Critical Review of Popular memory and history custom essay

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Please Follow this structure : and read the comments from my lecturer and change the work to the highest standards

this is the review I have done and I failed this module:

Critical Review:

Popular Memory and History

Despite the amount of entanglement both history and memory own, there have been differences mapped specifically by Michel Foucault. Foucault specifically discusses the differences between popular memory as an unofficial history as oppose to the official history. The popular memory which he believes; number of apparatuses have been set to obstruct it’s flow.

Foucault concentrates on analysing the role of memorial and historical knowledge in the desire for power and the formation of identity. In the discussion he had back in 1970s regarding the French Cinema, under the title “Film and Popular memory”, he divided the bourgeoisie approach and perception towards history from the working class memory. He suggests that “since memory is actually a very important factor in struggle, if one controls people’s memory, one controls their experience, their knowledge of previous struggles and controls their dynamism”. (Foucault, 1977:124)

Memory in Foucault’s discourse is seen as a political force which is also vulnerable to “reprogramming” by the powerful tools like TV, and cinema .

Going beyond this conceptualisation of memory by Michel Foucault, Marita Strucken in her recent study mostly concentrates on the productions of memory through sites, objects, images, etc and she developes a more ambigious concept of cultural memory which states “cultrual memory is a filed of cultural negotiation through which different stories vie for a place in history”.

This is where Michael Bommes and Patrick Wright argue that cultural memories like history are produced and must be read considering the ideological and cultural forces. They insist on that the memory is a social phenomenon rather than an individual one. (Michael Bommes and Patrick Wright, 1982) Therefore, by considering memory as a social phenomenon wright and Bommen go further and establish the idea that necessarily forgetting is not the opposite of remembering. In fact, it can be argued that this is close to or might lead us what Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea was when he considered “creative forgetting” as a productive component of cultural memory.

Returning to the main argument of this critical review which is mainly focused on what Foucault asserted on in terms of memory and what he sees as history. The fact that memory is understood by him as a site of struggle, it can be concluded that amongst the communities and individuals the memories which have an opposition to the historical discourse has better opportunity to survive and be heard. But does this mean that the working class memory have never been in opposition to the historical discourse?Surely, Foucault’s argument is a relative argument, he is not talking about a complete domination of hegemonic history and the complete silent of people’s memory.

Notably, Foucault argues on the function of popular memory as a very important site of resistance for oppresion and this argument of Foucault has been widely quoted but these passages by Foucault seems to be pretty much idealistic perception about pre-existing social memories not being affected by corruption of mass media.

Foucault believes that cheap book, Television, and Cinema are means of reprogamming popular memory and he states that as the result of these “apparatuses” reporgme, people are shown not what they truly were but what they are obliged to remember of their past.

On a more modest approach Micheal Frisch states that “what matters is not so much the history that is placed before us, but rather what we are able to remember and what role that knowledge plays in our lives”.

Therefore, Frisch mostly claims on the functionality of memories rather than their authenticity, what Foucault insists on.

The authenticity of memory seems to be a very problematic concept. There has always been a desire for having stability in memory and there has always been a fear of forgetting. (Fricsh, 1990:16)

Strucken who as earlier mentioned concentrated on memory products in studying popular memory writes that unlike photographers, “memory does not remain static through time”. She argues that “while an image may fix an event, the meaning of that image is constantly subject to contextual shifts”. Therefore, it means that there is a need to study the process of how the individual or collective past has become memory rather than considering memory as static.

In other words researchers like Struken believe in studying the layers built on top the event itself and the formation of popular memory seems to be more important. However, if like what Foucault believed the collective knowledge of people which is called “popular memory” does not have any product or a way of recording itself due to various reasons like censorship or oppression, then there would be no logic behind this way of studying popular memory.(struken, 1997:5)

There is a point to consider and that is the fact that Foucault in all his comments regarding the popular memory seems to be under estimating the power and ability of popular memory to fight against and rise against the dominant control. This is the point which Bommers and Wright(1982) criticize Foucault on. The criticize him of being unable to consider the dialectic relationship between the dominant discourse and popular memory. It seems also that Foucault’s opinion about mass media as the tools of obstructing the flow of popular memory which his set by the politicians comes from a political disappointment as well.

In more recent study by the popular memory group, more concentration has been devoted to the dialectical interaction between the dominant discourse and popular memory considering the role of private memory as well. This study acquired a different approach the studying popular memory that Foucault did. Although still conceiving the popular memory as a site of struggle, this study see this as a struggle between different voices which try to build up their own versions of the past, hence their links with hegemonic discourse and dominant institutions can ensure their versions pervasiveness in the public sphere.(Popular memory group 1982:205, 207)
The studies which concentrate on the dominant memory assume that even dominant memory is open to opposition but they insist that there is no way that the process of domination in historical field leads to some memories being excluded or marginalised should not be over looked.

This approach of conducting analysis on popular memory in fact originates from the Foucault’s notion of counter-memory which contains strings of suspicion about totalising narratives of public up to extent.

Considering the dynamism of memory does not overlook the elite manipulation of lower class, hence memory was not and is not the hostage of politics or elites. This way of analysing popular memory allows some progressive challenges and it leaves this possibility that memory is not just a constrain of official narrative.

Although the dynamics of memory approach analyses the process and the reason of some social events forming a part of collective memory but some not; argue that the very early theories of collective memory are incomplete. Schudson(1997) argues that these theories lack the factor of human in themselves(inhumane) as he believe that different approaches of people towards the past and the reasons they have to justify these approaches are complex than what the strands in those theories allow.

Schudson believes in that human behaviour has a temporary framework and people are not dobbed solely by culture and are not rational actors using the history as they wish. Therefore, he brings the importance of human and individuals to the process of building popular memory.

In his most recent book, Schwartz(2000), argues that memory is “a cultural program which orients our intentions, sets our moods, and enables us to act”. (Schwartz, 2000:251). He as oppose to Foucault resist to accept memory as a political fact and believe that giving any political characteristic to popular memory is a conceptualisation which results in “ an atemporal concept of collective memory”. (Schwartz, 2000:16)

However, here still remains the battle around history which Foucault believes is very interesting as the mass media in his opinion reprograms the popular memory in a way that it also impose a frame work to people for interpreting the present.

Some analyse this as nostalgia about the folklore and a political disappointment.


Popular Memory Group(1982), “Popular Memory:Theory, Politics, and Methods”. University of Birmingham(UK), London, Hutchinson.

Michael Fricsh, A Shared Authority (Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1990)

Michel Foucault, “Film and Popular Memory,” Edinburgh Magazine 2 (1977), 22.
12, 124

Michael Bommes and Patrick Wright, “The Charms of Residence: The Public and the
Past,” in Making Histories, eds. Richard Johnson, Gregor McLennan, Bill Schwarz,
David Sutton (London: Anchor, 1982), 256

Marita Sturken, Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the
Politics of Remembering (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1997), 5

My Lecturers comment:

There are points during the assignment where it is evident that you have read and understood Michel Foucault’s argument in ‘Film and Popular Memory, which is the actual title of the piece you chose to review. However, there are so many lapses in style in your review that it is impossible to pass the work. Please attempt to write in fully formed paragraphs and clearly formed sentences. Also make sure that you reference the work that you are using correctly. You manage this in the bibliography but always within the work itself. Your conclusion was particularly vague and disjointed.

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