Friday, 8 July 2016
The Communicative Horizon
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 24
Returning to the difference between communicative and cultural memory, Assmann explains that communicative memory has a horizon ...
The nature of this horizon has been illuminated by research in the field of oral history. This has shown that with the methods of oral interrogation, it is not possible to progress further than a horizon of eighty to a maximum of one hundred years. That is the distance in time achieved at best by personal memory relying not just on actual experiences ut also on the direct communications of others. This is the past that accompanies us because it belongs to us and because there is a living communicative need to keep it alive in the present; it sustains us and is sustained by us. We remember it because we need it. Communicative memory is a generational memory that changes as the generations change.
Isn't that interesting? That personal or communicative memory is operating rather like a window (of differing width, depending on the person) that slides along, with its front edge always open to 'now'. Then Assmann looks beyond that horizon ...
Second, we arrive at a point that goes decisively beyond the horizon of collective and bonding memory. Its horizon is determined by the memory formulas and configurations that underpin our sense of community and by all the memory needs of a clearly defined "we". Wuthin the framework of a bonding memory, the past is always "instrumentalised".