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Commemorating and ForgettingChallenges for the New South Africa$
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Martin J. Murray

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780816682997

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816682997.001.0001

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The Power of Collective Memory

The Power of Collective Memory

(p.11) 1 The Power of Collective Memory
Commemorating and Forgetting

Martin J. Murray

University of Minnesota Press

In this chapter, I investigate how commemorative practices have always been deeply invested in the shaping of political and national identities, and the recasting of new memory-markers provides us with significant clues as to the social stability of the ‘new South Africa’ after the end of apartheid and about the ways that the custodians of memory – both from the top down and from the bottom up – project its future. A close reading of the memorial landscapes that proliferated after the end of apartheid can reveal insights into the power of collective memory to shape national identity. Looking at the cultural politics of ‘nation-building’ through the lens of an assortment of mnemonic devices – such as monuments and memorials, museums, and autobiographical writing – enables us to grasp how the lingering, ghostly presence of the past, always contested and never stable, haunts the present. While the ‘new South Africa’ is located in the historical conjuncture that has been called “post-apartheid,” it must be recognized that the legacies and impositions of white minority rule are far from over, and that they have remained embedded and intertwined with, and imprinted upon, the here-and-now.

Keywords:   Collective memory and selective forgetting, Contemporary (post-apartheid) South Africa, Heritage and tourism studies, Commemorative practices, Monuments and memorials, Museums and public exhibitions, Thanotourism, Traumascapes

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