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SOC 230
Memory and Forgetting Spring 2021
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

On the surface, remembering generally confronts us as a deeply personal act. What is more private than nostalgic reverie or the secrets of a dark and painful past? Yet even “individual” memories take shape through social frameworks, and we also remember “collectively” through shared myths, narratives, traditions, and the like. This course will explore the social dimensions of memory and remembering as well as their inevitable counterpart–forgetting. How do social frameworks inform our individual understandings of the past and shape our sense of selfhood? How and why are figures from the past cast as heroes or villains? How do collectivities celebrate past glories, and how do they deal with shameful or embarrassing episodes? How do economic and political power relations shape struggles over the past? In an increasingly global society, can we speak of “cosmopolitan” or “transcultural” forms of memory? Topics will include autobiographical memory and self-identity; memorials, museums, and monuments; reputations, commemorations, and collective trauma; silence, denial, and forgetting; and transitional justice, official apologies, and reparations.
The Class: Format: seminar; For spring 2021, we will adopt a hybrid approach. Students studying on campus will adhere to the traditional format as far as possible, meeting for in-person seminars during the class block. Students studying remotely will cover the same material in a slightly different format, meeting for one synchronous discussion per week and maintaining asynchronous discussion threads using Slack.
Limit: 14
Expected: 14
Class#: 4705
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: thoughtful and consistent class participation; an autobiographical essay (4-5 pages); a position paper (4-5 pages); and a research paper (8-10 pages) with class presentation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: if overenrolled, students will be asked to submit a short statement of interest
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course pays particular attention to how power and inequality shape narratives about the past. We will examine and compare several efforts to transform national memories, such as the Equal Justice Initiative memorial in the United States and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. In doing so, we will also consider the role of memory and memorialization in broader processes of social change.

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