Discourse and Dispositive Analysis of Collective Memory as a Response to Public Crisis: Between Habermas and Foucault

Magdalena Nowicka


The communicative and productive dimensions of collective memory are based on the exclusion of a "shameful" past. For HABERMAS the fight for a social communicative space consists of the delimitation between economic power and state authorities, and "forces of social integration," e.g. collective memory. For FOUCAULT, collective memory is rather a product of economised social integration. His category of the "dispositive" refers to the production of power relations which could emerge between discursive and non-discursive elements of social reality. Its function is to normalize the public crisis of collective memory.

In this article, I discuss FOUCAULT's discourse and dispositive analyses in the field of collective memory. The category of the dispositive of collective memory is applied to a study of a controversy in Poland concerning Jan T. GROSS and his books, in which GROSS recalls Poles who murdered their Jewish neighbours and discusses anti-Semitism in Poland. The principal way of subduing the "shameful" past is its "self-cancellation" by means of discursive and non-discursive practices of invalidation, or media regulation of public space. However, FOUCAULT's perspective does not offer, as opposed to HABERMAS's, any clue where to search for constructive aspects of public debates on collective memory. Despite profound differences between HABERMAS and FOUCAULT, confronting both concepts means reflecting on the consequences a public crisis of collective memory may have for the space of social communication.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1401228


Foucault; Habermas; collective memory; dispositive; discourse analysis; Gross

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-15.2.2062

Copyright (c) 2014 Magdalena Nowicka

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