Between the 18th and the 21st centuries, the musical transatlantic space has profoundly changed,...
From a transatlantic perspective, the themes of memory and heritage evoke a permanent oscillation between universal and specific values, trauma and healing, individual experiences and collective narratives. Shaped by a familiar process of selection and oblivion, the construction of memory is produced by communities that memorialize and pay tributes while being inscribed both in particular territories (a given block, neighborhood, town, region, or country) and in spaces of transfer.1 Besides, the Atlantic is a space of circulation for individuals and groups, but also for narratives and cultural products fraught with heritage. In this respect, the practical means of transatlantic circulation and mobility, such as steamships, the media, the written press, iconography; the radio, TV and the Internet, represent key elements to take into account and analyze.
Over the past decade, on each side of the Atlantic Ocean, the field of memory studies took more and more space in academia, in response to the ever-increasing demand of civil society, which led the anthropologist David Berliner to designate it as a "memory boom".2 As William Johnston also suggested, "the cult of anniversaries", 3 particularly between Europe and the United States, has possibly caused the emergence of a "Great Calendar" of commemorations, organizing time around memory. This notion is also related to its diachronic dimension, which leads scholars to analyze the contexts of (re)awakening of memory as well as interrogate periods of silence of the memory. For instance, Hasia Diner deconstructed the myth of the silence around the memory of the genocide of the European Jews in the United States between 1945 and 1962. 4 The "Memories" thematic section invites therefore analyses of the role of transatlantic circulation in memory politics (regarding the place of African Americans in those of West African states, for example); discussions of the political dimension of transatlantic memories (e.g. the state's role in the building of memorial sites or the institution of remembrance days, such as Yom HaShoah); the transnational dimension of these sites of memory and remembrance days.5
The field of trauma studies has already been mapped by a variety of scholars - historians, unsurprisingly, but also anthropologists and ethnologists, sociologists, geographers, cultural studies specialists - who have offered abundant bibliographical resources. Migrant legacies hark back to trauma, bereavement, and the scars lefts by mass-scale violence, such as slave trades, genocides, massacres and pogroms, economic violence (with forced migrations caused by hunger and poverty), systemic domination and denial of Othered cultures within state or colonial structures. A hands-on and emotional approach to memory phenomena6 is behind the organized tours of emblematic sites of memory such as Gorée Island or Ellis Island, cemeteries, plantations and museums (around slavery, African American or Japanese American heritage, or The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, where each of the counties where a lynching occurred is invited to reclaim the steel slab bearing the name of the victim, among the 4,400 on display.)
It is also of interest to analyze the consensus dynamics leading up to the prioritizing of certain stakes for memory sites and commemoration dates. In Europe in particular, it is necessary to address the prominent phenomena of minorities competing for the official recognition of their ancestors' traumas, as well as conflicts over policies of public commemorations, involving the activism of lobbies and community organizations that call for the acknowledgement of neglected legacies. This connection between memory and controversy also invites further investigation of those whom the French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet designated as the "assassins of memory" - revisionists, negationists, Holocaust deniers - who contest the validity of an official memory narrative or refuse to make room for the social, political or media recognition of a socio-cultural group. Also included in the discussion are the fascination with the trope of the vanishing American Indian, the specter of foreign invasion in eugenicist writings, the anti-miscegenation rhetoric promoting a narrative of loss of identity, in contrast with the perpetuation of the mystique of the "Lost Cause" in the American South and in the rest of the U.S.A. as well as Canada or Europe. The essentialist temptations of appropriating legacies are also perceptible in the marketing and consumption of DNA tests, genealogy and psychogenealogy. Contributors are therefore encouraged to keep sight of both the discursive and legal/judicial aspects of the treatment of memory.
Hopefully, this thematic section opens space for a multi-criteria discussion of the plurality of rhythms for commemorating on each side of the Atlantic Ocean, analyzing these phenomena as partaking in the processes of bricolage (as per Claude Lévi-Strauss' definition) and reinvention of memory. How do community networks and social clubs contribute to produce a transatlantic memory, as in the cases of the Lower East Side's landsmanshaften7or the groups of biracial children of Jewish and West Indian, African or African American parents? How are patterns of counter-transfers of memory exemplified in the reception of artistic and literary works such as Alex Haley's Roots with African audiences, in the popularity of learning Swahili in the U.S.A to reconnect with African ancestors or embracing a Kosher diet and culinary traditions to reconnect with the Jewish ancestors rather than out of religious beliefs?
To what extent is the reinvention of memory achieved via historical reenactments? The question of transforming sites of memory into tourist sites holds center stage, as well as the commodification of traditional worship ceremonies such as pow-wows and sweat lodges in the U.S.A, Dogon ceremonies set up in Mali for tourists from Europe or the Americas, or ceremonies of consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms, peyote or ayahuasca under the supervision of shamans in Mexico, Peru or Ecuador.
The Atlantic space, understood as an active and dynamic matrix informed by competing processes of definition and redefinition, invites a revaluation of the stakes of memory by taking some distance from approaches restricted to national or area studies that might exclude postcolonial perspectives. Cross-perspectives and interconnectedness are therefore encouraged in order to go beyond comparative approaches.
Consequently, contributions may include the following themes, among other possible ones:
- Expressions of memory in artistic and literary productions as well as cultural practices
- Memory policies and institutions (memorials museums, research centers, archive collection, oral histories projects, laws instituting commemorations, legal aspects, legitimacy issues, conflicts over the official acknowledgement of community traumas)
- Rhythms, scales and "places", rootedness and circulations of transatlantic memories (anniversaries, commemorative calendars, creation of tourist sites and commodification of legacies, micro- and macro-historical approaches to memory sites)
- Political, ideological and legal aspects of the construction of memory (activist legacies, community heritage, negationist and revisionist critiques, the role of postcolonial/subaltern studies approaches in the construction of memories within the Atlantic space)
- Memories of bereavement and trauma (legacies of global wars and regional wars, civil wars, memories of mass violence such as the transatlantic slave trade, genocides, pogrom-related violence, silenced memories, processes of oblivion and remembrance, Toni Morrison's concept of "rememory")
Augeron, Mickaël, Poton, Didier, Van Ruymbeke, Bertrand, eds., Les Huguenots et l'Atlantique. Fidélités, raciness et mémoires, Paris: Les Indes Savantes, 2012.
Berliner, David, « The abuses of memory. Reflections on the memory boom in anthropology », Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 78, n° 1, « Bringing the past into the present: family narratives of Holocaust, exile, and diaspora », pp. 197-211.
Johnston, William M, Celebrations: the cult of anniversaries in Europe and the United States today, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2011.
Diner, Hasia, We Remember With Reverence and Love. American Jews and the Myth of Silence after The Holocaust, 1945-1962, New York, London: New York University Press, 2010.
Rice, Alan, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: the Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012.
Chevalier, Dominique, « Que deviennent les mémoires douloureuses aux musées : un universel métissé ? », Mondes du Tourisme , 14, 2018.
Soyer, Daniel, Jewish Immigrant Associations and American Identity in New York, 1880-1939. Jewish « landsmanshaften » in American culture, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2018.