DavidSontagRieff credit Megan Hustad

David Rieff

In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and its Ironies

Bristol800/
Wed 23 March 2016

David Rieff

In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and its Ironies

DavidSontagRieff credit Megan Hustad
Wed 23 March 2016,

The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana’s celebrated phrase, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute. And yet is this right?

David Rieff insists that things are not so simple. In his view, rubbing raw historical wounds – whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces – neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option. Sometimes it may be called for; but sometimes, he argues, it may be more moral to forget.

Ranging widely across some of the defining conflicts of modern times – the Irish Troubles and the Easter Uprising of 1916, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan wars, the Holocaust and 9/11 – Rieff examines the uses and abuses of historical memory.

This event is linked to a special weekend of activity looking at endings and beginnings (a theme which will also be part of other festival events in 2016).

It is part of Bristol800: a programme throughout 2016 marking significant anniversaries in the city and what they mean for Bristol now and into the future. Bristol800 is an initiative of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership (Arts Council England, Bristol City Council and Business West).

Photo of David Sontag Rieff, credit Megan Hustad

 

 

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