Introduction Embodying Memory in Spain

  • Alison Ribeiro de Menezes


Memory has become a central focus of much academic work in the humanities today, arguably replacing the concentration on ideology that characterized the mid-twentieth century. As fallout from the exhaustion of postmodernism’s querying of the grand narratives of History and Society, memory constitutes a new epistemological approach to the relationship between the individual and society, and to our perceptions of the relations between the past, the present, and the future. Memory is not simply individual; it is also social and collective, and it has manifold cultural dimensions that are embedded in our sense of shared identities. Memories—personal, collective, and cultural—are thus part of how we see ourselves and others, and these intersections have a currency beyond the academic sphere, in national and transnational debates concerning the burden of traumatic and unmastered pasts. Memory is also increasingly a global phenomenon, widely theorized and examined both in national and transnational contexts. As a cypher for unspeakable horror, the Holocaust is the fundamental point of reference; more recently, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has come to be taken as a worldwide benchmark for transitional justice processes, as have, to a lesser extent, prosecutions with regard to human-rights crimes in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda.


Memory Study Peace Process Cultural Memory Traumatic Past Grand Narrative 
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    In Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 5, Thomas Lemke defines biopolitics as “the emergence of a specific political knowledge and new disciplines such as statistics, demography, epidemiology, and biology. These disciplines make it possible to analyse processes of life on the level of populations and to ‘govern’ individuals and collectives by practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, disciplining, therapeutics, and optimization.” Aspects of a historical biopolitics do emerge as relevant to my discussion, and a nuanced exploration of Agamben’s notion of “bare life” might well prove fruitful for navigating specific historiographical discussions regarding violence and atrocities by both sides during the Civil War, and by the Franco Regime in the immediate postwar period. Nevertheless, I have not made a biopolitical perspective the structuring principle of this volume, as my aim is to trace the contours of Spain’s new debates about the past within the framework of shifting horizons of collective and cultural memory, and to focus on the conjunction of new discourses of individual rights and a concern with embodied rather than emplaced memory. Indeed, the negativity of Foucault’s perspective on embodiment in Discipline and Punish and the lack of agency implicit in Agamben’s “homo sacer” are at odds with my stress in this book on agency, resilience, and active efforts toward the overcoming of trauma. See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan ( London: Penguin, 1991 );Google Scholar
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    The Civil War poetry of Rafael Alberti, César Vallejo, Pablo Neruda, and Miguel Hernández is well known, and the poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca is an iconic victim of the war. See also the work of a later generation of poets, such as José Manuel Caballero Bonald, Félix Grande, Antonio Gamoneda, and José Hierro. Marina Llorente notes that until now few critics have considered how poets have addressed the postmillennium Spanish memory boom. She discusses two younger poets, Isabel Pérez Montalbán and David González, both of whom were born in 1964 and who thus belong roughtly to the generation of many of the writers and directors discussed in this book; see “La memoria histórica en la poesía de Isabel Pérez Montalbán and David González,” Hispanic Review 81, no. 2 (2013): 181–200. Of dramatists closely concerned with memory under and after the Regime, Antonio Buero Vallejo is one of the most significant and extensively studied. More recently Juan Mayorga’s Himmelweg (2004) raises intriguing parallels between Spain and Germany, and Laila Ripoll has adaptated Armengou and Belis’s Los niños perdidos (2005). María delgado is currently completing a study of memory and the Spanish stage; see also Helena Buffery, “Effigies of Return in Spanish Republican Exile Theatre,” in her edited volume, Stages of Exile ( Bern: Peter Lang, 2011 ), 229–47; Lourdes Orozco, “Performing the Spanish Civil War on the Catalan Stage: Homage to Catalonia (2004),” in Guerra y m emoria en la España contemporánea/War and Memory in Contemporary Spain, ed. Alison Ribeiro de Menezes, Roberta Ann Quance, and Anne L. Walsh ( Madrid: Verbum, 2009 ), 273–85;Google Scholar
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© Alison Ribeiro de Menezes 2014

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