Some Functions of Collective Forgetting

Paul Connerton

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Some Functions of Collective Forgetting

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Coerced forgetting — forgetting as repressive erasure — has been a hallmark of many of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. However, the act of forgetting is not always negative. This chapter discusses three kinds of forgetting: prescriptive forgetting, or forgetting as an act of common good; forgetting as constitutive of the formation of a new identity; and forgetting as annulment, a response to a surfeit of information. Far from representing failures, all of these processes may play significant roles in the establishment and enhancement of social bonds.

Keywords: coerced forgetting; prescriptive forgetting; new identities; social bonds; information annulment

Chapter.  3346 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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