Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Models of Victimization in Contemporary Cultures

The Trap of Memory - Auto-orientalism as Victimisation

Anca Baicoianu (University of Bucharest, Romania)



In a text repeatedly reshaped over a few years and published in 1995 as Les Abus de la mémoire, Tzvetan Todorov makes a clear distinction between "literal memory" and "exemplary memory". The former preserves the uniqueness of past events at the same time assuring a false continuity between past and present protagonists. But the risks implied by such an attitude come from the impossibility to surpass the initial traumas, hence either the tendency to perpetuate one's victim status, in order to obtain this way, consciously or not, a series of material or symbolic privileges, or a range of revengeful behaviours of different intensity and manifestations.

"Exemplary memory" on the other hand is seen to have a liberating potential, for it allows passing from particular to general, from event to pattern. The double operation involved here consists first of all of the "decontamination" of the emotional load invested in the initial event and then of integrating this event into a complex network of analogies and generalizations that ascribe it as an exemplum and allow its subsequent use of a critical manner, opening a real dialogue between the tamed past and the on-going present.

The aim of this paper is firstly to describe the way in which "literal memory" heavily influences upon the construction of the Romanian historical and cultural identity as the result of a "subaltern perspective" which not only internalises, but also supplements allegedly "metropolitan" (i.e. Western European) attitudes and perceptions. Secondly, I will take into consideration the different strategies by means of which the process of "auto-orientalism" described above could be constructively interpreted and successfully transgressed.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-10-10