Memory and the Construction of Personality

Remo Bodei

Abstract


The article proposes a kind of imaginary chess match in seven moves between memory and oblivion in which the construction of collective identity is at stake. Starting from the experience of unexpected changes, such as the collapse of political regimes, it aims to show how the failure to nourish established memory provokes oblivion. Memory and forgetting do not represent neutral territories, but actual battlefields in which identity – especially collective identity – is decided, molded, and legitimized. Moreover, every victorious power or faith has always organized a kind of “vertical forgetting” in the sense of superimposing itself literally on old beliefs in the places where these traditionally held their celebrations. However, the defense of memory’s preciseness also has an ethical dimension, that of protecting a more conscious – and therefore, freer – identity. The final move of this game consists in understanding the conflicting complicity of the logic of forgetting and the logic of remembering. Together, they operate according to the formula of “neither with you nor without you.” And despite their mutual bitterness, forgetting is just as indispensable to memory as memory is to forgetting.

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