Mass Dictatorship and Memory as Ever Present Past

Jie-Hyun Lim (Editor), Barbara Walker (Editor), P. A. Lambert (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportEdited book


Mass Dictatorship as Ever Present Past is the fourth volume in the 'Mass Dictatorship' series, the outcome of a transnational academic research venture. In keeping with the others in the series, the present volume adopts a perspective of 'entangled history'. It approaches memory as a dynamic, interactive process springing from the efforts of a multiplicity of competing social, ethnic, political and other groupings to influence the discourses of history and contemporary affairs. Given the interest-driven nature of this process, some of the more ambiguous memories of mass dictatorship have remained uncovered or been suppressed; this book hopes to uncover some of those memories and to integrate them into a broader understanding of post-dictatorial memory. The reflection that many of the greatest controversies over memory have taken place at the level of national memories within the nation-state has led this volume to focus on that framework. The first part of the book focuses on the entangled memories of both synchronic and diachronic comparison, applied at the level of national memories and within the nation-state framework. It calls into question the notion of An absolute binary divide between victim and perpetrator of violence as it has been transposed to the collective level of victimized and victimising nations and thus to the dynamics of victimhood nationalism. The second part explores the dialectical interplay of history and memory. It addresses such issues as how mass dictatorial regimes and movements appropriated historical images of the past, how the images and fragments of the past were actually produced and distributed by the dictatorial actors and how they were consumed by the masses. The influx of contested memoriestriggered by the dismantling of the Cold War will also be explored. In the context of coming to terms with the past of communist regimes, a new historiography, including history textbooks, is shattering the 'righteous memory' produced in the Cold War era. This new situation is ambivalent: while it contributes to deconstructing the simplistic binary of the good and bad, it disarms legal positivism by blurring the dividing line between victims and perpetrators. Once 'righteous memory' is put into question, memories of mass dictatorship become increasingly pluralised. The third part of the book will be dedicated to the investigation of contested memories. The coexistence of plural memories implies fragmentation, contestation and dissidence in producing and consuming the 'collective', or rather social memory. Various political actors and social agents deploy different politics of memory in their attempts to influence or control the discourse of memory. What makes this contest more complicated is the engagement of empathies and emotional feelings such as guilt, shame and atonement in the process of the formation of the social memory. The visual representation of the past in forms of memorials, films, dramas and other performances enhances and deepens the emotional dimension of the coming to terms with past. The common thread running through this book is a search for historical accountability among the post-war generations. These are not directly responsible for the atrocities of the mass dictatorship regimes, but are nevertheless connected to them by ties of collective identity, whether freely chosen or imposed from without. This book moves beyond the simple assignations of responsibility so often perpetrated through the politics of memory, and to a deeper understanding of mass dictatorship and of the profound historical consequences for all touched by it. To do that is not in the least to diminish the pain of those who suffered such violence as incarceration, torture, enslavement, rape or genocide at the hands of mass dictatorship. Constituting what might be called an 'ethical turn' of sorts, the quest for the transnational and transtemporal responsibility in the post-war memory affords new prospects of going beyond the cliché-ridden binary of perpetrators and victims, especially where these are defined in wholly national terms.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages272
ISBN (Print)978-1137289827
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2014

Publication series

NameMass Dictatorship in the Twentieth Century
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


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