Collective memory

Key Term History
Collective memory
Collective memory = shared pool of information for the members of a same society
In sociology:
Emile Durkheim studied collective effervescence = transcendence of the individual and the profane into a united sacred
group through religious traditions, rituals, memories and beliefs; but need to gather physically
With the group expansion, need to extend the unity with totems and other symbols, ex:
 9/11: candlelight vigils, flowers, candles, posters, chalk drawings, and flags
 WWI: poppies
 January 2015: pens
Halbwachs also mentions commemorative events:
 anniversary commemorations of September 11th, gatherings of the survivors
 11th November holiday
Memorialisation = embodiment of a particular event, memory in a specific monument; allows the representation of the
past and national identity
Past = past events gathered by history and memory
National identity = social cohesion within a group of people who share distinctive common points (tradition, culture
Example of memorial of French collective memory: L’arc de Triomphe
 49m high, 45m large
 Frieze represents protagonists of the French Revolution, the French Empire, the Napoleonic armies in Italy and
Egypt, allegories of Resistance and Peace
 Inside, names of famous battles of the Revolution and the Empire are engraved, along with 660 surnames of
soldiers, and 128 battles
 On the ground, bronze patches represent important milestones: proclamation of the Republic on 4th of
September 1970, return of Alsace-Lorraine on 11th of November 1918, the call of Resistance on 14th of June
1940; as well as the Second World War (1949-1945), the Indochinese War (1946-1954), the Korean War (19501953), the Algerian War (1956-1962).
 Ashes of Napoleon 1st in 1840; wake of Victor Hugo in 1885, 14th July 1919 victory celebration; Unknown
soldier’s burial in 1921; Charles de Gaulle’s tribute to the Unknown soldier on 26th of August, 1944
 After World War One, 1.4M dead or missing, 3.6M wounded, 500,000 prisoners, corpses buried in Notre-Damede-Lorette (Pas-de-Calais) or Douaumont (Meuse); all the communities build war memorials
 1920: decision to ordain the corpse of an unknown soldier at the Pantheon and bury it under the Arc - “Ici
repose un soldat Français mort pour la patrie 1914-1918”
 1923: flame of memory to watch permanently the sacred tomb; rekindled every single day at 18:30
 Flame is the symbol of sacrifice of those who died in battle to live in freedom; represents hope and faith in the
future destiny of the country
 Ceremony of rekindle of the flame carried out by the youth, notably through the “Concours de la Résistance”