On historical injustice and the art of forgetting

  • Robert Vosloo Stellenbosch University

Abstract

This article asks whether it is responsible to introduce and/or cultivate the language of forgetting against the backdrop of South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past.  In writings originating from contexts permeated by memories of historical injustice, the call, and more specifically the duty, to remember and the implied need to fight against forgetting are rightfully emphasised.  But how are we to evaluate what some scholars see as a discursive shift from “memory†to “forgetting†in memory studies?  With this question in mind, this article first considers some possible arguments for giving greater prominence to the notion of forgetting in our memory discourse.  This is followed by a section that reiterates the “critique of forgetting,†drawing also on some examples from 20th century South African political and church history. In the final section, the article considers, in conversation with Paul Ricoeur, whether we should view the relationship between an art of memory and an art of forgetting as symmetrical or asymmetrical.

References

Bigsby, C 2006, Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Borges, J L 1962. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Boshoff, G J J 1959, U Volk is my Volk. Johannesburg: Voortrekkerpers Bpk.

Botman, H R and Peterson, R M (eds.) 1996. To Remember and to Heal: Theological and Psychological Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau.

Connerton, P 2009, How Modernity Forgets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Diawara, M, Lategan, B and Rüsen, J 2010, Historical Memory in Africa: Dealing with the past, reaching for the future in an intercultural context. New York: Berghahn Books.

Eco, U 2005, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. London: Secker & Warburg.

Foer, J 2011, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. London: Allen Lane.

Goboda-Madikizela, P and Van der Merwe, C (eds.) 2009, Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Hauerwas, S 2000, A Better Hope: Resources for a Church Confronting Capitalism, Democracy, and Postmodernity. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Kotzé, C R n.d., Die Bybel en ons Volkstryd: Preke tussen 1930 en 1946 geskryf en gelewer deur Wyle Ds. C. R. Kotzé. Bloemfontein : SACUM Bpk.

Kearney, R and Dooley, M (eds.) 1999, Questioning Ethics: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Kundera, M 1995. Testaments Betrayed. London: HarperCollins.

Liebsch, B (eds.), 2010, Bezeugte Vergangenheit oder Versöhnendes Vergessen: Geschichtstheorie nach Paul Ricoeur. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Markschies, C and Wolf, H (eds.) 2010, Erinnerungsorte des Christentums. München: Verlag C.H. Beck.

Nietzsche, F 1983, Untimely Meditations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nora, P, Les lieux de mémoire (7 volumes) (1984-1992). Paris: Gallimard.

Nora, P, “Between Memory and History: Les lieux de mémoire,†Representations 26 (Spring 1989: 7-24).

Nuttall, S and Coetzee, C (eds.) 1998. Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Harris, V 2007, Archives and Justice: A South African Perspective. Chicago: The Society of American Archivists.

Ricoeur, P 1966, Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Ricoeur, P 2004. Memory, History, Forgetting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Samuel, R 1994, Theatres of Memory Volume 1: Past and Present Contemporary Culture. London: Verso.

Signer, A (ed.) 2001, Memory and History in Christianity and Judaism. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Volf, M 2006, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Weinrich, H 2004, Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting. Ithaka: Cornell University Press.

Whitehead, A 2009, Memory. London: Routledge.

Wiesel, E 1990, From the Kingdom of Memory: Reminiscences. New York: Summit Books.

Wiesel, E 1994. All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs Volume One 1928-1969. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Yates, F A 1992, The Art of Memory. London: Pimlico.

Yerushalmi, Y H 1982 (1996), Zakhor, Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Published
2014-12-29
Section
Articles