Friday, 3 June 2016
Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,
Tom Thatcher ed., SBL, 2014, page 170-172
Keith now introduces the work of Jan Assmann, a cultural memory theorist. His particular focus is on the concept of 'Traditionsbruch', a German word meaning a break with or departure from tradition.
Assmann distinguishes between the communicative memory of a living generation and the cultural memory that extends beyond that generation and into the authoritative cultural repertoire of a group.
Keith explains that for Assman, memory or tradition that becomes a cultural memory has become a cultural text. He quotes Assmann's words:
"Cultural texts form the cement or connective backbone of a society that ensures its identity and coherence through the sequence of generations." (Jan Assmann, pg 78, "Form as a Mnemonic Device: Cultural Texts and Cultural Memory.", in Horsley, Draper and Foley, "Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory and Mark", Fortress Press, 2006)
Commenting further, Keith points out that a new or emerging community will lose touch with its origins as the first generation die out - those whose personal memories are of the original events. This will be lost altogether unless it becomes a cultural rather than personal memory. Assmann consistently locates this change at around the forty year mark after the original event:
If a memory should not be lost, then it must be transforned from biographical memory into cultural memory. (Assmann, 1992)
Keith then sums up the roles of Traditionbruch:
The Traditionsbruch thereby establishes the move fron oral to written tradition, from communicative to cultural memory, as a cultural coping mechanism that draws upon a manuscript's relative durability and symbolic value, an effort at identity (re)construction in the aftermath of a crisis of generational succession, violence, or ither cultural threats.