Remembering forwards: or how to live together in the future with divided memories

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

944 Downloads (Pure)


Memory is thought to be about the past. The past is a problem in conflict transformation. This lecture suggests memory can also be about the future. It introduces the notion of remembering forwards, which is contrasted with remembering backwards. The distinction between these two forms of remembering defines the burden of memory in post-conflict societies generally and specifically in Ireland. In societies emerging out of conflict, where divided memories in part constituted the conflict, social memory privileges remembering backward. Collective and personal memories elide within social memory to perpetuate divided group identities and contested personal narratives. Above all, social memory works to arbitrate the future, by predisposing an extreme memory culture that locks people into the past. Forgetting the past is impossible and undesirable. What is needed in societies emerging out of conflict is to be released from the hold that oppressive and haunting memories have over people. This lecture will suggest that this is found in the idea of remembering forwards. This is not the same as forgetting. It is remembering to cease to remember oppressive and haunting memories. It does not involve non-remembrance but active remembering: remembering to cease to remember the past. While the past lives in us always, remembering forwards assists us in not living in the past. Remembering forwards thus allows us to live in tolerance in the future despite the reality that divided memories endure and live on. The lecture further argues that these enduring divided memories need to be reimagined by the application of truth, tolerance, togetherness and trajectory. The lecture suggests that it is through remembering forwards with truth, tolerance, togetherness and trajectory that people in post-conflict societies can inherit the future despite their divided pasts and live in tolerance in the midst of contested memories.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2016
EventMemory and the future - Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin , Ireland
Duration: 16 May 201617 May 2016


ConferenceMemory and the future


Dive into the research topics of 'Remembering forwards: or how to live together in the future with divided memories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this