Social Memory and Ritual Performance.
Journal of Social Archaeology
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Official URL: http://jsa.sagepub.com/
This paper is concerned with archaeological evidence for the mechanisms by which group memory is transmitted. How do natural places such as caves and rock shelters retain their status as foci for ritual activity? It draws upon recent social and archaeological theory around embodied memory; especially Connerton’s (1989) division of memory claims into three kinds. These are: personal memory claims; cognitive memory claims and habit-memory. It is argued that cognitive memory claims and habit-memory should be regarded as aspects of the same process of remembering: following Gell (1998) and Jones (2007) physical traces of past action are regarded as central to this act of memory. Three encounters with memory are analysed: managing memory around death; remembering how to do activities and formal ritual performances which reinforce group memories. It is argued that all three cases share some of the attributes of a formal ritual performance. An analysis of biographies of practice is proposed to draw out these links between small scale habit-memory and long term group memory.
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