The making of a cultural psyche:memory between the humanities and the social sciences in post-war America

PhD Thesis

Papoulias, Constantina 2002. The making of a cultural psyche:memory between the humanities and the social sciences in post-war America. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Arts and Digital Industries
AuthorsPapoulias, Constantina
TypePhD Thesis

This thesis problematises the symbolic centrality of 'memory' in American intellectual culture. It critically examines the claim of cultural studies' work to have transformed memory and, with it, the understanding of subjectivity from a space internal to the individual, to a process emerging in the space of social interactions. I suggest that much current work in cultural studies is constituted through the appropriation of 'the
psychological', as this domain has been established in the social sciences, despite cultural studies' explicit denunciations of such social scientific legacies. I claim that this appropriation, in fact, continues the process of domestication of psychoanalytic concepts of subjectivity, a process initiated in the domain of the American social sciences in the immediate post war years. To support this claim, I consider the earlier (1950s-1960s)
investments of cognitive psychologists, sociologists and psychoanalysts in 'memory' as a retrospective construction of a past experience according to present contingencies. I
focus on how these disciplines have conceptualised the forces shaping what is remembered, and how such conceptualisations reveal particular assumptions about social relations, about temporality and about the limits between self and other. To this end, I explore the links between the methodologies employed in work on the psychology of memory, child development and the sociology of communication, and the models of subjectivity that have been produced in these fields. In addition, I turn to the more recent employment of 'social memory' as a key term in American cultural history (1980s-1990s). Starting with the claim that social memory studies have taken the place
of work on social reproduction, I explore the interdisciplinary exchanges that have informed this substitution. In particular, I claim that sociological, anthropological and psychological understandings of memory have effected a reshaping of the terrain of the psyche away from the psychoanalytic conceptualisation of the unconscious and use the work of psychoanalyst and philosopher Jean Laplanche to illuminate the political and
epistemological stakes of such a reshaping.

KeywordsIndividual and a group memory; Social interactions; Cognitive psychologists
Publication dates
PrintMay 2002
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Mar 2014
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