by Adam F. Kola, Center of Excellence IMSErt, Interacting Minds, Societies, Environments, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland
Our memory is a sign of the past. Collective or social memory stores what has passed and for some reason is vital to the community. As such, the politics of memory1 is a tool of political struggle and social engineering. Undeniably, the collective memory of humanity will keep the coronavirus pandemic in its resources. In some countries or regions, it will become an essential element of building a community. It will be so in the memory of those living in the age of COVID-19, it will also survive in the next generations—in the form of post-memory2 or social traces of disease preserved in works of art. It will also become an essential element of scientific development. It seems that never before in history such great resources have been allocated for one scientific and social purpose at the same time3. Even the most significant military projects, with the Manhattan Project at the forefront, cannot compare to this. Nor have so many scientists ever switched their activities on a global scale just to make COVID-19 collapse, as well as to seek a remedy for illness, economic crisis, social and mental problems. There is no room here to talk about the inequalities that the pandemic has uncovered, but their scale is overwhelming.
Can memory studies do something today in the context of the coronavirus pandemic? Is there any sense in reaching for tools and conceptualisations developed within their framework? Can we think about memory for the future? Are the memory studies helpful here?
The most apparent lead would be to document what is happening around us. To study the process of remembering, and in later yearsforgetting or continually changing the memory of the pandemic. One can also study the memory and post-memory (memory of the next generations) of previous epidemics that affected humanity and look at what they left behind in our community4. Both tasks are now performed. There are teams of scholars and journalists who collect, document, describe5.
However, let us reach back into the past, not so far away as to give an important example, which today seems clear, and which shapes our reality in the days of pandemic and lockdown. In the memory of most adults two situations are still alive. The first is 9/11—the terrorist attack in the United States in 2001, symbolised by the destruction of the WTC Twin Towers. The second event was the crisis of 2008. They are crucial elements of the still active memory of people living in the world today. The intensity is different; the degree of impact varies. Because although the attacks took place in the United States, with New York as the most affected by their effects—not only practically, but also symbolically—the sight of skyscrapers collapsing has written itself—in the memory of all those who saw it. Mostly on TV screens, but still they saw it. However, the image is duplicated today.Continue reading “Memory Studies for the Future. Remembering (COVID-19) as Survival Value”