Memories, territories, identities: from unity to dissonance

Dominique Poulot


Concepts like memory, identity and heritage enjoy an almost unprecedented success in these years, so as to take on much of the interest – both public and personal or family – traditionally devoted to history. This success is, at least in part, the result of those co-ordinated and parallel cultural operations in the European states, in the XIX and XX centuries, which were to build a series of consolidated and unified national identities, able to contend to others the supremacy on the continental or even – due to the continuation of colonialism – the global stage. In this view, the creation of chairs of history, the opening of national museums, the protection of monuments and the multiplication of collections and collectors showed, as common watermark, the idea of building the historical narration of a cultural unity paired with the territorial one, with no uncertainty even before what Hobsbawm and Ranger would call “the invention of tradition”. The decay of such monolithic structure in the face of traumatic historical events, since a few decades ago, leaves now room for an image of historical memory which is much more problematic and dissonant: in its framework, local and national communities confront with their past with increasingly less ideological filters, and try to metabolise it as the fuel for a disparate series of possible futures.


memory; identity; herit-age; unity; dissonance

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