How do we use our mental images of the present to reconstruct our past? Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945) addressed this question for the first time in his work on collective memory, which established him as a major figure in the history of sociology. This volume, the first comprehensive English-language translation of Halbwach's writings on the social construction of memory, fills a major gap in the literature on the sociology of knowledge.
Halbwachs' primary thesis is that human memory can only function within a collective context. Collective memory, Halbwachs asserts, is always selective; various groups of people have different collective memories, which in turn give rise to different modes of behavior. Halbwachs shows, for example, how pilgrims to the Holy Land over the centuries evoked very different images of the events of Jesus' life; how wealthy old families in France have a memory of the past that diverges sharply from that of the nouveaux riches; and how working class construction of reality differ from those of their middle-class counterparts.
With a detailed introduction by Lewis A. Coser, this translation will be an indispensable source for new research in historical sociology and cultural memory.
Lewis A. Coser is Distinguished Professor of Sociology Emeritus at the State University of New York and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Boston College.
In the decades since the Vietnam War, veteran memoirs have influenced Americans’ understanding of the conflict. Yet few historians or literary scholars have scrutinized how the genre has shaped the nation’s collective memory of the war and its aftermath. Instead, veterans’ accounts are mined for colorful quotes and then dropped from public discourse; are accepted as factual sources with little attention to how memory, no matter how authentic, can diverge from events; or are not contextualized in terms of the race, gender, or class of the narrators.
Veteran Narratives and the Collective Memory of the Vietnam War is a landmark study of the cultural heritage of the war in Vietnam as presented through the experience of its American participants. Crossing disciplinary borders in ways rarely attempted by historians, John A. Wood unearths truths embedded in the memoirists’ treatments of combat, the Vietnamese people, race relations in the United States military, male-female relationships in the war zone, and veterans’ postwar troubles. He also examines the publishing industry’s influence on collective memory, discussing, for example, the tendency of publishers and reviewers to privilege memoirs critical of the war. Veteran Narratives is a significant and original addition to the literature on Vietnam veterans and the conflict as a whole.
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