The relationship between the practice and field of journalism and the interdisciplinary field of memory studies is complex and multifaceted. There is a strong link between collective memory production and journalistic practice, based on the proposition that journalists produce first drafts of history by using the past in their reportage. Moreover, the practice of journalism is a key agent of memory work because it serves as one of society’s main mechanisms for recording and remembering, and in doing so helps shape collective memory. Journalism can be seen as a memory text, with journalists constructing news within cultural-interpretive frames according to the cultural environment. Journalism also plays a key role in the production of visual memory and new media, including social media. Journalism is thus a key agent of memory work, providing a space for commentary on institutional and cultural sites of memory construction.
Within the course of a day people perform innumerable feats of memory. They are involved in remembering when they search for their keys, find their way through a city, reminisce on episodes from their past, or join in commemorations such as independence days and religious rituals. Culture plays a crucial role in all of these mnemonic activities. Memories come into being and take form through both a set of internalized cultural conventions, specific to the society in question, as well as a particular setting therein (e.g., therapy, court of law or church). Furthermore, culture has arguably shaped how memory is understood and the uses it has been put to, as can be seen in how the concept has differed across history and societies. But what is culture and how does it operate? Although culture has been variably understood throughout history and even by researchers in the early 21st century, there is consensus that it is something that is taken over from society, rather than being innate, and transmitted across generations with modifications. In psychology it is typically operationalized in two ways: In cross-cultural psychology it is something one belongs in (usually a national group) as a function of language, traditions, and geo-political borders, while in cultural psychology it is approached as a psychological tool that shapes and enables memory. Taking account of culture provides an opening to investigate memory socialization, setting specificity, and collective remembering.
Brooke B. Chambers and Joachim J. Savelsberg
Genocide and ethnic cleansing are among the most deadly human-made catastrophes. Together with other forms of government violence, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, the death toll they caused during the 20th century alone approximates 200 million. This is an estimated ten times higher than the number of deaths resulting from all violence committed in civil society during the same period. Yet the definition of genocide, its perception as a social problem, and the designation of responsible actors as criminals are all relatively recent. Globalization, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and cultural shifts are interrelated contributors to this process of redefinition. While genocide and ethnic cleansing often appear to be unpredictable and chaotic, they nonetheless underlie a socio-logic across time and space. As the field of study evolved, scholars debated the role of authority and ideology in enabling violence. Today, consensus has shifted away from deterministic explanations about intrinsic hatred engrained in particular groups to sociological factors. They include the role of political regimes, war, organization, and narratives of ethnic hatred, each of which can play a role in facilitating violence. Recent developments also include the creation of new institutional mechanisms that seek to punish perpetrators and prevent the occurrence of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Among them are criminal justice responses that work potentially through deterrence, but also—more fundamentally—through the initiation of cultural change. Prosecutions, as well as supplemental mechanisms such as truth commissions, may indeed lead to a radical shift in the perception of mass violence and those responsible for it, thereby delegitimizing genocidal and ethnic cleansing campaigns.