred foundation. To see how this particular synthesis came apart under the pressure of a new secularizing force would be to show how, during the crisis of the l930s in France, the c0up1ing of state and nation was gradually replaced by the coupling of state and society — and how, at the same time and for the same reasons, history was transformed, spectacularly, from the tradition of memory it had become into the self-knowledge of society. As such, history was able to highlight many kinds of memory, even turn itself into a laboratory of past men- talities; but in disclaiming its national identity, it also abandoned its claim to beating coherent meaning and consequently lost its pedagogical authority to transmit values. The definition of the nation was no longer the issue, and peace, prosperity, and the reduction of its p0wer have since accomplished the rest. With the advent of society in place of the nation, legitimation by the past and therefore by history yields to legitimation by the future. One can only acknowledge and venerate the past and serve the nation; the future, however, can be prepared for: thus the three terms regain their autonomy. No longer a cause, the nation has become a given; history is now a social science, memory a purely private phenomenon. The memory-nation was thus the last incarnation of the unification of memory and history. The study of lieux de mémoires, then, lies at the intersection of two developments that in France today give it meaning: one a purely historiographical movement, i48 FROM LES UEUX DE MEMOIRE the reflexive turning of history upon itself, the other a movement that is, properly speaking, historical: the end of a tradition of memory. The moment of lien): de mémoire occurs at the same time that an immense and intimate fund of memory disappears, surviving only as a reconstituted object beneath the gaze of critical history. This period sees, on the one hand, the decisive deepening of historical study and, on the other hand, a heritage consolidated. The critical principle fo110ws an internal dynamic: our intellectual, political, historical frameworks are exhausted but remain powerful enough not to leave us indifferent; whatever vitality they retain impresses us only in their most spectacular symbols. Combined, these two movements send us at once to history’s most elementary tools and to the most symbolic objects of our memory: to the archives as well as to the tricolor; to the libraries, dictionaries, and museums as well as to com- memorations, celebrations, the Pantheon, and the Arc de Triomphe; to the Dictionnaire Laronsse as well as to the Wall of the Fédérés where the last defenders of the Paris commune were massacred in 1870. These lienx d2 mémoire are fundamentally remains, the ultimate embodiments of a memorial consciousness that has barely survived in a historical age that calls out for memory because it has abandoned it. They make their appearance by virtue of the deritualization of our world — producing, manifesting, establishing, constructing, decreeing, and maintaining by artifice and by will a society deeply absorbed in its own transformation and renewal, one that inherently values the new over the ancient, the young over the old, the future over the past. Museums, archives, cemeteries, festivals, anniversaries, treaties, depositions, monuments, sanctuaries, fraternal orders — these are the boundary stones of another age, illusions of eternity. It is the nostalgic dimension of these devotional institutions that makes them seem beleaguered and cold — they mark the rituals of a society without ritual; integral particularities in a society that levels particularity; signs of distinction and of group membership in a society that tends to recognize individuals only as identical and equal. Lieux de mémoire originate with the sense that there is no spontaneous memory, that we must deliberately create archives, maintain anniversaries, organize celebrations, pronounce euiogies, and notarize bills because such activities no longer occur naturally. The defense, by certain minorities, of a privileged memory that has retreated to jealously protected enclaves in this sense intensely illuminates the truth of lienx dc mémoire — that without com- memorative vigilance, history would soon sweep them away. We buttress our identities upOn such bastions, but if what they defended were not threatened, there would be no need to build them. Conversely, if the memories that they enclosed were to be set free they would be useless; if history did not besiege memory, deforming and transforming it, penetrating and petrifying it, there would he no lieux dc mémoire. Indeed, it is this very push and pull that produces lieux de mémoire — moments of history torn away from the movement of history, then returned; no longer quite life, not yet death, like shells on the shore when the sea of living memory has receded. I49 ...
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