Past and Future in the Construction of Communal Identity: Collective Memory and Mythical Narratives
This article relates to the question of whether or to what extent identity is wholly constructed through language by engaging in a discussion of how the use of the past enters into the construction of communal identity. It argues that in order to understand why collective memory and the mythical narrativisation of the past which it frames are such powerful elements in the construction of collective identities, it must be distinguished from the science of historiography. But neither can collective memory be thought of as a communal analogue to the individual mental process of remembering. Rather it is a specific kind of discourse whose subject-position is endowed with a number of distinct privileges (different from those in the discourse of modern historiography) and through which a community can approach and articulate its past in mythical narratives whose ‘validity’ in fact has little to do with the extent to which they mirror ‘historical reality’.