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Sous les pavés … The Troubles

Northern Ireland, France and the European Collective Memory of 1968


Chris Reynolds

Recent studies on the impact of 1968 have focussed on transnational perspectives. The scope and nature of the rebellions go far beyond the stereotypical frameworks that have dominated traditional representations. As the diversity of this ‘year’ of revolt gains greater currency, the case of 1968 has emerged as a critical lens through which to examine the question of transnational collective memories. This book addresses the dominance of the French mai 68 in the way the events are remembered at a European level. Through a comparison with the French events, this study explores how the memory of Northern Ireland’s 1968 has been marginalised and argues a case for its inclusion on the list of countries that make up this Europe-wide period of revolt.
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Chapter 4: A European Collective Memory?


The Case of 1968


The ineluctable rise and rise to prominence of memory studies – frequently described as the ‘memory boom’ – has been particularly striking over the last three decades.1 The motivations or explanations behind this trend are complex and varied. Some cite the relatively recent obsession with the past that has forced a more detailed examination of how and why we remember things in the way we do.2 Others argue the opposite, claiming that memories are under threat thus necessitating attention.3 Further arguments include the claim that a certain politicisation of memory has elevated it to a more important area of concern.4 If the reasons driving the burgeoning field of memory studies are complex and unresolved, then so too are definitions of what the term ‘memory’ actually constitutes. This elasticity serves to further complicate and increase the level of debate and discussion.5 Such ambiguity and elusiveness is reflected in the various forms of memory that are said to make up an area that manages to straddle many different disciplines. As Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwartz described:

[R]ecently, a veritable international, cross-disciplinary industry has emerged as scholars vie to produce the most complete, coherent, or convincing taxonomies and definitions of these “types” of memory.6

← 119 | 120 → Such types include individual, public, social, cultural, communicative and political. One further strand, and that which forms the focus of this study, is collective memory – which in itself is open to interpretation.7 James Wertsch commented...

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