‘Cultural memory’ indicates a field of interdisciplinary research spanning the humanities and social sciences concerned with the complex interconnections between memory, culture and identity. The study of cultural memory is centrally concerned with the relationship between the past and the present and, crucially, with the ways in which individuals, groups and societies remember, rework, bury or forget aspects of the past in order to make sense of, repair or reconstruct the present.
Research in this field investigates the cultural and political processes that produce ‘a sense of the past’ for a society or social group, and explores the inter-relation between collective remembering (and forgetting) and the personal memories of individuals. The representation of memory through narrative and other cultural forms – encompassing oral, textual, visual, material, and digital media – is understood in the context of particular lived cultures and modes of subjectivity, historical as well as contemporary. Analysis therefore involves the relationship not only between past and present, but also between different forms of memory, from the shared, public sites of memory, such as memorials, museums and days of remembrance, which are often designed with the aim of bringing together a group of people around a hegemonically constructed memory, to the private, personal memories of individuals which may become part of public memory but equally, may remain unspoken and, eventually, forgotten.
It is the interplay between these different sites, and the different discourses that are used to express memory, that lie at the heart of CMNH’s understanding of cultural memory. The Centre provides a focus for research at Brighton which examines cultural memory in relation to political and ideological conflict over the meaning of the past; the formation of subjectivities and social identities; the significance of place; psychoanalytic and psycho-social perspectives on remembering and forgetting; the practices and rituals of everyday life; the politics of equality, social justice and human rights; and questions of ethics and historical truth.