Skip to main content

News and events

2017 SPA PGR Conference Keynote: Professor Alesandra Tanesini (University of Cardiff): Collective amnesia and epistemic injustice

Professor Alesandra Tanesini (University of Cardiff): Collective amnesia and epistemic injustice

Abstract: Communities often respond to traumatic events in their histories by destroying objects that would cue memories of a past they wish to forget and by building artefacts which memorialise a new version of their history. Hence, it would seem, communities cope with change by spreading memory ignorance so to allow new memories to take root. In this talk, I offer an account of some aspects of this phenomenon and of its epistemological consequences. The talk has three aims. The first is to show that the formation and maintenance of collective memories requires that other events are to some extent forgotten. All shared memories, including those which are shared by a large group, are the result of mechanisms that transform initially divergent recollections of the past into an agreed account. Those memories which do not survive this process so that they are excluded from the shared version become forgotten through neglect. The second is to argue that sometimes collective mnemonic silence or forgetfulness is not a mere by-product of the formation of memory. Instead, cognitive effort is specifically directed toward bringing about ignorance. Ignorance, in these instances, is a perverse kind of success. I reserve the term ‘collective amnesia’ for collective forgetfulness of this kind. The final aim is to demonstrate that collective forgetfulness is harmful. Here, I focus exclusively on the harms caused by its contribution to undermining the intellectual self-trust of some members of the community. Further, since some of these harms are also wrongs, collective amnesia contributes to causing epistemic injustices.

A Department of Sociology & Philosophy seminar
Date10 May 2017
Time13:00 to 14:00
PlaceIAIS Building/LT1


IAIS Building/LT1