Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 440–456 | Cite as

Narrative, Memory and Social Representations: A Conversation Between History and Social Psychology

  • Sandra JovchelovitchEmail author
Regular Article


This paper explores relations between narrative, memory and social representations by examining how social representations express the ways in which communities deal with the historical past. Drawing on a case study of social representations of the Brazilian public sphere, it shows how a specific narrative of origins re-invents history as a useful mythological resource for defending identity, building inter-group solidarity and maintaining social cohesion. Produced by a time-travelling dialogue between multiple sources, this historical narrative is functional both to transform, to stabilise and give resilience to specific social representations of public life. The Brazilian case shows that historical narratives, which tend to be considered as part of the stable core of representational fields, are neither homogenous nor consensual but open polyphasic platforms for the construction of alternative, often contradictory, representations. These representations do not go away because they are ever changing and situated, recruit multiple ways of thinking and fulfil functions of identity, inter-group solidarity and social cohesion. In the disjunction between historiography and the past as social representation are the challenges and opportunities for the dialogue between historians and social psychologists.


Social representations Cognitive polyphasia Collective remembering Narrative Social psychology and history Brazilian public sphere 



Previous versions of this paper were presented at conferences at the University of Linköping and at the London School of Economics. I wish to acknowledge the thoughtful and challenging comments I have received from colleagues on both occasions. I am grateful to Vlad Glaveanu, Koji Yamamoto and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and insightful comments on a previous version of this paper. The research reported here was supported by CNPq (Brazilian Science and Technology Council), Itaú Social Foundation (grant SPS-T762) and the London School of Economics.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUnited Kingdom

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