Sarah Waters: Introduction: 1968 in Memory and Place 1
Sarah Waters Introduction: 1968 in Memory and Place 1. A contested memory Forty years after the events denoted by the term ‘1968’, the memorialisa- tion of this ‘first global rebellion’1 reached a climax in 2008. All around the world, on television and radio, in the print media, exhibitions, public debates, literature readings and film showings, the experiences of ‘1968’ were dissected, discussed and probed for their continuing relevance or remaining toxicity.2 While it was unclear what this collective production of increasingly nostalgic reflections was supposed to achieve, the debates ignited by the anniversary signalled that ‘1968’ continues to be a currency in public debates across the world. The cause of this surprising longevity is the tension between two forces of memory that are oddly out of synch: historicisation (‘objective’) and memorialisation (‘subjective’).3 On the one hand, there have been widespread efforts, across different national cultures, to historicise ‘1968’, to locate it within a recent past and to assign it a definitive and objective meaning. 1968 is now often seen as 1 Wolfgang Kraushaar, 1968 als Mythos, Chiffre und Zäsur (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition 2000), 19. 2 In the United Kingdom, the BBC turned the 40th anniversary of ‘1968’ into a test case of modern popular remembrance, merging the images and sounds of global events with the experiences of the viewers and listeners on interactive websites. 3 For the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, whose work has helped to define a field of ‘memory studies’, history and memory were opposing forces:...
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