Whose Memory? Which Future?

New article by Jayne Svenungsson in Jan-Ivar Lindén (ed.), To Understand What is Happening: Essays on Historicity (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2021), 115–127.

This paper was originally presented in conversation with Christoph Türcke and Bernhard Waldenfels as part of the event ‘The Future of Memory’, which took place in Helsinki in 2019. The paper offers a reflection on the theme against the backdrop of recent developments in memory politics, both in the Swedish context and more generally. Alluding to MacIntyre’s classical work Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, I argue that there is a close relation between memory politics and the ways in which we are able to conceive of the future. In other words, while MacIntyre argued that there is a correlation between ahistorical notions of rationality and poor conceptions of justice, I similarly contend that uniform constructions of the past tend to breed exclusory and potentially repressive visions of our future societies. An open and critical discussion of whose memory we tend to favour in our constructions of the past is therefore essential to our ability to conceive of the future in constructive and dynamic ways. It is also, I argue, essential for the future of memory itself as a critical element in any democratic society.