What is Collective Memory definition/concept

Memory is the ability to recall data and events. This function of the human intellect has a double dimension: the individual and the collective. The concept of collective memory refers to all aspects that are part of a community‘s legacy. This term is related to phenomena associated with public opinion and expresses the social framework of shared memory.

The French thinker Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945) used this concept for the first time.

People of the same generation

People who were born in the same period of time usually have very similar memories about the past. It is common to keep in memory the games they played, the songs they listened to and the movies they watched in their youth .

All generations are united by certain experiences that go beyond the personal plane. Those who were born in the early 1960s in Brazil probably remember certain episodes from their childhood and youth: the arrival of man on the moon, the first color televisions, marble games in the streets and trendy music in the clubs.

It is not necessary to have lived an experience for society as a whole to remember

Certain events are remembered by society as a whole , even if they have not been known firsthand. Humanity as a whole has a special memory about the relatively more distant moments in time, such as the Jewish holocaust, the Cold War , the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attack on the Twin Towers.

The remote past is also part of collective memory

The literature , cinema and school education allows us to have a rough idea of what happened at other times of mankind. Also, some cities have signs of the past: churches, centuries-old walls, commercial establishments frequented by our ancestors, as well as streets and squares in our city that were built in other times.


The idea of ​​collective memory is formed by several aspects and references:

1) specific dates that are remembered by the community as a whole (for example, the date of the city’s foundation or a major historical episode);

2) the monuments of a place are indicators of episodes and characters in the story;

3) Literature and cinema also transmit information to society as a whole (Dickens’ novels tell us how people lived in Britain in the 19th century and thanks to western movies we can get to know what the American cities were like at the time. ).

In short , collective memory is something more than a simple memory of the past, because through it the identity of a people is created. Without collective memory, communities ignore their roots and traditions. In other words, a people without memory is a people without history.

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