Ann Rigney on Memory Studies

Nationale Dodenherdenking 2014 - Herdenking op de Dam in Amsterdam. Bron: Wikimedia/Jasper Juinen
National Remembrance Day 2014 - Commemoration on Dam Square in Amsterdam. Source: Wikimedia/Jasper Juinen

How does memory work? And what happens when individuals come together and create a collective memory? Last week, Prof. Ann Rigney (Languages, Literature and Communication) was a guest speaker The Connecting Memories Podcast, where she talked about her academic journey, the field of memory studies, and much more.

Prof. dr. Ann Rigney
Prof. dr. Ann Rigney

Cultural memory

"I've always been interested in what you might call 'literature in the wild'," Rigney explains. "The ways in which narrative and aesthetic form occur in everyday situations and all sorts of domains of activity." She later discovered the idea of cultural memory through the work of Aleida Assman. Rigney herself defines cultural memory as "the multiple ways in which the past is made present in media".

The field

Over the last ten years, Rigney has seen the field of memory studies form around her. Scholars from different disciplines including neuroscience, psychology, and anthropologists found each other in this new, interdisciplinary field. "Sometimes this interdisciplinarity is very difficult," Rigney says. "It's actually quite a challenge to find yourself within this field wherein there's so many competing terms." However, over the last five years or so, Rigney has seen an increasing willingness to engage in dialogue to cross the boundaries of different disciplines.